‘I’ve never left the ’80s!’ – Transformers man Stan Bush on the fist-pumping power of ‘The Touch’

Two decades before the Michael Bay reboot put the ”bro’ into ‘Hasbro’, the popular toyline ‘toon Transformers had a full-length animated film that made ’80s kids’ electric dreams come true. Released in 1986, it saw Optimus Prime continue his fight against the Decepticons, and with Hasbro wanting to clear out the old product line there were more deaths than your average season of American Horror Story. The final movie Orson Welles ever appeared in, The Transformers: The Movie also featured the voice of Leonard Nimoy and had zero creepily lingering shots of Megan Fox’s butt. Its soundtrack is chiefly remembered for ‘The Touch’ – a surging, optimistic, oh-so ’80s track that sounds like an entire night at Ultimate Power rolled into one song. As The Transformers: The Movie celebrates its 30th anniversary with a Blu-Ray Steelbook reissue, Stan Bush – the hair behind the metal – talks soundtracking childhoods.

‘The Touch’ was originally written with Sylvester Stallone’s cop-thriller Cobra in mind. Are you glad it wasn’t accepted?
Stan Bush: “Oh yeah! Absolutely. It was the perfect fit for Transformers – it turned out to be an iconic song for a lot of people. I’ve got fan letters saying it’s changed their lives and has given them encouragement in difficult times. It’s got that ’80s go-for-it, believe-in-yourself message. It’s my ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. One guy who’s an attorney said that before he goes into a courtroom for a trial, he plays ‘The Touch’ to psych himself up.”

Did you know anything about Transformers beforehand?
“Not too much. I had a nephew that had one, and watched him turn it from a robot into a truck and thought ‘that’s cool’. Then I tried to do it and couldn’t!”

When the 2007 big-screen Transformers reboot happened, did you submit any music?
“I re-recorded ‘The Touch’ and it was supposed to be in the first film and for whatever reason, a couple of weeks before the movie came out, they pulled the song. I don’t know if it was Michael Bay’s decision or if they had a problem clearing the rights. I never found out. But ‘The Touch’ is still regarded as the unofficial anthem of Transformers anyway.”

Then in 2009, you recorded a rap-metal version of it.
“We were trying to get more of that Linkin Park feel – we were going for something different on it. In the future, I’ve had the idea of doing an unplugged version, of just me and an acoustic guitar.”

How did you feel when Mark Wahlberg covered ‘The Touch’ it in an intentionally bad style in Boogie Nights?
“That was funny. It was supposed to be a spoof of the ’80s. A couple of times I saw him come out on chat shows a few years ago like Jimmy Kimmel singing it. It became like an anthem for him.”

What did you think of the Michael Bay Transformers?
“The first one was a really good movie, I thought. That was done well. It had good humour and wasn’t too serious. I guess people didn’t like the second one very much.”

You were inducted into the Transformers Hall of Fame in 2014 alongside ‘bots Arcee and Rodimus. Is it like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with sprockets?
“It’s like a ceremony – it’s not like being knighted or something (Laughs). They surprised me with it. It was really an honour. I was floored. I have the little statue from it right next to my Emmy [which he won in 1997 for ”Til I Was Loved By You’, a song recorded for soap Guiding Light].”

You did the music for the cult Jean-Claude Van Damme movies Bloodsport and Kickboxer. Is he partial to a power ballad?
“Years ago, he came into a bar I was playing at. The bouncers were giving him a hard time and I went over and said, ‘Let this guy in.’ He came over and thanked me and that’s when I told him who I was. He said of Bloodsport, ‘the music was better than the movie!'”

Do you ever get sick of ‘The Touch’?
“No, it’s been a big part of my life. I’m sure some artists get tired of playing their signature song, but for me, it’s a blessing. Good job I didn’t write a song about cop-killing or something! I look at some rappers and think: ‘there’s enough negativity in the world’.”

What do you have coming up?
“I have a new song called ‘Warrior’ which I wrote with Lenny Macaluso, co-writer of ‘The Touch’, which is in the game Shadow Warrior 2. We just did a music video for it.”

Is it a rap track about murdering police officers?
“No, it’s a similar genre to ‘The Touch’. (Laughs) It’s funny because I’ve never left the ’80s!”

The 30th Anniversary Steelbook edition of The Transformers: The Movie is out now on Blu-ray