[17 August 2005]
I don’t listen to rock and roll. I can name maybe three Zeppelin songs (Something about a ladder?) and have never listened to a Rolling Stones album. But one of my most cherished musical memories from childhood is a rock album of sorts, the soundtrack to The Lost Boys. Like the vampires in this movie, this album shall live forever—not necessarily because it’s entombed in a thin veneer of the Aqua Sheen Kiefer Sutherland sports in the film as a coven leader, but because it encapsulates the age of the pop soundtrack.
In the 1980s, various-pop-artists movie soundtracks were major events that not only topped the charts but also played as integral a part in Hollywood films as the actors. These albums were musical Frankensteins that gave life to the cinematic monsters built to contain them. After MTV, the film industry started cranking out movies that were just one big music video, cross-marketing the results with the music industry, so that box office receipts drove album sales and vice versa.
Unjustly victimized by the subjectivity of such yardsticks as “sales figures” and “good taste”, The Lost Boys has yet to take its rightful place alongside other 1980s soundtrack behemoths, even though it was better than the gaggle of mega-movies that spawned mega-soundtracks. Other than Purple Rain, a musical, no other film in the decade used music with as much synergistic power as The Lost Boys. Flashdance? Boring. Footloose? They’d get served today. Dirty Dancing? False advertising. Top Gun? OK, you’re gay; we get it.
The Lost Boys, on the other hand, has the perfect popcorn music for an equally cheesy-rific popcorn movie. For instance, the Echo and the Bunnymen cover of “People Are Strange”—one of the few songs here that could be construed as critically praiseworthy—sets the tone for the movie, playing as Corey Haim and family move into the small seaside town of Santa Carla. “Be careful,” it seems to warn. “Abandon all mullets, ye who enter.”
Later, “I Still Believe”, by the pompously voiced, mildly constipated Tim Capello, rocks the beachside concert where innocent vampire-to-be Michael (played by Jason Patric) first notices Star (Jamie Gertz), who will lure him into the darkness. The bronzed, sweaty, muscleman lip-syncing the song and, in a very 1980s flourish, playing the sax pushes the camp factor—and homoerotic sex appeal—over the top. Behind the scenes, the real vocalist turns out to be Martha Wash.
Lou Gramm follows that up with his best Survivor impersonation on the pulsating “Lost in the Shadows”. This song just screams musical-training montage as it propels the motorcycle race scene, almost making you forget that the actors are sitting on stationary bikes in a wind tunnel. INXS’s callow rocker “Good Times” proves to be the ideal match for the equally adolescent “death by stereo” scene in which it plays. What a lyrical wonderland: “I’m gonna have a good time tonight / Rock ‘n roll music gonna play all night.” You just don’t hear lyrics that unabashedly vacuous anymore outside of hip-hop and Aaron Carter.
And then we come to the movie’s theme song, “Cry Little Sister” by Gerard McMann. Black people don’t care about Ozzy Osbourne or Alice Cooper, but in the late ‘80s, this creepy little ditty convinced a few of us to dabble in the black arts and sacrifice a pet or two (Patches, we hardly knew ye). The song’s ghostly-child chorus brought out the terror hidden within the Ten Commandments: “Thou shall not fall / Thou shall not die / Thou shall not fear / Thou shall not kill.” While all of that’s not technically in the Bible, if they’d played this song in church when I was a kid, a lot fewer people would’ve had to die.
No, they don’t make ‘em like The Lost Boys anymore. These days, you may see the occasional soundtrack top the pop charts, but chances are they’re either orchestral scores pushed into the mainstream by a breakout power ballad (a la Titanic), nostalgic compilations of old music (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), thinly disguised showcases for one artist (The Bodyguard), or Disney albums that are the equivalent of Kidz Bop Does Broadway.
I don’t have the album any more—it didn’t survive the Great Cassette Purge of 1992—and I doubt I’ll ever replace it. I’ve been burned revisiting childhood memories before (My favorite movie at age 10? Krull), so I prefer to live in the past. Maybe it was because I was 12 years old, or maybe it was because I sniffed nail-polish remover, but listening to The Lost Boys Soundtrack brought me the same self-indulgent high as sticking my moist fingers into a bag of confectioner’s sugar, or making a condensed-milk sandwich. (I wasn’t a healthy child.) Still, The Lost Boys, if nothing else, proves the universality of crap. Keep your Zeppelin and Stones; give me Tim Capello any day.