So on Monday we looked at the incredibly popular “Pretty In Pink” OST. That film was written by John Hughes but actually directed by Howard Deutsch. Even though we think of it as a “John Hughes film.” It turned out that Hughes was actually miffed that the test marketing changed the story he wasted to tell completely, so the next film by Hughes and Deutsch was a revision to the original “Pretty In Pink” story with the genders reversed but the class issues subtext still there. By the time that 1987 and “Some Kind Of Wonderful” rolled around, John Hughes was like an empire in Hollywood. The CD soundtrack bore the logo of Hughes Music as its label.
Various: Some Kind Of Wonderful – US – CD 
- Pete Shelley: Do Anything
- Furniture: Brilliant Mind
- Blue Room: Cry Like This
- Flesh For Lulu: I Go Crazy
- Stephen Duffy: She Loves Me
- Jesus + Mary Chain: The Hardest Walk 
- The Apartments: The Shyest Time
- March Violets: Miss Amanda Jones
- Lick The Tins: I Can’t Help Falling In Love
- March Violets: Turn To The Sky
As usual, the Hughes project was salted with enough bands that I collected to make purchase inevitable. Possibly even desirable. Certainly I wanted all of the Pete Shelley solo work that I could round up, but I have to say that “Do Anything” rather closely resembles another, hardly likable famous movie soundtrack song. With its drum machine beat coupled with the twangy guitar rondo it starts out exactly like the dreaded “Footlose!” Fortunately it’s a better song and no one would mistake Pete Shelley for the overbearing Kenny Loggins! A decent Shelley solo effort but I could go for a remix that downplayed the similarities to “Footlose.”
The next song was another thing entirely. Furniture re-cut their 1985 single “Brilliant Mind” with producer Stephen Hague behind the boards for this version. I’ve never heard the original Mick Glossop production, but this one is still a subtle, passionate, song of considerable sophistication. I listen to this and it’s difficult to not be hearing all these years later, the blueprint for the mature sound of Pulp that was still five to six years down the road at this point in 1987.
Then came the soporific MOR mush “Cry Like This” to bring the parade to a halt. Blue Room were a mysterious band that only existed on John Hughes soundtracks with no other appearance to their credit. I will guess that music supervisor Tarquin Gotch, who was behind the A+R for the Hughes’ soundtracks as well as being a manager of various bands [many being heavily represented in my Record Cell], might have been trying to get Blue Room signed and got them slots in films like this only to find no real labels taking the bait. That was because they were a terrible, faceless band that no one loved.
The closest thing to a hit single in this soundtrack was the cut from Flesh For Lulu, the passable “I Go Crazy.” This was a band that never did anything for me, but maybe it was better to have an also-ran band I didn’t feel strongly about getting the John Hughes push since I could have hardly cared if the band compromised for their shot at greatness or not. So I think of them as the sacrificial lambs that insured that…let’s say Freur, didn’t have a huge and hugely impactful top ten US single that ultimately destroyed the band’s artistic disposition for years onward.
Fortunately, the reason why this CD was a must buy was that it featured a non-LP Stephen Duffy track, “She Loves Me.” Could there be a title more relevant to the Duffy of the ’86-’87 period? And delightfully, Duffy is incapable of phoning it in, so even this soundtrack song was a valued portion of his wide array of non-LP material that was all of great interest. Stephen Hague’s production was also a good fit, mixing his penchant for synths [that Duffy was growing out of] with acoustic instrumentation that pointed the way to the artist’s imminent future with The Lilac Time.
The third band I was collecting at this time was The Jesus + Mary Chain. Here, they re-recorded a different version of “The Hardest Walk” from their debut album with Hague planing off the rough textures for a smoother version of their sound that effectively telegraphed the band’s own moves on the “Darklands” album to come. Purists might have balked at the time, but obviously the band realized that they couldn’t make another “Psychocandy.” Either version is still a good song for my ears. Though the feedback caught my ear initially, it’s really the classic pop craft of the Reid brothers’ vision that kept us coming back for more.
At the time, I had never heard of The Apartments and had not yet heard of The Laughing Clowns. “The Shyest Time” was striking to me in that vocalist Peter Walsh really resembled Pete Shelley to my ears. Making The Apartments a rather curious addition to this soundtrack, thought the song was certainly fine.
Similarly, this album was the first time I’d heard of The March Violets. I had no previous knowledge of their origins as label mates to Sisters Of Mercy. Their cover of the Rolling Stones “Miss Amanda Jones” was winning pop rock chosen for the reference to the film character of the same name, but I thought it came off really well. Then the band had another song on this album, making them the only band with that cachet. “Turn To The Sky” was an excellent tune that the band re-recorded with Hague producing specifically for this album. As the final song on the album, it actually sounded glorious. Vocalist Cleo Murray had a voice that was immensely appealing and free from distancing affectations. I would have loved to have gotten some March Violets but I could never find anything on CD at the time and even records have been m.i.a. over the years afterward.
The last band here offered another cover version, but Lick The Tins take on the chestnut “I Can’t Help Falling In Love” was so extremely Irish, it sounded like The Pogues with a woman singing in the strongest possible accent. The instrumentation was heavy on the pennywhistle, bodhrán, and concertina so if you cut this one, it would bleed green. That said, I was a convert. I even tried to get the [evidently rare] 1991 CD of the sole Lick The Tins album. So this appearance remains all that I have ever heard, and the CD is out of my price range.
This album was interesting in that it sought to apply an overriding vibe to what could be a breakneck mashup of conflicting styles and productions; the phantom lurking in the background of every modern soundtrack loaded with disparate pop bands. By having Stephen Hague produce all of the songs here or at least “re-produce” “The Shyest Time,” “I Can’t Help Falling In Love,” and “Turn To The Sky” from existing recordings, it managed to have a unity usually not present on such soundtracks. The only real dud here was Blue Room’s awful “Cry Like This” but even if the Duffy track was the only thing I liked here, as a collector, it more than merited investment. Fortunately, over half of the album was a real winner even as it pointed to an era of “peak John Hughes” that had clearly passed. There would be no top ten hits from this one, and though there were a few more of his soundtracks left for the future, they would no longer occupy the cultural space that efforts like “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty In Pink” did.
I suppose the notion of hit laden soundtracks albums in the modern era can be traced back to the moneyspinning giant that was the Saturday Night fever soundtrack album. Prior to that, soundtracks were either film music, or the scores of hit musicals. In the pre-rock era, albums like “South Pacific” were the blockbuster albums of their day. Selling all of the millions of copies sitting in thrift store today that have not already been consigned to landfills. It was maybe due to the impact of the “American Graffiti” soundtrack that the modern notion of a soundtrack composed entirely of his pop/rock songs became viable. By 1977 when “Saturday Night Fever” exploded, that notion got a foothold that only expanded over the 80s period.
Marketing synergies being what they were, it was an idea that has yet to fall out of favor with the entertainment industry. With MTV in place, it became possible to flog both the films and the soundtracks in one fell swoop. With Post-Punk and New Wave making US chart inroads, albums like we’ve looked at last week were perhaps inevitable. That they often carried the taint of artistic compromise was always likely, given that they were inextricably tied to the film industry. Which remains a huge-money concern prone to levels of test marketing and second guessing that is alien to the music industry. Save for one prominent example I can think of.
Maybe that’s why all of these albums are at best likable but none ascend to the heights that the best albums, or even the best compilations can often do. How do I think each album stacks up against one another using the 4-point Rock G.P.A® scale? Let’s find out!
Well, “Married To The Mob” was a clear winner, with “Some Kind Of Wonderful” coming in a close second. “Better Off Dead” was undoubtedly hurt by the presence of the E.G. Daily tracks. If they were not there, it would leap from a 2.55 to 2.875 ranking. Making the game a lot tighter.
Some of the comments have called out to some other soundtracks that were not included for very good reasons. One, I simply don’t have things like the “Repo Man” soundtrack, because the Iggy Pop thrill-packed title song notwithstanding, L.A. Punk bands are not really my thing. But I’ll have to grab a copy somewhere, unless it’s on an Iggy compilation unknown to me. Two, there are soundtrack albums I have not on CD, which means I would have to digitize them for careful listening. This thread was planned the week prior so that meant that everything had to be on CD and thus very accessible. Three, the “Return Of the Living Dead” soundtrack was significant to me only for The Cramps “Surfin’ Dead” track, which was used as a B-side on a later CD single, so I got off the hook there.
But we can revisit this topic again some day in the far-flung future. There are more options. I just wanted this one to be a thread of very 80s soundtracks with all of the highly commercial restrictions of the films they were taken from to color the choices as it were. Thought it’s seems obvious now that “Married To The Mob” is the only film here not concerned with the mating habits of teenagers; marking it as the odd one out. No wonder it had the best soundtrack.