Thursday, February 7, 2008

If only God were more like John Hughes....

In the midst of a massive project to load all my music onto itunes--a project I resisted for ages because of my affection for the material artifacts of music listening, like reading liner notes and looking at cover art--I have been unearthing lots of stuff I haven't listened to for ages. Some of it ends up on the soundtrack to my nightly running. Last night, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. And wow, but it does not age very well, though I must say that as a band (such as it was) they improved as they stayed at it: the music they produced at the end of their run was actually more complex, more sophisticated, than at the beginning. Still, they are quite firmly a creature of the mid-eighties, and their style (or perhaps oeuvre) doesn't quite sound relevant anymore.

But here's the thing: I defy any woman (or man!) of a certain age not to smile and think affectionately of Duckie in Pretty in Pink when "If You Leave" is playing. Yes, social outsider Molly Ringwald runs off with rich and popular Andrew McCarthy at the end, but everyone who watches the film knows that Duckie is the real catch: he's quick-witted, he non-conforms, and he provides whatever measure of Restoration-comedic/1930s-screwball banter the film manages. Why would anyone choose the beautiful guy over the smart and funny and quirky one, who'll go to the mat out of sheer decency? Give us Duckie, give us Lloyd Dobler.

And give us a soundtrack, so that the exhausting, frustrating, and downright disappointing moments of our lives can be both made legible and exalted. Isn't that what John Hughes movies offered, musically? In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, we see Cameron looking with heartbreaking intensity at Seurat's pointillist picnickers and the Smiths (or, rather, the Dream Academy covering the Smiths) tell us that it's longing he's feeling: "Please please please let me get what I want," go the unsung lyrics. See? Everything made clear and comprehensible, none of this bungling around trying to figure out what we feel, no need for therapy.

So whatever other scoffs you may wish to direct at O.M.D., consider how they have organized for us Duckie's complex of emotions as the redhead he loves finds the culmination of her joys in the other guy. The attempt to render ephemeral and unspeakable experience legible: that's part of what lyric poetry does.

8 comments:

Lisa B. said...

I shall not scoff at OMD nor at other eighties bands whose music encapsulated the fleeting emotions you limn above. Pretty in Pink: what a trainwreck of a movie, but you do pretty much identify what's good about it. Could there have been a more vapid pretty boy than Andrew McCarthy? I mean really. The movie also boasts, of course, Annie Potts, who was by far the most adorable woman in the film, despite La Ringwald's pouting (prefer her in 16 Candles by far, and also prefer that pretty boy over Andrew McC.). Also, could there be an uglier dress than the one she designs to express her individuality and quirky taste? I love quirk! I love individuality! But that dress was hideous.

Lisa B. said...

And one more thing: a song that encapsulates longing for me occurs in Urban Cowboy, which, oy! talk about your artifacts! It's Boz Scaggs' "Look What You've Done to Me." Beautiful.

editorgirl said...

Duckie was supposed to wind up with Andie. They had to reshoot the ending to meet the demands of test audiences. Hence Andrew McCarthy looking all ill and sporting a bad wig--he'd started losing weight and shaved his head for a play.

Give me Duckie, please. Duckie and all the 80s music my mind can handle.

Dr. Write said...

But the thing we know now, in hindsight, which we can only know now, in hindsight, is that even though she ends up with the rich pretty boy in the short term, in the long term she will end up with a Duckie. Right? She has to have a guy who can be quirky and individual. And the pretty rich boy will quickly bore her. This is the lesson of life. And oh, it took us oh so long to learn it. We wanted the pretty rich boy. We did!
I also preferred 16 Candles and The Breakfast Club. I so wanted her to end up with the bad boy. I think 16 Candles was better for pure joy, but Breakfast Club was more complex. And more realistic?
But yes. The soundtrack. I could still listen to The Breakfast Club soundtrack. "We are Not Alone." Says it all.

Jeff said...

I'll admit to preferring Some Kind of Wonderful, if only for Mary Stuart Masterson. I know there was a soundtrack, but it doesn't seem to have entered into my consciousness the way Pretty in Pink did.

Some time in the summer of 1984 or 85 I spent an entire day by the side of a pool listening to OMD's Dazzle Ships album and reading James Hilton's Lost Horizon. My thirteen-year-old self thought it was a spectacular book, but I'm not sure now how much of that was an intoxication from an endless loop of happy-synth-pop and how much was being thirteen and how much was the book.

I haven't read the book since, but ABC Auto-Industry is a song that's always on my iPod.

Renaissance Girl said...

I TOTALLY loved Some Kind of Wonderful (and its soundtrack) better than either 16 Candles or Pretty in Pink, but I confess that Breakfast Club is my all-time fave. I own it. I watch it still. I especially like to catch it on TNT, where they've edited the f-bomb out of dreamy Judd Nielson's climactic narration of his father-conflicts, and replaced it with the giddily silly "thank": "'Thank you.' 'No dad, what about you?' 'Thank you.' 'Dad, what about you?' 'THANK YOU!'

Dr. W, EG, and LisaB: It didn't take me any years at all to prefer the quirky one, esp if also troubled (see Breakfast Club). I was ready in 1984.

editorgirl said...

This post has sent me on an 80s movies binge.

This is (always) a good thing.

John said...

"don't you forget about me" was my class song in high school (class of 1985)!

the class after mine chose "comfortably numb" by pink floyd - a little telling about that class....