LOS ANGELES — A huge part of the allure of the original “Footloose” was the soundtrack of catchy, radio-friendly songs it produced back in 1984. “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” “Dancing in the Sheets,” “Almost Paradise” and, of course, the title tune — they were top-40 favorites and mainstays in our boom boxes, and they brought us back emotionally to a movie that was such a cultural touchstone during our formative years.
With the remake of “Footloose” coming out this weekend, it’s a great opportunity to dig through our cassette collection, reminisce about childhood and pick five other great movie soundtracks from the ’80s:
∫ “Fame” (1980): This movie seemed so racy in its day — the uncomfortable nude scene involving Irene Cara and a creepy photographer, the ballet-dancer abortion — but my exceedingly cool, film-loving mother allowed me to see it when I was just a little girl. The fact that the songs were so high-energy, so poignant, and ultimately so crowd-pleasing is what made this movie acceptable for kids my age. The idea that high school students would bust out and sing “Hot Lunch” in the cafeteria, or stop traffic to rock out to the film’s theme song, was pretty inspiring back then. And of course we all tried to keep up with Cara on “Out Here on My Own,” even though we didn’t have the vocals — or the life experience — to make it work.
∫ “Xanadu” (1980): I have vivid memories of listening to this soundtrack — on 8-track, no less — during carpool on the way to school in the morning. At age 8, I basically wanted to be Olivia Newton-John: She was so pretty and seemed so nice and she could sing and roller skate at the same time. Her collaboration here with Electric Light Orchestra — the combination of her pleasant, pitch-perfect soprano voice and their driving, theatrical sound — was, if you’ll pardon the pun, “Magic.” That’s still a gorgeous song, by the way, as is “Suddenly,” Newton-John’s duet with Cliff Richard. My mom repeatedly caught me belting out these songs and the title tune, and while I was embarrassed at the time, I wasn’t alone in my love of this music, as evidenced by the Broadway musical “Xanadu” inspired.
∫ “Flashdance” (1983): She’s just a steel-town girl on a Saturday night looking for the fight of her life. Is that so wrong? Rarely do you see a woman who’s a welder by day and dancer by night, but back in the ’80s you did in the film that made Jennifer Beals a star and became a pop-culture phenomenon. You know you cut the neck out of more than a few sweatshirts back then. “Flashdance” came out during the early years of MTV when they actually showed videos, and the clip for “Maniac” was in heavy rotation that summer, featuring Beals’s character leaping, spinning, stomping her feet. Director Adrian Lyne made self-aware, sleazy cheese but the music — including the Oscar-winning theme song, sung once again by Cara — made it palatable for a mainstream audience.
∫ “Purple Rain” (1984): Every single song in this movie is ridiculously great — and that includes the stuff from Morris Day and The Time. Just try staying in your seat when “Jungle Love” comes on. It can’t be done. As for the Prince soundtrack itself, we wore out the tape, we listened to it so much in junior high school. We made up silly dances to “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m a Star,” and thought we were so daring for not only listening to but singing along with “Darling Nikki.” The movie itself is pretty melodramatic in retrospect, but Prince wrote some of his most indelible songs for it, and even won an Oscar for best score.
∫ “Dirty Dancing” (1987): I recall sobbing uncontrollably pretty much from the time Patrick Swayze utters his famous line, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner,” to the time he lifts Jennifer Grey high above his head in the film’s climactic dance number. Yes, I was a dork. But listening to this soundtrack afterward, ad nauseam, took me back to that surge of adolescent emotion. And my dad was happy to endure it because it featured oldies like “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes. Now it seems sort of lame that “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” is used to sell us resort vacations. Back then, though, it really did feel like the time of our lives.
∫ Think of any other examples? Share them with AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire through Twitter: http://twitter.com/christylemire