John Hughes, a writer/director whose stamp on the movies he was involved with was so iconic his name was turned into an adjective, passed away yesterday at the age of 59. Hughes’ heyday coincided with the MTV era, and a lot of the movies that he had a hand in—which included The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, and other totemic comedies of the 1980s—both shaped for the music tastes of the day and had scenes that could have been snipped out of movies and directly placed into MTV’s rotation. (Witness Matthew Broderick’s performance of the Beatles’ “Twist And Shout” from the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which Hughes wrote and directed.) Chicago Sun-Times pop critic Jim DeRogatis has a nice appreciation of Hughes’ love for music:
As Hughes told Greg Kot and me during a rare interview on our radio show “Sound Opinions” in 1999, throughout his time living in the Chicago area and well into his prime years as a filmmaker, he loved nothing more than haunting the racks of vinyl at the old Wax Trax record store on Lincoln Avenue in the heady days after the punk explosion yielded to New Wave and the electronic dance sounds that followed.
It was there that he first connected with many of the bands that would become staples of his soundtracks. And it was those soundtracks that opened many young listeners’ ears to music that couldn’t be heard on many radio stations at the time.
Music played a key role in all of the films Hughes directed himself, and there’s a long list of his best, most quirky discoveries and finest pairings of sound and vision: “True” by Spandau Ballet and “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors in “Sixteen Candles” (1984); “Don’t You” by Simple Minds in “The Breakfast Club” (1985); “Oh Yeah” by Yello in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986) and of course the use of the Psychedelic Furs song that gave the title to “Pretty in Pink” (1986, which Hughes wrote and produced but did not direct).
Oh man, I forgot about him unleashing Yello on the world! (I actually had “Oh Yeah” because of the soundtrack to The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane—not a Hughes movie, obviously.) Anyway, my favorite track from a Hughes flick is probably “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham, which was the theme to National Lampoon’s Vacation; Hughes adapted Vacation from a short story of his. “Holiday Road” is brief and sun-drenched, with an otherworldly quality that makes it sound like it’s been sitting in the blazing-hot back seat of a car that’s seemingly driving nowhere for much longer than its two-minute duration. (It is also, annoyingly, out of print.)
Feel free to share your favorite memories from Hughes soundtracks here. And this has been linked from all over the place, but if you haven’t seen the memoir from a fan who was Hughes’ pen pal, you definitely should.
John Hughes [IMDB]
Lindsey Buckingham – Holiday Road [YouTube]
John Hughes: Writer, Director, And Music Fan [Jim DeRogatis]