Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The End of the Eighties, Track 27

Batman (Original Soundtrack)

Alright, this one might be hard to justify on an alternative soundtrack to the late ’80s, but hear me out…

Ten albums, including three soundtracks, one of the most infamous bootlegs of all-time, and a stunning complement of B-sides. Prince’s work from 1980 to 1989 is an untouchable musical evolution that spans R&B, funk, dance, new wave, pop, and rock. From guitar-soaked sex to lilting spirituality, Prince mastered the decade artistically and commercially.

In truth, I could have picked virtually any track from any Prince album from the ’80s, and it would have been appropriate here with regards to personal influence. Under the Cherry Moon was a foundational movie for Pam’s and my relationship, giving Parade an edge. John and Jen can tell you how I used to camp it up in the dorm room to Controversy’s “Jack U Off” when we were just hanging out. But the Prince track that probably most deserves to be on this playlist (but isn’t) is “Bob George”. Pam gave me my first copy of The Black Album on cassette tape in early 1989. Within a year I was laying down $50 for the bootleg CD at Madhatter Music Company in Bowling Green. For whatever reason, it was onto “Bob George” from that album that I transferred all my fury over Pam’s move to San Francisco to be with her ex-boyfriend earlier that summer. The distorted vocals, the self-deprecating references, the overt violence… it’s a track that completely encapsulates “dirty” Prince.

For the sake of playlist flow, however, I went with the Batman single, “Batdance”. Part of a campaign that changed the way blockbuster movies are marketed in the same way Jaws defined the summer tent pole nearly 15 years earlier, goth auteur Tim Burton’s Batman was ubiquitous in the summer of 1989. The movie worked for both the alternative culture denizens who worshipped at Burton’s quirky Pee Wee’s Big Adventure/Beetlejuice alter, and the hegemonic mainstream.

The collection of songs Prince offered up as accompaniment to the movie range from excellent funk workouts (“Electric Chair”) to downright silly (“The Arms of Orion”), and marked the beginning of the end for any level of consistent quality output from the artist. “Batdance” is a sample-heavy track (fitting in nicely next to Front 242’s “Welcome to Paradise V1.0”) that cleverly intertwines the words of Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Kim Basinger into the song. The omnipresent nature of both the movie and this song in 1989 resulted in snippets of the movie’s dialog permanently etched on the brains of virtually anyone consuming pop culture that summer – John and me included.

So maybe “Batdance” doesn’t fit perfectly under the “alternative” umbrella, but within the flow of the playlist and as a signpost for the end of the eighties, I’d be hard-pressed to find a more fitting inclusion.

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