This week’s theatrical release of Step Up 3D proves that young people everywhere still embrace the notion of defying authority by shaking one’s ass on the dance floor. It’s nothing new, of course; ever since Columbia Pictures turned Twist Around the Clock onto a dance-crazy culture in 1961, dance pictures have become a generational touchstone. Whether they’re good, crowd-pleasing films (Saturday Night Fever (1977), Flashdance (1983)) or wildly silly affairs (The Forbidden Dance (1990), You Got Served (2004)), America has really embraced its dance films. This week’s Friday Feature spotlights one of those dance films that I hold in higher regard than most: Footloose, the 1984 film that feels like it should’ve been made two decades earlier.
Most filmgoers know the tale: a city kid (Kevin Bacon, in one of his early lead roles) moves to a hick town and clashes with the local government’s ban on dancing. Bacon challenges the local minister (John Lithgow), the staunchest opponent to dancing in the town, and woos his daughter (Lori Singer). It’s a lot of pseudo-Puritannical fluff, mostly, but the sparks in Bacon’s and Lithgow’s performances are evident, not to mention some humorous turns by Chris Penn (Sean’s brother) as Bacon’s ally who learns a move or two of his own and a barely-known Sarah Jessica Parker as another female lead.
I first saw Footloose in 2002, in advance of auditioning for a local youth theatre performance of the Broadway adaptation. Though I didn’t know it at the time, the TV station that aired the film cut a great deal out for time constraints, and it seemed like a very flat, by-the-numbers film. There’s a little more character development going on than one might think, however, particularly toward the end when Bacon and Lithgow force themselves to consider why they’re digging their heels so hard into the dancing issues at hand.
That isn’t to say that the film is a stunning depiction of small-town American trials. It often veers toward the ridiculous – nowhere is this more evident than the finale, where a group of teenagers go from wallflowers to moonwalkers in seconds flat. (The ending was shot twice, once with the main cast and once with a group of more experienced dancers, and edited together for the final cut.) No, Footloose probably was so successful because it was an MTV-ready flick: if you can believe it, seven of the nine tracks on the soundtrack became singles – and six of them became Top 40 hits.
You had a double dose of Kenny Loggins, well on his way to becoming the preeminent soundtrack man of the decade. Bonnie Tyler continued her successful partnership with Jim Steinman on “Holding Out for a Hero,” while the leaders of Heart and Loverboy performed one of the best love songs on an ’80s soundtrack. And then there was the ebullient “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” which joined “Footloose” as a chart-topping single from the record and an Oscar-nominated song from the film. (As stated countless times before, that year was a busy playing field, with tunes like “Ghostbusters” and eventual winner “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Purple Rain had won for Best Original Song Score, the last year that category existed.)
Hit the jump to check out the multiple releases of the soundtrack.
Various Artists, Footloose: Original Soundtrack of the Paramount Motion Picture (Columbia JS 39242, 1984)
- Footloose – Kenny Loggins – 3:46
- Let’s Hear It for the Boy – Deniece Williams – 4:20
- Almost Paradise (Love Theme from “Footloose”) – Ann Wilson and Mike Reno – 3:51
- Holding Out for a Hero – Bonnie Tyler – 5:49
- Dancing in the Sheets – Shalamar – 4:03
- I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man) – Kenny Loggins – 3:46
- Somebody’s Eyes – Karla Bonoff – 3:33
- The Girl Gets Around – Sammy Hagar – 3:23
- Never – Moving Pictures – 3:47
Those first seven songs were released as singles (apparently Sammy Hagar, not yet the leader of Van Halen, wasn’t enough of a force in rock to get a single release). “Footloose” led the pack (Columbia 38-04310), backed with another Loggins track, “Swear Your Love” from his latest LP High Adventure (1982). “Holding Out for a Hero” was the next and single (Columbia 38-04370), backed by the title track to her most recent record, Faster Than the Speed of Night (1983). (There was also a 12″ remix that may have only been released across the Atlantic, with a catalogue of CBS TA 4251.)
The club-ready “Dancing in the Sheets” by Shalamar had an instrumental B-side (Columbia 38-04372) and a long remix by Jellybean Benitez on the 12″ (Columbia 44-04949). “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” (Columbia 38-04417) was also backed with an edited instrumental; the full version appeared on the 12″ single (Columbia 44-04988), which had an extended remix on the A-side. “Almost Paradise” followed immediately thereafter (Columbia 38-04418), backed with a Loverboy track, “Strike Zone.” Loggins’ other tune, “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man),” bookended the record’s chart success as a just-missed-the-Top-20 song (Columbia 38-04452). Karla Bonoff’s “Somebody’s Eyes” limped in as the last single (Columbia 38-04472), with “Just Walk Away,” a single from her last album, on the B-side.
Legacy Recordings reissued the soundtrack in 1999 for the film’s 15th anniversary (CK 65781), and in doing so added several previously-released songs heard elsewhere in the film – Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health,” John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good,” Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You” – and the 12″ remix of “Dancing in the Sheets.” The hardcore Footloose fan, whomever you may be, should also consider the soundtrack to the Broadway musical (which came during an inconceivable springing up of ’70s and ’80s dance flicks recast as musicals, including Saturday Night Fever and Urban Cowboy). The album (released on Q Records in 1998) includes cast performances of seven of the original soundtrack selections (“Never” and “Dancing in the Sheets” were skipped) as well as a few rote showtunes.