When you’re a young adult and trying to find your way in the world, it can be a very liberating period.Â It’s a time when your tastes aren’t solidified, and your mind is open to musical forms that people older or younger than you may find utterly abhorrent.Â The science of this phenomenon is detailed in the book This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin, but I’m fairly certain we’ve all experienced what Levitin writes about:Â the music of our teen years (and early 20s) is just so much better than the crap that’s produced today.
I was going through my LPs the other day and found an inordinate number of soundtracks.Â Yeah, the Footloose soundtrack was in there, but I started to find others that reminded me how intently I listened to the music used in films.Â If I heard something I liked, I would usually drive down to Tower or Rasputin Records to see if I could get a copy after seeing the movie.Â That was back in the days when, despite making just a little more than minimum wage, I had a disposable income for things like records.Â Nowadays, while I still have a disposable income for music, there’s a kind of “download and forget” mentality that’s crept into my listening habits.Â Sure, it’s more convenient to buy music as a digital download, but I would argue that it comes at a price.Â And that price is the loss of anticipation and excitement about a record you bought at a brick and mortar store.
Dropping the needle on a new LP meant that you had to do more than just click a button.Â It meant tearing off the cellophane wrapping, taking out the inner sleeve of the record (pausing to eye the cover art, if there was any), gingerly extracting the LP from the sleeve, placing it on the turntable, and carefully putting the needle on the vinyl.Â For me, it was a ritual that reinforced the importance I placed on really listening to music.
While the music was playing, I would pore over the credits, liner notes, album art, and lyrics (if any).Â I would file away nuggets of information gleaned from those notes, which would enhance the experience of listening to the music.Â I can’t quite explain why, but knowing that composer X scored a film for director Y was important to me.Â Somehow I think it made me feel more connected to the movies I was watching because I was able to enjoy the film on multiple levels. It is that total devotion to the music experience I find myself missing these days.Â You know, getting completely lost in the music as you either cranked it up on the stereo speakers, or cranked it up on your headphones.
Alas, I find myself doing that less and less these days. Rediscovering the soundtracks presented here, however, has rekindled those memories of listening to music back in the day.Â And the lesson learned is that I have to slow down and really start to listen again.
Because it’s Vinyl Record Day today, here we go with six selections from soundtracks that have all the snap, crackle, and pops that you may remember from those days of LPs and 45s. Oh, and this time I’m offering this mix in the usual “full mix” format and as individual mp3s.
“She’s Leaving the Bank,” Ry Cooder (Download)
I used to catch a lot of shit from friends when the cassette dub of this soundtrack was in my car’s stereo.Â Often this tune (or others from the soundtrack) would be met with a response that went something like this:Â “What the hell is this shit?”Â Flash forward to 2008, and now the reaction from friends is more like, “Oh my God, I love this! Who is it?”
“Interests Pursued,” Mark Isham (Download)
There was a point where it seemed like I bought every soundtrack Mark Isham composed.Â Oddly enough, it seemed like the majority of the LPs were from Alan Rudolf films.Â In the ’80s, Rudolf and Isham worked hand in hand like David Lynch works with Angelo Badalamenti. Isham understood the mood Rudolf was trying to create in his films, and he rarely disappointed by overdoing or under doing it with his compositions.Â The Trouble in Mind soundtrack also has songs performed by Marianne Faithful, which, like certain types of liquor, are an acquired taste.
“Killer Blow,” Sade (Download)
A friend of mine (who worked at Tower Records in 1986) had me absolutely convinced that Absolute Beginners was going to be a huge hit here in the U.S. Based on all the hype she was heaping, I bought the soundtrack (with the Tower employee discount) and settled in for what I expected to be a parade of hit songs that would dominate the charts.Â To me, the Style Council and Sade’s “Killer Blow” were poised to be the big singles, but wha’ happened?Â The film tanked, the soundtrack failed to generate the predicted hits, and these days, both the film and soundtrack have turned into a bit of cult favorite.
“Alabamy Bound,” Jeff Daniels (Download)
A wonderful Woody Allen film the combines inventive twists (i.e., a film-within-a-film, and actors stepping out of the screen to exist in the “real world”), a great score by Dick Hyman, and, of course, this tune performed by Jeff Daniels.
“Letter to Brezhnev Theme,” Alan Gill (Download)
This was one of those film imports to the U.S. that had “sleeper” written all over it. I saw it once in the theater and rented it a couple of times on video, and it’s a cute story about a Soviet sailor and a young Liverpool woman in love.Â But the film is also a not-so-subtle commentary about the U.K. with Thatcher in power, and what that meant to the lives of the British working class. While this soundtrack has songs that weren’t in the film; sadly, it also omits a great deal of music that was in the film.
“For the Love of Big Brother,” Eurythmics (Download)
The 1984 soundtrack is noted for the rift between the film’s director (Michael Radford) and the film company (Virgin Films) because of the use of the Eurythmics’ music in the film.Â It seems The Suits were worried the film wouldn’t make any money and commissioned the Eurythmics to compose a few radio-friendly songs for the film.Â A big battle over artistic control erupted, the film was a big box office loser, but the Eurythmics had some success with two songs in the U.K.Â “Sexcrime” and “Julia” went to #4 and #44 respectively in jolly old England.Â This tune, however, is one I find both haunting and just plain wonderful – even though, to my knowlege, it was never used in the film.