I was re-watching Flash Gordon the other day and was enjoying the audible odyssey that is Queen’s work on the soundtrack, and it got me thinking about other great cult movie soundtracks of the 80’s.
So I compiled this list of the Top 5 Best Cult Movie Soundtracks Of The 1980’s.
(Criteria for the list: I excluded mainstream commercially successful movies such as Rocky or Top Gun. While excellent flicks and soundtracks, they do not classify as “cult following” type movies to me, and hey, it is my list…)
5. Heavy Metal
The best analogy for the experience that was 1981’s adult sci-fi/fantasy animated insanity would be to imagine spending a long weekend on a bad acid trip with Gary Busey in an old Vegas strip club. Only crazier.
The movie, like the magazine it was based off of, was a collection of short stories that combined for an orgy of violence, nudity and sexuality. Not Sidekick friendly at all!
But we are here to talk about the soundtrack, which was pretty darn good, and had lots of legal issues. Major musical heavyweights of the time, such as Stevie Nicks, Sammy Hagar, Cheap Trick and Journey, were all featured on the soundtrack. Black Sabbath and Devo also had music used in the movie, but due to legal issues were not featured on the soundtrack until 1992. That was when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle creator Kevin Eastman purchased the Heavy Metal publication and settled the legal issues.
I still get chills whenever I see Optimus Prime arrive at Autobot City saving the day to the tune of Stan Bush’s “The Touch”.
Or the level of despair when Optimus Prime died, which is too traumatic for me to post a video of…
Okay, now I need a minute to re-compose myself…
Okay, I’m back. The Transformers soundtrack offered a terrific mix of Stan Bush’s inspirational songs “The Touch” and “Dare” with some heavy rock by N.R.G. and Spectre General. Well…it seemed like “heavy rock” to a 9-year-old at least. And screams 80’s more than synthesized Vince DiCola Keyboards, whose work (with Frank Stallone) was also featured in Staying Alive and Rocky IV!
There is nobody I would trust more to create an 80’s montage soundtrack of me training to fight a Russian boxer than Vince DiCola!
Side Note: How much cooler was Optimus Prime than Rodamus Prime? Prime was the great self-sacrificing warrior leader while Rodamus was a precursor to the whining millennial. Maybe that will be the topic for a future article…
The Transformers soundtrack did get a 20th anniversary re-release in 2007 with 3 new tracks by Vince DiCola and a reboot of the Transformer’s theme with Stan Bush.
The movie UHF was co-written by “Weird Al” Yankovic and his manager Jay Levey and is more of a montage of hilarious bits than an actual 2 hour movie with a…oh what’s the word for it…oh yeah, a plot.
The best parts of the movie, other than the soundtrack, were the early performances by Fran Drescher (pre The Nanny) and Michael Richards (pre Kramer and racist rant).
The soundtrack featured a collection of song parodies from artists such as Tone Loc, Dire Straits and R.E.M as well as UHF commercials such as Conan: The Librarian, Spatula City & Ghandi II.
The album was one of Yankovic’s few releases to not reach gold or platinum status, but this is my list with my choices…so there.
The Batman movie and soundtrack were both huge commercial and critical successes in the movie blockbuster summer of 1989. (While it’s not exactly a cult-classic, it’s geeky and thus made the list!) When Warner Bros brought Prince on to quarterback the soundtrack for Batman (with Tim Burton musical staple Danny Elfman), the idea was to use mostly existing Prince material and to have Prince perform the funk music and Michael Jackson performing the ballads.
But as with most things in regards to the 1989 Batman release (i.e. Bill Murray as Bruce Wayne), things changed quickly. In the course of just six weeks, Prince recorded the entire album of new music including unique hits such as Batdance.
Clips like this make you wonder how different the movie would have been if the studio had gone with their original casting ideas for the Joker, such as David Bowie and Tim Curry.
At one point, Robin Williams was actually signed on to play the Joker, but it turned out Warner Bros was just using him for negotiation leverage with Jack Nicholson. Warner Bros offered Williams the role of the Riddler for the sequel but at that point there was too much bad blood between Williams and the studio.
Many of the tracks, such as the Future and Batdance, featured spoken dialogue by Michael Keaton or other actors, which made for all kinds of legal rights issues. This is why the Batman music is not featured on other Prince albums.
Instrumentals were all written and composed by the talented Danny Elfman.
The Flash Gordon soundtrack was the second movie album produced Queen, the other being Highlander. Queen’s unique theatrical style is part of what makes this movie’s feel so unique.
Per queenonline.com, Brian May, Queen’s guitarist and lead song writer, explained: “We saw 20 minutes of the finished film and thought it very good and over the top. We wanted to do something that was a real soundtrack. It’s a first in many ways, because a rock group has not done this type of thing before, or else it’s been toned down and they’ve been asked to write mushy background music. Whereas we were given the licence to do what we liked, as long as it complimented the picture.”
The Flash Theme was actually one of only 2 songs on the soundtrack to feature Mercury vocals, but nobody can think of the film without hearing Freddy Mercury singing his iconic “Flash! Ahhh!”
Honorable Mention: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
I left this one off the list simply because the album is really just one track, but a good one.
And who rocked the 80’s view of post-apocalyptic fashion better than Tina Turner?
What are your thoughts on my list?
Anything else you’d add to this list? Would you change the order? Did I not give Tina the credit she deserves?