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?
Various: Better Off Dead – US – CD 
- Rupert Hine + Cy Curnin: With One Look [The Wildest Dream]
- Rupert Hine: Arrested By You
- Martin Ansell: Shine
- Rupert Hine: Better Off Dub [inst.]
- Terri Nunn: Dancing In Isolation
- Thinkman: Come To Your Rescue
- E.G. Daily: A Little Luck
- Rupert Hine: The Falcon Beat [inst.]
- E.G. Daily: One Way Love [Better Off Dead]
- Rupert Hine: Race The K-12 [inst.]
Fans 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.
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?