Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blast from the Past: The Music of Xanadu!

Images from Wikipedia
This week, my aim for Blast from the Past was to do something patriotic, for the 4th of July. But I find most overt displays of patriotism to be kind of cloying at best, and phony at worst. I just couldn't think of an angle. Then, as I started doing my household chores today, I put the CD-jukebox on (yes, I still have one), and the album cued up was the motion picture soundtrack, Xanadu.

The movie came out in 1980, starring Olivia Newton-John (in her follow-up to Grease), and Michael Beck (who was following up an obscure career). It was the story of an aimless artist (Beck), who is inspired by a literal muse (Newton-John) to build a roller-boogie palace, with the help of an older musician (Gene Kelly) who'd been inspired by the same muse many years before. It's not a very good movie. It had the misfortune to come to life in an awkward era of pop culture. I was just starting high school at the time the movie came out, and I liken my awkward puberty/adolescence to America's at the time.

Remember, in 1980, disco was still going strong, but steaming toward a flame-out. Punk was the counter-culture, which was being commercialized and turned into new-wave. The style of "modern music" that Xanadu was trying to present occurred at perhaps the ugliest, most garish period of this transition. Fortunately, Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra--the two main musical elements of the movie, oddly enough--had careers that transcended any particular musical genre. You wouldn't peg either act as disco, punk or new wave. Maybe that's part of the reason the movie failed; it's just an unusual mish-mash (there's even an animated portion).

But there had to be something to it, for it to become a cult classic. It became a fairly well-received Broadway musical, after all. So, bad movie or not, Xanadu endures. And the most likely reason (besides Olivia's beauty and charm) is the music. My best friend (and not-so-secret crush) at the time had the vinyl album (remember those?), and listened to it endlessly. I got my own copy, and eventually had it on cassette and CD as well. I've had the movie on VHS and DVD. I still watch it every so often, but listen to the music far more so. I love it to this day.

So, that's it for this weekend. Hope everyone has as much fun this holiday week as I have when I hear the final song from this set! Happy Monday, it's a short week!

1 comment:

  1. I still have my vinyl copy of the Xanadu soundtrack. I never upgraded to CD, though, so I haven't listened to it for years. There are some good songs, though.


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