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Michael Boddecker - Buckaroo Banzai End Credits

Speaking of the 1980s weirdness I miss, here’s one of the slickest end credits sequences ever, from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). I was listening to this on tape 30 years ago, despite the fact that there has never been an official soundtrack to this movie. I am listening to a version on my iPod tonight.

I loved how cheap interesting summer movies were cranked out in the 80s. To use my target year, 1984: people have pretty much forgotten that (in today’s dollars) films like Top Secret!, The Terminator, and The Karate Kid cost less than $20m to make. Beverly Hills Cop and Buckaroo Banzai were middle-of-the-road films, budgeted at just under $35m. Big budget special-effects films like The NeverEnding Story and Ghostbusters came in under $70m.

Yes, those are all in today’s dollars — Ghostbusters cost $30m to make in 1983 bucks, Terminator $6.4m. As a result, a lot more films were made, and more experimental stuff was tried and released. If you could make a film for $4.2m (a whopping $9m in today’s dollars), then what the hell, go ahead and make Red Dawn or Night of the Comet. As much as I love today’s Marvel films, you could use part of the catering budget of one of them to make Repo Man.

I can’t help but think there’s just too much money being dumped into films today, turning potential moderate successes into borderline-to-guaranteed losers. The original RoboCop (1987) cost $13m ($28m) to make and brought in $55m ($117m). The remake this year cost $130m — more than four times as much, and more than the original made in its theatrical run. I’m kind of amazed that the new one still turned a profit. R.I.P.D., with the same budget, didn’t, and that film is actually fun to watch.

There was no soundtrack to Buckaroo Banzai because the whole property was in some kind of crazy legal morass — in part, according to the moviemakers, because of the involvement of producer/embezzler David Begelman. Hollywood, right?

Alphaville - Fallen Angel

Still 30 years back. While the title track is better known, this is my favorite song off German group Alphaville’s Forever Young (1984).

Can you imagine tuning in an ordinary local pop radio station and hearing French, Swedish, British, German, Caribbean, African and Japanese musicians sprinkled all though the regular American pop? Roll to disbelieve, but it was like that in the 1980s. Eddy Grant, Los Lobos and Ladysmith Black Mambazo were just as pop as The Eurhythmics and Cheap Trick.

Two things I truly miss from 1980s pop are world music influence and unbridled weirdness. You never hear big pop stars now take a song or two on their new, guaranteed gold pop album to do a reggae or Tejano song in their own style; but that was Blondie, the Cars, the Police, the Talking Heads did. Albums now seem much more codified.

Fire Inc. - Nowhere Fast

Still stuck 30 years back. This gonzo song from the New Wave retro-greaser western “Streets of Fire” (1984) is unmistakably Jim Steinman, the man who wrote Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” albums. He’s like the Michael Bay of pop music, except that I like his work.

The soundtrack is great. The movie has a teenage Diane Lane as a singer, Rick Moranis as her money-grubbing jerk manager, and Willem Dafoe in what I still think is one of his most insane villain roles.

Jeff Lynne - “Video”

While I work tonight, my brain seems to be stuck exactly 30 years in the past. This is from the fantastic soundtrack to the 1984 movie “Electric Dreams,” about an architect whose computer gains sentience and falls in love with his upstairs neighbor.

Listening to stuff like this growing up and in high school, is it any wonder I still have a soft spot for electronic pop after all these years?

Today I bought the Talking Heads album Naked for $2 clearance at the used CD store. Their albums are usually a safe bet; but in this case I would have paid $2 for this one song, “(Nothing but) Flowers.” It’s one of my favorite post-apocalyptic songs, about a post-industrial eden where humans live in harmony with nature.

Since my formative years were the 1980s, my favorite type of song is a happy pop tune about the most horrible thing you can imagine.

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