GETTING MORE TALE #493: SNDTRK
The first big hit movie soundtrack LP in history was 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire. That may seem like a long time ago, but it was only 26 years later (a small blink in terms of history) that John Williams composed one of the most popular scores of all time: Star Wars. That was the first soundtrack I owned. Today, soundtracks are still an integral part of any record store.
In my own days as a Record Store Guy, movie soundtracks were a dicey product to stock. Aside from some specific timeless examples, they seemed to have a limited shelf-life.
There was always a demand for certain classics: Saturday Night Fever, Last of the Mohicans, Heavy Metal. On the other hand, other discs were bargain bin perennials: Titanic, More Music from Titanic, The Bodyguard, City of Angels, Phenomenon, Romeo + Juliet…my God there were so many. Once a movie had run its course, often its soundtrack did too.
Much of the time, people bought a soundtrack CD for one song. Once that song was available elsewhere, the soundtrack sales usually dropped off completely. When Goo Goo Dolls released “Iris” on their album Dizzy Up the Girl, nobody wanted the City of Angels soundtrack anymore. Celine Dion put “My Heart Will Go On” on a bunch of different CDs, meaning almost everybody who bought Titanic on CD tried to sell it later. Good luck – I’ve seen bargain bins with a dozen or more copies in it. At one point we were so desperate to get rid of the soundtracks that we were bundling them up with the movie at a cut rate price.
There were certain soundtracks that were so unpopular that we weren’t even supposed to buy them used. Operation Dumbo Drop comes to mind. Now that was a CD that sat on my shelf for years and years. When it finally sold, it was like a celebration. We had long “Do Not Buy – Ever!” lists. I’m sure many of them were soundtracks.
There are always customers on the lookout for obscure soundtracks. My buddy Rob Daniels, for example, has a radio show specialising in movie soundtracks. He has an extensive library of soundtracks, carefully curated over the past 16 years or more. Unfortunately for soundtrack fans, guys like Rob are in the minority. Most people simply didn’t care. They wanted the couple songs from the movie they liked and that was pretty much it. People looking for obscure scores were few and far between. Once a song is available on an artist’s album, the soundtrack can look forward to a long life in somebody’s bargain bin.
This week, we will be looking at different movie soundtracks every day! I have a weird knack for remembering the first time I bought an album in great detail. To lead into the first soundtrack review, I’ll set the scene.
The year was 1992. I wasn’t working at the Record Store yet, but I was a customer. The boss there used to have a saying (well he had many sayings but only one applies to this story): “Do as I say, not as I do.” He didn’t exactly set the best example on that one visit in ’92, which I liked to painfully rib him when I got hired on in July 1994.
I was looking for a specific soundtrack, a new release, and I wanted it on cassette. Like the majority, I’m often buying a soundtrack only for a few songs. I didn’t want to pay CD prices ($20 roughly) when the tape would be much cheaper. So, I went to the local Record Store, the one at which I’d start working in two years, and looked. They had to have it. I made a special trip to the mall just to get that one tape.
When I walked in, the owner was chatting it up with some hot girl. From the conversation it looked like they knew each other from highschool. I looked for the tape, looked and looked, but couldn’t find it. It wasn’t in the new releases and it wasn’t in the soundtracks. But they had to have it! I wanted to ask, but the owner and the girl were deep into whatever they were talking about. I wanted to get his attention and ask about the tape, but I was a shy guy back then and didn’t want to interrupt. I thought I could maybe jump into their conversation and say, “I went to that highschool too! Include me! Include me!”
I hovered nearby and waited for a break in their conversation to ask my question. As I flipped tapes nearby, I thought I heard him ask if I needed help finding anything? So I said the name of the soundtrack I was looking for. He turned to me and said, “Pardon me?” I answered, “Oh, sorry, I thought you were talking to me. I’m looking for a soundtrack.” He said, “Sorry, no I’m sold out of that one but I’ll have more in next week.”
I wanted it that day, so I skipped across the mall over to Zellers and bought the tape for $10.99.
“Do as I say! Not as I do.” Pay attention to customers! When I told him that story a couple years later he didn’t believe me. It’s true though; my friends will testify that 99% of the time I can tell them exactly when and where I first bought my albums. Normally he was great at customer service, but that morning in ’92 was an epic fail!
Can you guess which soundtrack I was looking for? Find out tomorrow.