Soundtrack Saturday: “Earth Girls Are Easy”

Written by Film, Soundtrack Saturday

It had Geena Davis, Julie Brown, and a furry Jeff Goldblum. How was this not a hit?

Well hello there. Long time, no see. Have you missed me? I know I kind of abruptly disappeared there for a while, but it couldn’t be helped — I’ve had a lot of crazy personal stuff to deal with over the past month. I hope my absence has made your heart grow fonder for my little column, though.

If you were dismayed at Soundtrack Saturday’s hiatus, I should tell you that its absence  has been a good thing for you. Why? Because it’s helped prepare you for this piece of news: Soundtrack Saturday will be moving from a weekly schedule to biweekly, and sometimes monthly, depending on my life. If that disappoints you, I’m sorry. But I promise, it’s for the best. You’ll see.

Now that I’ve gotten that little announcement out of the way, on with the post …

I have a confession to make: I have a crush on Jeff Goldblum. I think I’ve had a crush on him since the first movie of his I saw — Transylvania 6-5000 (1985). (You totally thought I was going to say The Big Chill, didn’t you?) I can’t really explain why I like him so much other than it’s because he’s a little weird, and I like weird more often than not.

My crush on Golblum has waned in recent years, but was reignited when he became a regular cast member on Law & Order: Criminal Intent (yes, I actually watch that show); until this season, it starred one of my other offbeat celebrity crushes, Vincent D’Onofrio.

When I came across the soundtrack to Earth Girls Are Easy (1989), a film I hadn’t seen beyond five minutes or so, I thought it’d be the perfect chance to feed my Goldblum crush and write about a really fun, ridiculous film and soundtrack.

Earth Girls Are Easy, directed by Julien Temple (The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle), is one of those movies I’d heard a lot about and seen playing on cable all the time but never bothered to watch. I think that’s because my best friend at the time saw it and told me she thought it was stupid, so I didn’t bother. But I think that if I’d given it a chance back then, I would’ve loved it — it’s the kind of silly, kitschy musical comedy I’ve always enjoyed. Lesson learned: your junior high school best friend isn’t necessarily the best film critic.

In addition to Goldblum, who plays “the blue alien,” Mac, the film also stars his wife at the time, Geena Davis, as lovelorn manicurist Valerie; former MTV personality Julie Brown as her wild best friend, Candy (Brown also cowrote the film); future In Living Color alums Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey as “yellow alien” Zeebo and “red alien” Wiploc, respectively; Michael McKean as Valerie’s pool guy, Woody; and the late Charles Rocket as her cheating fiancé, Ted.

Let’s watch the trailer, shall we?

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It’s kind of amazing this movie ever got made. Production was originally set to begin in 1986, but Warner Bros. wasn’t impressed with the box office performance of Temple’s Absolute Beginners that year — at the time it was reported to be the most expensive film in British history, earning less than $1 million in the U.S. — so they put it on hold. Then, when several big-name performers — Debra Winger, Madonna, Daryl Hannah, Elisabeth Shue, Justine Bateman, and Molly Ringwald — rejected the role of Valerie, the studio got rid of the project altogether.

Eventually, a French bank put up the dough, and De Laurentiis Entertainment Group signed on as Earth Girls Are Easy‘s distributor; a full two years after filming was originally slated to begin, production got under way. But there were multiple issues during the shoot, many of which stemmed from Temple’s persnickety ways, and so many scenes were deleted during editing that the “‘Cause I’m a Blond” number had to be shot in postproduction and inserted into the film to compensate. By the time Earth Girls was completely finished, De Laurentiis’s company had filed for bankruptcy.

Vestron Pictures eventually picked up the distribution rights, and the film was finally released in May 1989 (Vestron filed for bankruptcy and was bought by LIVE Entertainment less than two years later). By then it had been three years since the project began and more than a year since filming started.

Earth Girls didn’t do very well at the box office, bringing in a little more than a third of its $10 million budget. Reviews I’ve read are mixed: some critics praised it for being silly and fun to watch, while others said it was less a musical and more a feature-length music video. I agree with both sides. While I think the music and the plot are a lot of fun, I don’t think it really works as a musical — there aren’t enough true musical numbers to call it that.

In 2001 an attempt was made to turn the movie into a stage musical. The cast included Brown, reprising her role from the movie; Kristin Chenoweth as Valerie; Marc Kudisch as Ted; and Hunter Foster as Mac. There were no full-blown performances of the play, but rather several “stagings,” designed to gauge investor interest, that included costumes and props but no sets — the actors even carried their scripts around with them.

As you’d probably expect, there were several differences between Earth Girls Are Easy the film and the proposed stage version, such as new dialogue, characters being dropped, songs being added and omitted. There was positive reaction to the staged readings, but the play never gained the investors it needed to become a full production.

But since you can find just about anything on YouTube, here’s a clip of one of the staged readings:

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As I said, I don’t really think the film works as a musical, but I do think its out-of-print soundtrack album is a lot of fun. Nile Rodgers is responsible for the original music, and if you’ve seen Earth Girls, you probably figured that out without even seeing his credit. In addition to the songs that were part of the musical scenes in the film, most of which were written and performed by Julie Brown, the soundtrack features songs performed by the B-52’s, Information Society, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and Depeche Mode.

Two singles were released from the album: Royalty’s “Baby Gonna Shake,” which sounds like a Madonna throwaway, and Hall & Oates’s cover of the O’Jays’ “Love Train,” which included the N’s version of “Earth Girls Are Easy” as its B-side.

Interestingly, several of the songs on the soundtrack album feature different mixes than the ones heard in the film, and in the case of “The Ground You Walk On,” it’s a different version entirely — in the film Geena Davis sings the song, but on the album Prince protegée Jill Jones performs it. I’ve tried to include both the film and album versions of as many tracks as I could. Some of the songs I’ve included that didn’t appear on the soundtrack album, as well as the “film versions” of other tracks, were ripped straight from the DVD — which should be pretty obvious to you once you take a listen. As a bonus, I’ve also included Brown’s original version of “Earth Girls Are Easy.”

The N – Earth Girls Are Easy
The N – Earth Girls Are Easy [Film Version] The B-52’s – Summer of Love
Julie Brown – Brand New Girl
Julie Brown – Brand New Girl [Film Version] Geena Davis – The Ground You Walk On
Jill Jones – The Ground You Walk On
Luis Restaurant’s World – The Appliance Symphony
Julie Brown – I Like ‘Em Big and Stupid
Julie Brown – I Like ‘Em Big and Stupid [Video Mix] Information Society – Hit Me
Royalty – Baby Gonna Shake
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Who Do You Love
Julie Brown – ‘Cause I’m a Blond
The B-52’s – (Shake That) Cosmic Thing
Depeche Mode – Route 66
Stewart Copeland – Throb
Daryl Hall & John Oates – Love Train

Bonus track:
Julie Brown – Earth Girls Are Easy

And because you know I love dance-offs, please to enjoy this one between Damon Wayans (as Zeebo) and a Morris Day wannabe.

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