Movie Soundtracks: Times Square

Posted: October 18, 2014 in New Wave, Post-Punk, Rock, Soundtracks
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Upon its release in 1980, the soundtrack to the film Times Square garnered more attention than the movie. Not surprising, as it was one of the best soundtracks of the ‘80s and perfectly captured the waning ‘70s punk scene and the emergence of ‘80s new wave. I saw the movie several times as a teen and could relate to its anti-adult authority message (what teen couldn’t), but it was the music that really stayed with me. The film introduced me to Gary Numan’s “Down in the Park,” Roxy Music’s “Same Old Scene,” and the work of Patti Smith. Directed by Allan Moyle, who would later go on to direct Pump Up the Volume, the movie was a commercial failure but has since been rediscovered and maintains a cult following.

The story of the film revolves around two teen girls from vastly different backgrounds who meet in a mental ward and find common ground in their disdain for authority figures. Pamela (Trini Alvarado) is the introverted, lonely daughter of a politician, and Nicky (Robin Johnson) is the tough street kid. They bust out of the ward and go on to form a band (The Sleez Sisters) to vent about their misunderstood lives. They get the attention of a DJ (Tim Curry) who promotes them and they soon find a following among the disaffected youth. Awareness of their differences eventually ends the union, but not before a grand finale show atop a roof in the middle of Times Square.

The soundtrack, released as a double album, has an eclectic mix of artists and covers a wide range of music from rock, punk, disco, and new wave. Artists such as David Bowie and XTC were commissioned to write songs for the film, although Bowie’s contribution was nixed due to conflicts with his record label. Other artists who contributed to the soundtrack are The Cure, The Ramones, Robin Gibb, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, Lou Reed, Joe Jackson, and Suzi Quatro (yes, Leather Tuscadero from Happy Days). The soundtrack also has original songs performed by the actors in the film, one a duet with Robin Johnson and David Johansen. The production of the film had its difficulties, Moyle being fired over his objections to scenes being cut and the inclusion of some “inappropriate” songs on the soundtrack, but it’s an interesting look at the pre-Giuliani Times Square that doesn’t exist today.

Here’s a clip from the film where Johnson’s character makes her debut as Aggie Doone. The song, “Damn Dog,” was written for the film and would later be covered by the group Manic Street Preachers.


The girls doing a dance to the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” on the streets of Times Square.



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