by Natasha Theobald
Maybe you are dreaming of a new and different compilation of 80s music. You love the synthesizers and New Wave, not quite Punk, sound, but all of the former VJs are still shilling the same 'favorite' hits from the era at three in the morning. What is an eighties fan to do? Why not check out a soundtrack from way back then, say 1983, from the general location of the Valley? You won't hear Frank Zappa, but there is some pretty good stuff to (re-)discover.
1983 was the year we got our first glimpse of one Mr. Nicolas Cage. His previous credits listed him as a Coppola, but he would Coppola no more. It was before the Oscar, before the inexplicable desire to morph into an action hero. He had a vaguely punk hairdo and chest hair that had clearly been shaped with some care and attention. He was Randy, a high school guy from Hollywood (the town, not the icon). And, he had the misfortune to fall for the barely attainable, a Valley girl. How did we know she was a Valley girl? Why, her love for bright, multi-colored clothes and propensity to start every sentence with the word 'Like,' of course.
The music included in the soundtrack for the movie is set to exemplify the difference in the worlds of our star-crossed lovers. For her, we have a bouncy, pop sound. It is the sound of pink cotton candy and perkiness. He is a wee bit darker, preferring something slightly alternative (no capital 'A,' 'cuz that wasn't a thing then, I think). It is music that wants to be real Punk rock when it grows up.
The 'Hers' side of the disc includes three songs from Josie Cotton. She is the one who plays the prom in the movie, backed by the band Kajagoogoo. The first asks the eternal musical question, "Johnny, Are You Queer?" It's not exactly PC, but sometimes a girl just needs to know why a guy never touches her, no? The second, "He Could Be the One," has a fairly memorable sound, as in it will still be in your head days later. Again, girly though it may be, what high school lass isn't looking for so-called true love. The last, "School is In," is fairly typical of the high school movie genre, with all that that implies.
The Plimsouls are the band playing when Randy first takes Julie to the club on his side of the tracks. The band didn't manage to survive the early eighties, but their sound is what you would expect from a reaction to radio pop at the time. It is moody and angst-ridden but not so far outside the box that you can't understand the lyrics, for example. They are rebels, but only to a certain degree, sorta like Randy. The most memorable of their three offerings on the disc is the first song, "A Million Miles Away." It may not have lasted, but that in no way reflects on the quality of the song, which has a destined to be remembered vibe.
One of the oldies you may well recognize is "Eyes of a Stranger" from Payola$. Unfortunately, this oldie has gotten a tad moldy with time. When you first hear it, the initial recognition is enough to excite you slightly. As you enter the third minute of the song, however, the nostalgia sort of fades. It was not over soon enough for me.
The resurgence of Colin Hay, thanks to the brilliance of Scrubs, may well make you grateful to hear a little Men at Work here. The choice, "Who Can It Be Now?" is familiar enough and a welcome re-listen. Plus, it follows on the heels of a great song called "Angst in My Pants" from Sparks. How can you not love a song called "Angst in My Pants?"
Other included groups range from Pat Travers' Black Pearl to The Flirts, Felony, and Gary Myrick & the Figures with "She Talks in Stereo" -- able and interesting music all in all. Too, we have the eighties teen film pre-requisite, a song from Psychedelic Furs. This time it is "Love My Way." Personally, I love it. It is right up my eighties alley.
The love song from Valley Girl is a little ditty you may have heard. I had a Modern English cassette (yes, because it was that long ago), and I loved a lot of their stuff. Chances are, though, you only have ever heard one Modern English song, "I Melt With You." It is quintessential eighties and somehow, also, seemingly timeless. It is romantic minus a good deal of the ick factor. It just has something which can't be defined, which makes it seem sort of cool even now. If nothing else, it will take you to the time and place when you knew it, remind you what it felt like to want to escape and the amazing draw of the 'you and me against the world' ideal.
I could say more, but we both have lives to resume. If you dig on the 80s aesthetic and want something a little different from the norm, the soundtrack to Valley Girl may be worth your time. The movie is worth a look, too. It manages to exceed teen genre expectations to become something a bit more, a bit better. Like all good teen fare, it makes you remember what it was like to be young and in love, despite the odds. To me, remembering that is always worth it.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1820
originally posted: 05/11/06 08:11:23
last updated: 05/19/06 03:45:53