Don’t get me wrong, great soundtracks have a time and a place - Daft Punk’s score for Tron: Legacy is a masterclass in android cool and Twilight’s album spin-offs are the only good thing about the franchise - but they just don’t compete with a well-constructed, gloriously bombastic and utterly irony-free cheesefest. Death Cab For Cutie might be a perfect match for Zooey Deschanel’s wistful stares but give me a slice of Kenny Loggins any day.
This month marks the anniversary of the greatest of them all. You know the one - I don’t even need to name it. Teena Marie, Miami Sound Machine, one scientologist freak, more than enough of the aforementioned Kenny for one very late night, lashings of homoerotica - the Top Gun soundtrack, which hit number one in July 1986, transcended its original straight-faced chart-topping status and assumed a mythical spot in the land of ironic pleasures.
Despite its enduring infamy, though, it’s probably not the most heroically cheesy soundtrack. For my money, that goes to Rocky IV. Why? Give the thing a quick spin and you’ll find out fast enough. Its epic tracklisting features Survivor three times (including ‘Eye Of The Tiger’), the Loggins (naturally), numerous fanfares-disguised-as-songs (including the fantastically stupid ‘Fanfare From Rocky’ from Vince DiCola, who went on to make the Transformers soundtracks) and one cut so blatantly created for flabby men to shadow box to it’s just called ‘Training Montage’.
Listen to the opening seconds of the second track, John Cafferty’s ‘Hearts On Fire’. If there’s a more ludicrous pile-up of guitars and synths committed to tape I’m yet to pump my fists to it. Wikipedia as per usual sums things up best:
The album is often played in gyms and used by people for motivation when working out due to its high intensity rhythm and synthesizers and heroic lyrics.
So what else deserves a mention in our pre-dawn playlist of true shameless joy? Grease and Dirty Dancing are banished but Footloose, with Sammy Hagar, Bonnie Tyler, and the omnipresent Kenny, could probably join in. Of course The Karate Kid’s ‘You’re The Best Around’ deserves an honourable mention, as Joe Esposito provides the perfect counterpoint to Gang of Four’s more credible inclusion, and I’d like to doff a cap to the incidental music from Romancing The Stone. ‘Change’ from Vision Quest, meanwhile, is another motivational classic, and perfect to wrestle teenage boys to. If that’s your thing.
In fact, that lost 80s film’s soundtrack was a care home for the masters of cheese, harbouring delights from Journey, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon and Don Henley.
So this summer, when your eyeballs are full of IMAX-sized Dark Knight shenanigans, and Hans Zimmer’s no-doubt-Oscar-winning score is adding menace and nuance to Christopher Nolan’s gothic masterpiece, just think how much better - or at least funnier - it would be if Tom Hardy pranced on screen to Cheap Trick.