Thursday, February 5, 2009

Soundtrack Lovin': Heavy Metal

My fascination with movies has long tied directly to my love of music. In fact, I'm fairly certain that without movie soundtracks, I wouldn't love music to the degree I currently do. So if I seem overly obsessed, musically, blame movies. With that in mind, I'm offering up a few of my favorite and most influential movie soundtracks for your consideration. With that in mind, I offer the first entry in Soundtrack Lovin'...

Radar Rider - Riggs (mp3)
Working in a Coalmine - Devo (mp3)


I realize this one word is the bane of many a female existence, so ladies, please bear with me. But at the time I was hitting the first pangs of gender awareness and puberty, young males had to actually fight tooth and nail to stumble across inappropriate sexual imagery. We had to dig through sock drawers, into the deep recesses of a father's closet, into the cobwebbed corners of the basement or the sweat-soaking heat of attic boxes. We had to earn our porn, dammit.

And pornography in the early 80s is much like "hard rock" in the early 80s. In the '80s, AC/DC and Queen were considered hard rock, and Alice Cooper was considered heavy metal. Judas Priest? Heavy metal. Sabbath? Heeeavy frikkin' metal. Nowadays, all of these acts would be considered "adult alternative" and sound downright placid and symphonic compared to "screamo" and "death metal." Daughtry is almost harder, fer Chrissakes.

When Heavy Metal first debuted on HBO in 1982 or '83 -- I couldn't see it in the theater in 1981 -- I was just starting to "learn the facts of life by watching The Facts of Life," as Chip Douglas so eloquently puts it in The Cable Guy. I'd seen boobies on several occasions, but mostly due to my step-brothers being stoned and casually flipping through their Playboys while I was in the room. Heavy Metal was considered the golden chalice of hot nekkid women with big boobies. Sure, they were animated, not real, but I was just approaching my teens, and -- I hope Ms. Stein will forgive me -- a boob was a boob was a boob.

If you're wondering how the hell I plan on transitioning from mammaries to my praise of a soundtrack, well, it ain't gonna be pretty. I'm not a miracle worker, Jim. I'm a doctor. I just wanted to have an excuse to use the word "boobies" a lot.

Truth is, Heavy Metal wasn't that great of a movie. Even for a comic book wacko and pre-teen, the film was a paper thin on short story plots. But the music... the music transcended the film. Not only did I own that album and play the grooves off the damn thing, but I can also to this day tell you with at least 70% accuracy what was happening in the movie when each of those songs were played. And I ain't seen the movie in probably 20 years.

Ironically, I suspect true fans of hard rock circa 1982 probably loathed that soundtrack. It was too corporate and packaged. Much of the soundtrack isn't even on the same continent as "heavy metal." Donald Fagan and "Open Arms" by Journey? Puhhleeze. Beavis + Butthead would rather French kiss than listen to that crap.

Don't get the wrong idea. Heavy Metal was bigger than just boobies and tunes.

Aw, who the hell am I kidding? It was pretty much just boobies and tunes.

I've already referenced one of Cheap Trick's two songs on this soundtrack as a personal favorite, but I think a lot of artists approached their pinnacle on this gem. Journey's "Open Arms" has to be one of their five or six best. (Note: If you hate ballads, then why the f*#k would you listen to enough Journey to pick out five or six of their best.) Sammy Hagar's "Heavy Metal" is super-groovy. Devo's "Workin' in a Coalmine" is fun. It's just a lot of fun. (And it also led to my purchase of Oh No! It's Devo! which was an '80s fave of mine, not to mention a centerpiece on the classically forgettable Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle Square Pegs. See YouTube video below!)

The soundtrack also gave me a good and accessible dose of hard rock. Two delicious Riggs songs, Nazareth and Sabbath. All the songs are... well, let's just say I listened to these a lot but never remotely wanted to get their albums. And then there's the cool in-between stuff by Grand Funk Railroad and Blue Oyster Cult.

But the song I listen to over and over and over again, the song that makes me smile and head-bob and air drum is Riggs' "Radar Rider." I haven't the foggiest what the hell this song is about, and it just doesn't matter. Some songs transcend their meaninglessness, and few better than this one. The screamy backup vocal. The growly introduction to the chorus. Neil Armstrong or a Stormtrooper or something talking in the background. The psych-out drum conclusion that's so awesome it has to be done twice. Just glorious.

I hear that song, and all I can see is the opening scene of that cheesy horny guilty pleasure film -- maybe the longest stretch of boob-lessness in the whole flick -- and those mental images just make me love the song even more.


Bob said...

Hey, I was a big fan of Square Pegs.

jed said...

Time Out For Fun!!