The 1980s was a glorious time for movie soundtracks.
It was an era when big hair, big ballads, and even bigger riffs ruled the airwaves. They often provided the soundtrack to the blockbuster films of the day too, whether it be Top Gun, Flashdance or Rocky III.
It was an especially memorable time for musician Stan Bush and the soundtrack for an animated film with a difference.
1986’s The Transformers: The Movie was a far cry from the kind of family-friendly fare Pixar produces today.
Stylish and dark in tone, the film is best remembered for the shock demise of Transformers leader Optimus Prime midway through and Bush’s iconic synth-laden rock soundtrack including memorable hits The Touch and Dare.
But as Bush explains, it wasn’t always meant to be this way.
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A Potential Soundtrack for Cobra
“My co-writer Lenny Macaluso and I originally wrote The Touch with the Sylvester Stallone movie Cobra in mind. We were going to pitch it to them for the soundtrack,” he explains.
“Anyway, the record label wound up getting it in the animated Transformers movie. At first, we really didn’t know what to think. It was like ‘oh wow, a cartoon movie about robots’ but when I went to the premiere I realized the whole thing was actually pretty cool.”
Does Bush regret not featuring on a Sly movie soundtrack though?
“I don’t think so, I mean, Cobra was a cool movie and all, but it didn’t really have the staying power of Transformers which became this whole phenomenon.”
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The Soundtrack for Transformers
And a phenomenon it certainly is, with Bush’s soundtrack still a popular part of the Transformers universe for many long-time fans.
“I used to get fan mail from people saying that those songs changed their life,” Bush reveals.
“It feels good to know you have had a positive impact, even just a little bit, on someone’s life. It’s really cool. One guy is a lawyer and whenever he goes into a trial he plays the touch.”
And while he’s far from an expert when it comes to The Transformers universe, Bush appreciates the appeal of the 1986 movie and the memorable departure of one of the series’ key characters.
“I’ve heard people talk about the death of Optimus Prime like the death of a parental figure and I can appreciate that. His death is a kind of a metaphor for something we all face in life.”
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The Transformers Movie wasn’t the only movie Bush contributed songs to all those years ago, with the guitarist and singer scoring hits on the soundtrack to Jean-Claude Van Damme classics Kickboxer and Bloodsport – something that didn’t go unnoticed by JCVD himself.
“A few years after Bloodsport, Van Damme actually came to one of my shows and he told me that he thought the soundtrack I did was better than the actual movie!”
30 years on from The Transformers though and while Bush has enjoyed plenty of success since he’s still nostalgic for that period and the music of the era.
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Living it up in the 1980s
“I’m probably still a little bit stuck in the 80s,” he admits.
“I’m an 80s guy – and what I miss and what I love is the whole “anthem thing” – the memorable hook line from a song you used to walk away singing. That’s what songs used to have back in that time. I still write and think that way too.”
“The soundtrack was a really big part of the story for movies back then and a lot of the songs had a positive message of “go for it” and “believe in yourself.” But I guess we’ve moved away from that now. I just don’t know if it would work anymore.”