Monday, October 10, 2016

Taking the Day Off

Among the many hallmarks of a John Hughes movie was a clever use of music. The writer-director packed each of his movies with a carefully curated selection of pop hits and deep cuts from up-and-coming artists. He'd even direct scenes to fit pre-selected tunes.

Of course, Hughes was at the height of his career in the 1980s. This was a time where, if a movie had a soundtrack album at all, it was inevitably a collection of the songs played in the film (not the orchestral score composed for it). So it's no surprise that there was an album for almost every John Hughes film. But for one of his biggest movies of all, there was not.

The story goes that John Hughes thought the music from Ferris Bueller's Day Off was too eclectic for an album release. What person would want a collection of New Wave tunes alongside Wayne Newton's "Danke Schoen?" And possibly souring Hughes' enthusiasm for such an album was the fact that he'd offended Paul McCartney with the treatment of The Beatles' "Twist and Shout" during the movie's parade sequence. (Hughes felt that with a brass band prominently featured on screen, "we needed to hear the instruments." McCartney complained that if the song had "needed brass, we'd have stuck it on ourselves!") So for 30 years, Ferris Bueller's Day Off was arguably the 80s movie most conspicuously lacking a soundtrack album.

One of my favorite specialty soundtrack labels, La-La Land Records, has now corrected that oversight. Here, in all its eclectic glory, is nearly all of the movie's great music. Fans have been assembling bootlegs over the years, with many tracks like Yello's "Oh Yeah" and the aforementioned "Danke Schoen" readily available. But this official release includes more obscure material too, like the "Ultraviolence Mix" of "Love Missile F1-11" that includes all the strange variations heard on-screen, as well as the versions of "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" and "I'm Afraid" without the vocals that the movie used.

Of course, any fan of the movie is more likely to think of this music as "the driving into Chicago song," "the pulling into the parking garage song," "the museum montage song," "the hottub song," and so forth. But the point is, here it is! Unfortunately, licensing issues prevented three songs from being included -- the two most significant being "Twist and Shout" (The Beatles aren't cheap) and "March of the Swivelheads" (when Ferris runs home at the end of the movie) -- but this album is still complete enough to satisfy. (And the missing tracks can easily be downloaded elsewhere.)

Filling out the experience for soundtrack junkies like me is composer Ira Newborn's score for the film. It's a fun, playful score that covers a lot of musical ground in a short time. There are completely serious cues (the earnest "Ferris in Bed" and uplifting "Cameron Takes the Heat"), ridiculously over-the-top cues (the suspenseful "Ferris on Line 2" and jazzy "Rooney on Patrol"), and even cartoon-like campy cues ("Save It, Ferris" and "Rooney Sneaks Around"). There's purely orchestral material ("Jeannie Turns Ugly"), synthesizer driven material ("Cameron in Bed / Ferris Goes Hawaiian"), and odd one-offs (the doo-wop "Oh Shauna Jeannie," or the Naked Gun-esque "Bueller, Ferris Bueller").

And if a few songs had to be left out because of licensing, La-La Land Records was determined to fill the space with anything else anyone might conceivably want. There are a few orchestral cues that were wisely cut from the completed movie ("I'll Go" and "Going to Take a Stand"), plus some alternate versions of final cues (the alternates of "Ferris on Line 2" and "Cameron Takes the Heat" are truly and completely different from what appeared in the movie). There's also every bit of source music, including ball park organ music, the classical music from the "snooty" restaurant, the answering machine music for the "Coughlin Bros. Mortuary", and even the music that brought the wrath of McCartney -- the "Twist and Shout (Marching Band Overlay)."

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is among my favorite movies, and I'm glad to now have a soundtrack to add to my collection. It's a grade A release (even with the handful of missing tunes).

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