Soundtrack Saturday Special Edition! Best Original Song 1987
Happy Oscars Eve, everyone! Are you all as excited about the 85th Academy Awards as I am? Probably not. To tell the truth, I’m more excited to watch the telecast with two of my best friends. I’m hosting my 2nd Annual Oscars Pajama Party in which we eat a bunch of good food (I’m making “Argofuckyourself Eggplant Sandwiches” and “Red Carpet Pie”), drink a bunch of champagne, and pass judgement on everyone’s clothing choices. It’ll be a great time. (For the record, I think Argo‘s gonna win Best Picture. And I can’t wait to see little Quvenzhané Wallis’s Oscar dress.)
Since the Oscars are tomorrow, that means it’s time for our trip down 1980s Best Original Song memory lane to come to an end. I know you’re sad, but try to keep the tears to a minimum.
For our final week, I decided to save the best (year that I haven’t already written about) for last. Aside from one song, each of these nominees evokes some fond memories for me and I’m looking forward to revisiting them.
So, let’s get down to business.
A quick recap of the 1987 ceremony:
The 59th Academy Awards
Date of telecast: March 30, 1987
Host: Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn, and Paul Hogan
(Per Academy rules, all nominated films were released between January 1 and December 31, 1986, in Los Angeles County, California.)
Best Picture: Platoon
Best Actor: Paul Newman, The Color of Money
Best Actress: Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Caine, Hannah and Her Sisters
Best Supporting Actress: Dianne Wiest, Hannah and Her Sisters
Best Director: Oliver Stone, Platoon
Fun facts time!
- This was the last Academy Awards ceremony to feature multiple hosts until the 82nd in 2010 when Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin co-hosted. I can see why — the trio they had hosting these Oscars was a perfect example of “one of these things is not like the others.”
- With her Best Actress win, Marlee Matlin became the first — and as of 2013, only — deaf actor to win an Academy Award.
- Hannah and Her Sisters was the last film until The Fighter in 2011 to win both Best Supporting Actor and Actress Oscars.
- The Academy Awards telecast on ABC aired at the same time as the 1987 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament on rival network, CBS. Subsequently, the Oscars telecast would be scheduled around the game by moving to April for the next two years.
And now, a look at our category …
The Oscar went to:
“Take My Breath Away” (performed by Berlin; music and lyrics by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock) from Top Gun.
“Glory of Love” (performed by Peter Cetera; music by Peter Cetera and David Foster, lyrics by Peter Cetera and Diane Nini) from The Karate Kid, Part II.
“Life in a Looking Glass” (performed by Tony Bennett; music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse) from That’s Life.
“Mean Green Mother from Outer Space” (performed by Levi Stubbs; music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman) from Little Shop of Horrors.
“Somewhere Out There” (performed by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram; music by James Horner and Barry Mann, lyrics by Cynthia Weil) from An American Tail.
If only Randy Newman had the Oscars luck of one Giorgio Moroder. He’s only been nominated for three Academy Awards, but he’s won every single one — in addition to picking up the trophy for “Take My Breath Away,” he previously won in this category for “Flashdance…What a Feeling” in 1984 and for Best Original Score in 1979 for Midnight Express. “Take My Breath Away” was a monster hit in 1986 and you pretty much couldn’t escape hearing it on the radio or seeing its video on MTV at least once an hour. It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts and topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks. It also won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song and is the only nominee of the bunch to eventually be covered by Jessica Simpson, a dubious distinction.
Performed by New Wave band Berlin, who were best known previously for the songs “The Metro” and “Sex (I’m A),” the song’s demo was recorded by Martha Davis of the Motels, at the request of Giorgio Moroder.
But, keeping with what seems to have been an Oscars tradition at the time of having at least one nominated song be performed by someone other than its artist (I’m calling this “the Phil Collins Treatment”), neither Berlin nor Ms. Davis performed “Take My Breath Away” at the Oscars ceremony. Inexplicably, the show’s producers chose MELBA MOORE and LOU RAWLS to perform the song. What even in the fuck? I mean, no disrespect to those two incredibly talented people, but that makes no damn sense. I guess the Academy was afraid of Terri Nunn’s two-tone hair?
An even bigger hit than our winner was Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love.” Co-written with David Foster (ugh) and Ceter’s wife at the time, Diane Nini, the song topped the Hot 100 chart for two weeks and the AC chart for five (“Take My Breath Away” only stayed at the top of the Hot 100 for one week and the AC for two). It was Cetera’s first hit after leaving the band Chicago to pursue a solo career.
In addition to its Academy Award nomination, “Glory of Love” was also nominated for a Best Original Song Golden Globe and a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Male Artist. It was also almost the song I sang at my fourth grade talent show (I chose “Greatest Love of All” instead, which I’m pretty sure I butchered). Had I chosen to perform it, I was planning to change the point of view from male to female, singing “I am the girl who will fight for your honor.” Look, I was eight. Leave me alone.
Our next nominee, “Life in a Looking Glass,” comes from a film I’ve never seen and is the only one to also be nominated for a Razzie for Worst Song, which I kind of have to agree with. Boy, is this song terrible. It’s cheesy, boring and just plain bad. I respect the talent of Mr. Mancini and Mr. Bennett, but, yeesh. There were surely better songs from films released in 1986. Oh, yes. Here’s one that was nominated for a Golden Globe that year (alongside most of the other nominees from this category) and if it were up to me, it would’ve replaced “Life in a Looking Glass” as an Oscar nominee:
The next nominee, “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space,” was the first song nominated for an Academy Award to contain profanity in its lyrics. Which, of course, meant it had to be censored for its performance at the Oscars ceremony. Let’s take a look at how it was altered:
Not terrible. Actually, I wish Levi Stubbs was alive today so he and Audrey II could just perform all the Best Original Song nominees at this year’s show. Just imagine how much fun”Skyfall” or “Suddenly” would be performed by Audrey II. In fact, can we just replace this year’s host, Seth MacFarlane, with Audrey II? Or, better yet, let’s feed Seth MacFarlane to Audrey II during his opening monologue, then let her take over hosting duties. (I do not like Seth MacFarlane. I do not like him, Sam I Am.)
Had “Somewhere Out There” come from a Disney film, and been released in the early ’90s, it would probably have won the Academy Award. But, alas, it was from a film produced by Steven Spielberg through his company, Amblin Entertainment, and was released in 1986, so it lost to a song from a film in which a bunch of man-children fly airplanes.
Performed in the film by actors Phillip Glasser and Betsy Cathcart as their fictional characters Fievel and Tanya Mousekewitz, “Somewhere Out There” became a huge hit as a single performed by pop stars Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram (this version played over the film’s closing credits). It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Ronstadt her first top 40 hit in four years, and was one of the last singles released in 45 RPM format to be certified gold, meaning it sold one million units. As with most of the other nominees, it also got a Best Original Song nod from the Golden Globes. Even though it was a return to form for Ronstadt, she did not perform the song at the Oscars ceremony with Ingram; Natalie Cole did. I’m hoping it’s because of a scheduling conflict and not because she, too, got the Phil Collins Treatment.
So, what do you think of the 1987 nominees? Did the winner also take your breath away? Or would you have preferred the Academy had felt the glory of love for Peter Cetera? Would you have liked to see a giant flesh-eating mean green mother from outer space win an Oscar? Or is the Best Original Song from films released in 1986 still somewhere out there? Let me know in the comments!
Alright, folks, that’s it! Our look back at Best Original Song Oscar nominees from the 1980s has come to a close. I hope you’ve enjoyed the return of this series because I certainly have. If you have predictions for this year’s Academy Awards, in this category or any others, please also share those in the comments.