Music is often an integral part of a movie. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the comic book blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Marvel’s sci-fi/fantasy romp about five ragtag losers who team up to save the universe wasn’t supposed to become the No. 1 hit of the summer. Heck, most Marvel zombies don’t even care about Guardians of the Galaxy.
But then the commercials started to air. Some punk calling himself “Starlord” and dancing about to that long-forgotten ’70s hit “Hooked on a Feeling.” There was something about it… And the hits kept coming. Trailers showing spaceships fighting to “Spirit in the Sky.” By the time the film finally hit theaters everyone was ready for a good time. And as usual, Marvel delivered.
“GotG” had all the usual ingredients of a Marvel movie — compelling characters, humor, special effects, good versus evil — all that stuff. But it also had one other thing: a rollicking, rocking, smaltzy, terrible, infectious 1970s soundtrack. And the soundtrack isn’t just background noise. It’s as much a part of the story as in those other great sci-fi classics — “The Big Chill” or “Saturday Night Fever.”
For the Guardians-impaired, a brief recap: Young earthling Peter Quill is abducted by aliens. One of the few things he brings with him is a mixtape made by his dead mother. Twenty or so years later, Peter wanders the galaxy with his Walkman, getting into trouble while listening to his beloved cassette. The greatest mystery of “GotG” is not “How does that tree talk?” or “Why is that raccoon so smart?” but rather, “How has the Starlord managed to keep his tape and tape player up and running for all this time when he’s several light-years away from the nearest Radio Shack?”
Which brings us to the soundtrack album. A dozen tracks familiar to anyone within earshot of Top 40 radio in the 1970s. And to sum it up in two words: It’s terrible. Peter Quill’s mother had the worst taste of any fictional character whose mixtape I’ve come across. (Where’s Rob Gordon when you need him?) I mean, this was the 1970s — Led Zeppelin, Springsteen and Billy Joel were in their prime. The Who was recording “Who’s Next” and “Quadrophenia.” Bob Dylan released “Blood on the Tracks.”
And what does Pete’s mother leave him as a musical legacy of Earth? Blue Swede, The Raspberries, Norman Greenbaum, 10cc, Rupert Holmes and Redbone. Seriously? That’s like an episode of “One Hit Wonders” on VH-1. Of the 12 songs on this album, I only have one in my rather vast record collection (“Moonage Daydream” from David Bowie’s classic “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”).
And yet…and yet… when you put them all together in the context of the movie it really does become an awesome mix. I love listening to this stupid soundtrack with all these stupid songs that I would never listen to if I came across them on the radio but — for now — it works (Except for “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” — I will never like that piece of sap).
To prove my point, my wife picked this CD up for me at the library and listened to it on the way home.
“I didn’t care for it,” she says.
“Of course not. You haven’t seen the movie! That’s the only way these songs work, is if you have fond memories of the movie to connect them to.”