Looking at the Billboard Top 10 from this week in 1986 brings back some memories. The #1 album was Van Halen’s 5150, which I and pretty much all of my friends had on cassette. At #10 was what turned out to be true relic: Play Deep by The Outfield. The two big hits from that album will probably be known only to those of us who were around at the time, but they are as vivid to me as the singles from 5150.
Speaking of relics, the Austrian techno-pop artist who called himself Falco was at #8, having managed to ride the wave of the 1984 Best Picture winner (Amadeus) to an unlikely international hit with “Rock Me Amadeus.” Meanwhile, The Rolling Stones (#4) and Heart (#7)--who were reliable rockers in previous decades--had adopted ’80s apparrel and sound.
Parade, one of Prince’s lesser-known albums, came in at #3. Parade was not the fountain of smash hits that its predecessors were, but its one big hit is possibly the best song that he ever recorded: “Kiss.” It is hard to believe that this song is so old, not just because I remember it so well, but because it is timeless. It also sounded just as good when it was recorded by artists as different from Prince (and each other) as Tom Jones and Richard Thompson.
Now, thanks to the entry at #5, four British bands whose albums never reached the Top 10 in the US at least got to appear on one that did.
The Psychedelic Furs, New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, and The Smiths were some of the greatest British bands of the 1980s. In fact, Bunnymen lead singer Ian McCulloch has long trumpeted his group as the best ever.
However, The Smiths are probably more worthy of that honor among these four. I would guess that The Beatles are the only other band for whom a reunion has been so quixotically hoped and as potentially lucrative.
Echo & the Bunnymen was the only one of these four that failed to earn at least one gold album in the United States. Still, this past Monday night they (with two original members) played a sold-out show at the Paradise Rock Club. Anglophiles like me find it reassuring that these bands remain popular.
It is also a comfort, albeit a cold one, that many other great British bands never placed an album in the American Top 10. The Kinks (in the later 1960s, at least), The Jam (late 70s and early 80s), and Blur (1990s) cranked out some of the best British music in rock history and have very little to show for it stateside. Perhaps something actually does get lost in the translation from one form of English into another.
Anyway, the absence of the aforementioned 80s bands was remedied in part by a 1986 movie by an American filmmaker.
Its soundtrack was spending a second consecutive week at #5 on the Billboard chart 25 years ago.
Almost everyone I know who was born in the United States between 1970 and 1980—and his or her parents—has seen several movies several times that were written and/or directed by John Hughes. His movies focused on fishbelly white people from the Chicago suburbs who—in spite of being beautiful, rich, and free from the influence of any pesky minorities—had real problems just like the rest of us. (Their haircuts and wardrobes were two of them.)
I was 10 years old in 1986, and wasn’t gonna touch Pretty In Pink with a 10-foot pole. Beneath my soft and wimpy exterior was a wimp with an equally soft exterior, and we would not have been caught dead seeing a movie with the words “pretty” and “pink” in the title. Furthermore, I wondered, who the hell were The Psychedelic Furs, and couldn’t they have come up with something more imaginative than “Isn’t she pretty in pink” for this movie?
Ok, so I did not learn until many years later that the original version of the song was the inspiration for the film. I also must not have been fully aware that “If You Leave” by Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark (OMD) was in the movie. This was the biggest hit single from the soundtrack. I really liked that song then and I still do.
I like the The Psychedelic Furs, too, but they aren’t on the same level as the truly great British bands that are on this soundtrack.
Echo & The Bunnymen’s “Bring On the Dancing Horses” has aged well enough that the band performed it at the Paradise Monday night. New Order’s “Shellshock” isn’t their best song, but it is still pretty damn good. Finally, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths must have been a favorite of John Hughes, as an instrumental cover version was in another one of his films, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Although I have seen large portions of Pretty In Pink over the past quarter of a century, I am almost certain that I have not seen it from beginning to end in a single sitting. For those of you who have also not seen it all or at all, it is playing at The Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square on Monday, May 30.
REUNION WEEKEND 2011
PRETTY IN PINK
40 BRATTLE ST.
5PM & 10PM/ALL AGES/
$6.75, $7.75, $9.75