I’m not sure how unique it is, but as a child and a teenager, I have a long history of enjoying movie soundtrack albums. In my household, that’s a quirk. Pete and I were just talking this morning about how the soundtrack to The Harder They Come is the first one he’s ever really clicked with. That is not the case for me. Here are all the soundtracks I’ve owned and enjoyed in their time, in chronological order:
La Bamba, 1987
Pretty Woman, 1990
Wayne's World, 1992
Last Action Hero, 1993
So I Married an Axe Murderer, 1993
Judgement Night, 1994
Grosse Pointe Blank, 1997
These are better than mere compilations. Compilations are just a pile of songs that are connected by a record label, producer, a genre, or some combination. The best movie soundtracks establish a mood, time, and place. There were several movies I may not have sat down and watched if not for the soundtrack. Angus is a good example. I think I was already older than the protagonists when it came out and it was highly questionable why I’d go out and see a movie about a younger, outcast kid and how he bonded with the popular girl over insecurities? But--alternative rock. I had to. Singles is a very fine film, but if not for the grunge-heavy soundtrack, 13-year-old Mary Alice may not have given it a second thought.
And sometimes insanely good songs that were for whatever reason not included on albums land here. Singles has so many of these, it’s kind of baffling. “Breath” is one of the best songs by Pearl Jam, so true with “Drown” by Smashing Pumpkins, both of which appear on Singles. “JAR” by Green Day appears on the Angus soundtrack and it’s so, so good. On Grosse Pointe Blank, that Specials cover of “Pressure Drop” is outstanding. I enjoy that acoustic version of “Fake Plastic Trees” on the Clueless soundtrack possibly more than the album version. It could have made this list. I don’t think I ever would have given Luscious Jackson a second look if not for “Naked Eye,” also on Clueless.
This was never more true than it is with “Soul to Squeeze” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was recorded during the Blood Sugar Sex Magik sessions, but was cut and thrown on to the Coneheads soundtrack.* I think and hope this has nothing to do with the quality of the song, but can fully see why it was cut. It doesn’t fit at all with the rest of the album. It felt really distinct at the time and listening to it now, it’s hard to imagine it fitting into the album in any remotely cohesive way. Most of BSSM is funky and uptempo. With the exception of “Under the Bridge,” which I can only describe as *grand*, the down-tempo songs like “My Lovely Man” and “I Could Have Lied” are stripped-down and atmospherically glum. “Soul to Squeeze” is rich and contemplative. The bass leads in the verses and John Frusciante’s guitar stands back but is as-ever talking to you in a related sidebar in the background.
*According to Wikipedia, etc., “Soul to Squeeze” was included on the “Under the Bridge” single as a B-side. I don’t know what edition they’re talking about. I had the “Under the Bridge” cassingle and the B-side was “The Righteous and the Wicked,” a fine song, but just another one on BSSM, not some fun rarity. God Bless Coneheads.**
**I also would like to point out that the rest of the Coneheads soundtrack overall is not terribly strong. An inferior and unnecessary cover of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” as well as the aforementioned Barenaked Ladies’ “Fight the Power,” a certified abomination, appear alongside “Kodachrome” by Simon and Garfunkel. It’s filled out by a small handful of excellent, then-contemporary artists like REM and Digable Planets with no-account singles. And then there’s “Soul.” It’s such a weird assortment and pales significantly compared to So I Married an Axe Murderer’s soundtrack, which is thematically pretty similar, but much, much better. I associate the two because they were released the same summer and both had obvious SNL ties. ANYWAY -
Oh man, do I love “Soul to Squeeze.” I feel like I very much *get* the mood of it, even though the lyrics are typical Kiedis gobbledegook non-poetry. I honestly have no idea what it’s about. For me as a teenager, it was the perfect (late) song-of-summer in 1993. I was 14 and taking buses all over town, getting drunk for the first time, hanging with friends and boys, about to start high school. It was great times. For me, “Soul to Squeeze” told my story about being bored and active at the same time. Very leisurely being extremely busy. Kiedis was probably singing about heroin, but I associate it with missing the bus that took me and Cybil far enough to get home and waiting 45 for a bus transfer. The connecting stop was at the infamous Kahaluu Texaco station. So when Kedis sang “I might end up somewhere in Mexico,” we’d sing “We might end up somewhere near Texaco.”