When The Breakfast Club arrived in theaters 30 years ago, I passed on it. Instead, I waited until it was released on VHS, then went to Foodarama's video department and waited some more, until a copy in a hard-shelled casing was finally available, tucked behind the empty slip-cover that showed the characters in their iconic group pose.
After I'd left the store with the movie -- and probably some kernel popcorn, Snickers bars and whatever Mom might have scribbled onto the grocery list for me -- I was pretty impressed. The dialogue rang true. I knew kids like the ones portrayed in the film. And I was certain Judd Nelson's performance was Oscar-worthy. I was only 19 years old, so I was prone to occasional fits of misguided thinking.
Two things I knew at the time that haven't changed over these many years are a) I preferred girls like Ally Sheedy's wacko to Molly Ringwald's pampered princess; and b) the music in the film was pretty awesome.
Tonight I'll be headed over to Santikos Theatres, which has area locations in Katy and Tomball, to catch a special 30th-anniversary screening of the John Hughes classic, so I dug out the sound track, which I long ago purchased on cassette at Sound Warehouse. It's still in pretty rad shape, since I take care of my stuff. [Note: For those who don't, the sound track has also just been reissued by Universal Music -- ed.]
I thought I'd listen to see if the songs have held up as sturdily as the film has over the decades. After just one go-round, I'd have to say they're not only as good as they once were, they're better.
The film's anthem, Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)," holds no special place in my heart. My wife and I were dating back then, but, sadly, our "song" was the ultra-lame Spandau Ballet tune "True." In spite of that poor judgment, we've remained a couple since 1983.
In any case, I'd never badmouth "Don't You," because it's a classic from the era. SPIN magazine recently published a stellar article on its origins. It's been covered by KT Tunstall, Son Lux, the Glee cast, Billy Idol -- who was one of the artists who passed on recording it, according to the article -- and many others. But maybe the best version is a gentle, jazzy rendition performed by Claire Standish herself, Molly Ringwald.
It's not just that it's a looking glass to the past, either. It's a good song. That line about recalling "the tender things that we were working on" is especially poignant if you're now old enough for an AARP card. I had a lot of beautiful friends then, and, as the song predicted, "slow change" pulled us apart. And, as the song predicted, if we were true friends, something would "put us back together at heart" years later. (That something is called Facebook, folks).
This isn't a track-by-track rundown of every song on the record, mostly because I never listened to every song on the record when it was 1985 and The Breakfast Club sound track was churning on the tape deck in my dookie-brown Honda Civic. There were a few tracks I favored -- "Waiting," by '80s hottie E.G. Daily, who went on to become Rugrats' Tommy Pickles; and, Karla DeVito's "We Are Not Alone," which tuned the characters' bitchin' dance scene in the film. YouTube user RGM Yoru writes, "The first time my mom showed me this movie and I saw this scene, I had no idea what they were doing. I didn't know that they were dancing."
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Another track I rewound to frequently was Wang Chung's "Fire in the Twilight," which backs the kids' escape from the library scene. I loved that one so much I went out and bought Mosaic and even the sound track for To Live and Die In L.A. Don't judge me; everybody Wang Chunged at night back then.
The rest of the album was cast-off stuff then and still is -- sadly, even the track contributed by The Time's Jesse Johnson. But the songs I enjoyed as a teen still sound pretty good to me, even better, because they now have the added context of life events associated with them.
For instance, I listened to "Fire in the Twilight" nearly every afternoon for some time, driving to my second-shift job as a forklift operator. I dreamed of being "the man who leads the way" as I traveled to my dead-end job. Then, one afternoon, as I made a left turn toward work, a drunk driver passing from behind hit me broadside and totaled my Civic and nearly totaled me, too. I wound up in a ditch with a couple of broken bones and a lot of windshield glass in my scalp.
That's what I think of hearing Wang Chung right now, the fact that I survived and did become the man who led the way in his own life, if nowhere else. Listening to Karla DeVito's song, it reminds me that she went on to marry '70s heartthrob Robby Benson, a marriage that, like my own, has endured. The Bensons have kids who are artists like them. I have kids who are working musicians. As a spouse and a parent, I'm not alone. I turn the song up a little as I think about these connections I could never have imagined as a 19-year-old.
The kids who identified with the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal are now shoring up their 401ks for approaching retirement. (If they invested wisely, they saw The Breakfast Club in theaters when admission was $5 or $6 and won't have to pay $12.50 come tonight, like I will.) If they're like me, their hearts did not die when they grew up. Seeing us all in the simplest of terms and the most convenient of definitions, I see survivors who grew beyond the film's naive philosophies. But we can still dance our asses off in a library, if the music's right.
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