So I been kind of going back to roots lately, diggin in the archives and getting back to my reasons for loving movies as I do, its no secret that movies have been a huge part of my life for, well for all of my life really, and well i needed a refresher course in just why exactly. And among the many reasons I do, I was reminded that just as much as the actors or the cinematography, or directing or story, what drives a film alot of times is its soundtrack. A soundtrack will define a film more then anything, its the backing sounds to the greatest scenes, and the centerpoint of many a scene, its really pretty incredible, just think about it for a second, what would the Rockie Horror Picture Show be with out music? Or The Godfather? Or so many others, most movies of the 1980s and 1990s, wouldn't be at all worth what they are today, with out their music, now yes, you can argue that alot of films are musicals, but still, they count, a story is a story, musically based or not. So with that in mind, I felt like it'd be fun, and give me some time on the blog here, to write up my ten favorite soundtracks and why. And again this is just my own personal favorites, not saying they are the best of all time, because well, obviously that would be an impossible list....
ok here we go...
10. Shaft (1971)
Its hard pressed to find anyone in the last two generations that doesn't know this song, even if they don't know the music, they know the lyrics, or some hacked up bastardization, of the theme to the iconic 1971 powerhouse that was Shaft. John Shaft changed the whole game, not just in how black men were played in films, but also how music was made for films, opting to go with then up and coming Issac Hayes (Chef on South Park to you musically ignorant or kids so young you think Stephenie Meyer created werewolves and vampires), long before he was the late great legend of soul music that we know him as today. Issac took us directly into the heart of the inner city, giving it heartbeat and the fuel that would make John Shaft and iconic character and one of the most successful as well. Hayes' music fueled three films and a short lived tv series based on the character, well, 4 films if you count that horrible remake that wasn't a remake with Sam Jackson, but well, I don't. Its really such a simple but brilliant mixture, you take an iconic character who is a strong, proud role model for those like him, someone thats kind and gentle to those who need it, who's strong and forceful when needed, and always ends up in a hot tub full of the sweetest honeys that a brother could ever ask for, and team him with the funkiest beats and smoothest sounds you could ever imagine, its how magic is made they say...
9. The Burning Train (1980)
Hailing from Bollywood, where its seen as being an almost but not exactly remake of the american film "The Big Bus" which has a somewhat similar plot, this film would later be remade in America as "The Runaway Train". The Burning Train was to many an Indian Blockbuster, starring an all star (for Bollywood in the early 1980s) cast, it follows the story of a super fast railway train that catches fire on its trip from New Delhi to Mumbai, and those who attempt to stop it as it thunders down the rails at super high speeds, now sure, it doesn't really sound all that exciting, and to some its not, but what makes this movie memorable, is the soundtrack, all way ahead of its time new age, pop synth, and early attempts at electronica, which really for 1980 is WAY ahead of its time. The film is at times unbearable to watch, but the music alot of the time makes up for that factor, so if you ever feel like having a really good laugh at a somewhat hilarious in a non-intentional way Bollywood classic that has an incredible cutting edge soundtrack 20 years ahead of its time, go on, give The Burning Train a shot.
8. Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Say what you will about this film, there are those who love it, and those who hate it, but there is one thing no one can deny, Saturday Night Fever defined an entire generation, it defined their style, their culture, their music, and love it or hate it, the film has possibly the greatest soundtrack of the late 1970s, with some debating that maybe the soundtracks to Grease, Tommy, and Shaft might be its only true challengers for that title. Fever was the perfect film for the time it was released, a film about how the youth just want to dance and live their lives, almost a decade before Footloose took the same concept to an entire new level, it defined style for both men and women, style that extended long past the short lived Disco Era and still is felt today, and ofcourse, the film catapulted the brothers Gibb, more well known as The BeeGees, the main stay of the soundtrack itself, to super stardom, and rightly so, even though this soundtrack plays like a sort of greatest hits of theirs, mixed in with alot of other well known and afew forgotten acts, there is no denying the power of it all, I've said for years this film deserves to be loved and respected, not laughed at and hated, and thankfully, looking around pop culture these days, alot of others are starting to see the same thing. Oh and ignore the sequel "staying alive" its... so wrong.
7. Tommy (1975)
How can I make this list with out adding Tommy? Honestly, did any of you out there really think I could go on with out mentioning the story of that deaf, dumb and blind kid who sure plays a mean pinball (haha, see thats why I picked Pinball Wizard for the song.. I'm so funny... kinda.). For those of you out of the know or too young to know that Lady Gaga is really just a drugged up club kid pretending she's Jem from Jem and the Holograms, Tommy was a film created during the era of what we called "Rock Opera" where a band would create a film simply to showcase songs they've written for the film, there might be one or two that were hits beforehand, but 98% of the time it was all new original material created for the film and nothing else, now you'd find alot of these rock operas on the stage, mostly on Broadway or the UK version of Broadway, or various theater districts from around the world, it was in a sense, bringing rock and roll into a new crowd, and expanding it, at the for front of that, was Tommy, a film by classic rock band, The Who, taking the pre-video game rage of Pinball and turning it into a means for expressing their allegory for Jesus Christ to express their belief of the youth of the world bringing in a bright new future. Tommy was, and still is, a massive hit the world over, with massive famous and soon to be famous people appearing through out it, a young Eric Clapton, a young Tina Turner, and ofcourse Ann Margret sliding down a slide of baked beans out of a tv screen for some reason, just to name afew. Seriously, if you're one of the 20 people in the world thats never seen Tommy, get your cinematic on, like NOW.
6. Harold And Maude (1972)
Beyond all others on this list, Harold and Maude might be the one that has had the most personal effect on me as a person, this is just one of those perfect films, from the perfectly acted and written characters, to the just simply amazing Cat Stevens soundtrack, Harold and Maude tells us the story of how its important to live, even if we feel like we want do die because we just don't fit in, its a story of misfits, death, and rebirth, and how to fool a woman called Sunshine Doors into thinking you've ritually killed yourself for fun. Its the story of an unconventional love, between Harold, a young depressed rich child who's family really doesn't notice him or understand him, this leads him to want to kill himself and his obsession with death in general. He drives a hearse, and later converts a jaguar his mother buys him into a hearse as well (the one in the clip above), one day, he meets Maude, a holocaust survivor who lives in a converted box car and drives a vespa scooter around town, it tells the story of the love they have for each other, and how Maude teaches Harold about life, and how its important to live life to what you want, not what others tell you, and to not let anyone ever tell you you've failed simply because you aren't doing what they believe you should do. This movie influenced me alot in life, my outlook on life and death, my want to own a hearse, and some say my love of older women too, but thats debatable really. But if you haven't seen this film, you really must, its so very important to history, and you'll really love the soundtrack to it.
5. The Muppet Movie (1979)
Now, sure, many of you can argue that this might be a silly or kind of stupid choice, a kids movie starring a bunch of puppets who sing and dance and are able to be around a bear that isn't funny at all with out wanting to kick his ass on a daily basis, but you have to understand, this is on the list for two reasons, 1.) Jim Henson was an incredible influence on me and my life, how I look at the world, how I look at those around me, all of it, I look at with one eye belonging to that of a wise old sage, and the other eye being wide and full of wonder like a child, Jim was a visionary and a man of magical wonder who was taken from us way too soon, and i for one miss him and his dreams greatly. The songs of The Muppet Movie, the opening song of The Rainbow Connection there, is probably the best example of Jim's work in all of his muppet films (the other greatest example being "Let Me Be Your Song" from Fraggle Rock), music about dreaming, and reaching for those stars even if they feel so far away, and if everyone is trying to push you back down and make you feel its not worth dreaming over because they believe it impossible, Jim made the impossible possible, and he knew why kids like the great taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, its important that we never loose faith in the magic behind the messages Jim and his creations of felt and googly eyes, and thats why i felt the need to put them here. I know some will disagree, but, oh well.
4. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Remember me talking about the concept of a Rock Opera? Well this is another of those, and though some might say Tommy is the definition of that genre, well, come on, nothing from that era can really stand with Rocky Horror, though to be fair, most aren't aware of the fact that in theaters, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a massive flop. It was a bomb, even in an era of drug induced rock cinema, Rocky Horror didn't really became the beloved camp classic that we all know and love to this very day, until a revival theater in Boston started midnight showings on Halloween in the late 1970s, which quickly became the massive phenomenon as it is now. For those who aren't aware, here in America, its customary to go to a number of local theaters, normally revival theaters, where you dress up as a character from the cast, and there is this whole interactive thing with tossing rice and water guns and toast and all sorts of stuff, its a hilariously good time. But that aside, the soundtrack is really just amazing, and so much fun, I mean I don't think there is a person alive that doesn't know how to do The Timewarp, or can't sing atleast some of Damnit Janet!, or my personal favorite, the opening theme, as you can see above, Science Fiction Double Feature. Also, avoid the sequel Shock Therapy, its..... umm... yeah.
3. West Side Story (1961)
The classic modernized retelling of Romeo and Juliet, at first glance tells the story of love most forbidden amidst two warring gangs in 1950s New York City, one Spanish, one white, and how they fight through ballet and song, because thats how gangs fought in the 1950s, back when white kids weren't trying to be anything but white, and Spanish people sang and danced on rooftops instead of lifting weights in parking lots to reggatron (ease up I'm joking, unless you're a juggalo, then you can go to hell.). But it goes deeper then just that, its a story about love, and war, and dance and song yes, but its also a very direct statement about racism in the 1950s, I am not sure how many people realize that, but this film is kind of blunt and upfront story of racism, the two gangs don't get along because they "just don't like the other kind", the cops harass the Spanish gang alot more, the brilliant and lovely song "America" is a pretty blunt in your face story of just what you get in 1950s America if you're not american, as well as how each group and their friends and family deal with the love between Tony and Maria, the main story of the movie, and what most people take away from the film. Its really a lovely timestamp of the era of tride and true musicals that didn't rely on any form of audio magic to make some big name actor able to sing, this was back when they'd make a star out of someone fresh off broadway just because they needed someone believable, or true to the role, its such a lovely film really.
2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Now I bet alot of you are wondering, if this is number two, what is number one, well we'll get to that, sit tight. But for now, lets have us a look at this lovely big of musical driven film shall we? The Wizard of Oz was sort of the 1930s answer to like, The Breakfast Club, or 10 Things I Hate About You, or anything generation defining that way, and alot like those films, believe it or not, The Wizard of Oz didn't really do all taht well in theaters. It didn't really hit its stride until Television aired it in color. Alot of films from the 30s were that way though, Its A Wonderful Life for instance, so don't look down on the film because of it. The Wizard of Oz really is in a class by itself, its soundtrack has become as iconic as the film itself, and with all the legends and myths and rumors around it, it will always be one of the most beloved and remembered movies of all time, and the film that taught us all how to look to the sky and dream of somewhere over the rainbow, where anything is possible, and impossibility is reality, Now I do give this film alot of crap for being so different then the book its based off, but when you think about how all they really did was change things so they'd show up as color, thats alright. But still the soundtrack remains one of the most beloved and sang to this day, I don't really think i know anyone thats never heard "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" or "If I only Had A Brain" and afew others too, its just such a lovely an iconic package all together. So love it.
1. The Big Chill (1983)
This film is one of my favorites of all time, it really is, it isn't a musical, like many on this list, its just a film thats soundtrack just as important as the film itself. For those of you who have never seen The Big Chill, first off, shame on you, secondly, its a film about a group of aging friends, all between 40 and 50, as they gather to say good bye to the first of their group to die, its a touching, lovely tale of love, of life, of loving what has been in your past and your present, with out having fear of the unknown that is the future. It teaches us to embrace and love those who have traveled through life with us, and all that we've done along the way, and embrace that we don't know just how long we have left on this planet, and to make sure that we live each and every day, and as we go, we live for ourselves, we live for those who are with us, and we live for those who have passed on, remembering and sharing their lives with others, because passing on our stories is how our loved ones who are no longer with us will always be remembered. This film was ment as a way of expressing that the babyboomers of the post world war two era had fully grown and were heading into the future, it takes us on this trip with an incredible who's who of 1950s and pre-hippie 1960s music, with rock and blues and soul we fly through their lives, and its just an amazing, amazing film. If you haven't seen this film, you really should, its just amazing.
Well thats my list of my personal favorites, again, not the best of all time, so don't go damning me here, but, I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writting it, so until next time...