Bringing Bender Home

August 10, 2010

I’m not, generally speaking, an impulse buyer.

When I head out to the store early on Saturday mornings to snag provisions for Paloma, the animals, and me, I do so with blinders on.

We need peanut butter, cheese, and bagels, so I am tossing a jar of peanut butter, a wheel of cheese, and container of bagels into the cart, checking out and moving on with life.

(unfortunately, our store does not sell cheese as wheels, but I can dream)

I am rarely tempted to stray from the mental list I have compiled for the trip.

Things do get a little dicier when I set foot in Target. For some reason, I find the store – with everything from frozen pizzas to clocks stocked on the shelves – mesmerizing.

(especially the frozen pizzas and clocks)

So, this morning, I set foot in Target to procure a handful of items that I had neglected to get on Saturday’s usual trip to forage. I had successfully rounded up the items and had even grabbed Paloma a book which she had mentioned she wanted to read.

In the book department was a section devoted to DVDs, most of them budget collections – four films featuring Clint Eastwood or Jackie Chan on one disc. There were also single movies and my eyes immediately locked onto one of them.

The Breakfast Club

Maybe it was having read a lovely tribute noting the one-year anniversary of writer/director John Hughes’ death at Stuck In The ’80s last week, but I paused.

I saw The Breakfast Club in the theater in ’85 as I was finishing my junior year of high school. My friends and I were not only the audience targeted by the movie, we were those kids and – as many in our generation did – embraced the film like few others.

Of course, the themes of the movie were applicable to anyone that had experienced high school. It just happened to be dressed in the trappings of the day and, twenty-five years later, I’ve come to realize that little really changes from high school save for the scenary.

I stumble upon The Breakfast Club on cable every so often and usually I am, regretfully, drawn into watching it. Regretfully, because for a good decade, the viewings have invariably been some bastardized version in which rather than Bender suggesting that Mr. Vernon “eat [Bender’s] shorts,” it is edited to “eat my socks.”

It’s frustrating. Not only am I unable to watch the film as John Hughes intended it to be viewed, it is distracting as – despite the time and distance – I still hear the actual dialogue.

And, I realized that it’s been a good ten years or more – when I owned a copy on VHS that I bought used for a few bucks – since I’d watched The Breakfast Club unedited.

I tossed the DVD into the cart.

Twenty-five years ago, my friends and I were beginning our senior year of high school and quoting The Breakfast Club like the pious quote scripture.

(“Yo Ahab, can I bum my doobage?”)

Musically, I was in a state of transition with Top 40 – the gateway to my music obsession four years earlier – having become such a source of disenchantment that I had mostly abandoned those stations.

I was ridiculously intrigued by the modern rock of 97X, but reception of the station was sketchy, giving me far less oportunity to listen than I would have liked. So, I spent a considerable amount of time surfing between a few album-rock stations.

Here are four songs that I was listening to at the time…

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – So In Love
from Crush

OMD’s breakthrough hit in the States was a year away when their If You Leave would appear on the soundtrack to another John Hughes’ movie, Pretty In Pink.

In the meantime, the airy So In Love was serving as my introduction to the British duo.

Jeff Beck – Gets Us All In The End
from Flash

I’m not sure if I knew of Jeff Beck before 1985. Perhaps I’d come across the name, but I certainly knew no music by the legendary guitarist (who more than a few folks would argue is the greatest guitarist of the rock era).

Flash had already gotten airplay (and MTV play for the video) with his soulful rendition of People Get Ready, on which Rod Stewart provided vocals. As for Get Us All In The End, Wet Willie’s Jimmy Hall guested on vocals while Beck handles the guitar work which is simply ferocious.

Bryan Ferry – Slave To Love
from Boys And Girls

Roxy Music was another act with which I had little familiarity in 1985. I know that I’d heard Love Is The Drug on 97X, but I wouldn’t discover them until a year later when, as a college freshman, a French professor would play the group’s classic Avalon before class.

It was certainly on 97X where I was hearing Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry’s Slave To Love and I liked the suave fellow’s style.

Mr. Mister – Broken Wings
from Welcome To The Real World

Mr. Mister seems to get a lot of derision, but someone must have dug them twenty-five years ago because – for six months or so – the band was inescapable with several mammoth hits.

Personally, I loved Broken Wings in the day and I still enjoy the moody track. I recall seeing the video – lead singer Richard Page cruising down a desolate highway in the desert – for weeks before the song popped up on radio. Perhaps it was that video, coupled with the song’s lyric, that makes me think of open spaces and miles of it.

The More Things Change, The More Someone Still Wants To Wear A @#$%&! Tiara And Have You Call Them Princess

February 27, 2010

It’s not surprising to see the name John Hughes pop up over at Stuck In The ’80s. The filmmaker behind movies like Pretty In Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and National Lampoon’s Vacation is certainly a patron saint of the ’80s.

His sudden death last autumn truly reminded me how much his films meant to my generation.

(Paloma actually gave me a copy of his Weird Science for Valentine’s Day)

But I was given to momentarily pause when I logged on to Stuck In The ’80s and was reminded that Hughes’ seminal The Breakfast Club was released twenty-five years ago this month.

My friends and I were juniors in high school at the time. I don’t remember if I saw The Breakfast Club with friends or with my girlfriend, but I do know I saw it at the theater in my hometown, one of those cool, old cinemas that had been around since the ’30s.

Even if I didn’t see it with my friends initially, we all did see it and, during that summer and our senior year, we saw the movie repeatedly, watching the video rental or on cable. Like a lot of kids our age, much of the dialogue from The Breakfast Club was known to us verbatim and popped up often in our conversations.

(I started to list some quotes and it proved futile whittling it down)

At sixteen-, seventeen-years old, we were able to identify with the characters and the film rang true for us. We all knew who, among the peers, were the brains, the athletes, the basketcases, the princesses, and the criminals.

(and, as the movie taught us, most of us were a make-up of several of those elements)

Amazingly, twenty-five years later, life still often resembles high school with less of the more light-hearted fare and an office replacing a hallway of lockers.

I have a co-worker who actually keeps a tiara at her desk. And she means it.

(and I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two of them have a flare gun)

It’s like I’ve gone through a wormhole.

For as much good music as John Hughes put into his movies, The Breakfast Club‘s soundtrack – aside from Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me) – is uneventful and unmemorable. So, instead, here are songs that I could imagine four of the five characters in the movie – had they actually existed – listening to in early 1985…


The hoodlum of the group, Bender was brought to life in stunning fashion with a flurry of quotable lines by Judd Nelson.

Bender does hum the guitar riff from Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love, so he probably liked some older rock. But, when it came to a radio station, I see him tuning in to 96Rock, an album rock station from Cincinnati.

It wasn’t a bad station – a mix of ’70s classics like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd mixed with then-current acts like Def Leppard and ZZ Top – but my friend Bosco would use its moniker pejoratively – “Some 96Rocker hassled me at The Kinks show.”

I think 96Rock was defunct by ’85, but, a year earlier, it was the first station that I ever heard play Mötley Crüe. I think Bender would have approved.

Mötley Crüe – Shout At The Devil
from Shout At The Devil


I thought I’ve read that Molly Ringwald was a fan of a lot of the bands used in John Hughes’ movies. I don’t know if I’d picture her character Claire listening to Psychedelic Furs or Echo & The Bunnymen, though I could believe her being a Duran Duran fan.

She likely also owned a copy of The Cars’ Heartbeat City from 1984. The album was still having hits a year later with a pretty understated ballad.

(though, as she was rather self-absorbed, she probably imagined the song as a lament from numerous suitors pining for her)

The Cars – Why Can’t I Have You
from Heartbeat City


For the brains of the outfit, Hughes cast Michael Anthony Hall. I think of brains and high school and I think of my buddy Streuss. Like Brian, I don’t think he could have made a lamp in shop class, but he and I did once disarm an alarm in a dorm using scissors, a plastic bag, and Scotch tape.

In almost every other way, Streuss, though brilliant, was Brian’s opposite. Streuss had charm and possessed a wicked, often surreal sense of humor. He had an entertaining, gangly, off-kilter vibe.

He was part Norwegian (as he once declared to one of our teachers in the middle of class).

In 1985, Talking Heads were coming off the success of 1983’s Speaking In Tongues and the live album/film Stop Making Sense. Streuss was a big fan of The Heads and had been for years before their mainstream success.

I suspect that Brian, like Streuss, was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Little Creatures that summer.

Talking Heads – And She Was
from Little Creatures


Ally Sheedy’s Allison was the “basket case” with a creative bent she expressed through drawing, telling fantastically untrue tales, and sandwich-making. She was truly a renaissance woman and she had no friends, choosing to spend her day in detention because she had nothing to do.

She likely went on to great things, perhaps writing children’s books, hosting a cooking show on television, or playing bass in a band.

As for her music, I think the quirky nature of 97X would have been her tonic. So, hitting shuffle on my 97X playlist resulted in a modern classic by the late poet Jim Carroll.

Jim Carroll Band – People Who Died
from Catholic Boy