This week started with Indigenous Peoples’ Day (or Columbus Day, depending on your local government) here in the US, so it’s only fitting that we close out the week continuing the discussion on identity, homeland, and a sense of belonging. Meet Rosa Bordallo. Rosa spent her childhood in Guam with her Chamoru family, the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands in Micronesia. Her debut album, Reef Walker (out today via Time Castle Recordings), is an exploration of identity and culture in the time since she left her homeland to move to the mainland US. Recently, Rosa created a playlist of songs of the film soundtracks that influenced her perception of the US while growing up in Guam. Give them a spin and check out Rosa’s nostalgic notes. You can also catch her tonight at Trans Pecos for her album release show.
—Keenan Kush, Talkhouse Operations Manager
When I sat down to start this playlist, I easily came up with 40 movies that I loved watching as a kid. A lot of the times they had soundtracks with music I wasn’t hearing anywhere else, so it left an impression on my musical taste as well. A few of these I saw in the theater, but most were syndicated on cable TV, or else we’d rent them from the video store. This was before iTunes or even Napster, so if I was lucky I found the soundtrack for sale at the CD store. Or, if I was desperate, I’d order a dead stock cassette from eBay. These are not listed in any particular order.
Movie: Hackers (1995)
Orbital — “Halcyon and On and On”
I remember being a kid when Windows 95 dropped and spending a lot of time in chatrooms and using ICQ. Netscape Navigator was the browser de rigueur. Web pages had these counters to tell you how many visitors it had — anything in the thousands was considered remarkable. There was this optimism in the future with all the technological breakthroughs and people getting online and connected. Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller were not very convincing as hackers, but I think they did represent the hope that tech-savvy outsiders and geeks could one day rule the world. Turns out they could, and would, and now we’re living in that world!
Movie: The Crow (1994)
Medicine — “Time Baby III”
I don’t think I’ve seen this movie in its entirety more than once or twice, but the soundtrack stuck with me; I bought a copy at the CD store. The movie is really dark and the soundtrack reflects that, but this song is surprisingly light and groovy and always makes me happy when I hear it again.
Movie: Over the Edge (1979)
Cheap Trick — “Surrender”
Valerie Carter — “O-o-h Child”
I remember we had this soundtrack on vinyl in my family’s collection. It’s a really good movie about teenage ennui and alienation. It’s set in this isolated planned community where the teenagers have nothing to do, but the parents only care about their real estate values. Valerie Carter sings this great cover of “O-o-h Child” that gives me goosebumps. And “Surrender” by Cheap Trick is the ultimate teen angst anthem.
Movie: Dazed and Confused (1993)
The Runaways — “Cherry Bomb”
Apparently Richard Linklater was influenced by Over the Edge, so it makes sense the soundtracks would be similar. There are a lot of great classic rock jams in this movie but this is my favorite. Plus I love Joan Jett in general. Her cover of “Crimson and Clover” is a classic.
Movie: The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)
Pat Benatar — “Invincible”
This is a great song that takes me back and always reminds me of this movie. It’s about this modern-day Joan of Arc who stands up for her friends and family against the greedy and sexist pigs who rule the small Texas town they all live in.
Movie: Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo
George Kranz — “Din daa daa”
This is from their victorious dance scene at the end. I’m sure this movie was considered corny even in its own time, but b-boy culture was a big deal when I was a kid. My older brothers shared a bedroom that was a converted garage, and they had two Technics turntables setup so they were always playing hip-hop and dance music.
Movie: Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
Madonna — “Into the Groove”
Speaking of dancing, I can’t ignore Madonna’s influence, especially from this movie. I was really young and living on a small island when I first saw this but I related to Rosanna Arquette’s character, a lonely housewife bored as hell in the suburbs. Madonna was the free spirit that beckoned me to New York, where I’ve lived now for all my adult life.
Movie: The In Crowd (1988)
Jerry Butler — “Moon River”
The ’80s and ’90s had a ton of movies that were nostalgic for the ’50s and ’60s. This is one of those movies that rarely gets mentioned, because it didn’t have a superstar cast like Grease and it wasn’t a counter-culture sendup like Hairspray, but it made an impression on me. Plus, I love Donovan’s music and this stars his son, Donovan Leitch, who was one of the underrated hotties of that time. There’s a great scene where he dances with an awkward girl and brightens her day, and it’s set to “Moon River.”
Movie: Modern Girls (1986)
Depeche Mode — “But Not Tonight”
I remember loving this movie and it’s a shame no one is talking about it anymore. It’s all about going out with your girlfriends but also being stuck on a guy, so your friends try to support you but are also there to protect you. And then this song comes on at the end and everything is all right in the world.
Movie: Valley Girl (1983)
Psychedelic Furs — “Love My Way”
Nicholas Cage is completely goofy and charming. This movie is so dated but I’m glad the music has come back in style. Psychedelic Furs are an amazing band!
Movie: Real Genius (1985)
Tears for Fears — “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
My favorite movie with Val Kilmer. This is one of those songs that always cheers me up.
Movie: Pump Up the Volume
Pixies — “Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)”
Christian Slater was such a big deal at that time. My sister was a big fan. I didn’t like this movie as much as Heathers but I remembered this song. I didn’t get familiar with the Pixies until high school. That was when they released their box set, Death to the Pixies. I got my hands on it and heard this version of “Wave of Mutilation” for the first time in years, and connected the dots. I love the lyrics. I love the reference to the Mariana Islands. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time.
Movie: Natural Born Killers
Cowboy Junkies — “Sweet Jane”
This is the song that plays in the background when Juliette Lewis’ character, Mallory Knox, is taking a whizz at night in the middle of the desert, but she’s waxing poetic to Mickey and it’s somehow romantic even though they’re two murderous psychos. It’s a great cover of a timeless rock song.
Movie: Karate Kid
Bananarama — “Cruel Summer”
I barely remember anything from the Karate Kid movies. My brothers and cousins were into it. But I remember having a crush on Ralph Macchio and loving this song.
Movie: Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet
Stina Nordenstam — “Little Star”
This movie was panned by the critics but it totally captured the spirit of the ’90s where everything gritty was also romantic. This song has a choirboy outro that’s so extraordinary and transcendent.
Faces — “Ooh La La”
There are so many movies I enjoyed that I couldn’t fit here, but I’d be remiss to leave this one out. This movie was such a breath of fresh air for me and my friends. And it put Bill Murray, one of my favorite actors of all time, into this unexpectedly perfect role. It’s easy to take for granted Wes Anderson’s influence on popular culture, but at the time this came out it was a welcome shock to the system. The soundtrack and the original score by Mark Mothersbaugh is a big part of its success. I chose this song in particular because the groove is upbeat and happy but the lyrics are quite sad and vulnerable, which is another way to describe Wes Anderson movies.
A lot of movies didn’t make the cut, but I listed a bunch here that you should definitely check out if you wanna get your fill of that era —
Old Enough (1984)
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996)
Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Party Girl (1995)
(Photo Credit, left: Varvara Mikushkina)