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‘Life Moves Pretty Fast: The John Hughes Mixtapes’ (review)

Curated by Tarquin Gotch
Written and Recorded by Various Artists
Available on CD & Vinyl (regular/deluxe editions)
Released by Demon Music Group UK


“The music in Pretty In Pink was not an afterthought. The tracks on this album and in this film are there because Howie Deutch and I believe in the artists, respect the artists and are proud to be in league with them.”

– John Hughes, Pretty In Pink soundtrack liner notes


The phrase “John Hughes film” can conjure up a whole world of memories for a person of a certain age.

Hughes was involved in several different genres during his run as a writer/producer in the 1980s but the films focusing on teenagers have become the most iconic.

These sorts of films shared a lot of common elements – an acknowledgement of class, the foregrounding of the concerns of young people in a serious way, Molly Ringwald and, most crucially to me, some of the greatest soundtrack collections ever committed to celluloid.

Not everything about Hughes’ films have aged well (Sixteen Candles, in particular, makes for a cringe-inducing watch these days) but the music is still amazing. I still remember getting a copy of the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, reading the note at the top of this article in the liner notes (I could have typed it from memory) and having my mind blown with the introduction to some of the bands who would loom largest in my life – Echo & the Bunnymen, New Order, The Smiths. It would get to the point where even if I didn’t particularly like one of Hughes’ films I could still find something on the soundtrack to love.

With the release of Life Moves Pretty Fast – The John Hughes Mixtapes (out now on Demon Music) most of the iconic songs from Hughes’ films can be found in one convenient place. Not everything is here (“Twist and Shout” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is noticeably, but not surprisingly, absent) but complaints like seem churlish in the face of so much great stuff.

Using the word “mixtape” in the box set’s title is more than mere marketing – the set, broken up over two discs on the standard version and a staggering SIX LPs for the deluxe edition, functions in the same way a great mixtape would; songs from different films are interspersed together throughout. The standard set has most of the big hits you remember – “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from The Breakfast Club, “If You Leave” from Pretty in Pink, the title track from Weird Science – and would make for either a fine, nostalgic good time or an introduction to some of the best music from the 1980s.

It’s the deluxe edition, however, that’s the real find here – Hughes used to jokingly say that he only made movies to put music in them and this is the set that functions in the way a really great mixtape would, mixing songs you know and love with equally great left-field tracks that aren’t as well known. You get the comfort of the familiar and the chance to be exposed to a new favorite. “Positively Lost Me” by the Rave-Ups and “Rev Up!” by the Rezillos aren’t currently get much play on throwback 80s radio like the bigger hits included here but they’re no less wonderful and benefit from not having heard them in the supermarket and/or dentist’s office for the past 30 years.

In addition to all of the iconic 80s acts there are cuts from earlier decades that made their mark in Hughes’ films – “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding, unforgivably omitted from the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, is here, along with tracks from The Association, Marvin Gaye, and Ray Charles. More than a throwback new wave collection, Life Moves Pretty Fast manages to take several different genres and juxtapose them together, letting the differences in style highlight what’s great about each one.

In an era where most music is experienced digitally it was nice to see that Demon Music didn’t skimp on the packaging here – if you’re going to own physical media it helps that what’s presented here is beautiful – the set features imagery of the tapes that John Hughes played on his movie sets as well as mixtapes that he made. There are exclusive interviews and memories from Matthew Broderick, James Hughes, Tarquin Gotch, Ron Payne and track-by-track sleeve notes.

As noted in the Ferris Bueller quote that gives this set its name, life does move pretty fast. It was refreshing to be able to take a break from it with this amazing collection of music.


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