Review: ‘The John Hughes Mixtapes’ is an ’80s dream come true

I was a teenager in the 1980s and, growing up in West Virginia, I didn't have a lot of access to music beyond the radio. My very small town didn't have a record store, and my cable company didn't have MTV, so I relied on my SPIN subscription, TBS' Night Tracks, and occasional trips to the closest city (Roanoke, VA) to hit record stores, to discover new stuff.  I did OK given all that, and listened to REM and The Smiths and other more widely known "college rock" groups of the time, with my finger as close to the pulse as I could get it.

I also had John Hughes movies. He seemed to have his ear to the street, both with the way teenagers talked and what they listened to, at least the teenagers who lived in big cities (or cool suburbs, like Shermer, IL) that had access to cool record stores. I remember watching the credits to Sixteen Candles on VHS -- the tiniest font made worse on our small TV -- and wrote down "The Revillos," "Oingo Boingo" and "The Specials" and then waiting two weeks to go to a record store to see if they had anything. Soon after that, thanks to The Breakfast Club giving Simple Minds their first US hit, John Hughes movies became a thing to look forward to for the music, both the actual soundtrack albums but also all the other songs that were in them. Even the posters on the wall: I bought records by Cabaret Voltaire and Easterhouse because Matthew Broderick and Eric Soltz had them on their walls, respectively, in John Hughes movies. And when the Ferris Bueller's Day Off soundtrack was never released (despite their being a mention of it in the end credits), I went on a 10-year hunt to track down all the songs used in it, which was not easy -- what songs weren't recorded specifically for the film (and never released) were often obscure b-sides.

My relationship with John Hughes' films has changed in the last 30 years -- Sixteen Candles and Weird Science are kinda hard to watch now for a variety of reasons -- but the music is still a big part of me. I would definitely not be writing for this website without John Hughes movies. So I am genuinely excited for this box set, Life Moves Pretty Fast - The John Hughes Mixtapes, that has almost every song from John Hughes' films of the '80s, including films he directed  (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Planes Trains & Automobiles, She's Having A BabyUncle Buck) and ones he wrote (Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, National Lampoon's Vacation, The Great Outdoors, more), including lots of the songs that never made the actual soundtrack albums. For fans like me, this is a real white whale / unicorn release.

That said, Life Moves Pretty Fast does not have everything. There are tracks omitted probably for budget reasons -- The Beatles "Twist & Shout" from Ferris Beuller, The Smiths' "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" from Pretty in Pink, not to mention Psychedelic Furs' title track) but none of those are particularly hard to find. What it does have are most of those lost treasures, especially from Ferris Bueller: The Flowerpot Men's "Beat City" (which was only released as a John Hughes Fan Club 7" and has been repressed for the super deluxe edition of this box), The Dream Academy's majestic instrumental cover of "Please Please Please," and The English Beat's "March of the Swivelheads" that soundtracks Ferris' mad dash home across neighborhood backyards.

There's also Propaganda's incredible "Abuse [Here]" which is the most memorable piece of music in Some Kind of Wonderful (sorry, Flesh for Lulu); The Revillos' B-52's-esque "Rev Up" and The Specials' "Little Bitch" from Sixteen Candles; and The Rave-Ups' "Positively Lost Me" which they perform live in Pretty in Pink but were not allowed to be on the soundtrack because A&M wanted songs written just for the film. They even included Pop Will Eat Itself's grebo-hip-hop cover of '60s garage rock obscurity "Beaver Patrol" from The Great Outdoors.

For those who just want the hits (and "Beat City"), there's a double-LP edition but I imagine most will want the box set version, that also comes with with a booklet featuring commentary from Hughes' son James Hughes, music supervisor Tarquin Gotch, and Matthew Broderick.

Life Moves Pretty Fast - The John Hughes Mixtapes is out November 11 via Demon Music and you can preorder the deluxe CD/cassette/7" edition, the six-red-vinyl-LP edition and the double-LP edition in the BV shop.

Read our list of the box set's most crucial inclusions and most glaring omissions. While The John Hughes Mixtapes isn't available to stream, someone did make a Spotify playlist with every song they could find: