Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series. “pump Up The Volume” Edition where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
Everyone remembers the first album that made them fall in love with music. One of mine was the soundtrack to Pump Up The Volume, a little film that opened up on August 24, 1990 at #15 in the box office—right behind Problem Child, which was in its fifth week. At the time, I was an average teen listening to MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice and whatever else Top 40 radio suggested. But there was something about that soundtrack’s middle-fingered salute—a perfect companion to the film’s plot of a youth-led uprising—that rescued me from ever hearing Too Legit To Quit and Mind Blowin’.
The film is about Mark Hunter (the cool as fuck Christian Slater), a depressed high schooler in suburban Phoenix, Arizona, who hacks his shortwave radio and launches a pirate radio station. Under the moniker Happy Harry Hard-On, Mark slowly earns a cult following amongst his fellow students, doling out bullshit-free advice, dropping graffiti-worthy catch phrases (“So be it,” “Talk hard”) and challenging his school’s questionable expulsions of at-risk students.
Pump Up The Volume went on to earn a modest $11.5 million in the U.S. and earn critical acclaim, not to mention help Christian Slater capitalize on his bad-assery in Heathers and become the hottest young actor in the universe. But perhaps more than anything, the film’s soundtrack introduced unsuspecting viewers like myself to a whole group of artists that were on the verge of bringing alternative music to the masses. On the album were Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Pixies, and three fantastic covers: Concrete Blonde covering Leonard Cohen, Cowboy Junkies doing Robert Johnson, and Bad Brains with Henry Rollins offering a disorderly take on the MC5’s “Kick Out The Jams.” Artists that weren’t on the album, but appeared in the film included Leonard Cohen, Descendents, Was (Not Was) and Beastie Boys with an outtake from the Licensed To Ill called “The Scenario,” which to date has never received a commercial release.
Pixies, Wave Of Mutilation. Album: Doolittle (1989)
Lead singer Black Francis (Frank Black) described this song as being about “Japanese businessmen doing murder-suicides with their families because they’d failed in business, and they’re driving off a pier into the ocean.”
In a concert in 2004 Frank Black stated half-jokingly, “This song is from about 30 years ago and while I didn’t invent it, I was the first guy to sing about El Niño before it became all popular and everything. I just wanted to take credit for that.”
Pixes drummer David Lovering describes this as a very “un-Pixies-like” song, calling it “gentle and dreamy.” He told MusicRadar: “It’s an easy song to play, but it’s very effective in the way it grabs people. It’s got a very odd, arresting spirit. There’s nothing else that sounds quite like it.”
This song was featured in the film, “Pump Up The Volume.”