Popdose Flashback ’90: Various Artists, “Pretty Woman”

Written by Music, Popdose Flashback '90

Rob Smith tells himself he’s over the Pretty Woman soundtrack, but is he the king of wishful thinking?

Had director Garry Marshall consulted me during the postproduction editing stage of Pretty Woman, the film would have ended with Julia Roberts’ lovable hooker Vivian being driven away from the Beverly Wilshire to the strains of Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love”. We would also have seen the wonderfully empty Richard Gere’s emotionally distant corporate raider Edward standing on a Wilshire balcony, mourning the loss of the only woman he ever truly loved, or at least the only one he ever paid three grand to fuck for a week.

Fade to black. Cut. Print. Roll credits.

Oh, no, you say, not so fast, Cecil B. DeSmitty. You want the fairy tale, just like Vivian tells Edward before that particular montage. Lots of people wanted the fairy tale. Garry Marshall certainly wanted the fairy tale, and instead of a relatively reasonable ending to a film with a decidedly unreasonable premise, we got Sir Edward riding in to “save” Princess Vivian from turning her life around on her own terms, whisking her away to be his well-cared-for trophy wife forever and ever, amen.

I suppose it would be extra curmudgeonly of me to insist on my alternate ending, but here’s the thing: it was a great, all-too-brief montage. The melancholy look on Vivian’s face as the car drives off; the way she bugs her eyes out to keep from crying, then looks back anyway; the super-vacant way Edward peers over the balcony—these were the realest reactions in the entire movie. And they were set to the most heartbreaking of lost-love anthems, that wonderful Roxette track, whose opening verse so perfectly sets the tone of loneliness, both present and impending:

Lay a whisper on my pillow
Leave the winter on the ground
I wake up lonely, there’s air of silence
In the bedroom and all around
Touch me now, I close my eyes and dream away
It must have been love but it’s over now

It was the highlight of the film’s soundtrack, a Number One hit by arguably the most popular band in the world at that moment. The album, like the movie, was a smash, peaking at Number Four during at 91-week run on the album chart, selling over three million copies in the process.

While Roxette provided the biggest hit on the record, there was no shortage of solid pop music therein. Go West contributed the most excellent “King of Wishful Thinking,” a Top Ten hit in its own right, with its bouncy, immediately memorable chorus. Go-Go Jane Wiedlin gave us “Tangled,” a tasty pop confection that stands at the top of her solo work. Both were radio-friendly songs of a mighty high order.

What would an almost-’80s soundtrack be without a love ballad from Peter Cetera? “No Explanation” might not have had a jaw-droppingly geeky video to push it to the VH-1 crowd, but it works as a piece of soundtrack fluff. I’m also partial to Lauren Wood’s “Fallen,” which accompanied the scene in which Edward takes Vivian to the opera (who could forget that plane-flying-at-sunset shot, or the too-brief San Francisco at night shot? If Garry Marshall had consulted me, both would have been considerably longer). Wood’s previous claim to fame was a song called “Please Don’t Leave,” a duet with, you guessed it —

There are some clunkers here, too. Natalie Cole’s vanilla “Wild Women Do” sounds anything but wild, and the damn thing kicks off the album. It’s followed by an ill-conceived remix of “Fame” by David Bowie (this was, after all, his Tin Machine/Glass Spider period, when he pretty much pissed on his past whenever possible). And why the soundtrack folks used Christopher Otcasek anemic cover of Johnny O’Keefe’s “Real Wild Child (Wild One)” instead of Iggy Pop’s much cooler version is beyond comprehension.

All in all, though, the prototypical ’90s chick flick had a damn fine soundtrack record to accompany it. I just wish I’d have been asked about that ending.  On second thought, perhaps this one works better: