Soundcheck: The Soundtracks of My Life

Can you even try to remember Top Gun or Dirty Dancing without also thinking about “I’ve Had The Time of My Life” or Kenny Loggins? Now, can you tell me a single song that played during Transformers or any other summer blockbuster of this year? When I was growing up, if I really loved a movie then I almost invariably sought out the album. Now that every TV show, video game, and online webisode has its own marketing campaign and genre-appropriate musical backing the idea of a soundtrack seems much less special. Below, some favorites from back when movie music was great:

Less Than Zero
This soundtrack is awesome for a variety of reasons. Not only are there great songs and some inspired covers (Poison’s take on “Rock and Roll All Night”, The Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter”),this soundtrack actually had some sort of curatorial vision (thanks to producer Rick Rubin). Not only does the soundtrack compliment the film, it also works as just a really good album. Extra props for having Slayer cover Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and asking Glenn Danzig to create an original, movie-inspired song (“You & Me (Less than Zero)”).
This is what the 80’s sounded like.


The Doom Generation
All of Greg Araki’s movies have pretty amazing soundtracks. In fact, in most cases, I actually like the soundtracks better than I like the actual movies. That might be true for The Doom Generation, now that I think about it. I’ve only sat through this movie a couple of times, but I’ve listened to this record about a gazillion.  In fact, I think I’ve always given Araki the benefit of the doubt more often than I probably should have, mostly because I imagine that he and I probably have identical record collections.  This soundtrack includes some of my all-time favorite bands-Cocteau Twins, Lush, The Jesus and Mary Chain-and tracks that were, at the time, incredibly hard to find (Slowdive’s “Blue Skied an’ Clear”).


I don’t even know where to begin when talking about Nashville. Aside from being one of my all-time favorite Robert Altman movies, the film’s soundtrack is one of my all-time favorite albums. Keith Carrdine’s “I’m Easy” and Karen Black’s “Memphis” make this a must-own, must-love, must-become-obsessed-with kind of album….at least for me.

Married to the Mob
Weirdly, I bought this soundtrack having never actually seen the movie. I picked it up on vinyl for $1 at a record store in Oklahoma that was going out of business. I think I bought the record mostly because I liked the cover and there was a New Order song, but eventually I came to love the whole thing-which also includes The Feelies and Sinead O’Connor. Eventually I saw the movie and I enjoyed it and to this day I still take this album with me to DJ gigs. Interesting fact: this soundtrack includes Q Lazarrus’ “Goodby Horses”-a song that director Jonathan Demme would famously use again in one of his later movies (specifically, the infamous penis-tucking scene in The Silence of the Lambs).

For a brief moment in time it was as if everyone I knew owned this record (and, more than likely, a Trainspotting poster, book and DVD). I always found the movie a little unbearable, but the soundtrack lived in my car for about a year while I was busy going to graduate school in Kansas and consuming lots of recreational drugs. I might seriously never need to hear Underworld’s “Born Slippy”  or Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” again in this lifetime, but I never tire of New Order’s “Temptation” or the wildy underrated Blur track “Sing.” Much like the movie itself did, this soundtrack perfectly encapsulates a specific period in lots of people’s lives.

Pump Up the Volume
I remember seeing Pump Up the Volume at around approximately the same time I purchased my first pair of Doc Maartens and both memories are equally sweet. (My docs were bright green, as was my hair)  It was 1990-back when Christian Slater was still a complete babe and the Pixies still epitomized everything that was cool. I saw this movie on TV a couple of weeks ago and so much of it just doesn’t age well (It seems quaint now to see teenagers interacting without cell phones or computers and all of the actors look way too old to be playing teens), but the soundtrack still sounds pretty damned good. It’s worth owning just for Concrete Blonde’s take on “Everybody Knows”.

Twin Peaks
In high school I basically followed Twin Peaks like it was my full-time job. I read Laura Palmer’s secret diary (with the pages torn out!) and listened to the soundtrack while I did my homework and dreamed of a different, more mysterious life. I still do that, actually, preferably while Julee Cruise’s “Falling” plays softly in the background.