thirty years, man. wow. thirty years ago my beloved football team, or if you like the team i so dearly follow, had the padlocks placed on the gates to the ground by the tax man. it was all to do with the club having "unsustainable debts" of £2million. now, of course, we live in a world where football teams are allowed to be going concerns despite having debts in excess of £500million. for the sake of balance, my dear team are playing right now in a match which, to the victor, is worth an estimated £175million.
but, as i listen to how that game goes - and so far so good for my team - i am not here to ponder or write about the football of 1986 (although Mexico 86 was a tournament of note), but rather the music of it. no, not all, but some very specific sounds from that year. sounds of soundtracks, and furthermore soundtracks what were done by rather regal sounding musical concerns.
yes indeed, folks, as you can see currently on heavy rotation on my vibes machine these days are A Kind Of Magic by Queen and Parade by Prince (and the Revolution, for the final time). two albums, as promised, spawned off of films and by artists, or if you like artistes, of a distinguished royal name.
a distinguishing feature of 80s pop music would be amazing songs written specifically for films and recorded by the biggest names of the day. off the top of my head? Cat People and (This Is Not) America by David Bowie, (Don't You) Forget About Me by (eventually) Simple Minds, We Don't Need Another Hero by Tina Turner, Together In Electric Dreams off of him off of Human League and loads more, in particular by the two here, but we will get to that as we go.
and following quite nicely on from the above, let's kick it all off with the soundtrack that is patently a soundtrack yet was unequivocally released as "not a soundtrack, honest".
of the nine songs which compromise A Kind Of Magic by Queen, seven are either used in or are directly related to the motion picture Highlander. the name of the album is a line from the film, and indeed the song of the same name is made up of lines from the film, in particular the "there can be only one" tagline for the movie. several of the promo videos for singles featured footage from the film, with one in particular famously featuring the Highlander himself, the French Christopher Lambert, having a duel with Freddie. and yet no, this is not a soundtrack record; officially - at the time at least - in a rare move no official soundtrack record off of Highlander was ever released.
Queen 1986? at the zenith of an incredible few years. the 80s started with them unleashing the awesome Flash Gordon soundtrack, run the risk of losing their fans with Freddie's gay club inspired Hot Space album, were shunned, vilified and castigated for breaking the cultural boycott to play in South Africa, delivered an incredible and quite extraordinary album in the form of The Works and then delivered the single greatest and most iconic concert in history in the form of their unexpected triumphant, where the hell did that come from dominating performance at Live Aid. whatever they did next was going to be a huge success; a bonus that it was for the most part amazing.
some sounds? sure, here's a snippet of the incredible free flowing, loose, relaxed and wonderfully immersive A Kind Of A Kind Of Magic, a demo / early version of A Kind Of Magic included on the CD.
so how is the album? as an album, frankly disjointed and not greater than the sum of its parts, but a record which has some incredible highs. most of the Highlander songs are amazing. the main three are A Kind Of Magic, which is just beautiful, Who Wants To Live Forever, which is a tragic ballad all the more hard hitting when you consider Freddie's diagnosis a year or so after the release of this, and Princes Of The Universe, a stark reminder of the band's awesome hard rock origins and ambitions, laced with fabulously flamboyant and arrogant lyrics ("i have no rival, no man can be my equal"). some, however, would leave audiences confused if they had never seen nor heard of a Highlander. one song, for instance, features lines off of the Kurgan, spoken by Clancy Brown himself, dubbed over the song.
there you go, the only acknowledgement of a link to Highlander which appears on the album; a note which says some songs in some different versions are used in the film. what stopped them embracing the film and this album as a soundtrack proper? no idea - could be a legal thing, or maybe a suspicion that being called a soundtrack proper would dampen sales. in regards of the latter, no chance - as i said, anything Queen put their name to in 1986 would have sold shedloads.
weirdly, one of the few non-Highlander songs on the album is celebrated as being off of a film, even though it was not written nor recorded with the film in mind. One Vision was used in the OK film Iron Eagle; a movie which featured a boss scene of a young lad flying a fighter jet and firing missiles whilst having his walkman on the go. but there is no mistaking that One Vision was very much written with memories of Live Aid in mind, and for the most part it's one impressive tribute to organizer Bob Geldof.
and, in that sense, one particular section of the song has proven to be a spectacular gift. i would argue, just over 30 years later, and considering the event itself and all that happened for better or for worse after it, these words echo how most of us of that generation would look back at Live Aid.....
I had a dream when I was young,
A dream of sweet illusion,
A glimpse of hope and unity,
And visions of one sweet union
But a cold wind blows,
And a dark rain falls,
And in my heart it show
Look what they've done to my dream
would i jump up and down and recommend to people that they rush off and secure a copy of A Kind Of Magic off of Queen? yes, if for some reason the people listening were of my age, remember Live Aid, remember Highlander fondly and for some reason don't have it. for the more casual sort of Queen fan in passing, well, as i said, the record doesn't really work as a complete album as such. i would speculate that the majority of highlights of the record can be found on any one of the many "greatest hits" collections out there.
on we go, then, to a record which was most decidedly, definitively and proudly released very much as an official soundtrack, but in this regard it is a soundtrack that most people would not consider as such.
Parade off of Prince (and The Revolution) is the official soundtrack for the movie Under The Cherry Moon, a film conceived and (eventually) directed by Prince and starring Prince. and, you know, Jerome off of The Time. more of all that in a bit, but as was with Queen, let's have a quick rundown of how Prince got to 1986, with some paraphrasing.
the recent, sad passing of Prince led to many tributes. one of the more frequent ones made reference to how prolific he was, and matched this with high quality. and when i say high quality.....
1982 - 1999 album
1984 - Purple Rain album and film
1985 - Around The World In A Day album
1986 - Parade album / Under The Cherry Moon film
1987 - Sign O The Times album and concert film
1988 - withdrawn Black Album / Lovesexy album
1989 - Batman album
in solo artist terms, the only peer Prince ever had was David Bowie's prolific and great run in the 1970s. people who run around saying that Prince was one of, if not the greatest and most important musician ever are perhaps not at all wrong to be doing so, when you look at that collection.
a snippet of the music of Parade, an album released as a soundtrack although the film had a different name? why sure, here's some of the opening of Mountains, a really funky and musically rich number.
why is it, then, that people would perhaps fondly remember the album Parade but not associate it with the film for which it was ostensibly a soundtrack? because the film has been largely forgotten. it was a box office failure. credit to Warner Bros to trusting Prince to do whatever he liked, for he had proven to be right with every move by that stage, but we as an audience in 1986 were not ready for a black and white comedy film. audiences wanted, perhaps fairly expected, more of the engaging magic of Purple Rain and we just did not see reviews which said that's what the film would deliver.
is Under The Cherry Moon as bad as the box office and average reviews suggest? not really, but in our grief for Prince, we must be mindful not to rush to suggest it was better than it was. plot? well, if i were to say to you name an 80s film which featured two men on the French Riviera seducing women to swindle them of coins of money you would no doubt say Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. as it happens, Under The Cherry Moon from two or so years before that one had the same premise.
oooh, lovely. that football match i mentioned has finished ever so well for my team. most splendid, most happy day. hurrah, bravo my side. i can breathe now.
in contrast to the Queen one, as proud as this album is to be the soundtrack for Under The Cherry Moon, little or none of the music on Parade directly relates to the film as such. beyond the opening and closing tracks, for instance, there are no references to specifics of the film, which as we have seen is quite the opposite from A Kind Of Magic. well, that's 80s music for you.
as an album, just how is Parade? beautiful. after some grumbles that Around The World In A Day was whimsical, disposable pop (yeah, sure, that's exactly why Raspberry Beret gets played so often 31 years later), this was a very fast return to the innovative, creative genius which established Prince so firmly in the first half of the decade.
highlights of the record? well, other than Mountains, this features the hit single Kiss. it also has the magnificence of Anotherloverholeinyourhead, New Position and Sometimes It Snows In April. and, you know, all the rest.
for those keen to discover, rediscover or explore the works of Prince in the light of his passing, Parade is an album i would suggest you get on the stereo right after you had played Sign O The Times, Purple Rain and 1999. dig it, man.
right, that's enough of 1986 for now. let me return, albeit reluctantly, to the present day, to mostly celebrate the momentous football result of the day today via the medium of grocery shopping.
thanks for reading, and if any of the above has inspired some new or recalled listening pleasures, well then so much the better.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!