Welcome to a new series here on Cinematical where we'll be examining some of our favorite soundtracks and songs of summer movies' past.
OK. This is an act of bravery for me. It's a confession. Here it is. I love the soundtrack for The Goonies. I listen to it every summer. It's ridiculous. There's not a single artist or song on it that has stood the test of time. It's not music I would ordinarily listen to. I'm more of an alternative rock guy with forays into punk and jazz. What can account for it?
When The Goonies opened in the summer of 1985, I had already spent many, many summer afternoons playing Indiana Jones in my backyard. And here was a movie that was -- basically -- about kids playing Indiana Jones. Like me, they did not have leather jackets and fedoras and bullwhips; they had windbreakers and sneakers. I instantly related to the movie, and I adored it perhaps a bit more than I should have. I was embarrassed to like it so much. It was personal, and tied into my past. It was not a "cool" movie I could discuss with my friends. For that, there was Code of Silence, Rambo II, Fletch, Back to the Future, Pale Rider, etc.
Critics did not offer any solace. They were somewhat kind to the film but not terribly excited. The tenor of the reviews was that the film was noisy -- the kids talked too much, too loudly and over the top of one another -- and too violent, and perhaps even a bit crass and clueless. But I didn't care. In my heart of hearts, I loved it. And my only companion was my cassette tape that I played until it wore thin. Years later, I ordered an out-of-print CD on the web and paid a bit too much for it. But I had to have it. (Incidentally, it's still out of print, but is now available as an MP3 download; also, there's a fairly new, limited edition CD featuring just the film's score).
The album opens with Cyndi Lauper's awkwardly titled "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough," made even more awkward by the fact that the word "Goonies" is followed by a "trademark" TM). I expect that Lauper's song was originally called "Good Enough" and that some executive decided the title of the movie needed to be in there to make it more marketable (soundtrack albums were becoming easy cash cows for the studios at around this time). The song still has a jingle and a bounce to it, and apparently it's still a fan favorite at Lauper's shows (even though Lauper herself tried to put it behind her). It reached #10 on the Billboard chart, earned a Grammy nomination and spawned a memorable two-part music video using sets and actors from the film (and some pro wrestlers).
Lauper has a second song, all the way down at track #8, and it's a smoker. "What a Thrill" moves with vicious speed and some slightly buried raunchy guitar, and Lauper's gymnastic, ping-pong vocal performance deserves our applause. I didn't realize this at the time, but Lauper was the "music consultant" on the album, and helped assemble the artists. Track #2 is "Eight Arms to Hold You" by a mysterious and short-lived dance group called "Goon Squad." The song refers to the movie's "octopus" sequence, which was cut, though the song apparently became a small hit in dance clubs at the time. It has one of those machine beats that used to drive my dad nuts.
Track #3 is a soul song by Philip Bailey, a former member of Earth, Wind & Fire. His 1970s music still sounds funky today, but this one just sounds slick. Nevertheless, it has a really easy sound that makes a perfect pillow between tracks #2 and #4. Speaking of which, track #4 is probably my favorite, "I Got Nothing" by the Bangles. I love the Bangles like I love The Goonies, which is to say probably more than I should. They are one of the great, cute bubblegum pop acts of the past 30 years, with a nice range of catchy tunes. "I Got Nothing" has one of those fast beats that made for awkward 1980s dancing, but it's lots of fun to sing to.
Next up, at track #5, we have one of those "soul/dance" acts, Teena Marie. She was perhaps best known for her big hit of the previous year, "Lovergirl," she appeared on the Top Gun soundtrack, and she apparently still performs today. Her Goonies song, "14K," never really did much for me, but -- again -- its position on the album keeps up the good pace. Track #6 is a true embarrassment, REO Speedwagon's "Wherever You're Goin' (It's Alright)" complete with the apostrophe and parentheses. It starts out with pure vocal, followed by some uplifting, twirling keyboard sounds, and then some jangly guitars. "Say goodbye! Look to the sky! Set your course on into the night! You say goodbye! You hold your head high! Wherever you're going, it's alright!" How can a young teenager not be inspired? (It also contains lines like "You're a young man and it's time to go west" and "You are the one with the vision." Sigh.)
Luther Vandross shows up at track #7, perhaps the most legendary dude on the album. I like this one, which is called "She's So Good to Me." It has a smooth, wild soul delivery set against a snappy, electronic drum beat along with some tingly synthesizer noise to set the mood. On track #9, we have Joseph Williams, who -- yes -- is the son of composer John Williams, who is closely associated with Goonies producer Steven Spielberg. I wonder how he got on there? His song is "Save the Night," which has a kind of jaunty, quasi-reggae rhythm, though his vocals leave a bit to be desired.
Finally things wrap up with a snippet of the film's score from composer Dave Grusin. Though it's called "The Theme from the Goonies," and probably should be a bit more exciting, it's a bit on the sad side. But it works since this whole album is pure, recorded nostalgia for me. It's a drug. It's my childhood and the promise of adventure rolled up into one. Now my secret is out. I'm hoping that since the movie has become a genuine cult classic and a staple on the midnight circuit, that my love of the soundtrack album may not need to remain hidden. Are there any other fans out there?