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Soundtrack Saturday: “Better Off Dead”

For the last of the Soundtrack Saturday reruns, I thought I’d resurrect one of the first posts. You guys enjoyed this the first time around (it was posted more than three years ago), so I hope it still holds up. Maybe this is the movie you’ll watch if you’re spending New Year’s Eve at home this year? And then you can jam to some Rupert Hine. This one’s short — Soundtrack Saturday posts used to be, back in the day — so you don’t have to do a lot of pesky reading to get to the music.

This week I give you a classic John Cusack film: 1985’s Better Off Dead. The first of his two movies with director “Savage” Steve Holland, and probably my favorite, Better Off Dead tells the tale of down-on-his-luck Lane Meyer. Lane’s beautiful and popular girlfriend, Beth (Amanda Wyss), has just broken up with him for jerk ski jock Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier). He begins thinking of elaborate ways to kill himself, only to fail miserably in the execution.

In addition to dealing with Stalin, who constantly goads Lane until he throws down a challenge to ski one of the most dangerous slopes in the area, Lane has to contend with his bizarre family, his crazy neighbors, and the overly persistent paperboy. In the midst of all this, Lane manages to find someone he can truly connect with: his wacko neighbors’ French exchange student, Monique (Diane Franklin). She shows him that there’s more to life than Beth and helps him stand up for himself and realize he has the confidence to beat 12 Roy Stalins at their own game.

Better Off Dead was always one of my favorite movies growing up. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “I want my TWO DOLLARS!” around my household. Not only did my brother and I recite the film’s more famous quotes, so did my parents. Of course, I have two of the coolest parents in existence, but that’s beside the point. If you’ve never seen this movie, you should run out and rent it right now. I promise, you won’t regret it.

There was an official soundtrack released; however, it appears that A) it’s out of print, and B) it’s woefully incomplete. Only ten songs are on it, leaving off some of the more memorable tracks featured in the film. I’ve compiled as many of the songs as I could, so hopefully this will be a more complete soundtrack for you to enjoy. There were a few Christmas tunes in the movie, but I left them off — you’ve had enough of Christmas music already.

Rupert Hine – Better Off Dub (Title Music)
Neil Sedaka – Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Daryl Hall & John Oates – She’s Gone
Paul Simon – 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Foxy Lady
Elizabeth “E.G.” Daily – One Way Love (Better Off Dead)
Elizabeth “E.G.” Daily – A Little Luck
Rupert Hine – The Falcon Beat
Van Halen – Everybody Wants Some!!
Howard Jones – Like to Get to Know You Well
Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy
Martin Ansell – Shine
Rupert Hine – Arrested by You
Terri Nunn – Dancing in Isolation
Thinkman – Come to Your Rescue
Simple Minds – Street Hassle
Rupert Hine – Race the K-12
Rupert Hine and Cy Curnin – With One Look (The Wildest Dream)




  • D Ragland

    Thanks for this. I always loved the car-fixing montage with Howard Jones playing, and I also love that E.G. Daily is the singer at the dance. She's great in Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

  • Paul

    I was working as an usher in a theater when this movie came out. I cant tell you how many times I heard then end credits while waiting to clear the theater for the next showing. What a blast from the past…

  • http://playitandbedamned.blogspot.com Rob

    There's an interesting story about the Rupert Hine tracks. The songs from the longtime Fixx producer were the beginning of his unique project known as Thinkman. Why unique? Because he recorded the band's first album “The Formula” with made videos for all the tracks. They also did interviews (including one with me during my music journalist days) during a publicity tour – and then it turned out all be a hoax. Hine, with a little help from Stewart Copeland and Fixx guitarist Jamie West-Oram, had recorded the album himself then hired actors with no musical background to pretend to be the band. He figured that, on his own, he wasn't marketable. But if he surrounded himself with pretty boys in that MTV–reliant age, the record would be more of a success. Well, it really wasn't. But as we all know, not all 80s pretty boys hit it big. I wrote about Thinkman a while back on my blog, which I hope to get back to doing some day once the dust clears …

    By the way, I'm more of a “One Crazy Summer” fan myself. But this was a good one too.

  • Malchus

    Now that you've done one great Cusack movie, I hope you'll consider his best 80's movie, “The Sure Thing.” that film had some great music, too, but I don't think there was ever a soundtrack.

    Love this new column at Popdose!

  • ozarkmatt

    She was better in “Valley Girl.” Hubba hubba.

  • ozarkmatt

    Well, you mentioned the second one, but there was a trilogy of great Cusack teen movies. Then, not to be type-cast, he turned his back on them. The third of course, was “Say Anything,” the best of them all.

    Hell, you could write a thesis just on the boom-box-over-the-head scene and its impact on popular culture.

  • Malchus

    In Cusack's defense, he wanted to begin playing characters his own age when he did “Say Anything…” He was already in his 20's at the time. And you'll notice that Lloyd Dobler is already 19 in that film. One of the best aspects of “The Sure Thing” is that it's a college romantic comedy. Cusack is a college freshman. If that film were done today, the characters would have to be high school seniors in order to market the film.

  • JOn

    I'm loading up songs from the STK cd for a friend's 20th high school reunion onto an sd card right now! FUnny that this appears on POpdose now! You're right ..it was incomplete, but I love the EG Daily tunes and the Hine/Curnin track!

  • ozarkmatt

    This is true. It would have worked even up to 10 years ago, as a slacker/Gen X type film. But, that was already done badly as “Singles.”
    The best part about “Sure Thing” was it had Gilbert in it. Then he goes on to be some sort of award winning actor in one of the most popular TV dramas in history.
    Loser.
    Hey, I am the guy that will always see Curtis Armstrong as “Booger.” I don't care how good he does acting as something else.
    Which, of course, brings us back to our current movie: “Do you have any idea what the street value of this mountain is? “

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  • http://mulberrypanda96.blogspot.com rwcass

    Didn't he do a teen movie in '87 called “Hot Pursuit” that was pretty bad? I didn't see it, but I remember it got terrible reviews and did little business, and I seem to remember Cusack saying that's when he decided he didn't want to do teen movies anymore. “Say Anything” wasn't “just” a teen movie, of course.

    I saw “The Sure Thing” for the first time in 2006. I wanted it to be funnier than it was. Cusack's character was obnoxious.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    I cannot express my love for this movie. Back in high school, I had a major migraine issue for a week. I stayed in a dark, quiet room like Lazarus. And when I got up, my brother Dan had rented this VHS tape and we watched. It was awesome times.

  • benw

    One of my all time favorite movies.

    I vote for the soundtrack to “The Last American Virgin” and “The Party Animal!”

    Jenny, this is FABULOUS liqueur, it reminds me of the moonshine Ricky's dead pappy used to make, god bless him!
    MRS. SMITH! NO! WAIT!!!!!!!!

  • Marco

    THX Kelly; great reading … great story … great soundtrack !!! As with your first contribution; would love to see the movie RIGHT NOW !!! Looking forward to next Saturday's movie … Marco

    PS: Have a look over there; found something for your mother …

  • Thierry

    Great movie, great soundtrack.

    Also, “Michael Cera – This generation's John Cusack”? Discuss…

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    I think of him more as this generation's Bob Newhart.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Cera's timing business-wise couldn't be more fortunate. He followed Superbad with Juno. The upcoming Nick and Norah looks kind of awful, but he has Arrested Development The Movie almost immediately in the pipeline.

    Cue the sad Charlie Brown music!

  • http://playitandbedamned.blogspot.com Rob

    One more thing: The fat kid in the movie (and on the poster) is Dan Schneider, later to be on “Head of the Class”

    Along with “Class” mate Brian Robbins, he has been the main force behind all those Nickelodeon sitcoms – starting with “All That.”

    Every generation leads to another generation, it is said.

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  • JOE

    HEY I NEED SOME OF THESE SONGS FOR MY WEDDING. HOW CAN I DOWNLOAD THEM PLEASSSSEEEE

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  • Sophia

    Is there anyway you cdould upload these songs again I would be so grateful. i used to have the cd but lost it during a move. please email if you can. angelshavefros

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/joelynch joe

    I guess I missed out on these files. I try to download them and they look like they download, then say “0 bytes” file size.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/joelynch joe

    I guess I missed out on these files. I try to download them and they look like they download, then say “0 bytes” file size.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/joelynch joe

    I guess I missed out on these files. I try to download them and they look like they download, then say “0 bytes” file size.

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  • Brian Boone

    God bless you, Kelly.

  • Anonymous

    “Hot Pursuit” is kind of a fun movie and he’s very good in it.  But the story itself isn’t all that great.

    Cusack plays the nice guy in love with a pretty girl.  He, she, and her family are supposed to go off on a fun vacation island hopping in the Caribbean   But due to circumstances beyond his control, he’s unable to go with them.  But then circumstances change so he tries to catch up with her in the Caribbean.

    What happens next is a series of near-misses as he almost catches up with her.  We discover that she and her family are in mortal danger and now he has to catch up with her to save them all.

    The problem is that these near-misses aren’t particularly entertaining.  He’s about to catch her on a boat but–oops!  Up pops a storm!  The flight to where she is is full and there won’t be another for a week–oops!  A ticket pops up!

    I’d definitely put in my Netflix queue.  Cusack & Robert Loggia have some great scenes and you get to meet a young Ben Stiller (performing with Jerry).  But don’t expect much more than a moderately entertaining movie.

  • Anonymous

    “Hot Pursuit” is kind of a fun movie and he’s very good in it.  But the story itself isn’t all that great.

    Cusack plays the nice guy in love with a pretty girl.  He, she, and her family are supposed to go off on a fun vacation island hopping in the Caribbean   But due to circumstances beyond his control, he’s unable to go with them.  But then circumstances change so he tries to catch up with her in the Caribbean.

    What happens next is a series of near-misses as he almost catches up with her.  We discover that she and her family are in mortal danger and now he has to catch up with her to save them all.

    The problem is that these near-misses aren’t particularly entertaining.  He’s about to catch her on a boat but–oops!  Up pops a storm!  The flight to where she is is full and there won’t be another for a week–oops!  A ticket pops up!

    I’d definitely put in my Netflix queue.  Cusack & Robert Loggia have some great scenes and you get to meet a young Ben Stiller (performing with Jerry).  But don’t expect much more than a moderately entertaining movie.