dirty martini

old music for new people

high school musical: by john hughes December 9, 2007

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the name ‘john hughes’ might not mean much to anyone under 30.

but those born in the 60s and 70s know that john hughes ruled 80s teen movies. he used the all conquering brat pack throughout the series and molly ringwald, anthony michael hall, andrew mccarthy, ally sheedy and judd nelson have failed to capture comparable success since.

the characters, ferris bueller apart, emerged from obscurity to challenge and overcome their shallower rivals. the difference between the UK and US became apparent watching these films. cheerleading and after school activity in general was not cool. the outcasts who drank, smoked and hung out in smoky clubs were more easily identifiable.

top 10 conventions of the john hughes high school movie:

  1. unrequited love
  2. blonde bitchy cheerleaders
  3. good looking social outcast
  4. annoying younger brother and sister
  5. rich vs poor
  6. geeks who play cards
  7. main character has saturday job
  8. demon headmaster
  9. deluded parents
  10. implausible hookup

download here

pretty in pink

omd – if you leave, nik kershaw – wouldn’t it be good

molly ringwald wasn’t the best candidate for a 90% pink wardrobe, being ginger and all. my favourite character was the lounging steff, a vision in white linen as he sauntered around the school. of course he was about 30 at the time so youthful awkwardness may have been an acting lesson too far for james spader. obligatory indie club scene is present and correct, as is gym class bitching between molly and blonde cheerleader with one sided ponytail.

the breakfast club

simple minds – dont you forget about me, karla devito – we are not alone

this movie defined the high school stereotypes throughout all of john hughes’ films – the princess whose parents drink and fights, the jock who only plays football to please his dad, the geek who came close to blowing up the school, the outcast with the attitude who everyone secretly fancies and the outcast with the messy hair who puts on some mascara and – voila!- pulls the captain of the football team.

sixteen candles

spandau ballet – true, wham – young guns

charlie sheen-alike senior dumps blonde cheerleader girlfriend for ginger nobody with no experience. US high school can’t be that tough then. the highlight of this movie is exchange student long duck dong, who in the politically incorrect 80s instantly becomes ‘the weird chinese guy in mike’s room’ since no one can be bothered to pronounce his name.

ferris bueller’s day off

yello – oh yeah, wayne newton – danke schoen

not as popular as ‘no one puts baby in the corner’, but much funnier, ‘no one leaves my cheese out in the wind’ was just one great moment from headmaster ed rooney. how come matthew broderick doesn’t get any older?  why didn’t we see more from the actor who played cameron, than just a cameo in ‘speed’? how did ferris have all that technology in one room?

weird science

oingo boingo – weird science, los lobos – don’t worry baby

this movie led a million adolescent boys to cling to the belief that beyond the rejection of every single girl in their class, was the possibility of a kelly le brock-alike if they could only tap a few passwords into a chunky computer and attach some wires to a couple of potatoes and a lava lamp. hence the IT skills crisis once these delusionals graduated about a decade later.

some kind of wonderful

propaganda – dr mabuse, stephen duffy – she loves me

two outcasts who clearly belong together, but one has loftier ambitions. apparently some viewers were unhappy that ‘pretty in pink’ saw the rich boy get the girl, and this movie was developed to redress the balance. one question – if you know turning up to a party will almost definitely get your arse kicked…why go?

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this must be computer love August 14, 2007

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back in the 80s, computers were just about reaching the massmarket. games like donkey kong and pacman saw heroic characters rescuing damsels in distress (rarely the other way round until lara croft) by overcoming such everyday objects as ghosts, flying barrels and fireballs.

this theme carried through to the music industry, where computers had provided a snazzy (80s word) way to keep up with the new mtv-ready requirement for singles to be accompanied by a video, by incorporating graphics and other such wizardry to demonstrate cutting edge mentality of artist in question.

another way to display your futuristic sensibilities was to actually sing about computers. and act quite robotic and devoid of emotion. the computers were pulling the strings you see…and yet, according to this playlist, they apparently became a conduit for romantic relationships. i think in fact, that didn’t really start to happen until the mid 90s, but 80s people were optimistic. we didn’t personally have email and the ability to connect to other computers via the internet, but we knew it was happening and could see the possibilities.

so, most 80s groups have a homage to the computer, or electricity (like that was a new phenomenon!), in their back catalogue, much like the phone. of course its now all painfully out of date, and so a nice reminder of a simpler time when computers were cool, and people, not cyberspace, were still in charge.

twelve once futuristic, now totally retro groovesdownload here

trans-x – living on video

about as good as it gets for this post. built on a similar premise to the long-held view that we would be scooting around in our own little space bubbles, jetson style, by the year 2000. 

one way – mr groove

vocoder work par excellence. in 1984 it was perfectly normal to be sung to by a robot, not a person.

kraftwerk – computer love

kraftwerk, as pioneers of electronic music, could have made up well over half of this playlist with their output. but this one was the most obviously titled.

gary numan – are friends electric?

more recently bootlegged and sampled for the sugababe’s ‘freak like me’. again, most of gary numan’s output was future focused, so it was a toss up between this and ‘cars’.

midnight star – electricity

another vocoder led funk jam, about electricity, and energy, another favourite 80s theme.

buggles – video killed the radio star

difficult to see how this could have sounded groundbreaking even in 1979. bet it was popular with the over 40s.

human league – together in electric dreams

archetypal mid 80s teen movie fare. human league of course, were a natural choice to record the title soundtrack, with their synth pop credentials. 

oingo boingo – weird science

title song from the soundtrack to the definitive 80s computer geek movie. doesn’t sound particularly futuristic now but surely create-a-girlfriend is still the ultimate geek fantasy?

visage – fade to grey

the then-pioneering electronic music and faux francais created an eerie soundscape, second only in the weirdness stakes to its own video.

harold faltermeyer – axel f

beverly hills cop theme which became the single most emulated tune on millions of casio and yamaha keyboards. to ease parent and teacher frustration perhaps manufacturers should have made this the demo tune instead of wake me up before you gogo.

five star – system addict

this song may or may not have been about being addicted to sticking your fingers in a plug socket. the state of five star’s hair in the accompanying video certainly supports this theory. don’t try it at home kids.

prince – computer blue

prince, as usual, managed to make music that was both futuristic and would hold up in years to come. prince has a love interest, computer says no.