Category Archives: Soundtracks

Purple Rain Soundtrack

Purple Rain, The Soundtrack

by Robert Mishou

About a year ago I read Alan Light’s book Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain, and now, in the light of the recent tragic news of Prince’s death, I felt compelled to take a closer look at the music on the soundtrack. Honestly, anyone who reads this book would feel the same way. It has been an absolutely bittersweet night revisiting Prince’s classic album. It has always been one of my favorites and honestly got me through those difficult early high school years. Clearly, this album is nowhere near obscure – I would bet that many of you have it in your collection right now. It is one that I still listen to constantly and has mad an indelible mark on my life.

Clearly there is nothing new I can say about this album’s greatness. There is no secret about the excellent critical reception or the sales figures, so let’s get those out of the way. After being released in June of 1984, the Purple Rain soundtrack sold 13 million copies (1.5 million in its first week of release). It was #1 on Billboard’s album chart for 24 consecutive weeks and spawned five Top 40 singles. The hit songs were “When Doves Cry” #1, “Let’s Go Crazy” #1, “Purple Rain” #2, “I Would Die 4 U” #8, and “Take Me With You” #25. Impressive, but consider the worldwide reception as well: it was a top 10 album in a total of thirteen countries and sold an additional 7 million copies.

Purple Rain won a slew of awards and recognition, a sampling of these include: Rolling Stone’s ranking as the second best album of the ‘80s and #76 of the 500 greatest albums of all time, Time magazine’s ranking of 15th greatest album of all time, and VH1’s ranking of 18th on a similar list. The awards continue, but I think the picture is pretty clear- very few albums of any kind achieved the success of Purple Rain, making it one of the most influential albums, not just of the ‘80s, but of all time.

That is plenty of background information, so let’s get to the songs. Like many of you I am now listening to these songs with an extremely heavy heart. Most of us are aware of the difficulty of finding a way to view Prince’s videos, so I tried to find some version of the songs.

Let’s Go Crazy #1

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to get through this thing called life.
Electric word, life, it means forever and that’s a mighty long time, but I’m here to tell you, there’s something else, the afterworld.
A world of never ending happiness, you can always see the sun, day or night.
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills, you know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright.
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left, ask him how much of your mind – cause in this life, things are much harder than in the afterworld.
In this life – you’re on your own.

(Believe it or not, I did that completely from memory). Most of us recognize this spoken word opening to this excellent hit song, and I cannot think of a better opening to any album I have heard. The first time I heard this I was floored and I knew that I was in for a unique musical experience. I had never experienced any song like this before. Prince continued with an extremely catchy rock song that ends with a blistering guitar solo that clearly displayed his virtuoso on this now staple of rock music radio and cover bands. This song helped define Prince as an artist who was not afraid to break down boundaries – yes, an African American musician could create rock songs and would not be pigeonholed as an R&B/Dance artist. This song remains one of all time crank-it-up-in-the car songs.

Take Me With U #25

This is an irresistible pop song with a catchy chorus and killer rhythm keyboards. It may be a somewhat simple love song, but it is an earworm that will stay with the listener hours after hearing it. The chorus beautifully captures the song’s sentiment:

I don’t care where we go 
I don’t care what we do 
I don’t care pretty baby 
Just take me with you

This, like many of his song take on new meaning now.

http://www.mojvideo.com/video-prince-and-the-revolution-take-me-with-u/201d38b2f335fbf1ef5e

The Beautiful Ones

On the surface this song seems like a typical song about a guy wanting a girl who cannot decide on what she wants. As Prince frequently does, a subtle, deeper meaning is just under the surface. He slides in these lines: “Paint a perfect picture / Bring to life a vision in one’s mind / The beautiful ones / Always smash the picture / Always every time.” A seemingly simple song about desire now becomes a critical examination of those ‘beautiful’ people who have everything at their disposal, but are unable to make a decision about what they want or need.

Computer Blue

This song begins with a somewhat rare appearance by Revolution musicians Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman making a vocal contribution. Lyrically, this song is a bit sparse; the music is where this one shines. Bass, keyboards, and guitar all combine for a musical exploration of the constant search for a meaningful relationship – and once again, the guitar work is excellent. This song melds perfectly into the next track.

Darling Nikki

I cannot lie- my friends and I loved this song right away because we were teenaged boys who were enthralled by anything even slightly suggestive, although this song is more than slightly suggestive. There was no chance we would ever hear this song on the radio, so we felt compelled to correct this egregious omission on the airwaves. This song has definitely garnered attention for obvious reasons, but there is more to it than ‘dirty’ lyrics. An infectious beat, unique phrasing , and Prince’s instrumentation and vocals are nothing short of excellent. “Thank you for the funky time.”

When Doves Cry #1

This was the song that started it all. I clearly remember that summer- my best friend and I were about to begin our sophomore year of high school, which was the first year in the actual high school building (we had a traditional 7th – 9th grade junior high). We were brash and cocky pretending to not be scared out of our minds. The third member of our best friend group was two years younger, so we were definitely posturing for him. This song became ‘ours’ that summer – the music, the lyrics, the chorus, everything spoke to us. We were so captured by our first listen of this song that we spent the rest of the weekend memorizing it, wrapping our lives around it, and, at the time, not realizing that it was becoming a song that represented us. When the three of us have our annual reunion (this year in June for my oldest son’s wedding) When Doves Cry is played and we strengthen the bonds we forged over thirty years ago.

I Would Die For U #8

This song is another example of a perfect pop song. In the lyrics, Prince begins to explore a theme that will become a constant presence in his later music – spirituality. He uses words like “sinner”, “evil”, and “messiah” to explore the connections between religion and earthy love. Living in Europe in the ‘8os, I never had an opportunity to watch much MTV. When I moved back to the U.S. for college I overdosed on music videos. One video that captured my attention was a live version of this song. I could not believe that energy that Prince gave to this song.

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Baby I’m a Star

This is yet another example of Prince writing a catchy pop song; this time, though, he seems to be predicting the fame that this album is going to bring him. It was almost as if he realized the greatness of the music he was creating. As it turns out, he was absolutely right.

Purple Rain #2

Oh my, I am not sure I will be able to write about this song in the manner it truly deserves. There is a cover band from Omaha that travels about 150 miles west to the town where I live. They are named Hi Fi Hangover and I make a great effort to see them each of the four or five times per year they perform locally. They play an excellent variety of ‘80s and ‘90s hits, but I go for one reason- during the third set the sweet sounds of Purple Rain emanate from the amps on the small stage. They perform this song with the heartfelt emotion it deserves- and the guitar, oh the guitar! Prince is constantly changing his musical style to avoid being labeled, but this song has to be part of what defines him as a true artist. This is easily one of my all time favorite songs.

This album holds special memories for me. It was the music that my best friends, LeRoyce and Marvin, and I listened to the most. For a few solid months Purple Rain literally played non-stop on our dual cassette player. It was on while we played video games, in our walkman during subway rides, and in the boom box while we shot hoops. Listening to this album dozens of time today, has transported me back to those intensely carefree days of my teenagehood. Many times today I listened to these amazing songs with my eyes closed and I was transported back to those days, singing every word, clapping my hands, and bouncing to every groove – absolute perfection! The music industry considers Purple Rain to be one of the most important albums ever recorded, I consider it to be the most important album of my youth.

The songs on Purple Rain are typical Prince. By typical I mean each song explores a somewhat different style of music and lyrics. As evidenced by songs like “1999” that preceded Purple Rain and “Raspberry Beret” and “Kiss” that follow it, Prince never stopped experimenting with his sound. Purple Rain is an amazing stop on the constantly evolving Prince creative train; this album represents a magnificent example from one of the ‘80s true musical giants.

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Return to the ’80s Movies Soundtracks: Top Gun

The Return to the ’80s Movies series continues, with a look at one of the best soundtracks of the ’80s. If you’d like, you can go back and check out the review of the Top Gun. Today, Robert is going to discuss the awesome music, which is a vital part of the movie. Take it away, Robert!

Top Gun – Part 2, the Soundtrack

Yesterday we took a look at the blockbuster movie Top Gun; now let me turn your attention to the soundtrack of the same Top Gun. This soundtrack serves as an excellent example of what many ‘80s movie used as a clear, intentional, and clever promotion. It is clear that this combination was and purposeful way to flood the pop culture market through multiple means of exposure.

Top Gun is an excellent soundtrack that works extremely well in enhancing the movie. The songs are used to make the aerial sequences more exciting and the love scenes more romantic. The film only features a few of the songs with more than just snippets or as background music. Unlike Footloose, Top Gun is not music based, therefore does not rely on the songs to represent character’s traits or emotions. The songs in Top Gun also provide no clear connection to the theme of the film. Ultimately though, this is a solid soundtrack with good songs that are easy to listen to. There are no real dips in the quality of the songs and most of them clearly fit the tone of the film.

Like the film, which was the most successful one of 1986, the soundtrack also sold well. It reached the top of Billboard’s album charts for a total of five weeks (although they were not consecutive weeks). During the months of August through October Top Gun battled with the likes of Madonna and Lionel Richie for album supremacy. All told, the soundtrack sold nine million copies, making it not only one of the top albums of 1986, but the twentieth best selling album of the decade. The album also spawned four Top 40 singles, with Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” reaching all the way up to #1.

Track Listing:

Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins (#2)

Yes, Kenny Loggins is back and making another appearance on an ‘80s soundtrack, strengthening his legacy as the soundtrack king. This song was a massive hit on the radio and was in high rotation on MTV. The song is perfectly placed (several times) during the film’s aerial sequences. It has the right amount of guitar and builds nicely. Lyrically the song matches the action of the film as well, “Highway to the danger zone / Gonna take it right into the danger zone.”

Mighty Wings by Cheap Trick

There is never a problem with Cheap Trick making an appearance on any soundtrack. This songs strikes me as being very similar to “Danger Zone” – good energy, driving guitars, and lyrics that sound like planes speeding across the sky. These aerial scenes is exactly where this song is used.

Playing with the Boys by Kenny Loggins (#60)

Here we have yet another appearance by Loggins and the final single released from the soundtrack. This song has been beat up a bit due to it’s placement in the film. It is paired with the volleyball scene where Maverick and Goose take on their rivals in a sand volleyball match. Take the chorus of this song and three very well built men without shirts, and the jibes are easy to figure out. The song is upbeat and fun. It may not be one of Loggins’ best, but it is a good song that has an intensely catchy hook.

Lead Me On by Teena Marie

This is the first track that could be considered more of a dance song. There are some clear rhythm guitars that help connect to the other songs, but it is clearly not a priority. It surfaces in the film during an evening out in the clubs, so it is fitting.

Take My Breath Away by Berlin (#1)

This is easily the biggest hit on the soundtrack, a breakthrough song for Berlin, and one of the best love songs from the ‘80s. Obviously, it is used in the scenes that feature Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. The song is played nearly in it’s entirety the first time, but an instrumental version is used throughout the second half of the film. Berlin had a moderate hit before this song with “No More Words” and would follow with “Like Flames“, but none of their other songs would reach the heights of this one. The most memorable part of this song is that killer bass line – within three or four notes the song is easily recognized and the swaying starts.

Hot Summer Nights by The Miami Sound Machine

– After achieving wild success in Holland, this band was gaining strength here in America. While this song was never released as a single, the Latin influenced rhythms make it recognizable as the same band who hit with “Conga” and “Bad Boy“. This song helped build their reputation and lead the way for future hits like “Rhythm is Gonna Get You“.

Heaven in Your Eyes by Loverboy (#12)

Full disclosure: I am a huge Loverboy fan. This is great song that, I feel, should have been a bigger hit. It is clearly in the shadow of the big love song “Take My Breath Away”, but it does deserve it own recognition. It has the classic Loverboy sound with strong vocals by Mike Reno and solid guitar work by Paul Dean. This song showed up on every mix tape that I made for my girlfriend. It is a simple love song, but it did work, capturing a simple, powerful sentiment, “In your eyes, I want to see your love again / In your eyes, I never want this feeling to end / It took some time to find the light, but now I realize / I can see the heaven in your eyes.”

Through the Fire by Larry Greene

On a strange note: this song was listed in the closing credits, but was never played in the movie – I checked (twice) – and this is a fact. It is a good guitar driven song – too bad they could not find a place for it in the final cut of the movie.

Destination Unknown by Marietta

Another decent song that did not have a major role in the film. It has a catchy chorus and a good beat. It does not really distinguish itself on the soundtrack itself, but is not a bad song.

Top Gun Anthem by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens

I am pretty sure this instrumental has the most film time; it is played in multiple scenes, most of them containing some sort of plane. The song has an excellent guitar based theme and builds to a fantastic climax. It is one of those instrumentals that you hum constantly after hearing it just once.

As a junior in high school I loved both the movie Top Gun and the soundtrack Top Gun. I clearly remember watching the movie over and over after I bought it on VHS. It was one of the first movies to be released on VHS for an affordable price due to a commercial being placed before the feature presentation. I also clearly remember listening to the soundtrack over and over – quickly memorizing it. Now, nearly thirty years later, I think the soundtrack stands up to the test of time as does the film.

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Return to the ’80s Movie Soundtracks: Footloose

 Our coverage of the classic 1984 movie, Footloose, continues today. Yesterday was a review of the movie itself. Today, Robert is going to cover what very well may be the heart and soul of the movie - the music. Enjoy!

Movie-wise this is my absolute favorite not very good movie. The plot is weak, the acting is passable, and the dialogue is, at times laughable. Consider when Ariel is spitting mad at Chuck Cranston. During an argument, Chuck is being petty and jealous while physically roughing Ariel up a bit. Now, Ariel has every insult and curse at her disposal; and she opts for, “You’re so stupid!” It is difficult to find a positive review by any movie critic . . . and I don’t care- I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!! One thing I have always enjoyed more than the actual film is the movie’s soundtrack. I have seen the movie countless times: several times in the movie theatre, nearly 30 times on VHS and a dozen times on Netflix (in fact, I have it on Netflix as I write this). All of these viewings do not hold a candle to the number of times I have listened to the soundtrack. I own it on vinyl, cassette, and CD – always at the ready in case someone asks about it or I just want to be washed away in nostalgic memories.

According to Billboard, the soundtrack has sold a total of 9,000,000 copies and was #1 on the album charts for weeks (April 21 – June 30, 1984). This soundtrack spawned six Top 40 songs with three of those being Top ten hits: “Footloose” #1, “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” #1, and “Almost Paradise” #7. With all of this success, this soundtrack must be loaded with great songs, so let’s take a look.

Footloose (#1)  by Kenny Loggins (opening credits, bar scene, and prom)

Loggins is easily considered the “soundtrack king” of the ‘80s, and this song is one of the big reasons why. It is not his first soundtrack hit nor will it be his last in the ‘80s, but it may be the most popular. I recently took my younger daughter to a popular local event “Daddy Daughter Date Night.” It is an annual dinner and dance for fathers and their daughters (between first and fifth grades). During the dance portion, the DJ played Footloose and all of the girls screamed and rushed to the dance floor. As much as I love this song, the reaction of all of these young girls to a song released over twenty years before they were born gave me goosebumps; this must be a sign of a true classic. The video contains clips from the film. The original video release was Ren’s big dance scene – that never made sense to me because they used a different song in the film (see track 9).

Let’s Hear it for the Boy (#1) – by Deniece Williams (Ren teaching Willard how to dance)

Despite this song being a huge hit and being used in a funny montage in the movie, it may be my least favorite. It has a memorable chorus and a smooth dance beat, but it has never really appealed to me – I have no good reason – it just doesn’t.

Almost Paradise (#7) – Almost Paradise by Mike Reno (from Loverboy) and Ann Wilson (from Heart) (prom as well as an instrumental version in the music box that Ariel gives Ren)

There is not much I can say about this song. It is one of the all time great love songs from the ‘80s. I have danced to it with my girlfriend (now wife) and it will always be one of my favorite romantic songs that I cannot, and will not, turn off before it is finished.

Holding Out for a Hero (#34) – by Bonnie Tyler (tractor chicken race)

I love Tyler’s first big hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart“, but I think this song is even better. I am shocked it only reached #34 on the Billboard charts. This song has some grit and enthusiastic drive. It has some of my favorite lyrics on the soundtrack. I have even used these lyrics in my English classes when discussing the importance of heroes to society and literature and the difficulty we have pinpointing the constantly changing definition, “Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods? Where is the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds?”

Dancing in the Sheets (#17) – by Shalamar (Ariel caught by father dancing at drive-in fast food spot)

This is a good, catchy dance tune. The first thing that pops in my mind now is a friend of mine who directed Footloose: The Musical at the high school where I teach. He was forced to cut this song because of its suggestive lyrics. C’mon, that is kinda funny. The video is from American Bandstand (remember that show?).

I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man) (#22) – by Kenny Loggins (decorating for prom)

This is Loggins’ second appearance on this soundtrack, and, while I possess the proper reverential love for the title track, I do like this song better. It should be impossible to separate a good soundtrack from the film; perhaps this becomes a reason that I really like this song. This song fits the movie perfectly, maybe even better that all of the others. Lyrically the song is about fighting for what you believe in and striving to achieve success. In the film, this song marks Ren’s success at the town council meeting and the beginning of the preparations for prom. This lyrics to this song serve an inspirational purpose and the fit perfectly for the film’s transition to the prom scene, “Looking in your eyes, I know I’m right / If there’s anything worth my love, it’s worth the fight / We only get one chance, and nothing ties our hands / You’re the one I want, listen to me / Nothing I want is out of my reach.”

Somebody’s Eyes – by Karla Bonoff (Ariel and Chuck sneaking away to the woods)

This is the only track on the original soundtrack that does not receive any primary attention in the film. It is heard in the background, playing on the radio that Ariel brings with her on a secret, and illicit, meeting with her jerk boyfriend. The song itself is an easy-to-listen to pop song with a good chorus and decent guitar solo. Bonoff’s vocals are haunting and soothing at the same time.

The Girl Gets Around – by Sammy Hagar (Ariel switching cars while driving down the highway)

This is the only true rocker on the original soundtrack. Honestly, Hagar is somewhat out of place here. Even though this appearance is before he joined Van Halen, he was already known as the Red Rocker and had a number of heavy guitar driven, popular songs. The song is great – it fits Hagar’s style and matches the scene in the film quite well. Despite this, it does not truly match the overall sound of this soundtrack. The video is from a live performance in St. Louis.

Never – by by Moving Pictures (Ren’s solo dance of frustration)

This is my personal favorite track. I love the rhythm guitar riff and I think the scene it is used in fits perfectly. I have always been a bit of a sap for the cheesy inspirational lyrics and this song has a great one, “If you don’t give your heart wings, you’ll never fly.” I do not even care that Kevin Bacon is not the one dancing in this scene- this song carries an uplifting message with a catchy beat.

The 1998 reissue of the soundtrack included four additional tracks, but I am sticking with the original release.

In the ‘80s there was such a strong connection between movies and their soundtracks. In some of those films the music played a prominent role. If you track Top 40 hits from soundtracks, you will see double digit numbers in ‘84, ‘85, and ‘86. Footloose is clearly one of the most famous and successful examples. The music on this soundtrack can be called nothing except iconic. I never tire of watching the movie or listening to this amazing soundtrack. Every list of best soundtracks is obligated to include this shining example at at near the top.

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