13 April 2011

Playlist: Middle School Years

The second in a series of playlists based on different eras of my life, The Middle School Years spans from 1990-1993.  It's a shorter period of time than The Childhood Years, but it was a distinct time of my life.  There were some really cool things for me in those years.  I've already addressed my early bouts with depression during those years, so I'm going to focus here on the memories captured by these songs.  I listened to a lot of movie soundtracks during this period, as you'll see.  One note: I really should have included the "Star Trek VI Suite" from Cliff Eidelman's score for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, as I love the music and it was that movie that led to me becoming a Trekker.  It's kinda long, though, and I elected to instead include some other Star Trek soundtrack pieces for reasons described below.

"T-U-R-T-L-E Power" by Partners in Kryme - This is from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie.  Technically, I think the movie opened just at the tail end of my fifth grade year, but I had the soundtrack on cassette and later the movie on VHS and I played both with regularity.  This was really the first time I recall making a point of letting the end credits for a movie play out, just so I could hear "T-U-R-T-L-E Power."

"U Can't Touch This" by M.C. Hammer - I love M.C. Hammer.  I've already written about how thrilled I was to cajole my dad into buying Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em for me on cassette for either my birthday or Christmas in 1990.  Driving home from visiting a friend a few nights ago, we had the radio on in the car and they played this song.  It was just as thrilling as it was 21 years ago.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen - Yes, this song was released before I went to middle school, but I was introduced to it in Wayne's World.  I still love to watch that movie and see their sing-along in the car.

"House Arrest" by Bryan Adams - Like many people of my generation, I owned Bryan Adams's Waking Up the Neighbours album (to this day, a favorite of mine).  This was always a fun song.  I don't know if it was ever a single, but I dig it.

"Market Street" Composed by Leonard Rosenman - From the Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home soundtrack album.  I know a lot of Trekkers think lowly of Rosenman's score but I like the jazzy feel of this piece.  This was the first song I put on the chopping block when I tried to make room for "Star Trek VI Suite," but then I remembered hanging out with a neighbor (who ceased being a friend in high school) and how enthusiastically he talked about enjoying this composition, largely because unless you knew where it came from, it would be almost impossible to guess it was from a Star Trek score.

"Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice - Like the moment you saw "U Can't Touch This" you didn't immediately think of this song.  It was huge, then it became a punchline, and now it exists somewhere in the realm of nostalgia or "irony."  Whatever.  I can't imagine a playlist based on my middle school years that doesn't include "Ice Ice Baby."

"Dick Tracy" by Ice-T - I listened to a lot of soundtracks during my middle school years.  I loved the music for Dick Tracy, from Danny Elfman's score to the Madonna songs penned by Stephen Sondheim and the new recordings created as source music meant to recreate the 30s.  I could have picked any number of songs from the three soundtrack albums to the movie, but I went with this.

"Jimmy Olsen's Blues" by Spin Doctors - A friend of mine introduced me to the Spin Doctors's debut album, knowing that I'd begun reading Superman comics around that time.  (I won't lie: I started reading when I heard they were going to kill the Man of Steel.)  On that level, I loved this song.  On another level, Pocket Full of Kryptonite was a terrific album that I still love.  It makes me think of my friend as much as the enjoyment I got from Superman.

"Batman: The Animated Series" Main Title Composed by Danny Elfman - I can still remember how excited I was to learn that there would be a Batman cartoon in the fall of 1992.  This show was awesome, and I couldn't get enough of it.  I loved the character designs, and the writing blew me away.  I still remember talking about the show nonstop with classmates in art class.

"The Thunder Rolls (Live Version)" by Garth Brooks - I'll never forget the night that NBC aired This Is Garth Brooks!  It was a Friday night and my brother and I were at our dad's.  The three of us sat in the living room, watching that special.  It was one of the few times I could think of that we were all watching and enjoying the same thing.  I had quit liking country music altogether by this point, but Garth was an entertainer the likes of which I'd never before seen.  The extended version of "The Thunder Rolls" was jaw-dropping, and a standout moment in that concert.  This recording is from that special.  It was released on a CD single to radio stations (along with the live version of "Friends in Low Places") and about 10 years ago I snagged one of those CD singles off eBay.

"The Mountain" Composed by Jerry Goldsmith - From Goldsmith's score for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  I picked this because the post-title music is lovely, and because Star Trek V was the first CD I ever owned.  I got my first CD player for Christmas 1991.

"Face to Face" by Siouxsie & The Banshees - From Batman Returns.  It's got an eerie sound that I always enjoyed.

"Ninja Rap" by Vanilla Ice - I really could have just included this to represent both Vanilla Ice and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but both dominated 1991 for me.  This is really awful stuff, but I loved it.

"Hanky Panky (Bare Bones Single Mix)" by Madonna - Remember when I said I loved all the music from the Dick Tracy soundtracks?  I loved it so much I even bought the CD single of "Hanky Panky."  This is the epitome of "guilty pleasure."

"(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" by Bryan Adams - You didn't really think "House Arrest" was the only way Bryan Adams was going to be represented here, did you?  This song is the whole reason I ever bought Waking Up the Neighbours.  I loved Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (still do) and this song is killer.  I still get upset when I think about how "Beauty and the Beast" stole this song's Academy Award.

"Addams Groove" by M.C. Hammer - This song was really the last hit that M.C. Hammer had, coming shortly after "Too Legit to Quit."  I remember going to see The Addams Family at the Loews theater inside River Falls Mall.  Have I mentioned that I listened to a lot of soundtracks in middle school?

"Toot Toot Tootsie" by Brent Spiner - Yeah, like I could resist buying a CD of Data singing.  It turns out that Spiner ain't half bad.  I remember very clearly we went on a class field trip to Mammoth Cave in middle school and I took my Discman and this was one of the CDs I had with me to listen to on the way.  It was pretty nice, just sitting in the dark of night on a quiet bus with Spiner singing.  Not that it's relevant to the song, but the school had chartered buses so they were far more comfortable than regular school buses.  Also, we didn't get to actually go to Mammoth Cave.  Once we arrived, we learned it was closed to the public because it had flooded from rain the night before.

"Cool as Ice (Everybody Get Loose)" by Vanilla Ice featuring Naomi Campbell - Vanilla Ice starring in a movie?  You better believe I had to see that!  I remember going to see Cool as Ice at the J'Town Four theater; the first run theaters wouldn't touch this.  It's pretty awful, but even today I enjoy this specific song that opened the movie.

"Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Main Title" Composed by Dennis McCarthy - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in January of 1993, just as my 8th grade year was going into the home stretch.  I hated the pilot episode, "Emissary" (a friend of mine still recalls I even complained that I hated the color of the font used in the opening credits).  But I stuck with the show and quickly became hooked.  By the time GNP Crescendo released a soundtrack CD, I was in love with McCarthy's majestic main title.

"Theme from Jurassic Park" Composed by John Williams - Jurassic Park opened over the summer of 1993 and it was really the last major cool thing in my world before I began high school.  I went with a friend to see it at Showcase Cinemas and I'll never forget turning to him during the arrival at the island and telling him I absolutely had to have the soundtrack.  I bought it later that very day at Bigg's (I had to borrow a few dollars from my friend's mom, as it was full list price at Bigg's).  Just a couple days later, I saw it a second time for another friend's birthday, at the Kenwood Drive-In.  I'll never forget how awestruck I felt watching the scene where Grant and the kids are in the tree, feeding the brachiosaurus.  The sun had long set, and the screen there was flanked by trees, creating an atmosphere very similar to what was on the screen.  I still feel the magic whenever I here this score, which I still believe is the finest work of John Williams's illustrious career.