Soundtracks I Have Loved: Rocky IV

Soundtrack: Rocky IV
Year Released: 1985
I Bought It On: Vinyl
How Does It Hold Up?: Like our great American flag, strong and proud

Track List:

1. Burning Heart--Survivor
2. Heart's on Fire--John Cafferty
3. Double or Nothing--Kenny Loggins and Gladys Knight
4. Eye of the Tiger--Survivor
5. War--Vince DiCola
6. Living in America--James Brown
7. No Easy Way Out--Robert Tepper
8. One Way Street--Go West
9. The Sweetest Victory--Touch
10.Training Montage--Vince DiCola

I'm not sure I've fully recovered from the death of Apollo Creed.

In the months leading up to the release of Rocky IV, I'm sure it must've been revealed that Apollo was going to meet his maker and that he was going to be sent on his way by the evil Russian Ivan Drago. And I know I collected the Rocky IV trading cards, which were probably released before or around the same time the movie was. So it seems reasonable to say I knew it was coming.

But it still hurt.

And so, I never wanted Rocky to win the big fight more than I did in Rocky IV. Nikolai Volkoff, with his quaint singing of the Soviet national anthem, was surely hated by Young Me, but he hadn't killed Hulk Hogan. Drago not only killed Apollo but he seemed OK with it, even sort of pleased. Douchebag.

But at least (SPOILER ALERT) Rocky showed him at the end. And almost ended the Cold War in the process. What a guy.

And the song playing as Rocky's Speech for World Peace ends (John Cafferty's "Heart's on Fire") is but one of the many gems on the movie's soundtrack, one of the three Rocky soundtracks I've owned in my life (the original, IV, and V...yes I bought the soundtrack to Rocky V; maybe we'll discuss that another time). It was also among the first albums I owned, and I still have my original vinyl (no skips).

The soundtrack definitely aims to please, or pander, depending on your degree of cynicism, which, if you've seen and enjoyed Rocky IV is likely pretty low. Not only does it include previous soundtrack hero Cafferty (this time without the Beaver Brown Band, or at least they're not credited), but it also turns to King of the Soundtracks Kenny Loggins for a duet with Gladys Knight. Unfortunately, the song's terrible, proving that, as hard as this may be to believe, even Kenny Loggins sucks sometimes.

Survivor, on a soundtrack roll of their own with "Eye of the Tiger" and "The Moment of Truth" from The Karate Kid, make their bid for Logginsian greatness with the leadoff track, "Burning Heart." It's a solid tune, though not enough to send them into the soundtrack stratosphere (it is, as best I can tell, their last soundtrack hit, though I suppose there's still time). I'm not sure if "Deep in our soul/A quiet ember/Knows it's you against you/It's the paradox/That drives you on" is brilliant or garbage, but most people have the same debate about the Rocky movies, so the song fits fine.

"Eye of the Tiger" also makes a return appearance from the Rocky III soundtrack, which would be completely stupid and unnecessary except for the fact that everything is made better with the inclusion of "Eye of the Tiger." Don't believe me? Ask Paul Anka. Or check out Staten Island's own PS 22 Chorus.

Side 2 of the soundtrack almost derails the awesomeness, but the two clunkers from Go West (better soundtrack days awaited) and Touch (no clue who they are, and the song's so bad, I don't feel like Googling them or finding you a YouTube link) are easily floored by the one-two punch (see what I did there?) of James Brown's "Living in America" and Robert Tepper's "No Easy Way Out." The former, which, of course, precedes Apollo's untimely demise in the movie, is best enjoyed on the album cut, where Brown throws in an "Eddie Murphy, eat your heart out" toward the end. But I feel like it wouldn't be right to not put in the clip from the movie. I think every boxing match should start like this.

Robert Tepper's contribution, though less celebrated, is no less impressive. Plus, if Wikipedia is to be believed, he's from Bayonne. North Jersey, represent!

And, then, of course, there are the training montages. You can debate the overall merit of Rocky IV, but I don't think you can deny the greatness of the movie's training montages. Vince DiCola (whose "War"--definitely not Edwin Starr's song--is in the big fight scene) lucks into giving the incredibly '80s background music for one of them (the other, decidedly more awesome one features "Heart's on Fire") and cleverly titles the resulting song "Training Montage."

Eat it, Communist pigs! Not only did your lifeless, Apollo Creed-killing robot not break the great, dogsled-pulling Rocky Balboa, but you also, to the best of my knowledge, never produced a soundtrack as cool as the one to Rocky IV.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!


Soundtracks I Have Loved: Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol

Soundtrack: Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol
Year Released: 1987
I Bought It On: Cassette
How Does It Hold Up?: As well as the movie, which you can interpret any way you wish

Track List:

1. Rock the House--Darryl Duncan
2. It's Time to Move--S.O.S. Band
3. Dancin' Up a Storm--Stacy Lattisaw
4. Let's Go to Heaven in My Car--Brian Wilson
5. The High Flyer (Police Academy Theme-Montage)--Robert Folk
6. Citizens on Patrol--Michael Winslow and the L.A. Dream Team
7. Rescue Me--Family Dream
8. I Like My Body--Chico DeBarge
9. Winning Streak--Garry Glenn
10.Shoot for the Top--Southern Pacific

The Police Academy films aren't exactly well loved in the world outside my apartment. I understand and begrudgingly accept that. They're not particularly well written, the acting is a little lacking, the storylines (such as they are) are pretty asinine, and the jokes are, for the most part, pretty lame.

But other than that, the films are really quite good.

OK, maybe they don't hold up as well as they did when I was in my pre-teens, but in that time period they were right in my cinematic sweet spot. I honestly didn't care much for the original (I think I fell asleep while watching it on video, and I can't say with any confidence that I've ever seen the whole thing), but I was hooked with Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, in which I was introduced to the genius that is Bobcat Goldthwait as Zed. I remember being disappointed by Police Academy 3: Back in Training, probably because the anticipation was so high after the second chapter. But then when I saw the full-color ad in the Sunday comics for Police Academy 4: Citizens in Patrol, I became giddy with excitement again. I cut out the ad, taped it on my wall, and prepared for the funny (please note that I now own the movie poster, and it's signed by Steve Guttenberg, Leslie Easterbrook, and Michael Winslow...yes, I'm bragging). This was going to be the first Police Academy movie I would see in the theater, and I was pumped.

I was not disappointed. The bad taste left from Police Academy 3 was quickly washed away in the opening scene, and by the time the movie ended I was back on board with the franchise. Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach was strong, too, but Police Academy 6: City Under Siege was a mess, and I haven't even bothered to see Mission to Moscow, so I feel comfortable in declaring that Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol was the crest of the Police Academy wave.

It's the last Mahoney movie, as Guttenberg seemingly figured that once Three Men and a Baby hit, his career was ready to take off and he could leave the franchise behind. Both he and the franchise suffered for it, but this film is a strong goodbye, for both he and Goldthwait (plus The Gutt got Sharon Stone as his love interest, so that was nice). And the film's also got the 23-year-old David Spade and 31-year-old Brian "Ratner" Backer deftly playing young skate punks, complemented off the boards by Tab Thacker (who I just discovered died three years ago, which makes me a little sad) as the aptly named House.

Here's the best nine minutes from the movie. Do with that statement what you will.

We could sit here and debate if the fourth installment or the second is the best all day (and I know you want me to), but let me move into the point of this blog and tell you that I only own the soundtrack to one Police Academy movie and that's Police Academy 4. It's easily the musically strongest (then again, I don't even remember music from any of the other movies, other than the "Blue Oyster Theme," so they might not even have soundtracks).

The soundtrack gets off to a terrible start, though. It starts so poorly that I'm willing to posit the theory that Motown (yes, Motown put this out) got the sides mixed up and Side 1 should really be Side 2. How else to explain that the seemingly interminable "Rock the House" leads off the album, while this undeniable gem is the leadoff track on Side 2?

Seriously. Buried on Side 2. Unbelievable. That's a leadoff soundtrack tune if ever there was one. Michael Winslow was robbed, along with the L.A. Dream Team (props also to Mike Stuart and Arthur Funaro, who are listed as the song's writers).

This theory is wrecked only by the inclusion of Brian Wilson's excellent "Let's Go to Heaven in My Car" in the four hole on Side 1. Yes, that Brian Wilson. Maybe Eugene Landy saw the big career and credibility boost McCartney got from doing "Spies Like Us" and urged Wilson to get in on that action. In yet another instance where the Internet pulls up lame, there isn't a clip of this song on YouTube. I blame Mike Love. Anyway, you can hear a tiny piece of it in the background starting at 6:05 of this clip.

"Rescue Me" is the top clunker on Side 2, but things pick up after that. Chico DeBarge's "I Like My Body" is so terrible it's endearing, but the cyberspace Chico DeBarge fan club hasn't put that on YouTube either, so you'll again have to settle for hearing it briefly in the background of a scene. But at least it gives me an excuse to post a link to a Blue Oyster scene. "Winning Streak" (this isn't the soundtrack cut, but it'll do) is so of the '80s that its power cannot be denied, and the album closer, Southern Pacific's "Shoot for the Top," is a song I still sing in my head whenever I see a bunch of skateboarders. And, from what I gather, the scene in the film that makes me do that is a big hit with the skater kids, mainly because it features a young Tony Hawk, along with a bunch of other famous skaters who don't have their own video games or clothing lines. Here's the song, sans skateboarders (enjoy the clip from the movie--in French--here).

And, to prove that it isn't just John Hughes movies that leave key songs off soundtracks, whither The Blow Monkeys' "It Doesn't Have to Be That Way," which is playing when Zed and his love Laura (Corinne Bohrer) run into each other's arms? It could have easily taken the place of "It's Time to Move," "Dancin' Up a Storm," or "Rescue Me."

In retrospect, the soundtrack, like the movie, probably isn't as good as I once thought it was. But with a solid Brian Wilson cut, some classic examples of "the '80s sound," and the perennially, undeniably awesome title cut, it's still better than it has any right to be. And I have no problem declaring my love for it in 2010.

So there.


What I Liked About September

*Harvest Festival, Farmers' Museum, Cooperstown, NY
*The Chambala/Micholychak nuptials, Binghamton, NY
*Scott Miller, Living Room, NYC; Union Hall, Brooklyn, NY
*Lupo's, Binghamton, NY
*Bobby Bare Jr., Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ

*Jason D. Williams, Lakeside Lounge, NYC
*Meeting Susan Olsen
*James Ellroy, Book Court, Brooklyn, NY
*Meeting Shenae Grimes (first photo w/ a Degrassi alum!)
*Wrestling Reunion, Rahway, NJ

*Seeing R.A. Dickey pitch a complete game
*Soul Asylum/Mike Peters and Friends, Oak Ridge Park, Clark, NJ
*Monday Night Social Club, Jersey City, NJ
*Hanging with friends at the Brooklyn Book Festival
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places