Starpulse recently ran a 'Top Ten 80s Albums' list, in which the inclusion of the Top Gun soundtrack inspired me to come up with a list of the "Top Ten 80s Movie Soundtracks." After doing a little 'freshening up,' both through my own personal collection, growing-up-80's memories and, oh, some website that has info about movies & music and the like, I've narrowed my list down to the top ten.
(And no, "Top Gun" didn't take my breath away and make it onto the list)
The main criteria used here is that only the film had to be released in the 80s, not the music contained on its soundtrack. I had a long, strong argument with myself to make it so that not only the film, but at least the majority of the music on the soundtrack, needed come out in the 80s, but scrapped that plan upon the realization that I couldn't make this list without a couple of soundtracks from classic 80's films for which the music was created in prior decades.
I excluded movie scores, as most were usually led by a fantastic theme song (Empire Strikes Back, Raiders Of The Lost Ark) followed by another hour or so of classical music that set the moods and tones of the film-- not something you'd play every day beginning-to-end (unless you're like me), or at a party; so we'll save that list for another day. Plus, if I had done that the list would mostly be made up of John Williams, John Barry and James Horner movie themes.
10. Beverly Hills Cop
During a time when Eagle Glenn Frey couldn't give away a solo album, he was able to pump out a few fantastic songs included on 1984 soundtracks (more on that later) In fact, it seems like when a member of a popular group embarked on a "solo project" in the 80s it always ended up with that artist getting a song on a movie soundtrack. Frey's standout "The Heat Is On" was sandwiched amidst a heavy R&B themed soundtrack that included the likes of Patti Labelle ("New Attitude," "Stir It Up"), Shalamar ("Don't Get Stopped In Beverly Hills") and The Pointer Sisters ("Neutron Dance"). But the real gem in the soundtrack to the classic Eddie Murphy comedy was none other than Harlold Faltermeyer's (who?) pop-synth theme, "Axel F." Not a day went by in '84 that you didn't hear this song on Top-40 radio.
9. Prince - Purple Rain
Prince's soundtrack to his 1984 film of the same name can be mentioned as one of the greatest albums to come out of the decade, much less one of the greatest movie soundtracks. You didn't even have to see the movie to have this album (in fact, I never did see it).
While "Darling Nikki" diddled herself in that hotel lobby and our parents freaked out over that controversy, we were all listening to this one beginning-to-end, over-and-over, and not even caring about what Nikki was doing because it was probably like the fourth or fifth best song on the album! "Let's Go Crazy." "When Doves Cry." "Take Me With U." "I Would Die 4 U." "Baby I'm A Star." "Purple Rain." 'Nuff Said.
8. The Big Chill
Perhaps the best selling of these soundtracks comes from this hugely successful drama / comedy. If you were growing up in the 80s, chances are you didn't see this film until the mid-90s, mainly because it wasn't really a film you'd want to watch as the subject matter is more for mature audiences-- the post-college crowd to be exact. But that hardly takes away from its soundtrack.
Filled with huge Motown hits like Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," The Temptations' "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," and The Rascals' "Good Lovin'"; this one proves how timeless these songs are. Three Dog Night's "Joy To The World," Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," and Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" masterfully set the moods throughout the film-- from drug-induced hangovers and somber tones of reuniting for the funeral of a friend, to living it up like you never skipped a beat since your college days.
A second album, "More Songs From The Original Soundtrack," was released on the heels of the success of the first. It wasn't as Motown oriented, but added the element of the popular rock songs from the movie. Songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival ("Bad Moon Rising"), The Beach Boys ("Wouldn't It Be Nice"), and The Spencer Davis Group ("Gimme Some Lovin'") were accompanied by a couple of Motown hits like Martha Reeves & The Vandellas' "Dancing In The Street" and Gaye's "What's Going On." The Band's "The Weight" is probably one of the most memorable songs in the film though, and it's questionable why it was left for the second volume.
7. Repo Man
Three words-- Punk rock soundtrack. Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton starred in this amusing cult classic about an out-of-work punk rocker named Otto who inadvertantly becomes the title character of this campy classic, but the soundtrack to the film outshines its counterpart. Iggy Pop kicks things off with "Repo Man"; which is followed by tracks from some of the most prolific punk bands of the era, like Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies and The Circle Jerks. The highlights, though, include Burning Sensations' "Pablo Picasso" ("Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole... not like you"); Fear's "Let's Have A War" ("Let's have a war, it could start in New Jersey"); and the acoustic recession-laden "When The Shit Hits The Fan" by the Circle Jerks ("Five pound blocks of cheese... bags of gro-cer-ies").
Three great songs from The Plugz (a group long considered to be the first Latino punk band); of which the under two-minute "Hombre Secreto" (the Spanish version of Johnny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man") is best; round out the set.
Of two dance films considered before narrowing things down, despite popularity and with quality in mind, Footloose narrowly beat out Dirty Dancing for the spot here. Sure, Dirty Dancing had the time of its life, but Footloose had Kenny Loggins!
Filled with lots of delicious 80s cheese, from Foreigner ("Waiting For A Girl Like You") to Quiet Riot ("Bang Your Head (Metal Health)"), and John Mellencamp ("Hurts So Good") to Bonnie Tyler ("Holding Out For A Hero"); the soundtrack to Footloose also included the high school dance-tastic love theme, "Almost Paradise," by Heart's Ann Wilson and Loverboy's Mike Reno (seriously, who can't picture two 15-year-olds dancing with elbows bent at 90-degree angles and their hands on the outside of each other's arms - with enough room between them for a bus to pass though?). And yeah, I just put Baby in a corner.