No single filmmaker captured the zeitgeist of the 1980’s better than John Hughes. His catalog of films loom large on the landscape of what we think of as 1980s culture with big blockbusters of the teen condition like “Sixteen Candles” (1984), “The Breakfast Club” (1985), “Pretty In Pink” (1986) and the immensely quotable “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986).
Hughes wasn’t the only filmmaker making movies targeted at adolescents in the 1980s, but for that run of films he certainly set the standard for what they should be– heartfelt and funny, often involving a cross section of teen culture, which ultimately allowed those of us who were teenagers at the time the ability to see ourselves in the characters– even if it was largely a whitewashed one.
Hughes was more than his teen movies, however. He got his start writing for National Lampoon, and his first big hit was “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983). By 1987 he stepped away from teen films with the epic road adventure starring John Candy (with whom he would create a number of films) and Steve Martin “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” He would continue to make films through the early 1990’s before finally retiring from writing, producing and directing in 1994. Hughes passed away of a heart attack in 2009 while on a trip to New York City visiting his son James.
One constant through Hughes films was the placement of music and often the soundtrack albums were as popular as the films themselves. Like many, I found out about bands like The Psychedelic Firs (“Pretty In Pink”), New Order (“Shell Shock”), Kate Bush (“This Woman’s Work), Oingo Boingo (“Weird Science”), Simple Minds (“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”), Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (“If You Leave”) from these soundtracks. One beef I always had was that the soundtrack albums didn’t have all of the songs from the film on them or sometimes the album simply didn’t exist, or focused on the score. In most cases when the soundtrack did exist, they would include the most prominent songs, and albums for the soundtracks to “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty In Pink” and “She’s Having a Baby” are all great standalone listens.
Before record labels and rights holders got aggressive about takedowns in the early 2010’s, the collective efforts of soundtrack fans on the Internet would create comprehensive soundtracks for many films. One notable site that suffered the takedown fate was The Inferno Music Crypt, which started as a way to collect rare soundtracks to horror films which by and large may never have had a soundtrack release (these days this effort continues, and labels like the amazing Terror Vision label resuscitates lost music from bands like Tangerine Dream!). The Music Crypt complete version of the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Soundtrack had a few iterations before landing on the final version which had 320Kbps mp3’s of all of the songs as well as samples of film dialog and even alternative versions of some of the songs as bonus tracks (his version included the vocal version of The Dream Academy’s cover of The Smiths “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” for example). His version also included the Star Wars Theme (used when the parking attendants took the Ferrari for a spin), the “I Dream Of Jeanne” theme, and even parade songs: Wayne Newton’s “Danke Shoen” and The Beatles “Twist and Shout.”
So, when I heard about a massive box set of soundtrack songs from the John Hughes films titled Life Moves Pretty Fast : The John Hughes Mixtapes (out November 11th), I was really excited! Initially, the preorders were only from the UK– Demon Music Group, who produced this set, is run by the BBC, but now the compilation is available as a pre-order from Pop Market for around $142.00 as a 6-LP box set with book. There is also a CD box set which comes with a 14-track cassette and 7-inch, and a 2 LP version.
The compilation is curated by Tarquin Gotch who was Hughes’s primary music supervisor for his films. The compilation is presented as a mixtape of songs from all of the films, rather than in order of the soundtracks as a tribute to how Gotch and Hughes would collaborate on the music supervision.
“Back when we were working on these movie soundtracks, the best way to send music around the world was the cassette, by Fedex,” Gotch remembered in a statement. “We sent John cassettes of newly released music, of demos, of just finished mixes (and in return he would send VHS videos of the scenes that needed music).”
Presenting the songs this way makes the compilation more listenable, since Hughes had a tendency of jumping around stylistically as the scene demanded, plus even at 74 songs, this is far from comprehensive. Some films are only represented by one song, for example. The Breakfast Club is represented only by “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” (though arguably the most famous song from the film), Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” makes an appearance representing all of the various “Vacation” films (also a song that is sort of hard to find since Buckingham never seems to include it in any releases), Pop Will Eat Itself shows up for “The Great Outdoors” (an unmemorable soundtrack, honestly, and seemingly a way to pay licensing to “Elwood J. Blues” (aka Dan Akroyd) with no less than 5 songs (none of which are here).
What this compilation seems to try to do is walk the line between appeasing died-in-the-wool fans of the soundtracks of these films and also presenting a compilation of songs that general fans of the films would enjoy. In that regard, I think they might have gotten it right– particularly when you look at the 2 LP version. Clocking in at 25 tracks, it represents pretty much only the “big” songs from these soundtracks and is kind of a greatest hits of these. Most people would only be interested in getting this version, I expect.
The 6 LP/4 CD version is clearly targeted at the fans who already have the original soundtracks and want to get some of the songs that were skipped due to album length or licensing. If you already have The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Weird Science you won’t feel gipped here. Most of the songs on these soundtrack albums aren’t here.
Interestingly, we pretty much get all of the “missing” Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Soundtrack in this collection. There was never an album release for this, though in 2016, LaLaLand Records put one together (still missing some tracks due to licensing), and it includes the Ira Newborn score which is pretty nice. We don’t get the parade “Danke Shoen/Twist And Shout” on Life Move Pretty Fast, and that’s likely due to licensing. Having “Beat City” by the Flowerpot Men, “Love Missile F-111” by Sigue Sigue Sputnik and “March of the Swivelheads” by The Beat (The English Beat in the U.S.) as well as “Oh Yeah” by Yello really captures this soundtrack’s big moments.
Life Moves Pretty Fast also makes up for the ridiculous attempt at a soundtrack album in 1984 for Sixteen Candles. The original release was an EP clocking in at around 16 minutes. In some regards, it was pretty much a way to prop up the brilliant “If You Were Here” by The Thompson Twins. We get 11 songs on this box set, which includes the aforementioned “If You Were Here,” but also includes some of the really on-point tracks from the wedding preparation, the Peter Gunn theme and “True” by Spandau Ballet. All we’re missing is the Stray Cats cover of “16 Candles, the Annie Golden track and “Geek Boogie” which was a song created for the film by Ira Newborn (a signature track that really should have been on here).
Quite a bit of the soundtrack to “She’s Having A Baby” is included here, both new songs and songs from the album. The key songs from the soundtrack album proper make it here, though sadly leaves off the awesome XTC song “Happy Families.” But, where it really hits are the “classic” songs that propped the film up, but weren’t licensed for the album: Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” and the use of “Music For A Found Harmonium” by Penguin Cafe Orchestra (which HAD to influence its inclusion in the post-dance scene in Napoleon Dynamite). The funny addition is the cover of the Gene Krupa track “Drummin’ Man” by Topper Headon, who was the original drummer for The Clash.
The original soundtrack album to Planes, Trains and Automobiles seems to lose any sort of cohesion from both not including some key songs from the film itself, and the fact that the songs don’t really fit together. Steve Earle’s cover of “Six Days on the Road” is fantastic, and really the only reason to have ever bought it (I had it on cassette…). Don’t even get me started with “I Can Take Anything” by E.T.A. which is a club track with samples from the film (sort of like “Batdance” from Batman I suppose). This, thankfully isn’t included on Life Moves Pretty Fast, but we get both Steve Earle songs: “Six Days on the Road” from the album as well as “Continental Trailways Blues.” Yello is back with “Lost Again” which originally appeared on their 1983 album Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess. To me it seems that by 1987, the soundtracks to the Hughes films had moved from being the leading edge of New Wave tastes, but that was probably also a symptom of Hughes moving from teen films. In that regard, this box set and album smartly leans heavily on those earlier films.
As someone who has been a big fan of the music in John Hughes’s films, this box set is a welcome release, and certainly a tribute like this has been long overdue. Since I already have some of these original soundtracks in my collection, this is a great companion to those (and I realize I need to get some of those on LP).
Click here to order the 6 LP red vinyl box from Pop Market (currently about $142 with free shipping)
Click here to order the 4 CD, 7″ and cassette box from Pop Market (currently about $120 with free shipping)
Click here to order the 2 LP black vinyl version from Pop Market (currently at $53.79 with free shipping)
Below is the tracklist for the 6 LP box set. I’ve added in bold the film the songs appeared in, and put an asterisk next to the songs that were on the original soundtrack albums.
Kajagoogoo – Kajagoogoo (Instrumental) – Sixteen Candles
* Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Breakfast Club
* Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – If You Leave – Pretty In Pink
* Oingo Boingo – Weird Science – Weird Science
* Furniture – Brilliant Mind – Some Kind of Wonderful
* Dave Wakeling – She’s Having a Baby – She’s Having A Baby
The Flowerpot Men – Beat City – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* The Psychedelic Furs – Pretty in Pink – Pretty In Pink
* Flesh for Lulu – I Go Crazy – Some Kind of Wonderful
* Dr. Calculus – Full of Love – She’s Having A Baby
* Lick the Tins – Can’t Help Falling in Love – Some Kind of Wonderful
* Steve Earle & The Dukes – Six Days on the Road (Album Version) – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
* Kirsty MacColl – You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby (Soundtrack Version) – She’s Having A Baby
* Suzanne Vega & Joe Jackson – Left of Center – Pretty In Pink
* Pete Shelley – Do Anything (Soundtrack Version) – Some Kind of Wonderful
* Carmel – It’s All in the Game – She’s Having A Baby
* The Dream Academy – Power to Believe (Instrumental) – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
* Kate Bush – This Woman’s Work – She’s Having A Baby
The Beat – March of the Swivelheads (Rotating Heads – Dub Version) – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Nick Heyward – When It Started to Begin – Sixteen Candles
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Tesla Girls – Weird Science
Big Audio Dynamite – BAD – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* Killing Joke – Eighties – Weird Science
The Specials – Little Bitch – Sixteen Candles
* Gene Loves Jezebel – Desire (Come and Get It) (US Club Mix) – She’s Having A Baby
Flesh for Lulu – Slide – Uncle Buck
* Love and Rockets – Haunted When the Minutes Drag – She’s Having A Baby
Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Love Missile F1-11 (Ultraviolence Mix) – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* Lords of the New Church – Method to My Madness – Weird Science
* The Jesus and Mary Chain – The Hardest Walk (Single Version) – Some Kind of Wonderful
* Echo & the Bunnymen – Bring on the Dancing Horses – Pretty In Pink
General Public – Tenderness – Weird Science
The Blue Room – I’m Afraid – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* Belouis Some – Round, Round – Pretty In Pink
* Thompson Twins – If You Were Here – Sixteen Candles
The Dream Academy – Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want (Instrumental) – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Yello – Oh Yeah – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* Book of Love – Modigliani (Lost in Your Eyes) – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Otis Redding – Try a Little Tenderness – Pretty In Pink
* Patti Smith – Gloria: In Excelsis Deo – Sixteen Candles
* Westworld – Ba-Na-Na-Bam-Boo – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Divinyls – Ring Me Up – Sixteen Candles
Topper Headon – Drummin’ Man – She’s Having A Baby
Billy Idol – Catch My Fall – Some Kind of Wonderful
The Association – Cherish – Pretty In Pink
Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music for a Found Harmonium – She’s Having A Baby
Zapp – Radio People – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* The Blue Room – Cry Like This – Some Kind of Wonderful
Ray Charles – Mess Around – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Joe Turner – Lipstick, Powder and Paint – Uncle Buck
Darlene Love – (Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry – Sixteen Candles
Marvin Gaye – How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) – She’s Having A Baby
Perry Como with Mitchell Ayres and His Orchestra and the Ray Charles Singers – Juke Box Baby – Uncle Buck
The Chordettes – Mr. Sandman – Uncle Buck
Ray Anthony and His Orchestra – The Peter Gunn Theme – Sixteen Candles
* Lindsey Buckingham – Holiday Road – National Lampoon’s Vacation
* Emmylou Harris – Back in Baby’s Arms – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Hugh Harris – Rhythm of Life – Uncle Buck
Spandau Ballet – True – Sixteen Candles
Propaganda – Abuse – Here – Some Kind of Wonderful
The Dream Academy – The Edge of Forever – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Yello – Lost Again (Album Version) – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
* Bryan Ferry – Crazy Love – She’s Having A Baby
The Rave-Ups – Positively Lost Me – Pretty In Pink
Los Lobos – Don’t Worry Baby – Weird Science
Steve Earle – Continental Trailways Blues (Album Version) – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The Revillos – Rev Up! – Sixteen Candles
Boston – More Than a Feeling – She’s Having A Baby
* Balaam and the Angel – I’ll Show You Something Special – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The Rave-Ups – Rave Up / Shut Up – Pretty In Pink
* Pop Will Eat Itself – Beaver Patrol – The Great Outdoors
The Vapors – Turning Japanese – Sixteen Candles
* Silicon Teens – Red River Rock – Planes, Trains and Automobiles