The Super Bowl Lead-Out

IT’S SUPER BOWL SUNDAY!! Time to stuff your face, drink some beer, and watch the Kansas City Chiefs face off against the Philadelphia Eagles. And when the game is over, and the NFL champions have been crowned, you can stick around and watch Gordon Ramsey in the season premiere of Next Level Chef, this year’s Super Bowl lead-out program.

The history of the Super Bowl lead-out program dates back to before the championship game was even CALLED the Super Bowl. Did you know that Super Bowl I was referred to as the AFL and NFL World Championship Game? Or that it actually aired on two networks? NBC and CBS held the exclusive rights to broadcast AFL and NFL games, respectively, and the game was only referred to as the Super Bowl retroactively (in fact, the moniker wasn’t adopted until 1969). On January 15, 1967, after the Green Bay Packers finished spanking the Chiefs, both networks went with family-friendly fare for the post-game program: CBS aired an episode of Lassie titled “Lassie’s Litter Bit”, and NBC aired something called “Willie and the Yank: The Mosby Raiders” for Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. The two networks combined received a 59% share that night, meaning more than half of American television sets were tuned in.

For the first eighteen years of its existence, the Super Bowl aired exclusively on NBC and CBS, and the two networks continued to use the lead-out for G-rated content: GE College Bowl, 60 Minutes, golf tournaments, and more episodes of Lassie. In 1982, the NFL renegotiated its deal with the networks, and ABC got in on the action with Super Bowl XIX. The network used the coveted post-game time slot to air the pilot of MacGruder and Loud, a series that lasted one season. I don’t remember it, nor do I remember The Last Precinct, which aired the following year after NBC’s coverage of Super Bowl XX. In fact, the lead-out slot is littered with the corpses of series that didn’t make it to season two.

In more recent years, the networks have utilized the lead-out slot to air established properties: special episodes of popular series (The Simpsons, House, and The Blacklist, to name a few) or season premieres of highly rated reality shows like Survivor and The Voice. Last year, NBC returned us to the Winter Olympics (fun fact: under the new contract that takes effect in 2024, NBC will air the Super Bowl exclusively in Winter Olympics years, so expect that to be a regular occurrence). These days, the Super Bowl lead-out tends to receive lower ratings, which isn’t all that surprising. With hundreds of cable channels and countless streaming options, more and more people are tuning out as soon as the game is over. Each year, the ratings dwindle a little more, and the networks put less work into making the time slot a special event. That’s why reality competition programming – which is far cheaper to produce than a scripted series – has become a common lead-out; something like Next Level Chef gives Fox a much bigger ratings bang for their buck.

So, in honor of Super Bowl Sunday, here are some notable Super Bowl lead-outs – and a couple of my personal favorites.

  • Friends – “The One After the Super Bowl” (Super Bowl XXX, January 28, 1996)

If you’re wondering, “What’s the highest-rated post-Super Bowl episode of all time?”, wonder no more. It’s Friends‘ imaginatively titled “The One After the Super Bowl”, and it’s not even close. After watching Dallas beat Pittsburgh by ten, 46% of households – almost 53 million people – tuned in for this one-hour episode of the Gen X sitcom. Not only was Friends (then in its second season) a ratings smash, but one of its actors (Matthew Perry) was dating the biggest movie star on the planet, Julia Roberts. Roberts guest starred on this episode, along with Brooke Shields, Chris Isaak, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Fred Willard, and Dan Castellaneta.

Like a lot of Friends episodes, this one hasn’t aged particularly well. Brooke Shields is a scene-stealer, but the stalker storyline, which pokes fun at the character’s obvious mental illness, just feels icky. And Monica and Rachel fighting over JCVD is just *eye rolls*. My favorite storyline is Phoebe singing for the kids at the library; Lisa Kudrow’s chemistry with guest star Isaak is adorable (“Are you gonna kiss me?” “Thinkin’ about it”) and this scene cracks me up every time.

Fun fact: Brooke Shields, who was best known at the time for romantic dramas like The Blue Lagoon and Endless Love, earned rave reviews for “The One After the Super Bowl”. The gig helped Shields land her own series, Suddenly Susan, for which she received two Golden Globe nominations.

  • Alias – “Phase One” (Super Bowl XXXVII, January 26, 2003)

Few shows have pushed the reset button as hard as this spy thriller did on Super Bowl Sunday, 2003, midway through its second season. After a cold open that gives the show an excuse to show off Jennifer Garner’s ridonkulous body (not to mention her badassery), Sydney, Vaughn, and the CIA are finally able to infiltrate SD-6 and shut it down. Sydney and Vaughn share their long-awaited first kiss, and Sydney deals with the fallout of having had to lie to her SD-6 partner Marcus. And in a shocking twist, the episode ends with the murder of Sydney’s BFF Francie – and the installation of Francie’s “double” Allison into Sydney’s life. “Phase One” was the highest-rated episode of Alias; unfortunately, it was also one of the lowest-rated Super Bowl lead-outs ever, and because the episode didn’t begin until after 11 pm EST, it wasn’t in the coveted prime time bracket. It’s too bad, because “Phase One’ could have earned Alias a lot of new fans.

“Phase One” set the stage for one of my favorite fight scenes ever (“I just remembered, Francie doesn’t like coffee ice cream”)
  • Homicide: Life on the Street – “Gone for Goode” / Pilot (Super Bowl XXVII, January 31, 1993)

One of the best network procedurals of all time began as the Super Bowl XXVII lead-out program thirty years ago. Academy Award nominee Paul Attanasio created the series, based on David Simon’s book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. The cast (all hail Andre Braugher!) is sublime. “Gone for Goode”, though a ratings disappointment for NBC, earned Oscar winner Barry Levinson an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.

Fun fact #1: Richard Belzer’s Law & Order: SVU character John Munch was created for Homicide. After the series ended, Munch moved from Baltimore to New York City, just in time for the series premiere of SVU.

Fun fact #2: David Simon, then a journalist for The Baltimore Sun, spent a year (1988) with the homicide unit at the Baltimore PD before writing the Edgar Award winning Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. The cases he wrote about served as inspiration not only for Homicide: Life on the Street, but for Simon’s later series, The Wire, as well.

  • The A-Team – “Children of Jamestown” (Super Bowl XVII, January 30, 1983)

The A-Team – about a Special Forces unit convicted of a crime they didn’t commit who escape prison and become a team of mercenaries – kicked off with a two-hour pilot episode the week before and aired its first regular episode after Super Bowl XVII. Starring George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, and Mr. T, The A-Team was a formulaic, cartoonishly violent series – and viewers couldn’t get enough. The series spawned a franchise that includes comic books, video games, and a (terrible) 2011 film adaptation.

Fun fact: NBC did not have high expectations for The A-Team, but one person predicted from the beginning that the show would be a hit, and that was star George Peppard.

  • The Wonder Years – Pilot (Super Bowl XXII, January 31, 1988)

After Washington routed Denver 42-10, ABC aired the pilot for its new coming-of-age dramedy, The Wonder Years. Starring Fred Savage as ’60s suburban kid Kevin Arnold, with voiceover narration by the criminally underrated Daniel Stern as a middle-aged Kevin, The Wonder Years was an instant hit. For its abbreviated (six episode) first season, The Wonder Years won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series; the following year, thirteen-year-old Savage became the youngest-ever nominee for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy alongside legends like Ted Danson, Michael J. Fox, John Goodman, and eventual winner Richard Mulligan. Hubby and I recently binged the entire series on Hulu, and I’m pleased to say it holds up pretty well.

Fun fact: The Wonder Years was the inspiration for a 2021 Disney+ series of the same name starring Dulé Hill. That series was renewed for a second season, which will air sometime in 2023.

  • The X-Files – “Leonard Betts” (Super Bowl XXXI, January 26, 1997)

After years on the sidelines, Fox made the most of its first Super Bowl outing with this outstanding episode of its hit sci-fi series, The X-Files. Paul McCrane stars as the titular character, a cancer-eating mutant with the powers of regeneration. It’s also the episode where viewers learned of Scully’s cancer diagnosis (it’s a pretty important plot point). Almost 30 million viewers tuned in for “Leonard Betts”, making it the most-watched episode of the series’ eleven season run.

“I’m sorry, but you’ve got something I need” <shivers>
  • Survivor: The Australian Outback – “Stranded” / Survivor: All-Stars – “They’re Back!”

The inaugural season of Survivor was a runaway ratings success in the summer of 2000, so naturally CBS rushed a second season into production as soon as possible. The season two premiere aired after Super Bowl XXXV, more than 43 million Americans tuned in, and a franchise was born. Three years later, Survivor‘s first all-star season was the lead-out for Super Bowl XXXVIII, and 33 million watched. Twenty-two years later, Survivor is still on the air (season 44 will premiere on March 1), a testament to the franchise’s staying power.

  • 60 Minutes (Super Bowl XXVI, January 26, 1992)

CBS initially planned to air its news magazine series, 48 Hours, after Super Bowl XXVI. But at the last minute, this abbreviated episode of 60 Minutes was added to the schedule to address presidential nominee Bill Clinton’s relationship with Gennifer Flowers. Flowers, who had sold her story to a tabloid, claimed that she and Clinton carried on a long-term affair, a claim Clinton initially denied (spoiler alert: he lied). This interview is best remembered for Hillary Clinton’s statement that “I’m not sittin’ here, some little woman, standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.” Wynette took Clinton to task for her remarks, but the two later made up.

  • Criminal Minds – “The Big Game” (Super Bowl XLI, February 4, 2007)

For its time in the post-Super Bowl spotlight, Criminal Minds wrote the game into the plot (a couple is murdered after hosting a party) AND gave us a cliffhanger (Reid is kidnapped by the killer). “The Big Game” also introduced us to one of the show’s most memorable unsubs, James Van Der Beek’s Tobias Hankel. The storyline wrapped up three nights later with the episode “Revelations”, and Van Der Beek proved he was much more than Dawson’s Creek.

  • Malcolm in the Middle – “Company Picnic” (Super Bowl XXXVI, February 3, 2002)

This dysfunctional family sitcom was in its third season when it received the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot. The episode, titled “Company Picnic”, gives Bryan Cranston the opportunity to show off his slapstick skills. Guest stars include Christina Ricci, Bradley Whitford (then-husband of series star Jane Kaczmarek), Patrick Warburton, Stephen Root, and NFL legends Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long.

Malcolm in the Middle has one of my favorite theme songs of all time, courtesy of art rock/power pop duo They Might Be Giants

Fun fact: When Vince Gilligan was casting Breaking Bad, AMC – who knew Bryan Cranston only as Malcolm in the Middle‘s Hal – were skeptical that Cranston was right for the role of Walter White. AMC’s choice for the role was either John Cusack or Matthew Broderick. Thankfully, Gilligan (who had worked with Cranston on an episode of The X-Files called “Drive”) stuck to his guns, and Cranston went on to win a whopping four Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

  • The Office – “Stress Relief” (Super Bowl XLIII, February 1, 2009)

I’ve saved the best for last. “Stress Relief” is the gold standard of Super Bowl lead-outs. First, there’s this masterpiece of a cold open, The Office at its chaotic best:

Then there’s this:

Michael confusing “Stayin’ Alive” with “I Will Survive” is perfection

I rest my case.

Fun fact: Jeffrey Blitz won an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for “Stress Relief”. The episode was also nominated for Outstanding Picture Editing for a Comedy Series but lost to 30 Rock.

Quick Hits: February 3

  • The 2023 nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced this week. Kate Bush, my all-time favorite female artist, has been nominated for the fourth time in six years. Among the first-time nominees are Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, Cyndi Lauper, George Michael, Willie Nelson, The White Stripes, and Warren Zevon. You can vote daily for your favorite artists here:

  • Speaking of nominations, the Oscar class of 2022 has been announced. Everything Everywhere All at Once leads the pack with eleven nominations. Sixteen of the twenty acting nominees are first-timers, the most in history. The 95th Academy Awards will be held on March 12. Here is the complete list of nominees:

  • Two of my childhood favorites – Laverne and Shirley‘s Cindy Williams and The Addams Family‘s Lisa Loring – passed away this week. A BAFTA nominee for Best Supporting Actress for her role in American Graffiti, Williams is best known for playing Shirley Feeney opposite Penny Marshall’s Laverne DeFazio on ABC’s long-running Happy Days spinoff. Loring, the OG Wednesday Addams, began modeling at the age of three; she was just six years old when she won the role that would make her a television icon. She also portrayed Cricket Montgomery on As the World Turns in the early 1980s.
  • The Last of Us is so. damn. good. This week’s exceptional episode, “Long, Long Time”, explores the relationship between Bill (Nick Offerman, who should absolutely be nominated for an Emmy for his performance) and Frank (Murray Bartlett, also terrific). No spoilers here, but if you haven’t checked out The Last of Us yet, I highly recommend you do so.
  • I redeemed an offer for three free months of Apple TV just in time for Shrinking, the hilarious and poignant new series from Scrubs showrunner Bill Lawrence. Lawrence co-created the show with Ted Lasso‘s Brett Goldstein and star Jason Segel, who plays a therapist coping poorly with the death of his wife. The excellent supporting cast includes Harrison Ford, Jessica Williams, Michael Urie, and Christa Miller. I’m all in on this one.
  • The Midnight Special premiered on NBC fifty years ago this week. The series, produced by Burt Sugarman, was known for featuring musical artists singing live (rather than lip-synching, which was the custom at the time).
  • Sixty-four years ago today, a plane crashed in a cornfield near Clear Lake, Iowa. Along with pilot Roger Peterson, the crash killed J.P. Richardson (better known as “The Big Bopper”), Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens. Richardson, who was suffering from the flu, had asked Waylon Jennings, a member of Holly’s backing band, to give up his seat; Valens, just 17 at the time, “won” his seat on a coin toss. In 1971, singer-songwriter Don McLean coined the phrase “the day the music died” for his single, “American Pie”.
At more than eight and a half minutes, “American Pie” was the longest #1 single in Billboard history for almost fifty years
  • Pixar, which began in 1979 as a division of Lucasfilm known as the Graphics Group, became an independent company on this day in 1986 (thanks to a $10 million investment from Steve Jobs). At the time, though they had produced short films (including Luxo Jr., the tiny desk lamp that serves as Pixar’s mascot), the technology was still too expensive for feature-length animation. While waiting for the tech to catch up, Pixar formed a working relationship with Disney, working on films like The Rescuers Down Under. Disney would ultimately agree to a three-picture deal with Pixar; that deal produced Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2. Since 2006, Pixar has been a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios; they’ve now produced 27 feature films, including this summer’s Elemental. Here are some of my personal favorites:

I’m super excited for this one, scheduled to hit theaters on June 16

63 Awesome Albums From ’83, Vol. 1

These albums are all turning forty this year. This list is in chronological order by release date and covers albums released between January and June of 1983.

  • Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics

CHART POSITION: #15 in the US, #3 in the UK, top ten in five other countries

SINGLES: “This Is the House”, “The Walk”, “Love Is a Stranger”, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “I Could Give You (A Mirror)” and “This City Never Sleeps”

FUN FACT: Eurythmics, the only artist to make two appearances on this list, were nominated for Best New Artist at the 26th Grammy Awards but lost to Culture Club (though they did take home the same prize at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards).

  • Pyromania – Def Leppard

CHART POSITION: #2 in the US, #4 in Canada

SINGLES: “Photograph”, “Rock of Ages”, “Foolin'”, “Too Late for Love”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Rock Rock (Till You Drop)”

FUN FACT: Pyromania was produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who also worked on classics like Foreigner’s 4, AC/DC’s Back in Black, and The Cars’ Heartbeat City (and who later had a tabloid fodder marriage to – and divorce from – frequent collaborator Shania Twain).

  • Frontiers – Journey

CHART POSITION: #2 in the US, #6 in the UK

SINGLES: “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”, “Faithfully”, “After the Fall”, “Send Her My Love”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Chain Reaction”

FUN FACT: “Only the Young” was recorded for Frontiers but didn’t make it on the finished product; the song reached the US top ten two years later when it was featured on the soundtrack for Vision Quest.

I fucking love this movie! Fun fact: Madonna made her film debut in Vision Quest!
  • Porcupine – Echo & The Bunnymen

CHART POSITION: #2 in the UK, # 137 in the US

SINGLES: “The Back of Love”, “The Cutter”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Back of Love”, “My White Devil”, and “Heads Will Roll”

FUN FACT: Echo & the Bunnymen, my second favorite band from Liverpool, were once booed off the stage after two songs while opening for ska faves Madness (more on them later).

  • Kilroy Was Here – Styx

CHART POSITION: #3 in the US, #67 in the UK, #6 in Sweden, #3 in Norway (apparently, Scandanavians really love Styx)

SINGLES: “Mr. Roboto”, “Don’t Let It End”, “High Time”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Cold War” and “Double Life”

FUN FACT: The album’s title was inspired by the famous graffiti tag (pictured, above right) used by US soldiers during WWII. After the Nazis found the tag on a piece of captured American equipment, Hitler came to believe that “Kilroy” was the code name of an Allied spy.

  • War – U2

CHART POSITION: #12 in the US, #1 in the UK

SINGLES: “New Year’s Day”, “Two Hearts Beat as One”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “40”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Seconds” and “Surrender”

FUN FACT: Many of the album’s lyrics were written in August, 1982, while Bono was on honeymoon in Jamaica with his wife Ali, which is perhaps the most Bono thing ever.

  • Side Kicks – Thompson Twins

CHART POSITION: #34 in the US, #2 in the UK (where it was known as Quick Step & Side Kick)

SINGLES: “Lies”, “Love on Your Side”, “We Are Detective”, “Watching”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “If You Were Here” (known to movie fans as the song that plays over the romantic final scene of Sixteen Candles) and “Love Lies Bleeding”

FUN FACT: The trio’s name was inspired by the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson in the English language version of the comic strip The Adventures of Tintin. The duo, by the way, is voiced by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in the 2011 feature-length adaption from Steven Spielberg.

  • Dazzle Ships – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD)

CHART POSITION: #162 in the US (where OMD wouldn’t catch on for another two years), #5 in the UK

SINGLES: “Genetic Engineering” and “Telegraph”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “The Romance of the Telescope” and “Of All the Things We’ve Made”

FUN FACT: The album’s cover art was inspired by Vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth’s 1919 painting, Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool (pictured, above right). Wadsworth frequently worked with nautical themes after spending WWI designing dazzle camouflage for the Royal Navy.

  • True – Spandau Ballet

CHART POSITION: #19 in the US, #1 in the UK, New Zealand, and Netherlands

SINGLES: “Lifeline”, “Communication”, “True”, “Gold”, “Pleasure”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Heaven Is a Secret”

FUN FACT: The title track, the first Spandau Ballet single to reach the Billboard Hot 100, is the band’s signature tune; it’s been used extensively in pop culture, in movies like Sixteen Candles and 50 First Dates and television series such as Modern Family. It was also sampled for the 1992 song “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn.

  • The Hurting – Tears for Fears

CHART POSITION: #73 in the US, #1 in the UK

SINGLES: “Suffer the Children”, “Pale Shelter”, “Mad World”, “Change”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “The Hurting” and “Watch Me Bleed”

FUN FACT: In 2001, Michael Andrews and Gary Jules covered “Mad World” for the Donnie Darko soundtrack.

  • The Final Cut – Pink Floyd

CHART POSITION: #6 in the US, #1 in seven countries, including the UK

SINGLES: “Not Now John”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “The Post War Dream”, “The Hero’s Return”, and “Paranoid Eyes”

FUN FACT: The album began life as a soundtrack to the motion picture Pink Floyd – The Wall (released in 1982); several of The Final Cut‘s tracks, including “When the Tigers Broke Free”, were recorded during sessions for The Wall album three years earlier.

  • Eliminator – ZZ Top

CHART POSITION: #9 in the US, top five in five countries, including the UK

SINGLES: “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, “TV Dinners”, “Legs”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Got Me Under Pressure” and “If I Could Only Flag Her Down”

FUN FACT: The custom 1933 Ford coupe seen on the cover was used in the videos for three of the album’s singles, including “Legs”, which won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video.

  • Naked Eyes – Naked Eyes

CHART POSITION: #32 in the US, #88 in Australia (where it was known as Burning Bridges)

SINGLES: “Always Something There to Remind Me”, “Promises, Promises”, “When the Lights Go Out”, “Voices in My Head”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “I Could Show You How”, “Fortune and Fame”, “Burning Bridges”, “Low Life” and “Emotion in Motion”

FUN FACT: “Always Something There to Remind Me”, Naked Eyes’ only US top ten hit, is a remake of a Burt Bacharach/Hal David song that was originally recorded by Dionne Warwick.

  • The Luxury Gap – Heaven 17

CHART POSITION: #72 in the US, #4 in the UK

SINGLES: “Let Me Go”, “Temptation”, “We Live So Fast”, “Come Live with Me”, “Crushed by the Wheels of Industry”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Who’ll Stop the Rain”

FUN FACT: Two of Heaven 17’s members – Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware – founded The Human League in 1977; they left that band in 1980 over creative differences with lead singer Philip Oakey.

  • Murmur – R.E.M.


SINGLES: “Radio Free Europe”, “Talk About the Passion”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: Literally all of them – this album changed my fucking life

FUN FACT: R.E.M.’s bright, jangly guitar drew comparisons to The Byrds (both used Rickenbacker guitars, known for their distinctive chime sound). But their melodic basslines, courtesy of Mike Mills, combined with Michael Stipe’s cryptic, mumbly lyrics, gave R.E.M. a sound uniquely their own.

  • Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes

CHART POSITION: #171 in the US and #34 in Australia

SINGLES: No singles were released but that didn’t stop songs like “Blister in the Sun”, “Kiss Off”, “Add It Up”, and “Gone Daddy Gone” from making a lasting mark on ’80s pop culture

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Please Do Not Go”, “Prove My Love”, and “Good Feeling” (AKA Lily and Marshall’s “song” on How I Met Your Mother)

FUN FACT: In 2021, Trixie Mattel recorded a version of “Blister in the Sun” for her EP Full Coverage, Vol. 1.

  • Let’s Dance – David Bowie

CHART POSITION: #4 in the US, #1 in the UK

SINGLES: “Let’s Dance”, “China Girl”, “Modern Love”, “Without You”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Ricochet” and “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”

FUN FACT #1: One of the musicians who played on Let’s Dance – a then-unknown blues guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan, whose debut album had yet to be released – will appear later on this list.

FUN FACT #2: After his good friend John Lennon’s death, Bowie was looking for a new creative direction and he chose Chic’s Nile Rogers to produce Let’s Dance. Bowie and Rogers discovered they shared a love of ’50s music, which informed the sound of the album.

  • Whammy! – The B-52s

CHART POSITION: #29 in the US, #33 in the UK

SINGLES: “Legal Tender”, “Whammy Kiss”, “Song for a Future Generation”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Moon 83”, a reworking of “There’s a Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon)” from the B-52’s’ 1979 self-titled debut

FUN FACT: Whammy! was the final album credited to guitarist Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS in 1985 while the group was at work on their fourth studio album, Bouncing Off the Satellites.

  • Cargo – Men at Work

CHART POSITION: #3 in the US, #1 in Australia, #8 in the UK

SINGLES: “Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive”, “Overkill”, “It’s a Mistake”, “High Wire”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Settle Down My Boy”

FUN FACT: My parents and I were vacationing in northern Michigan that August and they surprised me with tickets to the Men at Work/INXS concert at Castle Farms in Charlevoix. We were out to dinner earlier in the evening; our server asked if we were going to the show and I said, “I wish!” It turns out that I was going, I just didn’t know it at the time. Men at Work ended up having a relatively short shelf-life, with the first split occurring just a year later, so I was glad I got the chance to see them before they imploded.

  • Hootenanny – The Replacements



MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Color Me Impressed”, “Take Me Down to the Hospital”, “Within Your Reach”

FUN FACT #1: The album cover was inspired by the cover of the Crestview Records compilation The Original Hootenanny (pictured, above right).

FUN FACT #2: Six years after the release of Hootenanny, “Within Your Reach” was included on the soundtrack to the quintessential Gen-X rom-com, Say Anything…

  • In Outer Space – Sparks


SINGLES: “Cool Places”, “All You Ever Think About Is Sex”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Popularity” and “I Wish I Looked a Little Better”

FUN FACT: “Cool Places”, a duet with Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s, was Sparks’ highest-charting single, reaching #49 on the Billboard Hot 100.

  • Madness – Madness

CHART POSITION: #41 in the US (North American release only)

SINGLES: None, because this is a compilation album released in North America to capitalize on the success of “Our House”, Madness’ only US top ten hit

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Our House”, “Tomorrow’s Just Another Day”, “It Must Be Love”, “Primrose Hill”, “House of Fun”, “Rise and Fall”, “Cardiac Arrest”

FUN FACT: Madness – along with bands like The Specials and The Beat – were part of the Two-Tone (named for the 2 Tone record label, pictured above right, to which several of the bands were signed) movement, which fuzed ska and reggae with elements of punk and new wave.

  • Power, Corruption & Lies – New Order

CHART POSITION: #4 in the UK, #3 in New Zealand, #38 in Australia

SINGLES: “Blue Monday”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Blue Monday”, “Age of Consent”, “The Village”, “Ultraviolence”, “Leave Me Alone”

FUN FACT: “Blue Monday”, which was only included on the cassette version of the album (and later, the CD), is the best-selling 12-inch single of all time.

  • “Weird Al” Yankovic – “Weird Al” Yankovic

CHART POSITION: #139 in the US

SINGLES: “Another One Rides the Bus”, “Ricky”, “I Love Rocky Road”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Stop Dragging My Car Around” and “My Bologna”

FUN FACT: “Weird Al” was just sixteen years old when he had his first comedy song played on The Dr. Demento Radio Show; Yankovic later quipped, “If there hadn’t been a Dr. Demento, I’d probably have a real job now.”

I didn’t realize at the time how young Yankovic was (23!)
  • Holy Diver – Dio

CHART POSITION: #56 in the US, #13 in the UK

SINGLES: “Holy Diver”, “Rainbow in the Dark”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Stand Up and Shout”, “Holy Diver”, “Caught in the Middle”, “Rainbow in the Dark”

FUN FACT: Holy Diver, Dio’s debut album, also features the first appearance of the band’s demonic mascot, Murray.

  • Too Low for Zero – Elton John

CHART POSITION: #25 in the US, #7 in the UK, #2 in Australia

SINGLES: “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”, “I’m Still Standing”, “Kiss the Bride”, “Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)”, “Too Low for Zero”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Whipping Boy” and “One More Arrow”

FUN FACT: After a several-album slump, Too Low for Zero marked a critical and commercial comeback for John. And yes, that IS Stevie Wonder playing the harmonica on “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”.

  • Speaking in Tongues – Talking Heads

CHART POSITION: #15 in the US, #21 in the UK, top twenty in nine other countries

SINGLES: “Burning Down the House” and “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Making Flippy Floppy”, “Girlfriend is Better”, and “Slippery People”

FUN FACT: “Burning Down the House” was Talking Heads’ only US top-ten hit but the single wasn’t successful outside of North America (though a 1999 cover version by Tom Jones and the Cardigans reached the top ten in several countries, including the UK and Australia).

  • State of Confusion – The Kinks


SINGLES: “Come Dancing”, “Don’t Forget to Dance”, “State of Confusion”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Definite Maybe” and “Heart of Gold”

FUN FACT: “Come Dancing”, which peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, was the band’s most successful American single since 1965’s “Tired of Waiting for You”.

  • The Wild Heart – Stevie Nicks

CHART POSITION: #5 in the US, #28 in the UK

SINGLES: “Stand Back”, “If Anyone Falls”, “Nightbird”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Wild Heart” and “I Will Run to You” (duet with Tom Petty)

FUN FACT: “Stand Back” was inspired in part by the lush synthesizers on Prince’s “Little Red Corvette”, which Nicks heard on the radio the day she married Kim Anderson; the couple stopped and got a tape recorder on the way to their honeymoon destination, where they recorded the first version of the song. After telling Prince the story of how the song came to be, Nicks invited him to appear on the record and though his contribution wasn’t credited on the album, Nicks did agree to split the royalties with him 50-50.

  • Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble


SINGLES: “Love Struck Baby”, “Pride and Joy”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Texas Flood” and “Testify”

FUN FACT: Jackson Browne heard Vaughan and Double Trouble perform at the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival and offered them three free days in his studio, where Vaughan recorded the demo that got the band signed to Epic Records.

  • Synchronicity – The Police

CHART POSITION: #1 in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Italy

SINGLES: “Every Breath You Take”, “Synchronicity I”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, “King of Pain”, “Synchronicity II”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of them except “Mother”, written and sung by Andy Summers; “Mother” should have been left off the album in favor of the far superior “Murder by Numbers”, which was a bonus track on the cassette version.

FUN FACT: Synchronicity was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s The Roots of Coincidence, which delved into Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity. Koestler, who (coincidentally?) died on March 1, 1983 (about three and a half months before Synchronicity‘s release), drew on Jung as well as the work of Paul Kammerer, “collector of coincidences”. Koestler claimed that while he was writing The Roots of Coincidence, he was subjected to “a meteor shower” of coincidences as if Kammerer was sending him a message from beyond.

“Every Breath You Take” was the best-selling single of 1983 in the US and won the Song of the Year award at the 26th Grammys

Here is the 1983 playlist, which I will update once I publish the second volume of this post:

The Razzies

This year-end episode of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s Sneak Previews popped up in my YouTube feed so obviously, I clicked on it. The films of 1980 are so notoriously awful that they inspired the 1st annual Golden Raspberry Awards, held in publicist John J. B. Wilson’s living room on March 31, 1981 – the night of the 53rd Academy Awards.

Obviously, there were some terrific movies released that year, including Raging Bull, The Empire Strikes Back, Fame, Melvin and Howard, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and Ordinary People, all of which won at least one Oscar. But Wilson knew those films would get their due at other awards ceremonies. Inspired by a double feature of Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu, Wilson – a publicist whose work included film marketing – decided to use his Oscar night gathering of about thirty friends to host an impromptu celebration of the year’s worst, and the Golden Raspberry Awards were born. Among the films honored that night, Can’t Stop the Music led the pack with seven nominations; it won Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay (Xanadu received six nominations but went home empty-handed).

The following year, the attendance at Wilson’s Oscar party doubled, and the 2nd annual Razzies celebrated the worst of 1981 (Mommie Dearest was the night’s big “winner”, with five awards). In 1983, attendance doubled again; in 1984, Wilson had to move the event to a public location and CNN was on hand to provide coverage.

The Golden Raspberries are now in their 43rd year; the 2022 nominations were announced this morning (there’s a link at the bottom of the post). In honor of the occasion, here are some of the Razzies’ most memorable moments.

  • The Shining receives two nominations and Brooke Shields wins the first Worst Actress Razzie (1980)

Do the Razzies always get it right? No, they don’t. In fact, sometimes they get it very, very wrong; such was the case at the inaugural event. Inexplicably, The Shining received two nods at the first Razzies ceremony, for Worst Director (Stanley Kubrick) and Worst Actress (Shelley Duvall). In 2022, after allegations resurfaced of Kubrick’s deplorable on-set torment of Duvall, that last nomination was rescinded (I won’t go into the potentially triggering details, but you can Google that shit if you want).

One of my biggest complaints about the Razzies is the nomination of children, who often have little or no say in their career choices. Brooke Shields, who was sexualized from a young age and who at the very least didn’t have anyone looking out for her best interests, was fourteen years old when she made The Blue Lagoon. Yes, the movie is capital-T terrible, but giving Shields this award felt exploitative and mean-spirited. By the way, not everything about The Blue Lagoon was awful; the film was actually nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar (it lost that one to Roman Polanski’s Tess).

  • James Coco receives Oscar and Razzie nominations for the same role (1981)

James Coco, who played Marsha Mason’s gay neighbor in the Neil Simon adaptation Only When I Laugh, was the first of only three performers to be nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Raspberry for the same performance (the second was Amy Irving for 1983’s Yentl and the third was Glenn Close for 2020’s Hillbilly Elegy).

  • Flashdance is the first Oscar winner to be nominated for a Razzie (1983)

I can love a movie with all my heart while also acknowledging how bad it is. So it is with Flashdance, a 96-minute-long music video rightfully nominated for a Worst Screenplay Razzie (it lost to The Lonely Lady, which was based on a Harold Robbins novel and starred Pia Zadora). The following evening, at the 56th Academy Awards, Giorgio Moroder, Irene Cara, and Keith Forsey shared the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Flashdance… What a Feeling”; Flashdance received three additional nominations, for Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Song (for “Maniac” by Michael Sembello).

A huge shout-out not only to Oscar-nominated editors Bud S. Smith and Walt Mulconery, but also to Jennifer Beals’ dance doubles Marine Jahan and breakdancer Crazy Legs
  • Metropolis earns two Razzie nominations (1984)

In 1984, the 1927 German silent film Metropolis was restored and reissued with a new score by Giorgio Moroder, who also co-wrote (with Freddie Mercury!) a theme song for the film. Both the score and the song were nominated for Golden Raspberries and while I personally think “Love Kills” is fantastic, it does seem incongruous with the expressionistic sci-fi classic.

  • The first Worst Picture tie (1986)

The 7th Golden Raspberries saw the first-ever tie for Worst Picture between Howard the Duck and Under the Cherry Moon, both worthy choices. Prince is one of my favorite musical artists, but he did not have a gift for filmmaking.


  • Wall Street wins a Best Actor Oscar and a Worst Supporting Actress Razzie (1987)

Daryl Hannah was unhappy with the part and director Oliver Stone later admitted he knew Hannah wasn’t right for the role. Was Hannah actually the worst supporting actress that year? Probably not. But Wall Street remains the only film to win both an Oscar and a Razzie.

  • Mac and Me (1988)

Mac and Me is best known these days for its part in one of the funniest long-term gags ever, but it wasn’t even the worst movie of 1988, at least according to the Razzies. The Worst Picture winner that year? Cocktail.

  • Alan Menken wins an Oscar and a Razzie in the same year (1992)

At the 13th Golden Raspberries, famed composer Alan Menken won a Worst Original Song award for Newsies‘ “High Times, Hard Times”. The following evening, he won his fifth and sixth Oscars for Aladdin. He is one of only three people to earn an Oscar and a Razzie in the same year; Brian Helgeland became the second in 1997 when he won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for L.A. Confidential and the Worst Screenplay Razzie for The Postman (I’ll get to the third one in a bit).

  • Paul Verhoeven is the first Razzie “winner” to accept their award in person (1997)

The less said about Showgirls, the better, but I give props to Verhoeven for graciously accepting his Razzie in person.

  • An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn is the most meta winner ever (1998)

If you’re not familiar with the Alan Smithee legend, here’s the nutshell: Smithee is a pseudonym the Director’s Guild allowed filmmakers to use if they wished to disavow the finished product. An Arthur Hiller-directed mockumentary, with Eric Idle playing a director whose real name is Alan Smithee, was so bad that Hiller requested his name be taken off the film; with that, Burn Hollywood Burn became a literal Alan Smithee film – and the most meta Razzies winner ever.

  • Battlefield Earth makes a clean sweep (2000)

This legendarily terrible sci-fi film, based on a book by L. Ron Hubbard, stars longtime Scientologist John Travolta. Quentin Tarantino, who had worked with Travolta on 1994’s Pulp Fiction, was the first choice to direct; when Tarantino turned it down, the job went to Roger Christian, a production designer and set decorator who’d won an Oscar for Star Wars. Battlefield Earth was nominated for eight Razzies in seven categories – and took home a prize in every single one.

Fun fact: Roger Christian also directed a couple of music videos back in the 1980s, including “Election Day” by Duran Duran side project Arcadia.

  • George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld receive Razzies for their “performances” in a Palme d’Or-winning documentary feature (2004)

Somewhat controversially – because Fahrenheit 9/11 was a widely acclaimed film – the Razzies nominated Bush, Rice, and Rumsfeld for their “roles” in this Michael Moore doc.

  • Sandra Bullock accepts her Razzie in person the night before winning the Best Actress Oscar (2009)

When you think of Sandra Bullock winning an award for a 2009 film, you probably think of The Blind Side (which earned Bullock an Oscar and a Golden Globe) or maybe The Proposal (which also garnered her a Golden Globe nomination). But Bullock made a third movie that year, the critical flop All About Steve, which has a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Like the good sport she is, Bullock showed up to accept her Razzie with a DVD copy for everyone in the room. The following evening, she took home her Academy Award.

  • Ben Affleck wins the inaugural Razzie Redeemer Award (2013)

After the one-two punch of the Oscar-winning Argo and the critical darling Gone Girl, Ben Affleck won the first Razzie Redeemer Award, eleven years after his Worst Actor Razzie for Gigli.

  • Worst Performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 Movie (2021)

Since 2019, Bruce Willis has starred in twenty-six direct-to-video movies. Eight of those movies – Cosmic Sin, American Siege, Apex, Deadlock, Fortress, Midnight in the Switchgrass, Out of Death, and Survive the Game – came out in 2021, prompting the Razzies to institute a new, one-time-only category. I’ve seen exactly zero of these flicks (in fact, I’d never heard of most of them until today), but I’m sure they’re all varying degrees of awful and probably would have been awful without Willis’s participation. But in 2022, we all learned some new information that prompted the Razzies to retract the category: Willis was retiring from acting after receiving a diagnosis of aphasia.

  • Oh, look, they’re still nominating children (2022) 😠😡🤬

Among the nominees this year is twelve-year-old Ryan Kiera Armstrong, who plays Charlie in the Firestarter remake no one asked for – but can we please not punish a literal child for the fact that no one asked for it?

2023 Preview (Part Two)

  • Barbie

Greta Gerwig, Margot Robbie, and Ryan Gosling? YES, PLEASE!! Written by Gerwig with her frequent collaborator – and real-life partner – Noah Baumbach, Barbie promises to be a meta blast, based on the parody of 2001: A Space Odyssey in the teaser (narrated by Helen Mirren). The supporting cast includes Simu Liu, America Ferrera, Issa Rae, and Kate McKinnon. Two-time Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat, who worked with Gerwig on her previous directorial effort, 2019’s gorgeous Little Women, will compose the score.

Barbie is scheduled to open in theaters on July 21.

  • The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Plans for a feature film adaptation of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes began before the novel was even published. It made sense; The Hunger Games film series was one of the most profitable of the 2010s. Surely there would be an audience for this prequel, set during the 10th Hunger Games as a young Coriolanus Snow mentors the female District 12 tribute. Francis Lawrence, who helmed the last three Hunger Games movies, will direct; James Newton Howard, who has scored every single film in the series, will return as well. Tom Blyth and West Side Story‘s Rachel Zegler will play Snow and the District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, respectively. Then there’s the spectacular supporting cast, which includes Jason Schwartzman, Peter Dinklage, and Viola Davis.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is scheduled to open in theaters on November 17, 2023.

  • Spinning Gold

Oh HELL yes! Look, is Spinning Gold going to be a GOOD movie? Probably not, but I’m going to enjoy the shit out of it anyway. This biopic traces the journey of Neil Bogart, who went from the housing projects of Brooklyn to the head of his own label, Casablanca Records. Many of the label’s artists – including KISS, Donna Summer, Gladys Knight, Bill Withers, George Clinton, Ron Isley, and Giorgio Moroder – are represented in the film, which was written and directed by Bogart’s son, Timothy Scott Bogart.

Spinning Gold is due in theaters on March 31.

“‘Midnight plane to Houston?’ My people are from Georgia, they would never take a plane to Houston.”
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret / Judy Blume Forever

Full disclosure: Judy Blume was essential to my childhood, as she was to many a Gen-X girl. Her seminal YA novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, astonished us with its candid depictions of the perils of puberty. Margaret’s milestones – her first bra, her first period, her first crush – mirrored our own. After fifty years, Blume finally sold the book rights to producer James L. Brooks. Kelly Fremon Craig, who tackled adolescence beautifully with her previous film The Edge of Seventeen, wrote and directed; the cast includes Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie as Margaret’s parents and the inimitable Kathy Bates as her grandmother.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is due in theaters on April 23.

Judy Blume Forever, a documentary celebrating Blume’s trailblazing life and career, will debut next week at the Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok, the doc will feature interviews with authors and other artists inspired by Blume’s work, as well as Blume herself.

  • Elemental

Elemental, Pixar’s newest feature, explores the relationship between fiery Ember and go-with-the-flow Wade, who just happen to be elements. Director Peter Sohn, the child of Korean immigrants, wanted the film’s bustling city to mirror his experience growing up in the Bronx in the 1970s and ’80s. Based on the teaser trailer, the animation looks colorful and gorgeous; the story – per Sohn, “…about our differences that bring us together” – is universal.

Elemental is slated to debut in theaters on June 16.

  • Squaring Circles: The Story of Hipgnosis

Hipgnosis (Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey “Po” Powell), the English art collective responsible for creating some of the most iconic album covers of the rock era before transitioning to music videos in 1983, is the subject of a new documentary feature directed by Anton Corbijn (who got his own start in music videos back in the ’80s). I don’t know much more about this project, but I don’t need to: I am IN.

  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith

The upcoming Amazon adaptation of Doug Liman’s 2005 feature film will star Maya Erskine and Donald Glover, who co-created the series with Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Waller-Bridge was also set to co-star, but left the project over “creative differences” with Glover). The supporting cast will include Parker Posey, Michaela Coel, John Turturro, and Paul Dano. No teasers have been released yet; stay tuned to PBandJulie for more information.

  • The 1619 Project

“You cannot tell the story of America without telling the story of Black America” – Nikole Hannah-Jones

Based on Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer Prize-winning work for The New York Times, this docuseries will likely draw as much controversy as the original project, which some historians argued was factually inaccurate. The topic has become a political lightning rod, with far-right lawmakers like Florida governor Ron DeSantis banning the teaching of critical race theory in schools. This docuseries is sure to ruffle some feathers, in the best possible way.

The 1619 Project premieres on Hulu on January 26.

  • Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part I

The penultimate Mission Impossible entry promises more of everything we love about this series. Tom Cruise, now sixty, performing death-defying stunts? Check. A delightful supporting cast, including series regulars Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, and Vanessa Kirby, as well as newcomers Hayley Atwell, Shea Whigham, Esai Morales, and Cary Elwes? Check. Car chases, fight scenes, the iconic MI score? Check, check, and check.

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part I will arrive in theaters on July 14.

  • True Detective: Night Country

Here’s where I confess I’ve never watched True Detective, HBO’s acclaimed but wildly uneven anthology series. I’ve just…never gotten around to it. But you better believe I will tune in to season four, which stars one of the all-time greats, Jodie Foster. The rest of the cast consists of Kali Reis, John Hawkes, Christopher Eccleston, and Fiona Shaw.

True Detective: North Country will premiere on HBO sometime in 2023.

  • Love & Death

HBO’s take on the Candy Montgomery story comes on the heels of the Hulu series Candy, which starred Jessica Biel as Montgomery, a Texas housewife accused – and ultimately acquitted – of the ax murder of her friend Betty Gore (Montgomery was sleeping with Gore’s husband Allen). Elizabeth Olsen steps into the role of Montgomery and Lily Rabe will portray Gore; the outstanding supporting cast includes Jesse Plemons, Patrick Fugit, Keir Gilchrist, Elizabeth Marvel, Krysten Ritter, Beth Broderick, and Brian d’Arcy James. As a true crime obsessive, I will definitely be tuning in for this.

Love & Death will premiere on HBO sometime in 2023.

This video include peeks at True Detective: Night Country and Love & Death

2023 Preview (Part One) and a Personal Note

Hello, all! I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season!

This year, like the last several years, has been one of challenge and growth for me. A much-needed mental health break led to an extremely stressful job search in the summer and fall, and while I’m happy with how things have worked out, the process took a toll on my mental health – and on my productivity as a writer. Several occasions I wanted to observe – including Roald Dahl Day, Stephen King’s 75th birthday, and the 50th anniversary of the release of Free to Be… You and Me – came and went. I wanted to tell you all the reasons I loved Wednesday, to commemorate the wonderful Christine McVie’s life, and to discuss my favorite albums of 1982 and my favorite movies of 1997. I’d hoped to give you a Christmas movie-themed pop quiz. I have several pieces – the creepiest Criminal Minds unsubs, my favorite electronic film scores, and a new entry in my Gen-X series – in various stages of completion.

I want to thank all of you who are reading this. Whether you are a long-time reader or you just joined the party, I appreciate you taking time out of your day to read my words. My therapist asked me if I’m the sort of person who makes New Year’s resolutions. My response? “No, but my goal for this year is the same as every year: to do my best.” I want that to be your goal for 2023 as well. Just do your best. Don’t worry about whether it’s good enough; I am here to tell you that it is. Be kind to yourself. Experience joy where you can. Allow yourself to make mistakes and try to learn from them.

I do have one resolution, though: I resolve to continue bringing you the best content I possibly can. It’s what I’ve done so far and I couldn’t be more proud of where this journey has taken me. As I look ahead to 2023, I see a bright future for PBandJulie, and I am exceedingly grateful that you are along for the ride.

As always, a new year means new pop culture content, so here are some of the movies and series that I am most excited about in 2023. Look for part two of this post in the coming days.

  • Yellowjackets, season two

I haven’t been this excited for a second season since 2017 (Stranger Things, obvi). I just rewatched season one to prep and oh my god I fucking love this show! The casting news has kept fans on the edge of their seats: Lauren Ambrose will play adult Van! Elijah Wood will reunite with his The Ice Storm co-star Christina Ricci as a fellow member of Misty’s Citizen Detective club! Melanie Lynskey’s real-life husband, Jason Ritter, will appear in an undisclosed role! Showtime, in a wise move, has already renewed Yellowjackets for a third season; season two will premiere on March 24. I’ll post the trailer as soon as it’s available; so far all we’ve gotten is this tantalizingly tiny teaser.

  • Daisy Jones & the Six

Second only to season two of Yellowjackets on my “super pumped to see this” list, Daisy Jones & the Six is based on the splendid novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Starring Riley Keough and Sam Claflin, the ten-part limited series explores the rise and fall of a 1970s rock band and the fallout that ensues from the complicated relationship between its co-lead-singers (think Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham). The music promises to be a highlight; Reid wrote the lyrics to several songs for the novel and Tom Howe (Primetime Emmy nominee for Ted Lasso) composed the music. Presumably, the cast will sing their own songs; Claflin is a graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and Keough’s bona fides are hereditary (she’s the granddaughter of Elvis Presley).

Daisy Jones & the Six is scheduled to premiere on Amazon Prime on March 3.

  • The Last of Us

Three years into the COVID pandemic, I am still uncertain about committing to another post-apocalyptic story, but I can’t deny that HBO’s series – set to debut this coming Sunday – looks incredible. Based on the beloved, best-selling 2013 video game of the same name, The Last of Us follows a smuggler (Pedro Pascal) attempting to transport teenaged Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across a post-apocalyptic United States (a fungal infection has turned most humans into cannibalistic monsters and Ellie may hold the key to a vaccine). Original game developer Neil Druckmann co-created the show with Chernobyl showrunner – and two-time Emmy winner – Craig Mazin. The advance reviews have been rapturous. My guess is HBO will have a huge hit on their hands with this one.

  • Killers of the Flower Moon

Based on David Grann’s masterful true crime book of the same name, Killers of the Flower Moon will reunite director Martin Scorsese with both Robert DeNiro (their tenth collaboration!) and Leonardo DiCaprio (their sixth film together). The rest of the cast – including Jesse Plemons, Brendan Fraser, and John Lithgow – is outstanding. Frequent Scorsese collaborators, such as Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker and composer Robbie Robertson, will be on hand as well. In 2019, Scorsese met with the Osage Nation in Oklahoma to discuss their involvement in the film’s production, which will hopefully lend Killers of the Flower Moon an air of authenticity.

Killers of the Flower Moon will debut in theaters and on Apple TV sometime in 2023.

  • Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

The first Indiana Jones movie NOT directed by Steven Spielberg, Dial of Destiny will reteam Indy with John Rhys-Davies’ Sallah; supporting cast members include the magnificent Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, Toby Jones, and Mads Mikkelsen. James Mangold took the director’s chair, with Spielberg and George Lucas serving only as executive producers. The film is set in 1969 with a flashback to 1944 (because Nazis, duh); de-aging technology was used to match Harrison Ford’s appearance to the earlier Indy movies (Ford was said to be “spooked” by the results). Waller-Bridge should add a wonderful spark to the proceedings, and John Williams will be composing the music. After the disappointment of the last installment in the series (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), I’m cautiously optimistic about returning to the world of my favorite adventure series of all time.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny will open in theaters on June 30th.

  • White House Plumbers

THIS CAST! Woody Harrelson, Justin Theroux, Domhnall Gleeson, Lena Headey, Judy Greer, Kiernan Shipka, John Carroll Lynch, F. Murray Abraham, Kathleen Turner, and many more star in this limited series based on the Egil and Matthew Krogh book Integrity. Harrelson and Theroux portray E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, whom Nixon put in charge of stopping the leaks (hence, “plumbers”) coming out of the White House after the damaging release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. David Mandel, who executive produced Veep, Curb Your Enthusiam, and Seinfeld, should bring a similarly sharp comedic tone to the festivities.

White House Plumbers is scheduled to premiere on HBO in March.

  • Oppenheimer

A new Christopher Nolan picture is always a cause for celebration, and this one promises to be a doozy. Starring Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, the film will explore the creation of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. The supporting cast – Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, and Kenneth Branagh, among others – is to die for. The music will be composed by Ludwig Göransson, who earned an Oscar for Black Panther and an Emmy for The Mandalorian.

Oppenheimer will open in theaters on July 21.

  • Renfield

Renfield, scheduled for release on April 14, looks like an absolute blast. Starring Nicholas Hoult in the titular role, Renfield explores what happens when Dracula’s loyal, long-suffering servant has second thoughts about his role in feeding his boss’s thirst. Dracula will be played by Nicolas Cage, whose over-the-top tendencies should be a perfect match for the material. I love a horror-comedy, and Renfield looks to be entertaining as hell.

Renfield is scheduled to open in theaters on April 14.

Quick Hits: November 27 – December 3

  • Christine McVie died on November 30 after a brief illness. I just don’t have the words yet.
  • Irene Cara died on November 25 at the age of 63. Born Irene Cara Escalera on March 18, 1959, Cara made her Broadway debut at the age of nine in Maggie Flynn and starred in her first feature film, Aaron Loves Angela, in 1975. The following year, she made a splash as the titular character in Sparkle, a period musical set in Harlem during the 1950s and ’60s. Cara became a household name in 1980 when she starred as Coco Hernandez in Alan Parker’s Fame (a PBandJulie fave). Post-Fame, Cara’s focus was music; most notably, she co-wrote (with Keith Forsey and Giorgio Moroder) and performed the title track to 1983’s Flashdance, for which she won an Oscar, a Grammy, a Golden Globe, and an American Music Award. Cara passed away at her home in Largo, Florida (no cause of death has been announced).
  • Clarence Gilyard Jr. has also passed away. Best known for his television roles in Matlock and Walker, Texas Ranger, and his entertaining appearances in films like Top Gun and Die Hard, Gilyard was also an associate professor in the theatre department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gilyard died on November 27 at the age of 66 after a long illness.
  • I saw Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery with my sister and nephew the day after Thanksgiving and it’s a goddamn delight. The film is funny and twisty (refreshingly, the trailer gives away nothing, down to the A-list cameo that confirms Benoit Blanc’s sexual orientation), with a to-die-for cast and sumptuous visuals. Glass Onion will be available to stream on Netflix on December 23.

I really enjoyed this piece about costume designer Jenny Eagen, who should be in the conversation come awards season:

  • All Things Must Pass, the seminal solo album by George Harrison, was released on November 27, 1970. Harrison’s first solo single, “My Sweet Lord”, was a worldwide smash, going to #1 in thirteen countries, including the US and the UK. The single also proved to be controversial, as Harrison ultimately lost a years-long copyright infringement suit brought by Bright Tunes Music, owners of the Ronnie Mack-penned “He’s So Fine” (in his memoir, I Me Mine, Harrison said of the similarities between the tunes, “Why didn’t I realise?”). In the end, Harrison was found to have unintentionally plagiarized “He’s So Fine”. Legal drama notwithstanding, “My Sweet Lord” became one of Harrison’s signature tunes. But All Things Must Pass is so much more than “My Sweet Lord”; it is, quite simply, the greatest solo album by any of the former Beatles. The album was Harrison’s coming out: after years of playing a decidedly supporting role with The Beatles, his songwriting – and his absolutely amazing guitar work – took center stage. Co-producer Phil Spector applied his “Wall of Sound” technique to create layers of gorgeous tones and textures. All Things Must Pass was a commercial and critical sensation, spending weeks at the top of the charts in the US and the UK and earning a Grammy nod for Album of the Year (it lost to Carole King’s Tapestry).
  • Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, the debut album from Soft Cell, was released on November 27, 1981. “Tainted Love” was one of the best-selling singles on both sides of the pond that year and helped usher in the Second British Invasion.
  • Bruce Lee was born on November 27, 1940. One of the most iconic figures in 20th-century cinema, Lee combined his knowledge of several disciplines to create his own mixed martial arts method he referred to as “Jeet Kune Do” (“The Way of the Fist”). He starred in five Hong Kong action films (including 1972’s Fist of Fury and 1973’s Enter the Dragon) – and shattered Asian stereotypes – before tragically passing away from cerebral edema on July 20, 1973, at the age of 32.
  • The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour had its US release on November 27, 1967. The album includes the soundtrack to the made-for-television film of the same name (side one) and a handful of other non-album singles released by the band that year (side two). Among the album’s more iconic tracks are “Magical Mystery Tour”, “I Am the Walrus”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, and “Penny Lane”. The album went to #1 on the Billboard 200 and earned the band their fourth of five Album of the Year Grammy nominations.
  • “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” by Bing Crosby and David Bowie was finally released as a single on November 27, 1982, five years after it was recorded for Crosby’s 1977 television special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas.
  • Natalie Wood died on November 29, 1981, while spending the holiday weekend with her husband Robert Wagner, as well as her friend and Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken, aboard Wagner’s yacht, Splendour. Her cause of death, which has officially been listed as “drowning and other undetermined factors”, remains a mystery; the investigation by the LA County Sheriff’s Department is still open. Wood’s body was covered in fresh bruises and abrasions, consistent with either an assault or being thrown out of the boat. Wagner has always maintained his innocence, insisting that Wood voluntarily left on the yacht’s dinghy and that her death was a tragic accident. Wood’s sister Lana, though, alleges that Wood was terrified of the water and would never have gotten in the dinghy on her own, particularly at night. Additionally, the boat’s captain, Dennis Davern, admitted in 2011 that he had initially lied at Wagner’s direction and that Wood and Wagner had argued earlier in the evening (apparently, Wagner accused Wood of flirting with Walken). Davern also alleged that Wagner instructed him not to turn on the yacht’s searchlights or notify the authorities of Wood’s disappearance. In 2018, Wagner was listed as a person of interest in the case, but he has since been cleared.
  • Andrew McCarthy celebrated his 60th birthday this week. Best known as an actor who appeared in ’80s classics like St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink, and Weekend at Bernie’s, McCarthy later segued into writing and directing. He has directed episodes for series such as Orange is the New Black, The Blacklist, New Amsterdam, and The Sinner. His travel writing, including a stint as Editor at Large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, earned him awards. He published a YA novel titled Just Fly Away in 2017 and a memoir, Brat: An ’80s Story (a cheeky reference to the “Brat Pack” moniker that McCarthy spent decades attempting to escape), in 2021.
  • On December 1, 1957, Buddy Holly made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
  • On December 2, 1982, NBC aired the 100th episode of Taxi, titled “Elaine and the Monk”.
  • Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, starring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, Robert Goulet, and Roddy McDowall, opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre on December 3, 1960. The Arthurian musical won four Tony Awards, including Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for Burton, and was adapted into a 1967 feature film.

Badass Women of Rock

Originally published in 2021, edited for content and clarity.

Rock and roll remains a man’s world – women make up less than 8% of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame membership – but that doesn’t mean women don’t know how to rock. Women may still struggle to be recognized for their contributions, but these trailblazing women have been rocking out for decades.

  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Ruth Brown, Memphis Minnie

Rock and roll evolved from a combination of blues, gospel, jazz, and rhythm & blues – all genres originated by black people. So it’s no surprise that the original women of rock and roll were black. These badass pioneers paved the way for the rest of the women on this list. Tharpe was one of the first artists to use heavy distortion on her electric guitar, heralding the rise of the electric blues; she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Brown was noted for bringing a pop music style to R&B, portending the popular R&B music of the 1960s; she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Memphis Minnie, known as “Queen of the Country Blues”, was a trailblazing guitar player, and her songs have been covered by such artists as Jefferson Airplane and Led Zeppelin; she has not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  • Grace Slick

As singer and songwriter for Jefferson Airplane, Slick was an instrumental figure in the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene of the mid-1960s. Airplane’s first album with Slick, the stone-cold classic Surrealistic Pillow, is quintessential psychedelia. “Somebody to Love” is an absolute banger, and “White Rabbit”, the album’s highlight, is two and a half minutes of sheer perfection. The song was purportedly written by Slick in less than an hour, and it’s so good, I even forgive her for “We Built This City”. Slick, along with the rest of Jefferson Airplane, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

  • Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin’s career only spanned about three years, but what a legacy she left behind. Though Joplin played the autoharp, her voice was her primary instrument. She could pivot between a lovely mezzo-soprano lilt and a full-on bluesy wail with astonishing ease. Joplin died in October 1970 of an accidental heroin overdose; three months later, her fourth album, Pearl, was released posthumously. Pearl went to #1 on the Billboard album chart and stayed there for nine weeks, and her blistering, beautiful cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” became only the second posthumous #1 single in chart history (fun fact: the first was Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”). Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

  • Joni Mitchell

The best female folk singer-songwriter of all time, period. A bout of polio when she was nine guided Mitchell toward music. Her early songwriting years yielded hits for other artists (“The Circle Game”, “Both Sides Now”) and garnered her enough attention to record her first album in 1968. Her masterpiece, 1971’s Blue, is one of the best albums by any artist (in 2017, Blue was ranked #1 on a list of the greatest albums made by women); highlights include “California”, “A Case of You” and “River”, a song so gorgeous, Kate Hudson shed unscripted tears in the Almost Famous scene where Penny Lane and Russell Hammond meet. Mitchell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

  • Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt can play the slide guitar with the best of them, and her bluesy voice can convey a myriad of emotions. Raitt recorded her first album at the age of 22, and the mastery of her craft was evident from the very beginning, but it took her eighteen years – and ten albums – to become a superstar. Nick of Time, released in 1989, was a critical and commercial smash, selling five million copies in the US and winning Raitt an armful of Grammys. It’s now been 50 years since Raitt’s debut; she has maintained that longevity by consistently staying true to herself. Raitt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

  • Ann and Nancy Wilson

The only siblings on this list, the Wilson sisters have been rocking together since they saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan when they were kids. Ann’s voice is a force of nature; her full voice is powerful and compelling, and her vibrato is perfection. Nancy’s guitar provides some of the band’s best moments – that opening riff in “Barracuda” is such a killer (she’s also done some beautiful scoring, primarily for ex-husband Cameron Crowe’s films; check out “Lucky Trumble” from Almost Famous). Nancy occasionally sings lead, but usually provides harmonies, and the combination of their voices is simply to die for. One of my favorite songs by the two is their cover (as The Lovemongers) of “The Battle of Evermore”; here’s a live version of it from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert in 1995, the year Led Zeppelin was inducted (the Wilson sisters, and the rest of Heart, were themselves inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013).

  • Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie

It’s impossible to overstate how massive Fleetwood Mac was in the 1970s (Rumours alone has sold 40 million copies worldwide), and they had their greatest success after Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks joined the band (I’ll likely wax poetic about my love for Lindsey Buckingham another time; this ain’t his day). Nicks, with her distinctive voice and her witch persona, got the lion’s share of the attention, but McVie’s contributions to the band should not be overlooked: “Don’t Stop” is as good as anything Fleetwood Mac recorded. Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll in 1998; Nicks was also inducted as a solo artist in 2019, making her the first of two women inducted twice (Tina Turner became the second in 2021).

  • Joan Jett

Joan Jett is a rock and roll icon. From her early days with the all-female teenage band The Runaways, she was a superstar. In 1980, after being rejected by 23 labels, Jett formed her own label, Blackheart Records (becoming one of the first women to create her own label) and went on to record some of the most recognizable rock songs of the early 1980s, among them “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”, “Bad Reputation” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You”. She’s also a fashion icon; her signature look consists of black hair, black eyeliner, and black leather. Jett was inducted, along with her band the Blackhearts, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

  • Tina Weymouth

Tina Weymouth joined Talking Heads when David Byrne and Weymouth’s then-boyfriend/future husband Chris Frantz couldn’t find a suitable bass player for their band; in doing so, she paved the way for future female bassists like Kim Gordon and Kim Deal (more on them in a bit). Weymouth kept the Heads’ rhythm going without flourish, but when she stepped to the forefront, as in the (ahem) killer opening bass riff on “Psycho Killer”, she absolutely dazzled. And her side project with Frantz, Tom Tom Club, produced one of the most original songs of the era, “Genius of Love”. Weymouth, along with the rest of Talking Heads, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

  • Debbie Harry

You don’t get much more badass than Debbie Harry, lead singer and co-founder of Blondie, fashion icon and friend of Andy Warhol. Blondie created some of the most iconic music of the late 1970s and early 1980s and is credited with recording the first rap song to top the Billboard singles chart (“Rapture”, off their 1980 album Autoamerican, a personal favorite of mine). Harry’s edgy persona and dreamy voice were a significant part of the band’s success, and Blondie just wouldn’t have been Blondie without her. Harry and Blondie were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

  • Pat Benatar

Originally trained as an opera singer, Pat Benatar decided to be a rock star instead; she recorded some of the most indelible music of the 1980s. Beginning with her debut album in 1979, Benatar was a force to be reckoned with. Strong, confident and sexy as hell, with a powerful three-octave range, Benatar forever changed what rock stars looked and sounded like. Benatar was finally inducted – along with her spouse and longtime collaborator Neil Giraldo – into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022.

  • Chrissie Hynde

As the founding member, guitarist, lead vocalist, and songwriter of the Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde is one of the most influential women in rock and roll and an all-around badass. Confident and cool as shit, with a deep growly voice, Hynde started out with a bang – the Pretenders’ 1980 self-titled debut, with its smash hit “Brass in Pocket”, an ode to female empowerment, heralded the arrival of a superstar. Hynde is a survivor, moving past drug and alcohol use (and the premature deaths of two of her bandmates) to create some of the most iconic music of the 1980s. Hynde and the Pretenders were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

  • Kate Bush

Kate Bush has always defied categorization, but art-rock is an appropriate moniker for her innovative combination of eclectic melodies and unconventional, often literary lyrics. Bush was just nineteen when her debut album, The Kick Inside, was released. The lead-off single, “Wuthering Heights”, went to #1 on the British charts. Bush was wildly successful in the UK but failed to catch on in the US until 1985, when she released her fifth – and best – album, Hounds of Love. And while Bush plays piano and keyboards, her main instrument is her voice: with a four-octave range, Bush can go from a child-like whisper to a bloodcurdling shriek. Bush is a three-time nominee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but has yet to be inducted; perhaps the Stranger Things fans responsible for her chart resurgence this past summer can get out the vote on her next time up to bat.

“Running Up That Hill” LITERALLY saved Max’s life
  • The Go-Go’s

The Go-Go’s started life as an LA punk band in 1978 and switched to their signature power pop-new wave sound once their lineup of Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, and Charlotte Caffey was complete. The Go-Go’s were the first all-female rock band to write their own music, play their own instruments AND top the Billboard album chart. Beauty and the Beat, their iconic 1981 debut, is one absolute banger after another. One of my favorite Go-Go’s songs is “Cool Jerk”, off their second album Vacation; give it a listen to hear killer solos from drummer Schock and bassist Valentine. The Go-Go’s were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, after fifteen years of eligibility.

  • Siouxsie Sioux

It’s hard to explain just how much my world opened up when I discovered goth music in the mid-1980s, and the main reason why is Siouxsie and the Banshees. Impossibly cool, with a raw yet commanding voice, Siouxsie Sioux exemplified the sound – and look – that helped me survive my adolescence. Sioux’s version of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”, off the Banshees’ 1984 album Hyaena, is quite possibly my favorite cover of all time, retaining the song’s original psychedelic sound yet making it utterly her own. Sioux has never been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but she’s too cool for the Hall of Fame anyway.

  • Kim Gordon and Kim Deal

Not to diminish the accomplishments of these two by lumping them together, but they have so many things in common – bass players named Kim, in iconic bands of the post-punk era. Kim Gordon, co-founder of Sonic Youth with ex-husband Thurston Moore, and Kim Deal, bassist and co-lead vocalist (with Frank Black) of Pixies, are two of the most badass female rockers of the last forty years. Sonic Youth and the Pixies helped pioneer the scuzzy post-punk sound that presaged the grunge movement, and Gordon and Deal were a big part of that sound. For proof, listen to Sonic Youth’s “Kool Thing” or Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man”. Deal also founded another iconic band of the 90s, the Breeders, during a Pixies hiatus. Sonic Youth has been nominated twice for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but has not been inducted; in one of the biggest snubs (THE biggest?) in the history of the Hall of Fame, the Pixies have never even been nominated, despite influencing a generation of artists from Nirvana to Radiohead (both of which have been inducted).

  • Björk

Björk is another artist who defies categorization; eclectic, avant-garde, and experimental are all adjectives used to describe her unique blend of pop, trip-hop, and electronica. Her dynamic, somersaulting voice is unlike anything else you’ve heard. From her early days with the Sugarcubes (if you’ve never heard it before, do yourself a favor and listen to “Birthday”), through her magnificent solo work, Björk is authentic and audacious, and I love her for it. Björk has never been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  • Liz Phair

Self-assured, refreshingly candid, and delightfully foul-mouthed, Liz Phair made her entrance into the music world in 1993 with Exile in Guyville, one of the finest debut albums in history. Spare and unpretentious, Exile inspired countless imitators, but Phair is a one-of-a-kind. Phair has not been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; her foray into more overt pop in the 2000s may keep it that way.

  • Courtney Love

Though her personal life tended to overshadow her career, there’s no denying that Courtney Love belongs on a list of badass female rockers. Live Through This, Hole’s breakthrough album, was released on April 12, 1994 – four days after Love’s husband, Kurt Cobain, was found dead from a shotgun wound to the head. The timing was unfortunate, because Live Through This is one of the best albums of the 1990s, blending grunge riffs with stripped-down, structured melodies. Listening to Love sing “Someday you will ache like I ache” in “Doll Parts” could crack your heart wide open. Hole has not been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  • Some other badass women who rock:

Readers – who are YOUR favorite badass women of rock?

The 27 Club

This post was originally published in April 2021. It has been edited for content and clarity.


In April 1994, Kurt Cobain died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, becoming Generation X’s most famous inductee to the “27 Club”. The club, a cultural concept without an official membership, is a list of musicians, actors, and other artists who have died at the age of twenty-seven. The theory was first floated fifty years ago after four of the era’s most prominent rock musicians – Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison – all died at twenty-seven within a two-year period. Some twenty-five years later, Cobain’s death reignited the conversation. Although the notion of a statistical spike has been dispelled repeatedly, the myth persists, largely due to the violent and/or mysterious nature of many of the deaths. Experts have concluded that being a rock star of any age is statistically riskier, and a generally unlimited supply of illicit and prescription drugs fuels that risk. Here are some of the most notorious members of the “27 Club”:

  • Robert Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938)

Robert Johnson, a pioneering blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter, is widely considered the founding member of the 27 Club. His life was poorly documented and his death was mysterious, which gave rise to the legend that Johnson sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in order to achieve musical notoriety. Johnson was found dead at the side of the road near Greenwood, Mississippi. No autopsy was done, and his death certificate lists no official cause of death. One of the theories surrounding Johnson’s cause of death: he may have suffered from congenital syphilis. It’s also possible he was poisoned by the jealous husband of a woman he flirted with at a club three days before his death. Johnson only participated in two recording sessions during his lifetime; those recordings were finally released by Columbia Records in 1961. The resulting album, King of the Delta Blues Singers, was enormously influential on the burgeoning blues-rock scene of the time, including some of the other artists on this list.

  • Brian Jones (February 28, 1942 – July 3, 1969)

Brian Jones was the founder and original leader of The Rolling Stones, and a talented multi-instrumentalist1. As the band gained acclaim, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards took over the group’s musical direction, sidelining Jones; Jones also found himself at odds with the band’s manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. Tensions mounted in 1967 when Jones’ girlfriend Anita Pallenberg left him for bandmate Richards. Jones’ alcohol and drug use resulted in him becoming increasingly unreliable, and his appearances with the band became more and more sporadic. On June 8, 1969, Jagger, Richards, and Charlie Watts visited Jones and informed him he was no longer a member of the band he founded. Less than a month later, Jones was found motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool. His death was ruled a drowning, but the coroner later changed the ruling to “death by misadventure”, noting the significant damage to Jones’ organs due to his drug and alcohol use.

1Aside from playing lead and slide guitar, here are some of Jones’ most significant instrumental contributions to the band:

Sitar on “Paint It, Black”

Organ on “Let’s Spend the Night Together”

Recorder on “Ruby Tuesday”

Dulcimer and harpsichord on “Lady Jane”

Mellotron on “She’s a Rainbow”

  • Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970)

Born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, Washington, Jimi Hendrix was perhaps the greatest guitarist of all time. A pioneer in the evolution of both blues rock and psychedelia, Hendrix was instrumental in popularizing the use of feedback and fuzz distortion. Success for Hendrix came in Europe first, where his sound complemented the British blues scene of the time. His big break in the US came with the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, where he was introduced by Brian Jones; Hendrix lit the crowd – and his guitar – on fire, and a star was born. By 1969, Hendrix was the world’s highest-paid rock musician, and he headlined Woodstock in August of that year; his scorching version of “The Star Spangled Banner” was a highlight of the festival, even as the crowd had all but disappeared by the time Hendrix took the stage Monday morning. For years, Hendrix had abused alcohol and experimented with drugs like LSD and amphetamines, and the pressures of fame began to take an additional toll. On September 18, 1970, Hendrix supposedly took nine of his girlfriend’s prescription barbiturates, eighteen times the recommended dosage, and was found unconscious. He was taken to the hospital and declared dead at 12:45 pm. Hendrix’s cause of death was listed as asphyxiation; the coroner concluded that he had aspirated on his own vomit.

Watching this interview, which aired a little more than a year before Hendrix’s death, breaks my heart
  • Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970)

Janis Lyn Joplin left her childhood home in Texas for San Francisco at the age of twenty, and three years later became the lead singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band’s appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival brought them national – and international – acclaim. By 1969, Joplin was a solo artist, and an absolute superstar. Joplin could never seem to resist the trappings of fame; she drank heavily throughout her career and abused narcotics like methamphetamine and heroin. By early ’69, Joplin was allegedly shooting up $200 worth of heroin a day. Joplin was at work on her new album (released posthumously as Pearl in 1971) when she died of an accidental heroin overdose on October 4, 1970 – just sixteen days after Jimi Hendrix’s death.

A star is born: Cass Elliott mouthing “WOW” at the 5:26 mark tells you everything you need to know
  • Jim Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971)

James Douglas Morrison was a songwriter, a poet, and the iconic lead singer of The Doors (fun fact that my bestie loves to dole out: the group took its name from Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, which itself is a reference to a William Blake quote). The Doors were among the most successful bands of the late 1960s and early ’70s, and Morrison, with his distinctive voice and unpredictable personality, was the primary reason why. After recording the band’s sixth album L.A. Woman, Morrison joined his girlfriend Pamela Courson in a Paris apartment she had rented for him. On July 3, 1970 – two years to the day after the death of Brian Jones – Morrison was found unconscious in the bathtub of that apartment. No autopsy was done (French law didn’t require it) but the official cause of death was listed as heart failure. The general consensus is that he died of an accidental heroin overdose, exacerbated by a years-long alcohol dependency. The lack of an autopsy – coupled with Morrison’s mythic personality – has even led to conspiracy theories that he’s still alive.

(Am I the only one who thinks that the aged version of Morrison in this article looks like Jon Voight?)

  • Chris Bell (January 12, 1951 – December 27, 1978)

Musician, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Chris Bell was the co-founder (with Alex Chilton) of Big Star, the best god-damn band you’ve never heard of. Big Star was the quintessential power pop artist, and their music influenced a generation of indie rock artists like R.E.M., The Replacements, Matthew Sweet, and Beck. #1 Record – the only Big Star album officially credited to Bell – is a stone-cold classic, with songs like “The Ballad of El Goodo”, “In The Street” and “Thirteen” (my personal favorite). Bell left the band in 1972 and attempted a solo career without much success. Plagued by depression, and battling drug and alcohol addiction, Bell was only able to record some demos and one single prior to his death (a posthumous collection was released in 1992 as I Am the Cosmos). On December 27, 1978, Bell was on his way home from a rehearsal and lost control of his Triumph TR7; the car hit a pole, the pole fell and Bell was killed instantly.

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988)

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent who was an influential figure in the early days of hip-hop culture in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the late 1970s. At the age of twenty-two, Basquiat became the youngest person to exhibit at the Whitney Museum Biennial. Basquiat’s work was overtly political, with emphasis on the criticism of colonialism and the systems of racism. Basquiat sold his first painting, 1981’s Cadillac Moon, for $200 to Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry.

Basquiat’s collaborations with Andy Warhol in the mid-1980s produced some of the decade’s most iconic pop art.

Despite professional success, Basquiat was haunted by emotional issues and began coping with his fame and the pressures of the art industry through drug use. On August 12, 1988, Basquiat was found unresponsive in his bedroom and taken to Cabrini Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. His cause of death? A heroin overdose.

  • Kurt Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994)

Singer, songwriter, and musician Kurt Donald Cobain is Generation X’s most iconic rock star. Born in Aberdeen, Washington, Cobain formed Nirvana in 1987 with Krist Novoselic. Aaron Burckhard, the band’s original drummer, was replaced by Chad Channing for the band’s 1989 debut album, Bleach. Unhappy with Channing’s performance, Cobain and Novoselic fired him; Dave Grohl joined the band in time for their follow-up, 1991’s Nevermind.

Nevermind, generally regarded as the most important and influential album of the 1990s, was a critical and commercial smash and yielded the #6 hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Faced with overnight success, and already managing a fragile psyche, Cobain developed a heroin habit. His tabloid-fodder marriage to Courtney Love threatened to dwarf his musical career, but Nirvana managed to create one more brilliant album, 1993’s In Utero (which contains my favorite Nirvana song, “Heart Shaped Box”). But by early 1994, Cobain’s mental and physical health had deteriorated. A March 4th overdose of alcohol and Rohypnol led to an intervention, and Kurt agreed to check himself into a drug treatment program in Los Angeles. After one day, he hopped the facility’s fence and flew home to Seattle. On April 8, 1994, electrician Gary Smith arrived to install a home security system and found Cobain’s body. Although he left a suicide note, Cobain’s death has generated several urban legends over the years: his death wasn’t a suicide and Courtney was responsible, or he isn’t actually dead at all. Cobain never wanted to be the voice of his generation, but his tragic, untimely death ensured that he forever would be.

  • Kristen Pfaff (May 26, 1967 – June 16, 1994)

A little more than two months after Kurt Cobain’s death, Courtney Love’s Hole bandmate Kristen Pfaff lost her own battle with heroin. Pfaff had only joined the band the previous year, moving from Minneapolis to Seattle to help record the gorgeous Live Through This. The album, released four days after Cobain’s body was discovered, was a massive commercial and critical success. But living in Seattle had left Pfaff with a heroin addiction. After a stint in a Minneapolis detox facility, and distraught by Cobain’s death, Pfaff decided to leave Hole and return to Minneapolis permanently. On June 14th, Pfaff flew to Seattle one last time to gather her belongings; on June 16th, a friend found Pfaff’s body. On the floor was a bag of syringes and other drug paraphernalia. The official cause of death: acute opiate intoxication.

  • Jonathan Brandis (April 13, 1976 – November 12, 2003)

Jonathan Brandis began modeling at age two and acting in television commercials at age four. He found success in movies like Ladybugs and Sidekicks, in the ABC mini-series It (based on the Stephen King novel of the same name), and in guest spots on series such as Murder, She Wrote and The Wonder Years. Brandis’ big break came in 1993, with a regular role on the NBC series seaQuest DSV; the show made him a teen idol, but once the series came to an end in 1996, Brandis struggled to find work. In 2002, he thought he’d found the role that would revive his career, in the film Hart’s War, but his performance was drastically reduced in the film’s final cut. Grappling with depression and alcoholism, Brandis hanged himself in the hallway of his Los Angeles apartment on November 11, 2003. He was found and transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries the next day.

  • Amy Winehouse (September 14, 1983 – July 23, 2011)

Never has a song been so retroactively heartbreaking as Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”, the lead-off single to her 2006 album Back to Black.

They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said “no, no, no”
Yes, I’ve been black, but when I come back, you’ll know, know, know
I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab, but I won’t go, go, go

Amy Jade Winehouse, born in north London, knew early on she wanted to perform. At the age of nine, she began attending Susi Earnshaw Theatre School and founded a short-lived rap group there called Sweet ‘n’ Sour. She bought a guitar at age fourteen and started writing songs shortly thereafter. Winehouse recorded her first album, Frank, in 2003 at the age of just twenty, and though it was a critical success, it made little impact beyond her native England. Back to Black, however, made her an international superstar. Her sultry, distinctive contralto voice, the ’60s girl group-inspired harmonies, and the first-rate production by Mark Ronson – not to mention her shockingly intimate, confessional lyrics – made Back to Black one of the best albums of the decade. But stardom came with a price: Winehouse’s heavy drinking, drug use, and eating disorders only worsened as her fame grew and her live performances were often disastrous. A promised third album was delayed. Legal problems ensued; she was arrested numerous times for drug offenses and assaults. Multiple stints in rehab proved unsuccessful. On July 23rd, 2011, Winehouse’s bodyguard found her lying in her bed, unresponsive; the Metropolitan Police and two ambulances arrived but were too late, and Winehouse was pronounced dead at the scene. Her death was officially declared a “misadventure”, but a second inquest in January 2013 reclassified her death as accidental alcohol poisoning (her blood alcohol level had been .416%).

  • Anton Yelchin (March 11, 1989 – June 19, 2016)

Anton Viktorovich Yelchin was born in Leningrad to Soviet figure skaters. When Yelchin was just six months old, his parents traveled to the United States and were granted refugee status by the State Department. Yelchin grew up in Los Angeles and began acting professionally at the age of ten. He is perhaps best known as Chekhov in the Star Trek film series that launched in 2009. He also played a young Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation and starred in the lovely romantic drama Like Crazy in 2011. On June 18th, 2016, Yelchin failed to appear at a rehearsal; friends went to his house, where they discovered him trapped between his Jeep Grand Cherokee and a brick driveway pillar. It was determined that his vehicle rolled backward down his driveway, which was on a steep incline, and trapped him against the pillar. He was pronounced dead at the scene just after midnight on July 19th.


In doing research for this piece, two things stood out to me: 1) how devastatingly young these people were and 2) how profoundly sad so many of them were. The tragedy of many of these deaths was how inevitable – and preventable – they were. My heart aches for the loved ones they left behind – those who lost their children, their partner, their parent – and for those who live with psychic pain so immense, they’ll do anything to alleviate it. In so many of these cases, mental illness and substance abuse went hand-in-hand. As someone who suffers from several mental health issues (among them, depression, anxiety, and insomnia), I know first-hand how it feels to want so desperately to quiet those voices.

One more thing: my morbid curiosity got the better of me, and I did an internet search for “people who just missed the 27 Club”. The search generated this list:

  • Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon) – died 26 days after his 28th birthday of a cocaine overdose
  • Steve Gaines (Lynyrd Skynyrd) – died 36 days after his 28th birthday in a plane crash that killed six members of the band and its entourage
  • Gram Parsons – died 47 days before his 27th birthday of a morphine and alcohol overdose
  • Bradley Nowell (Sublime) – died 93 days after his 28th birthday of a heroin overdose
  • JP Richardson AKA The Big Bopper – died 102 days after his 28th birthday in the plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens
  • Tim Buckley – died 135 days past his 28th birthday of a heroin/morphine/alcohol overdose (Buckley’s son Jeff missed the club by just over two years when he drowned at the age of 30)
  • Nick Drake – died 206 days before his 27th birthday from an antidepressant overdose
  • Otis Redding – died 274 days before his 27th birthday in a plane crash
  • Hillel Slovak (Red Hot Chili Peppers) – died 292 days before his 27th birthday of a heroin overdose

80s Soundtrack Jams A-Z

As an avid fan of film and music, not much makes me happier than a movie soundtrack. And as a Gen-Xer, I am particularly fond of 80s movie soundtracks. From pop-rock to synth-pop, ska to funk to power pop, the following songs were an integral part of my formative years. Not every song on this list was written directly for its corresponding film; if the song was featured prominently in the movie, it counts (my blog, my rules). Also, I’m only including jams, so look for ballads somewhere else! Without further ado, here is a selection of some of my favorite 80s soundtrack jams.

  • “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton (9 to 5)

Dolly Parton, who made her film debut in 9 to 5, was the only choice to write and perform the title tune. This absolute stone-cold classic earned Parton an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song (it lost to “Fame”), two Grammy Awards, and a place on AFI’s “100 Years, 100 Songs”. The single also went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the ninth most popular song of 1981.

  • “Alex F” by Harold Faltermeyer (Beverly Hills Cop)

German film composer Harold Faltermeyer struck gold with his iconic, Grammy-winning score for the 1984 blockbuster Beverly Hills Cop. “Axel F” was a top-five hit in several countries, including the US and the UK, a rarity for an instrumental.

“Axel F” plays over numerous scenes, including the shootout at Victor Maitland’s mansion

Honorable mentions: “Absolute Beginners” by David Bowie (Absolute Beginners), “All Over the World” by ELO (Xanadu), “Anotherloverholenyohead” by Prince and the Revolution (Parade: Music from the Motion Picture Under the Cherry Moon)

  • “Back in Time” by Huey Lewis & The News (Back to the Future)

While “The Power of Love” is certainly the more popular Huey Lewis song featured in Back to the Future, “Back in Time” is without a doubt my favorite of the two. First of all, it actually references the film’s plot. Second, I love the wordplay used to convey the different meanings of “back in time”. Third, THOSE HORNS!! 🎷🎺

Honorable mentions: “Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us” by Ollie & Jerry (Breakin’), “Batdance” by Prince (Batman), “Bring on the Dancing Horses” by Echo & the Bunnymen (Pretty in Pink), “Baby I’m a Star” by Prince (Purple Rain)

  • “Cry Little Sister” by Gerard McMann (The Lost Boys)

Gerard McMann had not seen The Lost Boys when he wrote this hypnotic theme song; director Joel Schumaker was blown away by how well McMann captured the essence of the film, telling McMann, “I can’t believe you wrote this without seeing a frame of film!”

Honorable mentions: “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” by David Bowie (Cat People), “Call Me” by Blondie (American Gigolo), “Causing a Commotion” by Madonna (Who’s That Girl), “Computer Blue” by Prince (Purple Rain)

  • “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds (The Breakfast Club)

Simple Minds initially turned down the offer to perform the iconic theme to The Breakfast Club; the song had been written for the film by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff, and Simple Minds preferred to write their own music. A&M Records and Chrissie Hynde (who was then married to Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr) managed to persuade them to do it. Kerr made the song his own by adding the “la la la la la” vocal fills for the song’s outro. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” was Simple Minds’ first and only US #1.

Fun fact: Before the tune was offered to Simple Minds, it was turned down by Bryan Ferry, Billy Idol, and The Fixx’s Cy Curnin.

Honorable mentions: “Down in the Park” by Gary Numan (Times Square), “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins (Top Gun), “Dragnet ’88” by The Art of Noise (Dragnet), “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)” by Q-Feel (Girls Just Want to Have Fun), “Do Wot You Do” by INXS (Pretty in Pink), “Dancing in the Sheets” by Shalamar (Footloose), “Darling Nikki” by Prince (Purple Rain)

  • “Everybody Want to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears (Real Genius)

This iconic tune, written for Tears for Fears’ brilliant 1985 album Songs from the Big Chair, plays over the closing credits of one of my all-time favorite movies, Real Genius.

Fun fact: The song’s title comes from a line in The Clash’s “Charlie Don’t Surf”. In a 1988 interview, Joe Strummer described bumping into TFF’s Roland Orzabal at a restaurant and telling him, “You owe me a fiver”; Orzabal reached into his pocket and handed Strummer a five-dollar bill.

Honorable mentions: “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor (Rocky III), “Erotic City” by Prince with Sheila E. (in her recording debut!) (Purple Rain), “Everywhere at Once” by The Plimsouls (Valley Girl)

  • “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins/”Flashdance… What a Feeling” by Irene Cara/”Fame” by Irene Cara (Footloose/Flashdance/Fame)

There was no way to decide between these iconic “F” title tracks, all released between 1980 and 1984. So a three-way tie it is. All three songs were top-five hits. “Flashdance… What a Feeling” and “Fame” both took home the Academy Award for Best Original Song; “Footloose” lost to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, but it should have lost to “Purple Rain”, which WASN’T EVEN NOMINATED (more on that later).

Honorable mentions: “The Fanatic” by Felony (Valley Girl), “Fire in the Twilight” by Wang Chung (The Breakfast Club), “Flash” by Queen (Flash Gordon), “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy (Do the Right Thing)

  • “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” by Cyndi Lauper (The Goonies)

The Goonies, another PBandJulie all-time fave, features a kick-ass score by Dave Grusin as well as pop songs by artists like REO Speedwagon and Philip Bailey. But by far the best-known song from The Goonies is Cyndi Lauper’s “Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough”. Lauper hated the song so much she refused to perform it live for twenty years (she eventually relented to fan demand and put it back on her setlist).

This video is…something.

Fun fact #1: The song’s original title was simply “Good Enough” but Warner Bros. insisted the film’s title appear in the tune’s title.

Fun fact #2: Lauper recorded a parody version of the song titled “Taffy Butt” for an episode of Bob’s Burgers.

Honorable mentions: “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. (Ghostbusters), “Good Times” by INXS and Jimmy Barnes (The Lost Boys)

  • TIE: “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham (National Lampoon’s Vacation) and “Hazy Shade of Winter” by The Bangles (Less Than Zero)

I simply couldn’t decide, and then I realized I didn’t have to. My blog, my rules.

Honorable mentions: “The Heat Is On” by Glenn Frey (Beverly Hills Cop), “Hot Lunch Jam” by Irene Cara (Fame)

  • “Into the Groove” by Madonna (Desperately Seeking Susan)


Fun fact: “Into the Groove” topped the charts in eleven countries but was ineligible for the US charts. The reason? Sire Records refused to release it as a single in the US because they didn’t want it to interfere with “Angel”, the third single off Madonna’s second studio album, Like a Virgin (though it did go to #1 on the US Dance Club chart).

Honorable mentions: “I’m Alive” by ELO (Xanadu), “I’m Alright” by Kenny Loggins (Caddyshack), “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” by Kenny Loggins (Footloose), “I Still Believe” by Tim Cappello (The Lost Boys), “Imagination” by Laura Branigan (Flashdance), “If You Leave” by OMD (Pretty in Pink), “I Melt with You” by Modern English (Valley Girl), “Invincible” by Pat Benatar (The Legend of Billie Jean), “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince (Purple Rain), “In the Name of Love” by Thompson Twins (Ghostbusters), “Iko Iko” by The Belle Stars (Rain Man)

  • “Jungle Love” by The Time (Purple Rain)

The truth is, there aren’t many songs that start with “J”. Even so, “Jungle Love” is one of the jammiest jams on this list. It’s also the list’s first of two songs from Purple Rain (see also “L” for “DUH”).

  • “Kiss” by Prince and the Revolution (Parade: Music from the Motion Picture Under the Cherry Moon)

The first of two consecutive Prince songs, “Kiss” went to #1 in the US and was a top-ten hit in eleven other countries. The British music magazine NME named “Kiss” the best single of 1986. “Act your age, mama, not your shoe size” is, quite simply, one of the greatest song lyrics of all time.

Fun fact: The backing vocals to “Kiss” were inspired by Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s”.

The 1988 cover of “Kiss” by Art of Noise and Tom Jones is a fascinating little time capsule
I can’t hear “Kiss” without thinking of this utterly charming scene from 1990’s Pretty Woman

Honorable mention: “A Kind of Magic” by Queen (Highlander), “Kajagoogoo” by Kajagoogoo (Sixteen Candles)

  • “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince (Purple Rain)

What else could it be? Purple Rain is not only the greatest soundtrack album of the 1980s, it’s one of the best albums of any decade, period. Every song is an absolute banger. “Let’s Go Crazy”, the opening track, was Prince’s second chart-topper (after the album’s first single, “When Doves Cry”). I’m still not over the fact that not a single song from Purple Rain was nominated for Best Original Song at the 57th Academy Awards (to add insult to injury, the song that won that year was Stevie Wonder’s dreadful “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, from The Woman in Red).

Fun fact: After Prince’s death in 2016, “Let’s Go Crazy” re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 and made it to #25.

Honorable mentions: “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” by Deniece Williams (Footloose), “Laying Down the Law” by INXS and Jimmy Barnes (The Lost Boys)

  • “March of the Swivel Heads” by The English Beat (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

“March of the Swivel Heads” was recorded for The English Beat’s 1982 album Special Beat Service (it’s actually an instrumental variation on the album’s track “Rotating Heads”). The song is the perfect soundtrack to Ferris’s race home toward the end of the iconic flick.

The song playing at the beginning of this video, “The Edge of Forever” by The Dream Academy, is also awesome, but we’re talking about jams here (“March of the Swivel Heads” begins at the 1:32 mark)

Honorable mentions: “Maniac” by Michael Sembello (Flashdance), “Mighty Wings” by Cheap Trick (Top Gun), “A Million Miles Away” by The Plimsouls (Valley Girl), “Modigliani (Lost in Your Eyes)” by Book of Love (Planes, Trains and Automobiles)

  • “NeverEnding Story” by Limahl (The NeverEnding Story)

Limahl (Christopher Hamill) is best known as the lead singer of Kajagoogoo, which had its biggest hit in 1983 with “Too Shy”. He also had a US top-twenty hit with the theme song to the 1984 fantasy film The NeverEnding Story.

Fun fact: “NeverEnding Story” was featured prominently in the season finale of Stranger Things 3, to the delight of everyone.

Honorable mentions: “Neutron Dance” by The Pointer Sisters (Beverly Hills Cop), “New Attitude” by Patti Labelle (Beverly Hills Cop)

  • “Oldest Story in the World” by The Plimsouls (Valley Girl)

At my husband’s suggestion, we watched Valley Girl two nights ago. I hadn’t seen it in many years, but the killer soundtrack is never far from my mind. In the film, 80s power pop darlings The Plimsouls appear as themselves, performing “A Million Miles Away”, “Everywhere at Once”, and “Oldest Story in the World”.

Honorable mentions: “One Vision” by Queen (Highlander), “Oh Yeah” by Yello (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), “On the Dark Side” by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band (Eddie and the Cruisers), “Only the Young” by Journey (Vision Quest)

  • “Pretty in Pink” by Psychedelic Furs (Pretty in Pink)

I honestly prefer the 1981 original (which inspired the film’s title) to the more polished version the Furs recorded for the iconic 1986 teen romance, but that’s just me splitting hairs.

Honorable mentions: “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News (Back to the Future), “Playing with the Boys” by Kenny Loggins (Top Gun)

  • “Romancing the Stone” by Eddy Grant (Romancing the Stone)

Reggae artist Eddy Grant, fresh off his worldwide smash “Electric Avenue”, wrote the theme song for one of my favorite films of 1984. Unfortunately, the song was cut from the finished film, but it still managed to crack the top 30 in the US.

Honorable mention: “Rhythm of the Night” by DeBarge (The Last Dragon), “Ring Me Up” by Divinyls (Sixteen Candles), “Real Wild Child” by Iggy Pop (Adventures in Babysitting)

  • “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion”) by John Parr (St. Elmo’s Fire)

It’s hard to overstate my love for St. Elmo’s Fire, Joel Schumaker’s ode to Brat Pack romance. John Parr, who became a household name the year before with “Naughty Naughty”, initially struggled to find inspiration for the tune until producer David Foster showed Parr a clip of Paralympian Rick Hansen. At the time, Hansen had embarked upon his worldwide “Man in Motion” tour; Parr was so moved that he wrote lyrics that vaguely touched on the film’s plot, but directly referenced Hansen’s story. “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” went to #1 in the US and Canada and was a top-ten hit in ten other countries.

Fun fact: Members of 80s rock titans TOTO, REO Speedwagon, and Mr. Mister performed on the track.

Honorable mentions: “Stir It Up” by Patti Labelle (Beverly Hills Cop), “Shakedown” by Bob Seger (Beverly Hills Cop II), “She Talks in Stereo” by Gary Myrick & The Figures (Valley Girl), “Shake Down” by Billy Squier (St. Elmo’s Fire), “Speeding” by The Go-Go’s (Fast Times at Ridgemont High)

  • “Twist of Fate” by Olivia Newton-John (Two of a Kind)

The late, great ONJ also appears on this list twice. First up is the theme to the absolutely terrible Two of a Kind, her much-hyped film reunion with John Travolta. “Twist of Fate”, Newton-John’s final US top-ten, was by far the best thing about the movie.

Honorable mentions: “Taste the Pain” by Red Hot Chili Peppers (Say Anything…), “Together in Electric Dreams” by Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder (Electric Dreams), “Take Me with U” by Prince (Purple Rain)

  • “Under the Sea” by Samuel E. Wright (The Little Mermaid)

“Under the Sea”, the calypso-inspired song from Disney’s triumphant return to form, The Little Mermaid, earned songwriters Alan Menken and Howard Ashman their first Oscar for Best Original Song.

  • “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran (A View to a Kill)

For the theme song to 1985’s Bond entry, A View to a Kill, the producers chose my beloved Duran Duran, and the results were sublime. “A View to a Kill” is the only Bond theme to reach the top spot on the US charts. Inexplicably, the tune wasn’t nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar, but it did receive a Golden Globe nod.

“Bon. Simon Le Bon.” is so cheeky and delightful
  • “Weird Science” by Oingo Boingo (Weird Science)

Danny Elfman is better known these days as a film and television composer, but he had his biggest hit with the now-defunct Oingo Boingo in 1985 with the title song from John Hughes’ Weird Science.

Honorable mentions: “When Doves Cry” by Prince (Purple Rain), “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Go’s (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), “We Are Not Alone” by Karla Devito (The Breakfast Club), “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going” by Billy Ocean (The Jewel of the Nile), “Who’s That Girl” by Madonna (Who’s That Girl), “Waffle Stomp” by Joe Walsh (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), “Wild Sex (in the Working Class)” by Oingo Boingo (Sixteen Candles)

  • “Xanadu” by ONJ & ELO (Xanadu)

Trust me when I tell you, even if I had thought of another X song (which I didn’t), “Xanadu” would still have been the pick. I’ve talked about my utter devotion to ONJ and Xanadu before (here: and here:, so I won’t dwell on it today, but seriously, this song – written by ELO’s Jeff Lynne – fucking rules.

  • “You Can Leave Your Hat On” by Joe Cocker (9 1/2 Weeks)

“You Can Leave Your Hat On” was written by Randy Newman for his 1972 album Sail Away. The 1986 cover by Joe Cocker, which made it to #35 on the Billboard Hot 100, played over the striptease scene in Adrian Lyne’s 9 1/2 Weeks; it remains a striptease anthem to this day.

Listen to all of these songs and more here: