Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

John Hughes, writer, director and music fan

| 10 Comments | No TrackBacks

Movie critics around the world, including my colleague Rober Ebert, are no doubt working overtime at the moment to pay tribute to director John Hughes--the prime chronicler of teenage life in the '80s, at least as seen in the Chicago suburbs where he lived at the time--following his death Thursday morning of a heart attack in New York. But it is worth thinking for a moment about John Hughes, the music fan.

As Hughes told Greg Kot and me during a rare interview on our radio show "Sound Opinions" in 1999, throughout his time living in the Chicago area and well into his prime years as a filmmaker, he loved nothing more than haunting the racks of vinyl at the old Wax Trax record store on Lincoln Avenue in the heady days after the punk explosion yielded to New Wave and the electronic dance sounds that followed.

It was there that he first connected with many of the bands that would become staples of his soundtracks. And it was those soundtracks that opened many young listeners' ears to music that couldn't be heard on many radio stations at the time.

Music played a key role in all of the films Hughes directed himself, and there's a long list of his best, most quirky discoveries and finest pairings of sound and vision: "True" by Spandau Ballet and "Turning Japanese" by the Vapors in "Sixteen Candles" (1984); "Don't You" by Simple Minds in "The Breakfast Club" (1985); "Oh Yeah" by Yello in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986) and of course the use of the Psychedelic Furs song that gave the title to "Pretty in Pink" (1986, which Hughes wrote and produced but did not direct).

Intensely private and shunning the Hollywood spotlight since the early '90s, Hughes granted us that interview only reluctantly, and it was one of only a handful he did to promote the indie film "Reach the Rock," the soundtrack of which was released on Hefty Records, the label started by his son John Hughes III and which was a vibrant if low-key part of the local music scene for a decade.

But once Hughes II started talking about music, he didn't want to stop, and the passionate conversation about the sounds he loved continued even after we went off the air.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:


Good post, Jim. I just have a few seldom-mentioned things to add...

- Hughes wrote the spectacular National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), which featured a score by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.

- The ridiculous guilty pleasure "Weird Science" by Oingo Boingo comes from the Hughes film of the same name.

- This is a good one! One of the less-remembered films Hughes wrote but didn't direct, Some Kind of Wonderful (with an all-star b-list cast of Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Lea Thompson), featured an unbelievable soundtrack. No kidding. The leadoff track is by Pete Shelley, and it just gets better from there. Seriously, here are some of the acts on it: Shelley; legendary goth-rockers the March Violets and Flesh for Lulu; the sadly underrated Lick the Tins (imagine if Shane MacGowan of the Pogues were a girl); and a young, noisy band on the cusp of releasing their second record, the Jesus and Mary Chain.

The Dream Academy's "Edge of Forever" toward the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off was still cut too short on screen.

The March Violets did a great cover of the Stones' "Miss Amanda Jones" on the Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack & there was a song called "The Shyest Time" on this record, which was a cool song, I just can't remember who did it.

Of course, "If You Were Here" by the Thompson Twins on the Sixteen Candles soundtrack is timeless.

The Furs' original, rougher-sounding recording of "Pretty in Pink" is still better than the re-recorded soundtrack version.

God bless John Hughes.

i wish there were a link to that interview because I would absolutely love to hear what he had to say! I did know about his love for Waz Trax and in fact, I am of the understanding that the record store in "Pretty In Pink" was deeply inspired by that store!

The announcement of Hughes' passing has really shaken me as his work was an elixir that provided me with solace, comfort, understanding and amazing humor during my own teen years which were spent in my beloved Chicago in the 1980s. John Hughes affected my life so profoundly and one of the major infuences was precisely through the music he used in his much of it I never would have been exposed to if not for him.

"As Hughes told Greg Kot and me during a rare interview on our radio show "Sound Opinions" in 1999" Any chance at all this interview exists for another listen? Thanks.

I've watched his films over and over through the last 25 or so years and never grow tired of John Hughes' natural talent and his special touch that will never again be repeated. His movies are like an excellent book that you can't put down until its last page. And when the book ends or the credits roll up the screen, it's as if the normalcy around you is very dull by comparison. ONLY the greats that happen all too seldom in our lives have the ability to do these things for us. John is sadly no longer with us, but his work lives on.
Thank you for all the good you did while you were here, John.

@ Rey:
"Shyest Time" is by the Apartments, a band out of Australia that at the time featured Graham Lee from the Triffids@ .

@ Jim:
I, too, have been wondering about the old XRT shows in general. Do you know if there's any chance they might make those tapes available to the public? There's a killer Wilco set from the week after 9/11 that still sends shivers up my spine, but I was on hold as a caller during "She's a Jar," so I never got to record it.

I remember buying the Pretty In Pink soundtrack before the movie even came out! RIP John Hughes - class act.


Is there any chance the interview is in the "Sound Opinion" archives for us to hear again--or for the very first time?


Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on August 6, 2009 7:44 PM.

Them Crooked Vultures sell out in three minutes was the previous entry in this blog.

Lollapalooza Day One: On the scene with Anders Smith Lindall is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.