This month marks the 30th anniversary of the blockbuster Footloose soundtrack. Wikipedia has conflicting dates. It was either the last day of January, or February 14th. It was one of the first of its kind. The soundtrack was not just a collection of songs that happened to be in the movie. Instead the movie and music were seamlessly tied together. Each song on the soundtrack had its own voice and represented a particular character or viewpoint in the movie. This basically meant there was a song for every taste. The album sold millions of copies without being either a Disney or a traditional “musical”. It brought about the age of the multiple artist compilation soundtrack as a normal thing. Even on Saturday Night Fever, half the songs already existed. These were new and made for the movie specifically.
Many singles were released from the Footloose soundtrack, starting a phenomenon of blockbuster soundtracks in the 80s. Before this period of time the music industry didn’t particularly think of soundtracks as a marketing tool for a movie. MTV was still in its infancy, The video for the title song by Kenny Loggins was released ahead of the movie. There were now people lined up to see the movie based on the music video, which was nothing more than a resequenced extended trailer. It worked! I have only finally seen the movie about half a year ago for the first time. I understand why it resounded so well. It’s hard to imagine a time when teenagers lived under overbearing religious parents who thought every secular influence is bad. It still happens today. But 30 years is a long time and in the 80s it was still a prevalent thing. But who could think that Kenny Loggins was pure unadulterated evil?
Many hits from this album flooded the airwaves and MTV throughout the year. Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” was a funky irresistible piece of pop heaven. Ann Wilson and Mike Reno’s (of Heart and Loverboy respectively) “Almost Paradise” was pretty much the monster ballad of 1984. Shalamar’s “Dancing In The Sheets” was the jam! Even if it ripped off Prince’s “1999” more than a little. Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero” was veeeery 80s in its production, but is an exciting, powerful song and a great memory. It still gets used today in montage sequences in movies. Kenny Loggins even had a second hit on the album, “I’m Free”. Even though this one wasn’t as big, the video was on MTV right as I was introduced to MTV, and it was a favorite of mine. And the title song “Footloose” will never die. As much as people want to hate Kenny Loggins for his happy-go-lucky nature, he really was the soundtrack king of the 80s. The song is energetic, happy, and represented everything the characters felt about wanting to be able just to enjoy dancing to the music. Simple and effective.
There were other good songs on it from Sammy Hagar, Moving Pictures and Karla Bonoff that may not have been hit singles, but are memorable scenes in the movie. The 15th anniversary edition added the other popular songs in the movie that were already released such as Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)”, John Cougar’s “Hurts So Good”, and Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You”, which were all still radio and MTV staples when the movie came out. In addition we were given the 12″ mix of “Dancing In The Sheets”.
I definitely suggest grabbing the blu-ray edition and checking out the bonus features. There is a great documentary on there talking about how meticulous the process was for choosing the right performer for each song and while the risks were calculated, how the idea came together and the movie and soundtrack worked and became a phenomenon. Does the soundtrack hold up 30 years later? Definitely. Even if the production may be dated on some of the songs, many of these are still played today and remembered fondly. A good song is a good song. There was something real about the movie and its songs that make people still want to hear and see it today.
Check out the videos and performances of the songs from the soundtrack:
“Footloose” by Kenny Loggins:
“Let’s Hear It For The Boy” by Deniece Williams:
“Holding Out For A Hero” by Bonnie Tyler:
“Dancing In The Sheets” by Shalamar:
“I’m Free” by Kenny Loggins:
“Almost Paradise” by Mike Reno & Ann Wilson:
“Never” by Moving Pictures – live from Countdown 1984: