Left of Center – Suzanne Vega (1986)

She didn’t really hit big until the following year with “Luka,” but Suzanne Vega caught my attention with this gem from the “Pretty in Pink” soundtrack. And while Luka certainly brought her that attention, it might actually be my least favorite of her songs (I’ll take “Left of Center” and “Solitude Standing” any day of the week).

But that’s not really the point of this post – if anything, this is simply the medium to get me talking about John Hughes, specifically his use of music in his movies. Quite simply, Hughes was simply masterful at finding some up and comers – especially in the Alternative or New Wave fields – and then using them to fully complement the angst he had on the screen.

And, for my money, he did it nowhere better than in “Pretty in Pink,” a top three soundtrack for this guy (“The Big Chill” and “Garden State” are my others – scores are a different story…).

It’s very easy to focus on the hits from this movie – OMD’s “If You Leave,” and The Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink,” or even New Order’s “Shell Shock.” Don’t get me wrong, I love them all – and Hughes used each in a spot that makes perfect sense to me. But, to me, he’s never used a song as well as he did with New Order’s “Elegia.”

And that’s where I actually have to admit something, so if you’re still reading, well, you’ll learn something about me. For the longest time, in my head, I’ve thought Hughes used “Elegia” during the scene where Duckie sat in the rain after unloading his soul and love for Andie as she was about to go out with Blane.

Yet I was wrong about that – in fact, I have no clue what song that is playing in that scene. But I was SO convinced that it was “Elegia” playing there. It makes perfect sense that it would play there! Yeah, no clue what made me mis-remember that for so many years. (In reality, it really is used well, just not until much later in the movie, when Andie is crushed over Blane blowing her off).

Perhaps it’s that I always associated with Duckie? I really don’t know. And that brings me to another issue. Trust me when I tell you that I had my Duckie moments in high school. And there was absolutely an Andie to that Duckie – and man, was I unfair to her. It took me a REALLY long time to realize how shitty that actually was. Perhaps if this article would have existed back then, I would have understood this better (or maybe I wouldn’t have, who knows?) And this the crux for me:


Instead, a generation of American male teenagers, me included, saw themselves in Duckie—charming, quirky and overlooked. Duckie belonged an elite gang of best friends “Pretty in Pink” screenwriter John Hughes made the beating heart of his ’80s teen filmography—Cameron Frye in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Farmer Ted in “Sixteen Candles” and Watts in “Some Kind of Wonderful”—characters who embodied the pain of being young and not yet able to be honest about your own desires.


And yes, I also saw myself in Cameron and Watts – and yes, I know that says incredibly horrible things about my angst at the time…

“If you want me, you can find me, left of center off of the strip.”

Perhaps that line from “Left of Center” is really what I’m trying to get to with this post? Perhaps it’s about coming to terms with being so in love with somebody and projecting the world upon them and how absolutely unfair that can be. I know for a fact that I was rotten in this regard – and I have worked hard to atone for that. I wish that I would have been more willing to stand off on my own rather than trying to be somebody I wasn’t – but that was high school in a nutshell for me. And my 20s.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for it on the soundtrack, you won’t find it, as it wasn’t included. You’ll have to go to their “Low Life” album, or, if you really prefer, you can click here for the 17 minute extended version of it.

 

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