Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Music Box: 'Desperately Seeking Susan'

UPDATE: Just wanted to wish everyone a very safe and Happy New Year! If you read this post earlier (or downloaded the ZIP file), please note there have been substantial changes throughout, including the addition of the actual demo version of "Into the Groove" that was used in the film but never released. Enjoy!!

While the story of a bored suburban New Jersey housewife getting knocked unconscious and waking up into the life of a new wave goddess in Lower Manhattan circa the mid-'80s was more than enough to land on my Top 10 all-time favorite movies list (and trust me when I say you would NOT want to watch this film with me -- I've seen it more than 100 times and I recite every line before it's said), the unsung hero of "Desperately Seeking Susan" was its eclectic soundtrack -- which, some 24 years later, has yet to see a proper release. When I completely gave up hope, my friend Jesse reminded me that it took more than a decade for the "Valley Girl" soundtrack to make it to CD, but getting a soundtrack that never really existed produced? I wasn't holding my breath.

Naturally, I was ecstatic when Thomas Newman's stellar score was finally released in 1987 ("New York City by Day" still gives me goosebumps -- the guy is a musical genius). It was packaged along with Chas Jankel's music for "Making Mr. Right," director Susan Seidelman's followup, and along with the Gershwin "Manhattan" soundtrack, is one of the few instrumental collections I play over and over again. As wonderful as it was, though, the film's complete soundtrack -- with its timeless lineup that included contemporary and classic tracks by Betty Everett, Junior Walker, Carly Simon, Iggy Pop, Aretha Franklin, Marshall Crenshaw, Run-DMC, Dee Dee Sharp, the Fixx, and, of course, Madonna's ultimate dance song, "Into the Groove" -- needed to be compiled in its entirety to be fully appreciated.

Finally in 2004 I decided I'd waited long enough. I was in the midst of converting all of my vinyl that never made it to disc with a DJ friend of mine when I got the idea to produce "The Definitive DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN Film Soundtrack." It wasn't easy. Junior Walker's R&B take on the Foreigner classic "Urgent" -- used to great effect in Madonna's opening scene where she's taking Polaroids of herself while waiting for the room service boy to deliver -- was seemingly nowhere to be found until I stumbled upon it as a bonus track on a Motown Legends compilation. (You'll recall that Junior plays the killer sax on the original Foreigner smash from '81.)

"Good going, stranger" ...

And the original "Into the Groove" -- with its iconic opening and without that inappropriate ragtime piano that was added to every version out there -- was culled from the import CD single of "Angel." sent to me TODAY by a reader in New York. It turns out all this time I thought the version that was on the b-side of my "Angel" 12-inch single was used in the film when in fact it was an unreleased demo recording that's now been added to my soundtrack. (A HUGE thank-you to Stefan for that!)

There were other challenges along the way, but in the end it was well worth the effort. You can judge for yourself with the links below, including a complete MP3 DOWNLOAD of the results.

Click HERE to play the 10 missing tracks in a new window.

Click HERE to play Thomas Newman's instrumental score in a new window.

And because I'm feeling rebellious as this monumental year reaches its end, I'm uploading the complete soundtrack for a limited time so you can download it to your computer HERE. or an iTunes-friendly version is HERE.

(Artwork by Greg Jelinek)

  • Read all Music Box posts HERE.

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    Markus said...

    Hey - THANKS for you putting together this soundtrack! The covers are great! However - Since I use iTunes for all my music and because I am little anal (LOL) I renamed, and redid the collection so it's a bit more iTunes friendly. I took it all once I finished and zipped it up and put it up in my public folder for you and anyone else that may want it. Thanks again - and hope you have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

    Markus said...

    I forgot to give the link for my public folder - sorry - here it is -

    Markus said...

    I forgot to give the address for the zipped up file

    maxx said...

    good going, stranger...indeed
    thank you and happy new year!

    mattrett said...


    Anonymous said...

    thanks, this is great.

    Micah said...

    A-MAZ-ING! I shall now go get into the (original) groove, et al...

    ziggyfrommars said...

    AMAZING! I got chills!!!

    A query (if I may): I remember my VHS copy the movie begins with The Chiffon's 'One Fine Day' and NOT the classic,'Respect'. Any ideas why the opening track was changed??


    Kenneth Walsh said...


    My VHS and DVD both open with "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss" by Betty Everett ... you know, with that classic opening line:

    Does he love me? I wanna know
    How can I tell if he loves me so?

    Dave in Texas said...

    Happy New Year and thanks so much for posting these tracks! Best to you in 2009!

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks for the holiday gift. I've been looking for the Newman score for years, with not much luck.

    I plan to meander Manhattan with it cranked on the Ipod. I promise to stay clear of flimsy tables buried with cheap sunglasses.

    Noodles said...


    Desperately seeking soundtrack!

    Having no luck with Marcus's link, any one have any ideas?

    Trying to download an itunes-friendly version.....

    Thanks all...

    Adam said...

    Wow, thank you so much. This movie was a HUGE influence on me and those instrumentals are lodged in my subconscious. I also used to scour the record stores confused at why there wasn't a soundtrack. I can't believe how thorough you were - that "Urgent" cover is phenomenal! Its about time to fire up the VCR and watch my bootlegged copy from the 80s!

    Cindylover1969 said...

    As wonderful as it was, though, the film's complete soundtrack... needed to be compiled in its entirety to be fully appreciated.

    No. No, it doesn't. You can find the songs just about anywhere (and really, the world does not need yet another song compilation made up of previously released and easy to find material), but where else would you find Thomas Newman's score?

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