Albums Revisited: 30 Years Later The Lost Boys Soundtrack Is Still A Hot Mess: a look back on a sax fueled soundtrack (and movie) that hasn’t gained vampiric immortality.
July 31st marks the 30th anniversary of director Joel Schumacher’s vampire horror comedy The Lost Boys. If you were a teenager growing up during the late 80’s, odds are this was one of your favorite movies of 1987.
But if you’ve revisited The Lost Boys recently, the years have not been as kind–it largely coasts by on nostalgia. It’s not without its charms (unlike Schumacher’s epic turd Batman and Robin), but its a far cheesier, chintzier beast than your adolescent psyche could parse at the time.
The Lost Boys saw Schumacher take advantage of the popularity of MTV, as the music and movie industries were particularly symbiotic at that time. Even the film’s visuals look straight out of a music video, with actors Jason Patric, Corey Haim/Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, Alex Winter and Jami Gertz wearing the rock fashions of the day.
And in exchange for directing a few videos, Schumacher was able to assemble a roster of artists for the movie’s soundtrack.
In fact, its impossible to discuss The Lost Boys without remembering its soundtrack, boasting hits like INXS and Jimmy Barnes’ cover of the Easybeats Good Times, Echo and The Bunnymen’s Doors cover People are Strange, and Gerard McMann’s goth-pop classic Cry Little Sister (Theme From The Lost Boys).
And if those are all the songs that you remember, don’t feel bad, because the rest is woefully forgettable and tame: for a film about undead hedonistic bloodsuckers, rock and roll danger is in scant supply.
Oh, but you say, what of the dangerous humping gyrations of oiled up, shirtless sax player Tim Capello? Okay, okay, Let’s give him his due…I guess, for his cover of The Call’s I Still Believe, immortalized in an on-screen performance.
Cappello, also known for performing with artists including Tina Turner and Carly Simon gives an over-the-top parodic take on a respectable 80’s anthem, and its a shame that The Call turned down appearing in the film. They were a truly underrated band, so it kinda sucks that this was the biggest moment of their career–and they weren’t even present. Surely they would have had a more dignified performance. Or at least a less greasier one?
Speaking of saxophone, it’s worth noting that mighty instrument figures on several songs on the soundtrack, including Eddie and The Tide’s Power Play, a vapid, forgettable tune so anemic it makes Huey Lewis and The News sound like Slayer. It feels like a knockoff of Glenn Frey’s You Belong to The City. Not exactly compelling (what was with the 80’s and the saxophone?).
Another sax-fueled number fares slightly better. That would be Mummy Calls’ Beauty Has Her Way, but in the end the band sound like the poor man’s Psychedelic Furs. It’s safe to say that The Lost Boys marked the peak of Mummy Calls and Eddie and The Tide’s careers, as they would dissipate like vampires caught in the sunlight shortly afterwards.
One thing that makes The Lost Boys soundtrack so so problematic is how tonally uneven it is, unable to decide if it’s an alt-rock outlier or a safe haven for classic rockers gone soft-rock. It has a split personality to say the least.
Take Lost in the Shadows (The Lost Boys), a song by Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm that sounds suspiciously like Kenny Loggins’ Top Gun theme Danger Zone, but less rocking. Let that sink in. Gramm was coming off a smash hit earlier that year with Midnight Blue, but this didn’t go on to similar success (unsurprisingly).
And then there’s Roger Daltrey’s cover of Elton John’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me, which sounds defanged and schmaltzy. In the end both Shadows and Sun suffer from the glassy synth sheen that smothered so many songs of the era.
So let’s go back to the highlights, with Echo and The Bunnymen’s People Are Strange the best of the bunch, allowing frontman Ian McCulloch to indulge his Jim Morrison fixation whilst Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek joins in. It’s used perfectly in the film, accompanying the Emerson family getting their first look at the locals of their new town.
Aussie rockers INXS are the MVP’s of the soundtrack however. A wise move on Atlantic Records part, helping to set the stage for the group’s major commercial success when Kick was released later that year. But why did they have to make (fellow Australian) Jimmy Barnes part of the deal? He joined in on vocals for both Good Times and (the more forgettable) Laying Down The Law.
In the end, Barnes and INXS both entered Thunderdome but only the latter emerged victorious. His success in America never materialized.
Gerard McMann’s Cry Little Sister, which is consistently and bizarrely credited to The Sisters of Mercy on YouTube, (I can only imagine vocalist Andrew Eldritch crying into his fog machine upon this revelation) is another indelible musical moment, featuring an eerie children’s choir singing Thou Shalt Not Kill. McMann reportedly recorded the entire song without seeing a frame of footage, but he nailed the movie’s style over substance aesthetic.
In the end, The Lost Boys soundtrack is a weird mix of musical trends, just on the cusp of alternative rock entering the mainstream, while still in the death throes of shitty 80’s pop (and curiously devoid of any heavy metal artists). But you probably bought it anyways for the three decent songs, just like me, because we didn’t have the luxury of MP3’s in the Reagan era. And despite 1987 being an amazing year for music, it was half-baked.
It wasn’t as bad as eating maggots, per se, but you could be forgiven for thinking that, like the movie, it could have used a bit more bite.
Own it on Amazon.