Going Back In Time To The Music Of “Back To The Future”
Hop in my DeLorean. This one travels through time and has a killer stereo system.
On July 3rd, 1985 the film "Back To The Future" was released to theaters nationwide and traveled its way to the top of the box office faster than you could say Flux Capacitor. As movie-goers traveled back in time for an adventurous ride with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his mad scientist friend Dr. Emmitt Brown (Christopher Lloyd) they also went on quite a musical trip. Let's go back to "Back To The Future" one more time and, this time, revisit some of those "timeless" time travel musical moments. You may even discover some things you never knew along the way.
Let's start with the song from the film that dates farthest "back in time". Here's one originally from 1951 called "Night Train". Jimmy Forrest had a huge hit with this one. The song a simple blues riff lifted from Duke Ellington's "Happy Go Lucky Local."
And now here's the version from the movie performed by The Starlighters (Harry Waters Jr. as Marvin Berry, Tommy Thomas, Granville 'Danny' Young, David Harold Brown, and Lloyd L. Tolbert). This scene takes place at the Enchantment Under The Sea party:
Of all the 50s songs to be featured in "Back To The Future" it's the year 1954 that was most popular. Songs from the movie that came out in '54 include:
"The Ballad of Davy Crockett" by George Bruns" (Performed by Fess Parker): This song was recorded by many artists, including Fess Parker, who portrayed Davy Crockett in the Disneyland anthology series; and Tennessee Ernie Ford, who also sang "16 Tons". The song plays on a jukebox inside Lou's Diner and, in a later scene, when one of Lorraine Baines' brothers appears wearing a coonskin cap.
"Pledging My Love" by Fats Washington and Don D. Robey (Performed by Johnny Ace): The most popular recording of the song was done by Johnny Ace in December of '54. You'll hear it in "Back To The Future" when Lorraine Baines is in the car with her future son Marty McFly.
"Mr. Sandman" by Pat Ballard (Performed by Four Aces): This was first recorded by Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra and later that same year by The Chordettes and The Four Aces. You'll hear this classic when Marty McFly first arrives at Courthouse Square in Hill Valley on November 5, 1955. The Four Aces version of the song is playing on a speaker at Roy's Records. The song can also be heard playing close to the Western Auto Store later on the same week as Biff Tannen was getting his car back.
"Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)" by Curtis Williams, Jesse Belvin, and Gaynel Hodge (Performed by The Starlighters): This was first recorded by L.A. doo-wop group The Penguins and is from one of the standout scenes of "Back To The Future". Marty McFly plays the song on guitar with the band so that he can watch his parents fall in love and watch his hand almost disappear as a result of a time paradox. You don't see that happen every day no matter what the year.
Now onto the year 1955. "The Wallflower" (also known as "Roll with Me, Henry" and "Dance with Me, Henry") is one from that year that finds a perfect place in the movie "Back To The Future". It was written by Johnny Otis, Hank Ballard, and Etta James who also sings the original. You can hear this one playing in the diner scene when Marty walks in and spots the jukebox. He realizes it's not 1985 anymore folks. Let's roll Marty...
"Back To The Future" goes back to the time when Rock 'n' Roll was just starting to roll thanks to guys like Chuck Berry who wrote a song you may know of called "Johnny B. Goode". This one is an oldie but a....well it's an oldie where I come from but it's damn good. Here's the original 1955 classic from Mr. Chuck Berry:
Now Marty McFly's version. This is just before he's leaving the dance. Musician Mark Campbell did all of Michael J. Fox's singing. Campbell was the lead singer of a popular 1980s band called Jack Mack and the Heart Attack.
If you happen to recognize a lot of the moves Marty McFly was doing towards the end of that clip than you are indeed a true classic rock fan. Michael J. Fox is one too. In that scene he mimics famous rock stars as he goes into the solo. His kicking of speakers (The Who), full circle guitar strum (Pete Townshend of the Who/Bruce Springsteen), playing the guitar while lying down (Angus Young of AC/DC), hopping across the stage with one leg kicked up (Chuck Berry/Young) and his solo (Jimi Hendrix/Eddie Van Halen) are a collection of some of the great guitar legends time traveling all the way back to the 50s.
Now let's do a fast forward-slash-rewind...kinda sorta. We go from the classics of the 1950s to the 1980s. That's the present time when the movie came out; a classic time to reflect on here in the year 2018.
There are a couple of pretty well-known songs I'm betting you've heard of from this movie that come from the year 1985 but I'll get to those in just a bit. Let's start with a couple of under-the-radar classics recorded for the film.
The first is from Eric Clapton and it's called "Heaven Is One Step Away". This song was recorded during the time Clapton was working a lot with Phil Collins so it's no surprise to find he produced this track written and sung by Slowhand.
Red the Bum is listening to this song when Marty returns to the year 1985. You have to listen closely, though, since it doesn't play for long. Thankfully the full version was included on the soundtrack:
Another obscure gem from this film comes from Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame. Lindsey is responsible for one of the greatest movie songs ever with "Holiday Road" from the "Vacation" movie so it was a good idea to have him work up one for this film. Unfortunately this track called "Time Bomb Town" didn't pick up the kind of traction "Holiday Road" did but it's still a cool track. You can hear about 25 seconds of the song playing on Marty’s alarm clock radio:
Here is the full version recorded in '85:
Now onto those two songs from the movie that you probably have heard before. That would be "Power Of Love" and "Back In Time" by a band called Huey Lewis & The News. Before hearing these two 80s gems let's watch Huey the actor. Here he is as a high school band audition judge:
O.K. Huey so the Pinheads may be just "too damn loud" but at least their hearts are in the right place. And now The News.....with Huey too. Huey was asked by the writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale to record a song for the film. The two were not thrilled with the first song Huey brought back to them, however. After explaining what they were hoping for, Huey came back with "The Power of Love". He was then told they needed one more song so after watching a cut of the film Huey had the inspiration for "Back in Time" and the rest is...history.
And now we interrupt this article for The News and our special time travel correspondent Huey Lewis with "Power Of Love" and "Back In Time":
As if that weren't enough great music to pull from "Back To The Future" I have what is my personal favorite moment from the movie. When Marty pretends to be Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan, he plays a tape labelled "Edward Van Halen" to scare George out of his sleep. What you hear is an Edward Van Halen original which he originally recorded for a movie called "The Wild Life" (1984), which starred Lea Thompson, the same Lea Thompson in "Back To The Future". Silence Earthlings you are about to have your minds blown:
That's some serious electric jigawatt guitar work right there.
O.K. so that is, I think, every musical moment from the classic "Back To The Future" movie. If I missed one let me know on i95's Facebook page. It's back to the present and the year 2018 but if we ever wanna go back in time we always have the classic music and movies to take us back.