Continuing the chronological presentation of my 25 favorite songs…
‘Magic’ – Olivia Newton-John (1980)
We move into the 80s now, but starting with a song that has one foot firmly planted in the 70s. The 1980 film Xanadu, with its cheesy effects and kitschy “Greek muse on roller skates” vibe, was widely panned, brought down by the anti-disco movement (and the fact that it’s an awful movie).
But despite the movie’s failure, the Xanadu soundtrack was a critical and commercial hit, going multi-Platinum and earning praise for both Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra.
We’re halfway through the 30 Day Music Challenge as we kick off week four, and Day 16 is a good one: ‘One Of Your Favorite Songs From a Movie.’
As with so many of these categories, this one can be interpreted in several ways. Should I pick a song that appears in a movie but wasn’t originally written for the film? Some of my favorite filmmakers have worked wonders with the “drop the needle” approach of using popular songs as score. Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese all come to mind among countless others.
Every so often I’ll hear an old song on the radio and fall for it in a way I never managed to the first time around. This usually happens with songs released in the late 70s through early 80s, a time when I was between 6-11 years old and not exactly in control of my own musical landscape.
Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Magic,’ from the 1980 movie Xanadu, is the most recent example. I heard it on an easy listening or oldies station (remember when “oldies” meant 50s and 60s?) and immediately succumbed to the glossy perfection of peak Newton-John.
The Cars are another band who passed me by in the 70s and 80s (to be fair, I was between 6-10 years old at the time). I’ve since picked up a couple of their albums, spurred on by $3.99 sales at Amazon.
One is their self-titled 1978 debut, which features such hits as ‘Good Times Roll,’ ‘My Best Friend’s Girl,’ ‘Just What I Needed’ and ‘You’re All I’ve Got Tonight.’ That’s one hell of a start.
Bruce Springsteen’s 2007 album Magic is one of the most resonant artistic commentaries on the G.W. Bush years. It’s loaded with songs about economic and cultural disillusionment and tracks critical of the war in Iraq.
Springsteen’s gift in protest songs like today’s random SOTD is to make these political issues personal. ‘Devil’s Arcade’ is told, at least in part, from the perspective of the wife or girlfriend of an Iraq war veteran. She focuses on their intimate moments, not the violence of the war, but the effect is just as shattering.