We're always reaching for that guiding star
April 13, 2018 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Fame was an Alan Parker movie musical from 1980 which had a hit soundtrack album, even more so in the UK and Europe than in the US. The title song won the Oscar for Original Song. Side A: Fame, Out Here On My Own, Hot Lunch Jam, Dogs In The Yard

Side B: Red Light, Is It Okay If I Call You Mine?, Never Alone, Ralph And Monty (Dressing Room Piano), I Sing The Body Electric

The "B-Side" to this album is the first album of music from the NBC television series, Fame, which shared characters and actors from the movie and continued with musical numbers as part of an hour-long drama. Ahead of its time. And itself a pretty good hit, especially in the UK! The Kids From Fame -- Side A: Starmaker, I Can Do Anything Better Than You Can, I Still Believe In Me, Life Is A Celebration, Step Up To The Mike

Side B: Hi-Fidelity, We Got The Power, It's Gonna Be A Long Night, Desdemona, Be My Music
posted by hippybear (40 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
There are movie performances and television performances of all these songs (and more) available on YouTube. The movie filmings of the songs were done live, as Parker wanted real performances. I don't know about the TV show, maybe, maybe sometimes, maybe never, maybe always. Being a piano/orchestra (string bass), chorus, summer music camp kid, I watched this show like it was a favorite fever dream. I had the piano book for the Kids From Fame album, possibly still do at my parents' house.
posted by hippybear at 9:09 PM on April 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Great soundtracks, and so resonant of my puberty years. And also recommend the soundtrack of Parker's Angel Heart.
posted by spaceburglar at 9:32 PM on April 13, 2018

Oh! I just did a cursory glance at ASCAP and see that the TV show did use some music written by Albert Hague (Mr. Shorofsky), which makes me happy. It would have been a shame not to use the talents of someone who could write a song as awesome as "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," when he was just sitting right there at a piano and everything...
posted by queensissy at 10:10 PM on April 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

Oh, yeah, that album got a lot of play in our house. The TV show was must-see, and the movie may have been one of the first things recorded on our first VCR. A young underpants monster's sense of fashion was heavily influenced.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:11 PM on April 13, 2018

Once upon a time I (and all my fellow choir geek friends) knew all the words and all the phrasing to every bar of this soundtrack. I haven't listened to it in decades but I bet my brain still remembers.
posted by rtha at 10:35 PM on April 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

I used to think that "I Sing the Body Electric" was the best song; it may be the first song that I "rationed" out to myself to keep from wearing its effect out too fast. It doesn't have the same effect on me now, so maybe I did after all, but I still remember wishing that I went to a school that had that as their graduation song rather than the same old Elgar.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:01 PM on April 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Added TheMeYetToCome hashtag in honor of Halloween Jack.
posted by hippybear at 11:09 PM on April 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

My sister loved this show (we were way too young for the film) and played the tv related side of the album a LOT. So much I can still remember a verse of Step up to the Mike, 35 years on. I wonder how much this contributed to my long term hatred of musicals.
posted by biffa at 11:39 PM on April 13, 2018

Gene Anthony Ray 4ever
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:53 PM on April 13, 2018 [8 favorites]

“You want fame? ... Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. With sweat.”
posted by Chrysostom at 2:00 AM on April 14, 2018 [11 favorites]

Mrs. Example and I still occasionally say "I must remember this feeling and use it in my acting".

(I'm not sure if it makes it more or less funny that I'm am amateur actor.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:22 AM on April 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

That scene when Coco is manipulated into taking her shirt off. . . oh my, it hurts to think of it still, and I haven't seen the film since I was a teenager. And the audience has to watch Irene Cara sob!
posted by goofyfoot at 2:35 AM on April 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

Whenever I meet someone who went to LaGuardia I break out into the theme song. If it’s a more ‘formal’ occasion, I hum.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:40 AM on April 14, 2018

Tangentially, from five years earlier:
Fame makes a man take things over
Fame lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame puts you there where things are hollow (fame)
Fame, it's not your brain, it's just the flame
That burns your change to keep you insane (fame)

Fame, (fame) what you like is in the limo
Fame, (fame) what you get is no tomorrow
Fame, (fame) what you need you have to borrow Fame
Fame, (fame) it's mine, it's mine, it's just his line
To bind your time, it drives you to crime (fame)

Is it any wonder I reject you first?
Fame, fame, fame, fame
Is it any wonder you are too cool to fool? (fame)
Fame, bully for you, chilly for me
Got to get a rain check on pain (fame)

Fame, fame, fame
Fame, fame, fame
Fame, fame, fame, fame
Fame, fame, fame, fame
Fame, fame, fame
Fame, what's your name?
posted by fairmettle at 2:47 AM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sho sho sho shorofsky

My sister LOVED this show and as a result I had to watch it. It's top 80's. Today I learned that Albert Hague wrote "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" (thanks queensissy; I am fueled by trivia like this).
posted by parki at 3:59 AM on April 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

Never watched the TV show but I saw the movie multiple times and the songs are part of the soundtrack of my college years. Really nice memories!
posted by bookmammal at 4:03 AM on April 14, 2018

“The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:59 AM on April 14, 2018

Love this movie and the soundtrack is pretty much in my DNA by now. It was the RENT of my generation and my music-school friends and I were ob. sessed.

To this day I blast "The Body Electric" when I need to feel energized and inspired and REQUIRE that big push when the horns come in with the "We are the emperors now" theme and it still gives me chills! So good.

(For me, The TV show lapsed very, very quickly into trite sitcom-y schlock. All the grit and realism was washed out and it's kind of painful to watch, as I discovered last year when revisited it on YouTube.)
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:17 AM on April 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah- that Coco "audition" sequence... ugh. There are lots of reality moments like that, which are hard to watch but are required, I think, to balance out the rest. Ralph's little sister; the school "star" turning up as just another waiter; the doctor's office reveal of the golden-girl ballerina... I know your post is really about the soundtrack. But it all comes back at once, you know?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:23 AM on April 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yup, part of my DNA too, was at just the right age. Painfully dated of course, with just only one student barely admitting homosexuality. Love Body Electric, though I remember wondering why, at a performing arts high school, an actor and a dancer-turned-actor were given vocal solos at their graduation. Actually I can’t decide if I like that one better than “Out Here On My Own,” which is haunting.
posted by Melismata at 5:28 AM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

When my mom and I saw that movie in the 1980s she told me that she wanted I Sing the Body Electric played at her memorial service, when that time would come to pass.

My mom passed away this year, and her service was just six weeks ago. We found a local musician to sing it at the service. I was worried the song would sound dated, as the soundtrack version certainly is. But, as she finished singing and I literally right that minute had to steel up the nerve to stand up and deliver a eulogy, I was so moved by the performance I managed to lean over to my wife and say "holy shit that was good".
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:09 AM on April 14, 2018 [17 favorites]

My freshman year of college (1981), I lived in a dorm with a cluster of theater majors. If I never hear any song from "Fame" ever again, that would be fine with me. I had been a theater kid in high school, but living with that group of people cured me of it.

Two years later, the university actually built a residential college dorm just for performing arts students, and of course it was instantly known as "The Fame Dorm".
posted by briank at 6:16 AM on April 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

A group of high school kids had their own, unsupervised apartment high above circa-1980 Times Square.

Forget about your partings of the Red Sea, your Shawshank Redemptions, star fleets or galactic empires. To my teenaged mind, THAT was the most awe-inspiring miracle ever committed to film.
posted by PlusDistance at 6:40 AM on April 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think my school choir sang "Out Here On My Own" at my high school graduation, and I learned how to play "Ralph And Monty". I took some jazz dance classes at a school in Eastern Connecticut in Junior High and my class danced to "Hot Lunch Jam" at our recital one year.

Yeah, this kind of was my jam.

Bruno was my particular eye candy, and just went looking for whatever happened to Lee Curreri. And I found something kind of lovely: Valerie Landsburg ("Doris" from the show) got into directing, and in 2014 she launched a Kickstarter (now closed) to fund a film. And one of the things she did to draw attention to it was to team up with Lee Curreri to do a Youtube video reunion, with the pair of them singing a sweet song from the show.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:00 AM on April 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

I remember wondering why, at a performing arts high school, an actor and a dancer-turned-actor were given vocal solos at their graduation

EXACTLY. Where were the raging Broadway wannabes? The potential opera singers? The most loser student of all, kicked-out-of-dance-for-not-sweating-enough Lisa, gets the opening solo?? WTF?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:15 AM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

i still have not one but TWO copies of the movie soundtrack on vinyl.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:33 AM on April 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sally Landsburg, who starred in the TV show, is my friend Taylor’s mom!
posted by pxe2000 at 8:39 AM on April 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

A group of high school kids had their own, unsupervised apartment high above circa-1980 Times Square.

And there was a distracting blinking neon sign outside, which implied that it was a crap apartment. Only 40 years later, it's the most expensive real estate in the world. I don't understand anything.
posted by Melismata at 8:50 AM on April 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Bruno was my particular eye candy

I know too many people who are self-absorbed artists/writers/musicians, who think that everyone should like their inaccessible whatever, and we are bad people for not liking it. I have been saved from many an argument by saying "it’s not [music], it’s masturbation," and it works.
posted by Melismata at 8:54 AM on April 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

The high school adaptation changed Montgomery's being gay to testicular cancer.
posted by brujita at 9:26 AM on April 14, 2018

I think my school choir sang "Out Here On My Own" at my high school graduation

My high school chorus did "I Still Believe in Me" several times, but not, alas, for graduation.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:36 AM on April 14, 2018

I always admired Bruno, mostly because he had this awesome synth stack that I envied.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:22 AM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

My sister loved this show … and played the tv related side of the album a LOT.

You and me both. High Fidelity crawls out of the woodwork to taunt me as an earworm sometimes yet. Still, sister's kept up the performing, first as a soprano but longer term as a folkie, so it's all good.
posted by scruss at 10:59 AM on April 14, 2018

My junior high choir had an annual tradition of doing "Starmaker" at the spring concert. Those were the most coveted solos of the year. If you came to the show as an alum, you were invited to come to the stage to sing the song with the current students.
posted by jocelmeow at 1:55 PM on April 14, 2018

Check chococat's outstanding cover of Fame on Mefi music.

(The first comment alone makes it worth following the link.)
posted by she's not there at 5:22 PM on April 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

I loved this movie (and soundtrack, but I don't think I actually owned it - I think I just played the parts of the movie I loved a lot?).

While "On My Own" was probably my favorite song, the effect of watching the film's scenes of the title song and Hot Lunch Jam just electrified me (pun unintended) as a theater-loving kid. This was high school, but they were wearing whatever they wanted, and singing and dancing in the hallways (and the streets!) and it just looked like the perfect amount of anarchy. I wanted to go to that school so badly, but I lived in small-town Pennsylvania, could barely sing and didn't think a real-life Doris like me would ever actually have had a shot even if I could have convinced my parents to let me audition.

Years later I lived next door to an apartment building where a lot of LaGuardia students (already moved to the Lincoln Square location) who came in from out of town lived. And I'd walk my dog and see them hanging out front smoking clove cigarettes and wearing dance gear and it was all I could do not to corner one of these kids half my age and yell, "BUT SRSLY IS IT LIKE THAT IN THE CAFETERIA REALLY?!" I didn't think my jealousy could travel well into adulthood, but there it was, and it's all because of this movie and particularly those two scenes.

But I'm not bitter.
posted by Mchelly at 8:05 PM on April 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh god. Just remembered.

So...I studied acting at New York University, which farms its drama undergrad students out to actual acting conservatories for the actual training 3 days a week. (Which was REALLY cool, honestly.) I ended up in Lee Strasberg's studio, which was within walking distance to NYU's main campus; and the team of 20 or so kids in my class were with me in EVERY class I had at the studio, and would be for the next 2 years of my life. Within a month of training we were all pretty tight, and would regularly all walk back to NYU's campus and dorms as a group, together, after studio.

About half the kids in the class were big Musical Theater buffs, who really got into the dance and music training that was part of the studio curriculum, regularly bursting out into song or dance between classes, in the hallways, or some such. So it was that: one day, we'd just learned a simple dance routine in class, and we were all walking back to campus, full of giggly energy. We'd come through Union Square Park and were now walking downtown towards Washington Square and the campus; walking down University Place, a pretty low-traffic street, especially at the time of day we were walking. And one of us suddenly said, "hey, let's all do that dance we learned in class today! All of us dancing down the street like they do all the time in FAME!" And that was enough for another kid to holler "FIVE-SIX-SEVEN-EIGHT!" and we did indeed all launch into a choral dance down the street, all clumsy jazz hands and shuffle-changes, until we got to the next corner.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 PM on April 14, 2018 [8 favorites]

EXACTLY. Where were the raging Broadway wannabes? The potential opera singers?

To say nothing of the African-American gospel couple who, while decent, were at least 35 years old.
posted by Melismata at 5:12 AM on April 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

"I Sing The Body Electric" really exemplifies what I always loved about this movie. That song shifts around from classical orchestra, to rock band, to pop song, to gospel choir - without muddying any of them. Each flavor/genre gets its moment. And in the movie performance you've got ballet dancers mixed with modern and jazz dancers in a kind of chaos that's also gorgeous for its exuberance.

The movie is gritty. They're wanna-be adults, full of talent and drive, but varying degrees of street smarts and emotional stability. And each story gets its own thread.

I watched the TV series when it came out, and I remember being into it but already sensed it was a let down from what the movie achieves. The series is bland in comparison, the grit and tension scrubbed off to make a more standard "young adult" series.

They made a new movie a few years ago. I haven't seen it and don't plan to. When it came out I went to iTunes and listened to the sample clips of the songs - and they were all bland generic pop songs. I knew right there that the movie had missed the truly unique and exciting thing about the original - classical music in one room, rock in the next, comedy next to drama, different kinds of art all happening next to each other.
posted by dnash at 9:41 AM on April 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Two years later, the university actually built a residential college dorm just for performing arts students, and of course it was instantly known as "The Fame Dorm".

I lived in a residential college for "fine and performing arts" students at Northwestern. And yeah, my sophomore year we did bring a boom box into the cafeteria and dance to "Hot Lunch Jam" on the tables one day. (That would've been around fall of '89.)
posted by dnash at 9:45 AM on April 16, 2018

« Older what is a 'Letter Stick'?   |   Better than monopoly money Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments