Soundtrack Saturday: “Two of a Kind”

Written by Film, Soundtrack Saturday

A couple months ago I was browsing around the vinyl section at my local Half-Price Books when I came across a near-mint copy of the soundtrack to Two of a Kind (1983), the film that reteamed John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John after Grease, the highest-grossing movie of 1978. Now, I know that when I wrote about Staying Alive (1983) last fall I was giving myself some shit for writing about a Travolta movie, and I promised myself it would be the only Travolta movie I’d write about. But when I found this soundtrack, I knew I’d have to break that promise. I mean, a movie like Two of a Kind is made for this column, don’t you think? And yes, I know it’s been brought up on Popdose before, along with its soundtrack, but it hasn’t been covered yet by me!

As with many of my favorite bad movies from the ’80s, Two of a Kind is one of those films I used to watch on cable all the time as a kid. I imagine it drew me in because of my love for Grease and Newton-John (“Physical” was my jam for much of 1982). I still have a soft spot for it, even though it is pretty terrible, but I prefer to think of it as one of those terrible-in-an-amazing-way movies.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s what you missed. Four angels — Charlie (Charles Durning), Earl (Scatman Crothers), Gonzales (Castulo Guerra), and Ruth (Beatrice Straight) — have been running heaven for the last 25 years. They’re having a great time playing golf and relaxing when their game is interrupted by God (voiced by Lowe’s pitchman Gene Hackman), who doesn’t like how the angels have been doing things. He decides He wants to create another flood on Earth and start all over again, but the angels persuade Him to reconsider, saying that if they can find one person down there who can be reformed, then that will prove all humans are capable of changing their ways.

God agrees to the angels’ plan, and the human they select is Zack (Travolta), an unsuccessful New York City inventor who, after loan sharks threaten to cut his ears off if he doesn’t pay them back, decides to rob a bank. The teller he chooses to hold up, Debbie (Newton-John), a struggling Australian actress trying to make ends meet, appears to give him the money he requests, but instead hands him a bag full of bank deposits and keeps the money for herself. After realizing she’s pulled a fast one on him, Zack tracks her down. And unbeknownst to the two of them, the angels — as well as the devil, a smarmy, mustachioed man who goes by the name Beasley (Oliver Reed) — have placed their bets on Debbie and Zack falling in love to prove whether or not humans can reform themselves.

Now, as terrible as Two of a Kind turned out to be — it was both a commercial and critical failure and was nominated for several Razzies that year — its soundtrack fared a little bit better. Three of the four songs Newton-John contributed to the album — “Twist of Fate,” “(Livin’ In) Desperate Times,” and her duet with Travolta, “Take a Chance” — charted as singles. Other notable tracks include Journey’s “Ask the Lonely,” which was originally intended for their 1983 album Frontiers but was placed on the Two of a Kind soundtrack instead (the 2006 remastered version of Frontiers adds it as a bonus track), and Patti Austin’s “It’s Gonna Be Special,” which was a mild success on the R&B and dance charts in 1984.

The soundtrack album is out of print, but I managed to find everything so you can enjoy its David Foster-filled wonderfulness. Oh, one last thing — check out the photo that’s on the inside of the vinyl packaging. It’s full of win.

Olivia Newton-John — (Livin’ In) Desperate Times
Journey — Ask the Lonely
Patti Austin — It’s Gonna Be Special
Boz Scaggs — The Perfect One
Olivia Newton-John — Twist of Fate
Olivia Newton-John — Shaking You
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta — Take a Chance
Steve Kipner — Catch 22 (2 Steps Forward, 3 Steps Back)
Chicago — Prima Donna
David Foster — Night Music