A Fond Look Back at 1998's Godzilla: The Album
The latest installment in the long-running Godzilla series, and the second American-produced version of the monster movie, comes out on Friday. Though I personally don't trust this one to go any better than the one in 1998 went, and the Japanese fanbase is already making fun of our "fat, American" Godzilla, it's shaping up to be the first blockbuster of the summer season, depending on your opinion of Spider-Man.
So it's as good a time as any to look backwards, particularly at the 1998 Godzilla film starring Matthew Broderick. It was a horrible movie, but it did have one thing going for it: an awesome soundtrack. Let's reflect on that a bit, shall we?
This soundtrack was massively successful, hitting No. 2 on the Billboard 200, though it was heavily maligned in the media (particularly among classic-rock fans) for containing a new version of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" created by Puff Daddy. It had the blessing of Jimmy Page, who even performed on the track. Still, this was 1998 and fans just weren't prepared to hear Sean Combs spitting rhymes over the hallowed halls of rock.
That being said, I think the judgment was particularly unfair. Specifically, let's focus on that version of "Kashmir," now titled "Come With Me." Now that we're used to hearing this sort of thing done in rap music, it's actually pretty awesome. Nobody's going to argue that Diddy is a great rapper or anything, but he brought a lot of energy to his performance.
Plus, how many rappers would even have the balls to do something like this? It's a fun reimagining of the track, and speaks volumes about where Combs was at during this period. It was his creative peak, and he was thinking far outside of the box by making songs like "Come With Me," which would later go on to become somewhat standard practices in rap.
Remember, by 1998 samples were completely on the decline in favor of original beats. Diddy defied that by sampling an entire song, and not just any song, but one of the most beloved in the classic-rock canon.
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Puff Daddy wasn't the only one drawing upon classic rock for inspiration, though. The Wallflowers kicked off the album with a stellar cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" that has stood the test of time beyond the soundtrack. It quickly became one of their most popular tracks, and continued to pop up in the media from time to time for years.
The rest Godzilla: The Album is a fascinating look into the times. If you grew up in the '90s, or you just love the '90s now but were barely there (talking to you, 16-year-olds), this is one of the best compilations money can buy that represents its era.
The rest of the tracklist is a complete recreation of '90s rock radio. Jamiroquai, Rage Against the Machine, Days of the New, Ben Folds Five, Fuel, Foo Fighters, Silverchair and Green Day all put in appearances. It's like an encapsulation of exactly what '90s hipsters considered real rock at the time, whether they want to admit it now or not.
Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine
Photo by Jason Wolter
These weren't just tossed-off tracks either. Rage pulls no punches with its song "No Shelter," which outright criticizes the listener for paying attention to the Godzilla film itself, calling it a distraction from real issues going on in the world. Typical Zach de la Rocha -- that guy never has any fun.
Green Day, admittedly, half-assed it with a "Godzilla remix" of "Brain Stew." They must not have had time to write a new song. They were probably too busy with all their mainstream obligations, given that this was right after "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" had come out.
On the other hand, this is when Silverchair were still predicted to be the next true gods of rock, and their contribution, "Untitled," continues their late-'90s hot streak they would never replicate.
That's not to say it's perfect. I could do without Michael Penn's "Macy Day Parade," no matter how many famous brothers he has. Sticking parts of the film's score at the end of the record was a weak way to close too.
Nonetheless, in 1998 soundtracks were still something important. If a movie was successful, the soundtrack was often hugely successful as well. This was true for Godzilla: The Album, and film studios at the time understood that this was only possible if they got the hottest acts to write some great music for their record.
It was exciting for us back then because we actually had to buy CDs and a soundtrack like this allowed us to get all our favorites together in one place, doing tracks we couldn't even hear on another record. Was it largely marketing flim-flam? Sure, but soundtracks like this one were still something we loved to have back in the day, and still serve as amazing relics of the past, capturing a moment in time that will never be here again.
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