80s Soundtrack Week: Wednesday – “Better Off Dead” US CD

Well, It’s Wednesday and it time for…another 80s soundtrack from A+M Records. I swear that I didn’t plan it that way, but it’s just how it’s panning out. Today’s soundtrack was initially the one I wanted to write about; before thinking to make it into a theme week thread. This one comes to me from the unique vector of its curator. This one was the soundtrack that fans of the late Rupert Hine would definitely be interested in as it was produced and largely played and written by the artist and while I have never seen the movie, when has that stopped me from listening to a soundtrack?

better off dead OST cover art
A+M Records | US | CD | 1985 | 75021 5071 2

Various: Better Off Dead – US – CD [1985]

  1. Rupert Hine + Cy Curnin: With One Look [The Wildest Dream]
  2. Rupert Hine: Arrested By You
  3. Martin Ansell: Shine
  4. Rupert Hine: Better Off Dub [inst.]
  5. Terri Nunn: Dancing In Isolation
  6. Thinkman: Come To Your Rescue
  7. E.G. Daily: A Little Luck
  8. Rupert Hine: The Falcon Beat [inst.]
  9. E.G. Daily: One Way Love [Better Off Dead]
  10. Rupert Hine: Race The K-12 [inst.]

rupert hiine + cy curnin with one look cover artFans of The Fixx who considered Rupert Hine the fifth member of the band [who could say no to that?] got a chance to have their notions made manifest with the lead off single from the album. “With One Look” was made as a duet between Hine and Curnin, and the time period of its genesis suggests to me that my coolness to The Fixx might be down to the angular anguish of their first three albums. I always loved the poppier sound of “Secret Separation” from 1986’s “Walkabout”and that was probably recorded fairly concurrently with this taut little number that hummed along with a sophistication of arrangement the was belied by its ease of listening. As ever, Hine’s use of Jamie West-Oram of The Fixx for the cracking guitar solo worked a charm. And the cut simply zoomed by; sounding far briefer than its 3:26 running time. I may need to get the 12” for the full 6:54 that this track deserved.

I was familiar with the great “Arrested By You” from the cover version that Dusty Springfield recorded a few years later. Until recently, I’d never heard the source version of this track. This was one of those lush 80s techno-ballads with sheaves of gossamer synth lines that normally I can easily resist, but the writing team of Hine with his lyricist Jeannette Obstoj always managed to deliver the goods. The synth solo on the middle eight here was particularly tasty; with the rising sub bass synths at the end of it hitting like a warm wave it was useless to resist. I much prefer the backing track here to the Springfield cover and Hine’s doubled, spilt octave vocals held up particularly well against my memories of Dusty.

The next track was a ringer with the track “Shine” taken from an album that Hine was then producing for Martin Ansell for release the following year. The cuts slots right into this with a production similar to what The Fixx was receiving at the same time, with Hine on synths and in the producer’s chair. Ansell was a less angular vocalist than Curnin as shown here below.

The biggest difference in this 80s soundtrack was that it actually contained examples of the score that Hine had created as incidental music for the film! One suspects that Hine was really itching to get let loose on a film score. He certainly had all of the chops to produce the whole of things and predictably, this was a tech drenched score of the sort that was all over the 80s film music spectrum. Much fuller in arrangement than the minimal synthwave footprint of a John Carpenter approach [though that can be fun…] this came close to where Jan Hammer would also be venturing with his iconic Miami Vice theme.

“Better Off Dub” was the main title music and having never seen the film, I am assuming that the gritty drama it suggested was drenched in irony. Given that the film was about hapless teenager John Cusack’s travails, the almost martial music suggested the high melodrama of a Schwarzenegger film of the same period. “The Falcon Beat” was even more suggestive of high-tech chase sequences and quickly cut dramatic vignettes. The concluding “Race The K-12” took the melodrama to its highest levels, while subtly quoting the theme of “Arrested By You” if you listened carefully.

One of the delights for me was the appearance of Berlin’s Terri Nunn in an outside appearance that scuttlebutt had it was an “audition” piece for the notion of Hine producing what would have been the final Berlin album. “Dancing In Isolation” was a song that found Hine suiting the Berlin singer without the heavy handed tactics of Bob Ezrin, who eventually got the job for 1987’s “Count Three And Pray” album. Leaving this track an example of the Berlin album that never was, with Hine and West-Oram manning the synth and guitar duties. I liked this a lot more than the other 80s soundtrack song that Nunn recorded the following year with Giorgio Moroder but that, and five dollars will get me a chai latte.

The strongest Monk-bait on this album was with the first recorded appearance of the Thinkman concept with the track “Come To Your Rescue.” Hine might have used this soundtrack to test out a proof of concept of his intriguing mass media concept/ruse of Thinkman before going ahead with the “band” for the next several years. With “Come To Your Rescue” as the proof-of-concept, it obviously worked. This was the most muscular vocal music on the album with Hine playing everything with Geoffrey Richardson of Caravan guesting on guitar. The greater density of the arrangements allowed this to step apart from the other vocal cuts with Hine also singing to form a bit more identity of its own as Thinkman. As there were no Thinkman non-LP B-sides, this one of a bit of a goldmine for Thinkman fans.

e.g. daily
Ms. Daily

Then there were the two E.G. Daily tracks here. Well, it was the 80s. I think there were soundtrack bylaws that required her presence. For those who can’t recall that bygone era, E.G. Daily was a singer-slash-actress probably best known for being Pee Wee Herman’s girlfriend in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” But her recording career probably peaked in this year with her dance pop hit “Say It, Say It.” Ms. Daily occupied a space somewhere between Madonna and Cyndi Lauper in the pop spectrum. Her girlish vocals could descend into feral rawk chick gurgles and she was never to my tastes. But there were a lot of soundtracks in the 80s that feature her anyway. For the record, her two tracks here were untouched in any way, shape, or form by Rupert Hine, so I suspect meddling suits in this case. Of the two songs, the ostensible theme song, “One Way Love,” was the better of the two efforts.

This was an interesting curio for fans of Rupert Hine. It featured the artist getting out of his box and expanding into new areas, courtesy of his very successful production career. I’m shocked that this was the only film he ended up writing a score for since I thought that film music was a natural fit for his talents.

I liked the side step into collaborating fully with The Fixx and producing Berlin would have been an event I would have been all over at that time. The pop songs were definitely of the era and the actual film cues on this soundtrack make this one of the rare examples of the form cheek by jowl with the pop songs that predominated the 80s soundtrack field.

One curiosity about this album fascinates me. This is a CD that goes for some serious cash in the collector’s market, with scarce CD copies hitting the high two to three figures. Even the LP is close behind! Were The Fixx that popular? I’m an avid Rupert Hine fan. Are there others that I don’t know about in the woodwork? [gulp] Was E.G. Daily a bigger cult figure than I could possibly imagine? If anyone has the answer, then please send it to me here @ PPM, as I’m most curious.

Next: …Demme God?

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11 Responses to 80s Soundtrack Week: Wednesday – “Better Off Dead” US CD

  1. negative1ne says:

    hi mr monk,

    i’m a fixx collector, but i don’t have a lot of rupert hine or related items,
    so i can’t comment on that. i checked the link you had of the price for
    the cd and lp on discogs.

    the lowest price for the CD is : US $50
    LP : US $75

    Are you sure, these are the high figures you looked at?
    I agree $50 for CD is pretty high, but maybe not that bad. And $75 for the LP
    is very high, i agree. But I was expecting values north of $100, and they
    don’t appear to be that.

    but everyone has a different threshold.

    i’ve been on a ‘holy grail’ buying spree, so my values have all been skewed.
    Heaven 17 pray 12 inch – US $70
    Ultravox brilliant tourbook with DVD – $90
    New order – ceremony RSD 12 inch release – $150 [highest amount i’ve ever paid for one single]
    New order – brotherhood UK LP [metallic sleeve] -> ordering in june, $125
    talk talk – today 7 inch [90s remix] french promo – $50
    pet shop boys – remaster sampler CD – $30

    i’ve planned out the rest of the year, trying to clear
    out the highest items. and the ceiling for the most expensive
    amounts is $300 each, for 2 different promo 12 inches from bjork.

    there are boxsets i want also going for that amount to, but that’s
    pretty much my limit.

    will be interesting to see how it pans out.



    • postpunkmonk says:

      negative1ne – I am inmpoverished. Anything over $30 is a lot to me. These days, that’s just the postage! My hair is on fire over the “Pray” 12″! Thank goodness I bought those last H17 12″ers as soon as they came out. Usually I dawdle. Like I did on the 2x live CD H17 were selling for a while but is now OOP. And I REALLY WANTED that live album! I think the full H17 band is the best band going these days now that they have Julian Crampton on bass.

      Let me tell you my problem. There are about 40 things a month I want and can only buy six. So things come out and I ignore them, since I am more focused on things that came out some time earlier and are now rising in cost. Sometimes, prohibitively. I end up paying above initial cost for things a few years old, while I ignore the new releases that are inexpensive. Then, three years later, the CD that used to be $6.00 [that I ignored to buy older, more expensive thiings] is now $36 and I buy it before it gets to $50! My in-laws usually gift us each with $250 on our birthdays. Very generous, but that much money goes to the household budget more often than not. But about every 6-7 years, I think I can get away with buying off the want list and I can do a lot of damage for $250! The last time I did this was 2016 and maybe this year it might be time again, but I doubt it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • negative1ne says:

        hi mr monk.

        i totally understand. for about 6 years, i never bought anything over $30,
        and i accumulated several hundred items that way, with the average
        US CD single being about $5, and the average UK 7 inch about $0.50, and the
        12 inches averaging about $1, essentially free [except shipping].

        the same applied to the US singles, disregarding super rare promos, or ultra
        hard to find ones by my core groups.

        late last year, as i posted in my spending habits, i got substantial work, and
        my budget went 6 fold over the normal $300-$400 a year i spent. so you can
        imagine that after holding out for pretty much every boxset, and limited edition,
        i would have to at some point address them, or just let them go forever.

        well, now is the time, and with some healthy income and stimulus checks, etc,
        i’ve now managed to budget out those ‘holy grail’ items. you’re right, some items
        will just continue to rise in price, but others have plateaued and dropped. so why
        not dive in before the real ‘rarities’ disappear.

        if you’ve managed to keep up with the bands as they’ve released those items
        over the last several years, thats why your mentality isn’t as ‘desperate’ as mine
        is. so you can partition out the real hard to find titles and get to them at some point.

        there will always be more holy grails, and totally out of reach items for me, like
        the vinyl factory pet shop boys releases (each several grand), and some other super
        rarities. but that’s on a totally different level of collecting that i’m not in.

        i wanted to be more realistic, and completist, in knocking out these items, so i can
        concentrate on the hundreds of cheaper and easier to find items down the road.

        so good luck in upcoming releases, and of course enjoy getting the items, because
        if its not fun getting and enjoying them, then what is the point. there is enough
        stress and strain with other things going on. this is supposed to be relaxing and
        enjoyable, or at least to me it is.



  2. Rob says:

    The movie is a cult classic. Probably the most quotable 80’s movie of them all. There must be some issue with the rights, because it’s impossible to stream anywhere.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Rob – Welcome to the comments! I have to admit that it was not on my cultural radar in the 80s so I’ve never seen it. John Cusack pinged my radar first with 1988’s “Tapeheads.”


      • Rob says:

        I’m surprised you’ve never heard “I want my two dollars!” or “Gee Ricky, I’m sorry your mom blew up.” Practically everyone in my circle of friends saw it and quoted it endlessly. “He uses it as an excuse to put his testicles all over me!” “It’s got… raisins in it. You like raisins.”


        • postpunkmonk says:

          Rob – The John Hughes films drilled any desire to see 80s teenage comedies completely out of me. And they were on the high end of the film spectrum. As I’m perhaps older, my friends and I quoted Monty Python and Firesign Theatre. Especially the latter!


    • Craig Watkins says:

      I was hoping this article would tell me why i can’t find the song with one look. This song was on the original soundtrack and is no longer there. This is really weird on why a track would be removed or no longer available for purchase on any platform across the web or any musical apps. (Other than using utube) All other songs on the soundtrack are available. If you could shed any light on why this track is not available or if there is a way to have it on a digital Playlists, it would be gravely appreciated.


      • postpunkmonk says:

        Craig Watkins – Welcome to the comments! This is the first I’ve heard about the Hine/Curnin track being m.i.a. so like Rob suggested, it’s probably a rights issue over that track. I see the LPs of that album are still through the roof, though I see that a CD of that album [with the track] sold today, for only A$49.95 [a scanty $33.75 but with shipping from Oz not being cheap] from an Australian dealer on Discogs!


  3. Rob MacKenna says:

    As an aside, since my original comment some months ago, the film has shown up on streaming services for the first time I’m aware of. It’s one of my favorites in the 80’s-teen-comedy genre, so I do recommend it, keeping in mind you know what you’re gonna get. It’s available on Showtime for subscribers, and a pretty reasonable rental ($3-$4) from the usual places you might rent.

    Clearly whoever sets the price hasn’t seen the film, as you really ought to be able to watch it for two dollars… (“cash – plus tip.”)


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