Everytime I channel surf the past few weeks, there’s Ralph Macchio sulking, being oblivious or – most often – getting his ass kicked by every living soul whose path he crosses in one of the three Karate Kid flicks.
I was roughly the age of high school student and social pariah Daniel-san, the character Macchio was playing, when The Karate Kid opened in theaters in the summer of 1984.
(Macchio was, at the time, already in his forties)
The movie was, as I recall, an unexpected hit.
I saw it, as did most of my friends, at the old theater in our hometown. It was slight but entertaining and, of course, we all dug Mr. Miyagi who came from another world and possessed wisdom dispensed in riddles.
It’s tough to be the new kid in town, but, having had three decades to reflect on the situation, I have to wonder if Mrs. LaRusso moved him three-thousand miles from New Jersey to Southern California to escape the shame of having an offspring whose mere presence instilled instant hostility and hatred in those around him.
(it couldn’t have been simply the lure of a secretarial job)
And then, she comes to find that there is no East Coast bias when it came to wanting to open a can of whoop-ass on the fruit of her loins.
Yes, you could have put Daniel LaRusso in a room with Jesus Christ, Buddha, and Ghandi, and the peace-loving threesome would have reduced Daniel-san to a pulpy heap identifiable only by dental records.
In truth, not only were Daniel-san and I roughly the same age in 1984, his attire led me to believe that he had been raiding my closet. I should have identified with the kid I was seeing on the screen.
No one did.
The only people that seemed to dig Daniel-san were Elisabeth Shue and my girlfriend at the time.
(and though the girlfriend was googly moogly for Macchio, her five-year old brother – who loved The Karate Kid – also wanted to kick his ass)
And what about Elisabeth Shue’s interest in this human piñata?
She had money, she was a cheerleader, she was a fetching blonde whose student body was seemingly popular with the entire student body…
…and she would later graduate from Harvard and win an Academy Award nomination.
And she was smitten with Daniel-san.
It was inexplicable.
But, when I come across The Karate Kid on cable, I pause. I watch for the wisdom of Mr. Miyagi, but I also watch because there’s something about watching Daniel-san receive a beating that restores order to the universe.
The Karate Kid also served as an introduction for most of America to Bananarama, whose Cruel Summer appeared briefly in the movie and became a hit with its inclusion on the soundtrack.
Here are four songs from Bananarama…
Bananarama – He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’
Bananarama – Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)
from Deep Sea Skiving (1983)
My buddy Beej brought a lot of new music to us via his uncle, a college professor who lived in the city. So, we knew of Tears For Fears, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, and Echo & The Bunnymen well before we might have heard them on the radio.
Bananarama was another one. The trio’s Deep Sea Skiving might not have been more than a cult hit in the States, but I did hear He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’ and Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) often when 97X went on the air in autumn of 1983.
The former was a cover of a minor hit by Motown girl group The Velvelettes and the breezy, tropical vibe of the song was augmented by a guest appearance by Fun Boy Three, a trio comprised of former members of UK ska group The Specials.
Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) was another cover but of a far better-known song which had reached #1 in 1969 as performed by the studio band Steam.
Bananarama – The Wild Life
from Bananrama (1984)
Bananarama’s self-titled second album actually arrived in the spring of 1984 and my buddy Beej was again tuned in, raving about Robert De Niro’s Waiting… which he had discovered via the song’s video being played on the fledgling Night Tracks on WTBS.
By the time we returned to school that autumn, the loping Cruel Summer had become Banarama’s US breakthrough hit, so the trio might have been the only people on the face that didn’t wish to do great violence to Ralph Macchio.
That autumn, Bananarama provided the title track for Cameron Crowe’s The Wild Life, a movie that I don’t even recall being in theaters. The song was belatedly added to the US version of Bananarama and, though stylistically in the vein of Cruel Summer, The Wild Life failed to replicate the group’s prior soundtrack success.
I totally dug those first two Bananarama records. Deep Sea Skiving was a lot of fun, the three girls were cute as buttons, and it’s still the only Bananarama I need to own.
Two years later, Bananarama fell into the clutches of producers Stock Aitken Waterman, scored a mammoth hit with yet another cover, Venus, and I was out.
For some reason, this movie was always playing on someone’s VCR when I went to parties. As a result, I’ve seen it about 15 times, so I have some kind of morbid fascination with it.
No link to Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best”? “Sweep the leg.”