As a baby of the '80s (well, I was actually born in '78), John Hughes' films played an important role in entertaining and, in all likelihood, shaping me. VHS copies of Vacation, Christmas Vacation, The Great Outdoors, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Uncle Buck, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Mr. Mom all enjoyed regular rotation in our household.
Home Alone came out when my friends and I were in seventh grade. We rode our bikes to the theater the weekend it opened, and laughed so loud and hard that soda squirted out our noses. On my own in college I would later discover Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and the filmmaker's masterpiece The Breakfast Club.
Hughes passed away suddenly last week at age 59, but will be remembered fondly for making movies that were at once humorous and humane. His soundtracks accomplished the same delicate balance. Here's my highly subjective list of the best songs to appear in Hughes' films.
1. "The Spirit of Christmas," by Ray Charles, from Christmas Vacation
Every time the attic scene comes on, and I hear Ray Charles deliver my all-time favorite Christmas song, in my all-time favorite Christmas movie, I feel a need to wipe away a manly tear. The touching images and sweet sounds evoke a lot of strong memories for me. My family hasn't missed watching Christmas Vacation together during the holidays once in the 20 years since its release. My parents keep a DVD at their house. I inherited the original VHS copy, which I plan to hold onto for a very long time.
2. "Don't You (Forget About Me)," by Simple Minds, from Breakfast Club
A mix of melancholy and nostalgic happiness overcome me every time I hear this smash from '85, the year I enjoyed a wonderful second grade experience (and my first crush) at Hershey Elementary school in Pennsylvania.
Mandatory selection for any decent "road trip" mix tape. Smile every time I hear it.
4. "Twist and Shout," by The Beatles, from Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Growing up, I didn't want to be a firefighter, policeman, doctor or lawyer. I wanted to be Ferris Bueller. Ferris Bueller was my hero -- and I sang along with him and the Beatles every time this scene came on. I still do --sing along, and want to be Ferris Bueller.
"Go downtown and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face!" Ah, yeah!
6. "Turning Japanese," by The Vapors, from Sixteen Candles
The greatest politically-incorrect song about masturbation? I think so.
Eighties cheese at its delightfully cheesiest.
8. "Back in Baby's Arms," by Emmylou Harris, from Planes, Trains & Automobiles
"Those aren't pillows!" One of the funniest scenes -- ever -- with Emmylou Harris' gorgeous rendition of the Patsy Cline hit making for hilariously ironic accompaniment.
This song plays during killer dance scene at the lodge, which runs during and after the credits. Alas, no clip on YouTube. I did find Wicked Pickett doing the number live on Letterman in the '80s, though. Good stuff.
10. "Run Rudolph Run," by Chuck Berry, from Home Alone
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One of the many classic Christmas songs used on the Home Alone soundtrack. No one rocks like Berry.
Wade Tatangelo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.