Soundtrack Spotlight: Footloose

Recently Robert Jones posted a video on Youtube that has occupied my entire weekend.  The video, Don’t You Forget About Me (A Tribute to ‘80s Teen Movies), is a mashup of clips from the best ‘80s teen movies with the Simple Minds classic hit being played over top.  This video immediately transported me back to the heydey of those great films.  And then an old realization struck me:  soundtracks.  One of the key elements of so many of those amazing films was the fantastic music that accompanied those great scenes.  The ‘80s was clearly the decade of the soundtrack, so I have made the decision to revisit some of those great songs from movies that left an indelible impression on our hearts and ears.

courtesy of Robert Jones

First up is the soundtrack to the 1984 film Footloose.

Movie-wise this is my absolute favorite bad 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, he slaps her, bloodying her nose.  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 hits 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.

Track 1 – Footloose 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, but it may be the most popular.  I recently took my ten-year old 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.

Track 2 – Let’s Hear it for the Boy by Deniece Williams (Wren teaching Willard how to dance)
Despite this song being a huge hit and being used in a funny scene 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.

Track 3 – Almost Paradise by Mike Reno (from Loverboy) and Ann Wilson (from Heart) (prom)
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.

Track 4 – Holding Out for a Hero – 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?”

Track 5 – Dancing in the Sheets – 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 it’s suggestive lyrics. C’mon, that is kinda funny.

Track 6 – I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man) by Kenny Loggins (decorating for prom)
This is Loggins’ second appearance on this album, 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 it about fighting for what you believe in and striving to achieve success.  In the film, this song marks Wren’s success at the town council meeting and the beginning of the preparations for prom.  This song may not have the greatest lyrics ever, but it works 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.”

Track 7 – Somebody’s Eyes – 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.  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.

Track 8 – The Girl Gets Around – Sammy Hagar (Ariel switching cars in motion)
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 – 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.

Track 9 – Never by Moving Pictures (Wren’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.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this return trip to both the film and soundtrack of Footloose– I think I will check out another classic ‘80s soundtrack later.  Probably time to go watch the movie again and groove to it’s excellent soundtrack.

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