Chances are, when you think of John Hughes’ films, tons of iconic scenes pop into your mind, and most of those scenes involve the infectious and memorable music that has come to define the Hughes legacy. Unlike most directors who keep their musical influences limited to the CD (or now iTunes) release of the soundtrack, Hughes chose to make the music an integral part of his films.
In his classic “Brat Pack” films and beyond, Hughes combined his musical past with the musical future of the time period (the 80s!) to unite his audience. From new-wave nerds, to metal heads and even rap fans, there weren’t too many people that couldn’t relate to the aural selections Hughes made an effortless part of his film–the brilliance of the Beatles’ take on “Twist and Shout” in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is unparalleled, and if you can deny the power of Duckie’s Pretty in Pink rendition of Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness,” I don’t want to know you!
Being the cinematic mastermind that he was, Hughes realized that once he united the audience with musical familiarity, he held their attention and used the opportunity to introduce the audience to many of the under-the-radar bands of the day. The best example of this is the song EVERYONE–and we mean everyone!– knows, The Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me,” featured in the most popular Hughes flick The Breakfast Club. Hughes’ decision to include the relatively unknown band in the film catapulted the band to US super stardom overnight, making their careers. The director consciously chose to include music that would strike a contemporary chord with his target audience of American teens. He used the music of bands such as The Smiths, New Order and INXS in his films, in subtle scenes that seemed to draw tangible parallels between what the character was feeling (be it happiness, loneliness, or some serious teen angst) and what the music was trying to get us to feel. It’s no coincidence that Mary Stuart Masterson’s character in Some Kind of Wonderful Watts is a drummer. Making her a part of the music was just another example of how committed Hughes was to capturing that connection between music and the way teens think and feel.
Whether it was new wave darlings Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark’s “If You Leave” playing in the closing scene of Pretty in Pink or John Candy’s spirited sing-along to Ray Charles’ “Mess Around” in Uncle Buck, Hughes never dropped music in his films to impress the audience or win over the “cool kids.” Each time a melody played in the background of a heartbreaking scene, or blared over the radio as the school’s biggest nerd awkwardly danced along, you knew that song was there because, well, that’s what would be playing on the soundtrack in your head if that were you! And that was the brilliance of Hughes’ cinematic affair with music. It was organic, it was real, it was the soundtrack to our lives.
Enjoy some of the now-classic New Wave hits that made up the soundtrack to the 80s, at least according to the Hughes’ gospel!
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