Year Released: 1988
I Bought It On: Cassette
How Does It Hold Up?: No weak tracks, some ever so slightly dated.
1. Wild Again--Starship
2. Powerful Stuff--The Fabulous Thunderbirds
3. Since When--Robbie Nevil
4. Don't Worry, Be Happy--Bobby McFerrin
5. Hippy Hippy Shake--The Georgia Satellites
6. Kokomo--The Beach Boys
7. Rave On--John Mellencamp
8. All Shook Up--Ry Cooder
9. Oh, I Love You So--Preston Smith
10. Tutti Frutti--Little Richard
You would have a hard time convincing a sane, functional human being that Cocktail is a great movie. You could maybe, with the help of a few cocktails, make the case for it being a good movie in that odd 80s sort of way where it is of a time, and, really, it's not even close to being Tom Cruise's worst movie. Then again, there's this, which might be the World's Greatest Advertisement For Never Leaving Your House to Spend a Night in a Bar. Ever.
Yet, as difficult as it is to tout Cocktail's place among cinema's finest works, it is almost equally as easy to declare its soundtrack one of the all-time greats in the genre. Or at least it's easy to me. And this is my blog, so let's just assume that my opinion also belongs to every living person. It will make things simpler, and I'm pretty confident it's true anyway.
I couldn't possibly have seen Cocktail when it came out in 1988, as I was 11 and not regularly seeing R-rated movies at the time (though I think my first in a theater--the classic Carl Weathers/Vanity star vehicle Action Jackson--was around this time), and certainly not ones with Tom Cruise as a bartender. But because of the big radio and MTV hits, I was all in for the soundtrack. I actually wore out my cassette copy back in the day (see above) and, when I found a CD copy in the used bin for a couple of bucks recently, I gladly added it to my collection. As I listen to it as I write, I feel confident that it holds its place as one of my Top 5 all-time favorite soundtracks. Part of that can, of course, be credited to nostalgia, but part of it is legitimate, untainted affection. The soundtrack has a little bit of everything: new stuff by unknown artists, cover versions of old stuff (including Ry Cooder's "All Shook Up," playing in the background of the scene above...don't feel obligated to watch it again if you missed it the first time), new stuff by well-known artists, and even "Tutti Frutti," which is a can't-miss add-on.
The whole thing starts off with a Starship song, so it's an uphill climb from the get-go. If you don't want to listen to Starship, you can at least look at the scenes from the movie and think bad thoughts about Elisabeth Shue. Or Bryan Brown, if you prefer. Whatever floats your boat.
But the great thing about the Cocktail soundtrack is that for every cheesy 80s song, there is an excellent, good-in-any-decade song to counterbalance it, like the Georgia Satellites' cover of "Hippy Hippy Shake," which plays in the background of yet another homoerotic bottle-tossing scene:
"But Mr. Tinsel and Rot," you say, "doesn't this soundtrack also have 'Don't Worry Be Happy' and Kokomo,' two impossibly cheesy songs that I cannot defend on any level." First, please call me James; you sound stupid when you say "Mr. Tinsel and Rot." Second, if you want to pretend that you're too cool to have ever liked "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and "Kokomo," then (a) you're lying to yourself, and you really shouldn't do that, and (b) please leave.
Wait, wait, come back. OK, these songs have lost a little of their sheen. But let's just forget about that and embrace our childhoods, OK? And let's enjoy the still somewhat entertaining video for "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and the time the Beach Boys sang "Kokomo" on Full House while the Tanners bopped along.
And again, the '80sness of the soundtrack's two biggest hits is balanced by John Mellencamp's reasonably ambitious (if not as good as the original) cover of Buddy Holly's "Rave On", and maybe the Fabulous Thunderbirds' shining moment (I honestly think they're better than the average person gives them credit for), "Powerful Stuff."
Rounding things out are the oddly hypnotic "Oh, I Love You So" by Preston Smith and Robbie Nevil's "Since When," which is good, though not quite as good as his monster hit, "C'est La Vie". But, hey, that's life. And if you didn't see that sentence coming, you're probably still angry about me questioning the greatness of Cocktail.
If I only had the wit and soul of the writers who put words into the mouth of Brian Flanagan, I would now end this blog post with a classic barman poem to send you into fits of laughter and spasms of ecstasy. Alas, I am devoid of such skills. So I will just (must...resist...saying...raise a glass...) start the soundtrack playing again on my computer and enjoy the splendor of a classic album.