Yesterday I mentioned in a tweet that John Parr's Man In Motion was on my running play list. That song has been on my running list for a long time; besides the obvious theme, it's got a good beat for my stride length. Also, I've loved the St. Elmo's Fire soundtrack since it came out in 1985. After sending that tweet, though, I was a bit embarrassed* to realize that the only other John Parr song I could name was Naughty Naughty.
(At one point during game development we played with the idea of adding music and soundtrack elements to Film Tycoons, but ultimately took that out; we just weren't finding a way to fit it into the game flow. We might revisit that in future editions, since movie soundtracks account for some of the best music in the world.)
In fact, there were a number of artists with great songs on the St. Elmo's Fire soundtrack, a few of those artists were pretty much unknown to me beyond their soundtrack contribution. Did some of them record one and only one song before moving on to a career as a database analyst somewhere? Or have they had decade-spanning, prolific careers, and just somehow stayed under the collective radar of my demographic, geography, or social group? I started out with a hypotheses that John Parr is similar to Cliff Richard** in that both are fantastic artists whose major body of work has managed to escape the ear of 40-something guys in Texas.
Research time, starting with one of my favorite tools, Spotify.
Bingo. To say "Parr is prolific" is somewhat akin to mentioning "water is wet." But Spotify neatly summarizes (and unfortunately, perpetuates) the "American audience" versus "non-American audience" of many great artists. Despite offering six John Parr albums, including the truly enjoyable Letter to America (with 29 tracks!) Spotify's "John Parr Top 5" songs actually shows only three songs: St. Elmo's Fire (twice), Naughty Naughty, and Restless Heart (twice). Expand that to ten songs and you get six distinct songs. What the hell, Spotify?
Side note: apparently Mr. Parr is touring the U.K. in November with two other favorites of mine, Foreigner and Asia. Clearly, this is worth a trip to London. Especially if Asia will play Days Like These and Don't Cry.
Back to St. Elmo's Fire. After the discovery of so much more great John Parr music, I decided to have a closer look at each artist on the soundtrack. Here's a summary for my other audiophile friends or 80's music lovers:
- St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion) by John Parr. Covered above, right?
- Love Theme From St. Elmo's Fire, by David Foster. I'm already familiar with the amazing David Foster, and trust me, you are, too. He's written or produced a couple million hits. If you're in a trivia contest and get the question, "Who (wrote/produced) this hit song from the 1980's" and you have no idea, just guess David Foster. Good chance you'll win. Incidentally, I think Foster wrote or co-wrote every song on this soundtrack.
- Shake Down, by Billy Squier. I'm just going to classify Billy Squier as popular enough in the U.S. that if you don't recognize him, you need a more remedial music appreciation*** guide than my quick blog.
- This Time It Was Really Right, by Jon Anderson. You probably recognize the voice -- he's the lead vocalist for Yes and responsible for some of my favorite Yes songs, like Leave It and It Can Happen.
- Saved My Life, by Fee Waybill. Ah, yes. If you grew up in the 80's, you know Fee Waybill without actually knowing Fee Waybill. Remember She's a Beauty, by The Tubes? That's Fee Waybill. Every music device I've owned since fifth grade has included She's a Beauty.
- One Love, by David Foster.
- Stressed Out (Close To The Edge) by Airplay. First of the "I don't know who this is," groups on the soundtrack. Turns out Airplay was David Foster and Jay Graydon, and was fairly short-lived. However, listening to their offerings on Spotify, it's very clear that most of Toto is in the band, and you can easily hear the style that Foster brought to Earth, Wind, and Fire and Chicago.
- Young and Innocent, by Elefante. One of the most evocative songs on the soundtrack, but who the heck is Elefante? Apparently there are two Elefantes, John and Dino. John was the frontman of Kansas for a time, but it looks like the brothers have spent more of their careers producing.
- If I Turn You Away, by Vikki Moss. Wow, talk about weird coincidences. First, Ms. Moss's singing career was apparently sadly short lived. There isn't much available from her other than this excellent song. While researching, though, I realized that I've actually seen her brother before, many times. Joey Moss is a locker room attendant for the Edmonton Oilers and frequently appears on camera during the national anthem. He has Down Syndrome, and of course, I love to discover positive examples of people with DS being accepted as happy members of society. Very cool connection to stumble upon this morning.
- Into the Fire, by Todd Smallwood. Looks like I'm stymied for the first time on this soundtrack. From what I can find Smallwood has written for Mick Fleetwood and for some additional movie soundtracks, like Under Siege, but his web page is defunct, no Wikipedia page, and Spotify has very little. Still, I found a number of songs that made it into my Spotify library -- particularly Funeral In Berlin and Leave The Radio.
- Give Her A Little Drop More, by Todd Smallwood.
- Respect, by Aretha Franklin.
- For Just a Moment, by Amy Holland and Donny Gerrard. I think many people don't realize that there ARE lyrics to the soundtrack's love theme. The instrumental version got massive airtime, and I don't recall ever hearing the lyric version on the radio. But it's great; excellent lyrics and excellent performance. First, Ms. Holland. She's another long-time contributor to soundtracks, and she's married to Michael McDonald, with whom she's collaborated on some of her work. This morning I listened to her 2016 album, Light on My Path. She's got a great voice, it's nice to have finally found her "other work" after 30 years of listening to just one song.
And finally, Donny Gerrard, the other voice from the love theme. Need a definition of "smooth?" Go grab his song Darlin' from Spotify. Then you've got to listen to some 1970's Skylark. (Which, not surprisingly, featured David Foster on keyboards.) You might remember their best-known hit, Wildflower.
And that's my music appreciation session for today. After following St. Elmo's Fire a bit deeper I've got a fantastic new set of music to enjoy -- not to mention tickets to buy for November.
* Yes, it's possible to be embarrassed while alone. I do it all the time. Usually the embarrassment is accompanied by a mental image of Rob Garden saying, "Dude, really?"
** I love Cliff Richard's work, but face it, most Americans only recognize We Don't Talk Anymore and perhaps Devil Woman. There are only a few of us with Suddenly on the Xanadu soundtrack, and I'm going to guess that nobody else reading this recognizes I'm No Hero or All I Ask of You.
*** I've always wondered what goes on in a music appreciation class. Not having taken one, I'm going to assume that if you start to look behind the music a bit more, you're appreciating it. Or maybe you just have to watch Pop Up Video marathons.