Various Artists: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (La-La Land)


Various Artists
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
La-La Land Records

It’s hard to believe, but the classic teen film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off did not have an official soundtrack album. The beloved John Hughes movie told the story of a clever high school senior’s adventure on a skip day, yet in a grander sense, it was very much a film about growing up and enjoying the fleeting moments of youth that would soon be gone from the lives of Ferris (Matthew Broderick), Cameron (Alan Ruck), and Sloane (Mia Sara). The irreverent and humorous plot was wonderfully matched with a great soundtrack, but Hughes vehemently insisted no soundtrack should be released, as it would be too sonically diverse and not cohesive enough to be enjoyed.

In spite of no official soundtrack, two songs from the film, Yello’s iconic electronic pop hit ‘Oh Yeah” and The Beatles’ “Twist And Shout” (which appeared in the film but not on the soundtrack) both made the charts. This surprised the suits, and regardless of the success of these two singles, no soundtrack appeared, as the success of a soundtrack release after the fact wasn’t guaranteed.  At the time, conventional industry wisdom didn’t think that kids could handle a diverse range of musical genres, and Hughes was simply following suit.

But listening to La-La Land’s impressive Ferris Bueller’s Day Off official soundtrack—released in conjunction with the film’s thirtieth anniversary—it’s easy to determine in hindsight that Hughes was, well…wrong. In their defense, what would constitute the Ferris Bueller soundtrack did contain an impressive range, swinging as it did from Industrial (Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s “Love Rocket F1-11”), European electropop (Yello’s “Oh Yeah”), British alternative rock (Big Audio Dynamite’s “B.A.D.,” The Dream Academy’s “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”), college rock (The Flowerpot Men’s “Beat City,” Blue Room’s “I’m Afraid”), to easy listening (Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen”) and funk (Zapp’s “Radio People”). Numbers by General Public, The Violent Femmes, The English Beat, Bryan Ferry, and The Beatles didn’t make the cut, but highlight that Hughes and his crew were well-tuned with popular independent and college rock scenes.

As great as those songs are, they pale in comparison with the true musical star of the film, Ira Newborn’s musical cues and score. Newborn, who had established himself with his score for Hughes’ Sixteen Candles, understood the subtle use of shades and tones. The two dozen film cues found here range from sentimental and heartfelt (“Ferris In Bed,”  “Mom Checks On Ferris”) to the overly dramatic (“Bueller, Ferris Bueller,” “Rooney On Patrol”), with occasional glimpses of atmospheric rock a la Pink Floyd (“I’ll Go,” “Cameron Takes A Stand”) and Doo Wop (“Oh Shauna Jeannie”). Though some of the pieces are less than ten seconds long, they do evoke and propel the film quite masterfully, isolated and compiled here as they are, they never feel incomplete. Indeed, Newborn has earned his reputation for superior soundtrack composition, and it’s clear from these pieces that said reputation is well deserved. After all, who would think that a teen comedy film would have such brilliant, subtle things taking place underneath the surface? 

La-La Land has quickly made a name for itself for quality reissues, and this belated release of the long-absent Ferris Bueller’s Day Off soundtrack shows why. Packed with detailed, exhaustive liner notes, tempered with superior remastering they have righted a wrong after thirty years, and have given the world one of the best reissues of 2016.

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