Today in Exploring Soundtracks, we’ll be hopping into a DeLorean, taking a trip to the 1980’s and looking at “Back to the Future”, directed by Robert Zimeckis. This American movie classic stars Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, a high school slacker with a love for rock and roll who spends his after school hours as the assistant to inventor Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd).
Shortly after Doc Brown reveals his latest experiment to Marty, a time-traveling DeLorean, he is shot and killed by grudge-holding Libyans. Marty flees in the DeLorean, and once he hits 88 miles per hour, gets shot back in time to 1955.
So let’s take a look at some of the standout tracks from “Back to the Future”, and see where and when they fall in the film.
“The Power of Love”
“Back to the Future” opens with Marty late for school once again. As he hops on his skateboard and kicks his way to class, “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and The News plays.
When Marty and his band try out to play for the school dance, they play a much louder version of the same song. The song, released in 1985, is a marker of the period Marty is in. We’ll see throughout the movie how music is used to indicate the time period, and in a couple places, how the difference between Marty’s time and the time of his parents makes for some funny moments.
When Marty gets trapped in 1955, everything about his familiar home has changed. His neighborhood hasn’t begun to be developed yet, and most of the city is farmland as far as the eye can see.
When he finally makes it into town, Marty walks through it in wonder, and “Mr. Sandman” by The Four Aces plays, introducing us all to the 1950’s.
So we’re skipping a fair amount of the movie here, but long story short, Marty ends up taking his mother to the school dance in an effort to get her and his father to share the first kiss that cements their relationship. In a mix up, Marty ends up standing in for the guitarist Marvin Berry as the band plays “Earth Angel” by Marvin Berry and the Starlighters.
One of the most iconic scenes of the movie occurs here. As Marty plays, he sees his parents still haven’t kissed. A photograph of him sits nestled in a fret on his guitar, and he watches his image slowly fade away. His playing falters, and Marty nearly collapses on the stage.
And then, of course, Marty’s dad plucks up the courage to kiss the woman of his dreams, and Marty gets back on his feet, reinvigorated, and finishes the song.
“Johnny B. Goode”
Following “Earth Angel”, Marty McFly kicks the dance into high gear with a rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”. He announces the song as “An oldie, at it’s an oldie least where I come from”. As he plays, Marvin Berry calls his cousin Chuck and tells him to listen to the new sound he’s been looking for.
The crowd seems to like “Johnny B. Goode” fine, until Marty launches into a wild guitar solo. During his solo, Marty draws on several different techniques dated between 1955 and his own time. He duck walks like Chuck Berry, taps like Van Halen, plays behind the back like Jimi Hendrix, squirms on the ground like Angus Young, and kicks over his amp like Pete Townshend.
When he finishes, the crowd is stunned and confused. Marty leaves with a few final words, “Guess you guys aren’t ready for that. But your kids are gonna love it”.
- “The Power of Love” – Huey Lewis and the News.
- “Time Bomb Town” – Lindsey Buckingham.
- “Back to the Future” – The Outatime Orchestra.
- “Heaven Is One Step Away” – Eric Clapton.
- “Back in Time” – Huey Lewis & the News.
- “Back to the Future Overture” – The Outatime Orchestra.
- “The Wallflower (Dance with Me Henry)” – Etta James.
- “Night Train” – Marvin Berry & the Starlighters.
- “Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)” – Marvin Berry & the Starlighters.
- “Johnny B. Goode” – Marty McFly With The Starlighters.