Earlier this month when Ivan Reitman died I wondered how I could honour his memory. Most people remember him from movies such as Ghostbusters, Stripes, Twins, Animal House, Kindergarten Cop etc. However, I chose the movie soundtrack for the 1981 Canadian/American animated cult movie Heavy Metal. Ivan Reitman was the producer for the movie and probably had a hand in the production of the soundtrack. The movie did over $20 million at the box office and the soundtrack went platinum in Canada and USA, so Ivan must have done something right.
The track listing for the vinyl records is in stackable order so sides A & D are on the first record and B & C are on the second so my track order will be different than the cd, cassette, 8 track or later vinyl re-pressings. I am shocked to see a stackable track listing in the 1980’s. I thought that started and died with the 1970’s. I am curious to know the last year this was done.
The title of the film (and soundtrack) is misleading. The film was based on the Heavy Metal magazine(or French magazine Metal hurlant), and not anything to do with music. What do you think of when you hear the term heavy metal though? I’m sure it is much different in 2022 than it was in 1981. In 1981, heavy metal bands were a small, sub-genre of bands, mostly in Great Britain. The term was loosely used to represent what would now be termed as hard rock. The only true metal bands in 1981 would mostly be made up of NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) and traditional metal bands that by 1981 were already waning in popularity. Metal genres such as thrash, black, death, doom etc. were not even invented yet. Therefore I will try and review this soundtrack on what it is, and not what it could have been. I might have to knock some of the bands/songs chosen, but hopefully will keep an open mind.
A1: Heavy Metal – By 1981 Sammy Hagar was working on his 6th solo album, and he was also well regarded as the singer on the first 2 Montrose albums. He hadn’t yet complained about driving 55 or about a certain set of brothers yet, but he had a really great voice that was up to the task. This a really great track that still stands the test of time. Plus it’s your one way ticket to midnight.
A2: Heartbeat – Jerry Riggs had been slugging it out in the hard rock bar scene since the mid 70’s in the band Lynx (not to be confused with the Canadian hard rock band of the same name). When Don Train left Lynx in 1980, the band was renamed Riggs. This was the first of 2 songs Riggs had on the soundtrack (I’ll touch on how I fell about that later). It’s a pretty decent song in the REO Speedwagon/Journey/Styx late 70’s American rock vein. The challenge is to see how many times the word heartbeat is repeated here. Hint: It’s a lot.
A3: Working In The Coalmine – This Kenny Loggins…wait I mean Devo number is a fun little ditty, but is both misplaced on this style of movie and definitely on an album called Heavy Metal. It sounds exactly like 80’s Kenny Loggins and would have been better suited being used later on for the Footloose soundtrack, but I digress. I tried. I really did. I wanted to be subjective but come on. A song that starts off shaking a Smarties box and has lyrics such as “working on a coalmine, oops about to slip down”, and has a twangy guitar does not work here for me. Picture Weird Al, Kenny Loggins, Eddie Murphy recording a parody song in Nashville with an unlimited supply of cocaine. Next. The song Through Being Cool by Devo was in the movie but not on the soundtrack. No offence Devo, but you were never cool.
A4: Veteran Of The Psychic Wars – This is one of the hidden gems of this soundtrack. It was released a month earlier on the bands album Fire Of Unknown Origin. The tribal drums pound and the synths do not date this song compared to many that came out in the 1980’s. This song wasn’t a single from the aforementioned album but it should have.
D1: The Mob Rules – Black Sabbath was asked to include a song on the soundtrack at the last minute. They had 1 day to send it in, pre internet and cell phones. They wrote the song on a plane and when landed got to playing it. They cut this early version that night, expressed it over to Reitman and it was included on the soundtrack. This version (supposedly) has Bill Ward on drums and was recorded at John Lennon’s house. This version is a faster paced version than the original, with different guitar, bass and drum bits. Many people prefer it to the album version. I bought Mob Rules when it came out in 1981 and it was my introduction to Black Sabbath, so it holds a special place in my heart. Nothing could be better. I really enjoy this version though and am probably in the minority to say it is not quite as good as the album version. It is however the only true heavy metal song on the entire soundtrack. On a side note the Sabbath song E5150 was also included in the movie but unfortunately not on the soundtrack.
D2: All Of You – The first of 2 songs by Don Felder on the album. Don was always the underrated member of the Eagles and his blow up fight with Don Henley after a show in 1980 effectively caused the band to breakup. This song includes Mickey Thomas from Jefferson Starship on backing vocals and included such lyrics as “..now I’ve been told that it’s ages old, goes back to Adam and Eve. Yes I know how the story goes, when a woman begins to decieve..”. A really underated song that should have been a single and may be better than the majority of Eagles songs.
D3: Prefabricated – This song is from the French hard rock band Trust. It is actually their song Prefabrique (which is sung in their native French) retitled and with English lyrics. I wonder if this song had been kept as is that it may have worked well in French speaking parts of the world, including parts of Canada. It could have been a homage since the film was half Canadian and also to Metal hurlant. That’s neither hear not there though since this is a really good song. We all know the drums at the start of the Ozzy solo song Over The Mountain right. Well, in my opinion Tommy Aldridge stole this drum section from Prefabricated (Prefabrique). The guitar work is reminiscent of Judas Priest and the pacing and vocals remind me of an Australian song in the AC/DC, Rose Tattoo vein. For a band not singing in their native tongue this a really good one.
D4: Blue Lamp – 1981 was still within the reach of the Fleetwood Mac Rumours tail off. Record companies were so concerned with trying to achieve that level of album sales that they would include a scarf twirling, shawl wearing hippie love child on an album entitled Heavy Metal. I know. I am still trying here. She has one of the best voices in music, but it does not suit this album guys. It is a good song for what it is though.
B1: Reach Out – One of 2 songs by Cheap Trick (I’m sensing a pattern here) on the album. The start sounds more Devo than Devo did earlier. The keyboards really date this one. Their not subtle at all. Half the song does not include them and when they are missing the song is much better. I’d like to hear a demo of this one without the keyboards. The guitar solo is probably the high point of this one for me.
B2: Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride) – The second Don Felder song is an intoxicating number. Don’t get all Dude in the back seat of a taxi on me here but this really would have fit nicely onto an Eagles album. Timothy B. Schmidt and Don Henley sang background vocals. I guess Henley didn’t threaten to kick Felder’s ass after they were done recording. The song is Slow but kind of heavy at the same time. Heavier than the majority of the Eagles songs and features lyrics about cruising, street racing a Corvette, and becoming a heavy metal believer. Sign me up. A really great song that suits this album perfectly.
B3: True Companion – This Donald Fagen song is basically a Steely Dan song. The instrumental part at the beginning does have some wicked guitar work. However the orchestral parts and Fagen’s voice are not suitable for a Heavy Metal album. I enjoyed it in an early Sunday morning drinking coffee and trying to wake up kind of way. In any kind of a heavy metal way, not so much.
B4: Crazy?(A Suitable Case For Treatment) – This Nazareth number may have been the 2nd most metal song on the album. It has a pre-hair metal hairband feel to it that I really like. Quiet Riot loved their cover songs so it’s too bad they wouldn’t have covered this one. Kevin DuBrow and Dan McCafferty both have voices that sound like they stayed up all night gargling Jack Daniels and howling at the moon, so I think Dubrow would have done this one justice. A really great song.
C1: Radar Rider – Second song by Riggs. Jerry Riggs is giving it all on this one. It might be the 3rd most metal song on the album. His band Riggs was a one and done as far as albums were concerned, but Jerry went on to play in Pat Travers Band. Another underrated song on this soundtrack.
C2: Open Arms – What can be said about this song? Obviously not a metal song, but one of the best power ballads ever written.
C3: Queen Bee – This song was also featured on the Grand Funk album Grand Funk Lives. This really is a great song that should have been a single. The vocal harmonies, bass and guitar are amazing. The drums really are the ace here though. Really great.
C4: I Must Be Dreamin’ – The last song on my version and I just have to rant a bit. I have a huge issue with soundtrack albums that feature more than 1 song by the same artist. Especially when bands do not really suit the theme of the movie/soundtrack, and there are so many artists/songs that could have taken their place. But I digress. This is a pretty decent song. Sort of a Queen meets NIN. Industrial metal wasn’t really a thing yet so maybe Cheap Trick were ahead of their time. Who knows?
My revised tracklist would switch out the following songs:
A2 Running Free – Iron Maiden
A3 Hot Rockin’ – Judas Priest
D2 Fight The Good Fight – Triumph
D4 YYZ – Rush
B1 Live Wire – Motley Crue
B3 Bringin’ On The Heartbreak – Def Leppard
C2 – Flying High Again – Ozzy Osbourne
I will mostly take the album for what it was. A good attempt by a record label to push the bands they had on the label by sometimes forcing a square peg into a round hole musically. Sometimes even twice. Even still, the songs are mostly all good, some are even great. Maybe a just a little misplaced.
R.I.P. Ivan Reitman