The Guardian ran a piece this week ranking the best songs in teen movies (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/mar/15/the-best-songs-from-teen-movies-ranked). Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds came top as used in the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club. Famously not written by the band the song was passed around a few acts, each one rejecting it (including Billy Idol). Even Simple Minds weren’t convinced and only relented when Jim Kerr’s then wife, Chrissie Hynde, thought they should reconsider.
For a while John Hughes specialised in tapping into the mid-80s teen mindset and had a knack for giving a leg-up to British acts in the US (see also Psychedelic Furs in Pretty in Pink, The Dream Academy and..er..Sigue Sigue Sputnik in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Flesh For Lulu in Some Kind of Wonderful).
While considering The Guardian’s list I remembered that during the opening credits of The Breakfast Club some of the lyrics from Bowie’s Changes appear on screen: ‘And these children that you spit on/As they try to change their worlds/Are immune to your consultations/They’re quite aware of what they’re going through’. As good a summation of what the film is about as any film guide.
Bowie’s music is also used in one of my favourite “music in film” sequences. The film is Something Wild, directed by Jonathan Demme and released in 1986, the year I started university. It was one of those films that defined my change from all-knowing (but actually very naive) school boy to naive (but actually knowing just enough to get by) male under-graduate. Free from the pressure cooker of the 6th Form Stasi’s relentlessly humiliating peer review of personal music and film choices I was able to explore uncharted musical and cinematic preferences without having to mentally prepare myself for a verbal onslaught in the common room. Rarely though did my choices in the world of music and in the world of cinema come together as one…until, that is, Something Wild came along.
It was the first time that I’d encountered a band I liked and a film I was enjoying immensely converging in one scene. It was an “oh wow” moment when you realise that someone else inhabits the world you created and also gets a kick out of the same things you do, except they were actually putting it up there on the big screen for all to see. It felt like validation for all the hours sacrificed to the righteous cause of finding songs and films to fall in love with.
In the scene the band The Feelies play Bowie’s Fame while our romantic leads (Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith) – who are pretending to be husband and wife at Griffith’s high school reunion having only been together for a matter of hours – start to get to know each other better on the dancefloor. The song is perfect for the moments of carefree fun they’re sharing; he’s beginning to loosen up from his stiff-collared ‘9 to 5’ persona while she’s beginning to realise she doesn’t have to be “too cool for school” to have a good time. Demme’s masterstroke in the scene is to use the obligatory slow dance (The Feelies playing their own Loveless Love) as the cue to introduce us to Griffith’s ex-boyfriend (played by Ray Liotta) rather than allow our two love-birds to get even more up close and personal. If you’ve seen the film you’ll know that Liotta’s entrance completely changes the tone of the film and it’s this scene and the music that Demme weaves into it that acts as the game changer. As hard and tough as Liotta has been in many other films it’s his introduction in Something Wild that is his most chilling celluloid moment.
So Afterworders what’s your own favourite use of music in a film?