Better Off Dead is a 1985 cult classic black comedy centered around the pitfalls of being a teenager. It was written and directed by Savage Steve Holland. The movie chronicles a high school student, Lane Myer, played by John Cusack. His character loves two things, skiing and his girlfriend Beth, played by Amanda Wyss. Myer is dumped early in the movie for the captain of the ski team. Myer decides to kill himself to get her attention. The film chronicles his malaise alongside a series of strange incidents. During the movie, Myer has run-ins with a deranged paperboy who wants money, his mother’s crazy cooking, and his dad, who wants him to fix the car on the lawn.
Overall the movie is a mad camp romp with memorable supporting characters, including Myer’s younger brother, who enjoys reading about picking up trashy women. Rupert Hine produced most of the movie’s soundtrack, except With One Look (The Wildest Dream), which was made by CY Curnin and Jamie West-Oran alongside Hine. Only two tracks on the album Hine didn’t work on, A Little Luck and One Way Love (Better Off Dead). Elizabeth Daily, who starred in Valley Girls, sang both songs credited under E.G., Daily. The soundtrack release garnered mixed reviews because many of the movie’s songs were not on the release. However, the film featured many performances from a wide range of genres from rock to punk to soul to everything in between. These are the top five best songs from the Better Off Dead Soundtrack.
5. Mannish Boy – Muddy Waters
This song was named one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll as well as number two hundred thirty on Rolling Stone’s list, 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Muddy Waters wrote this song in 1955 as a response to Bo Diddley’s I’m The Man. Although much of the music boasts about being a lady’s man, there were also some political overtones. The refrain “I’m a man, I spell M, A child N” was thought to be about Waters leaving the South for Chicago. After all, the South was highly segregated, and many people never referred to black and brown men as only children. The song was recorded on May 24, 1955, the only recording between 1953 and 1957 that didn’t feature Little Walter on harmonica. He recorded several versions of the song during Waters’s career, including one in 1968 meant to entice rock and roll fans. This song was Muddy Water’s first United Kingdom Charted single, peaking at number 51 on U.K. Singles in 1988.
4. She’s Gone – Hall & Oates
The album Abandoned Luncheonette was released in 1973. She’s gone is one of the standouts on the album since it is a heart-tugging ballad and one of the most personal. The inspiration happened one night when Oates was in Greenwich Village. According to American Songwriter, Oates stood outside a restaurant on a snowy December day. After deciding to go in and eat, he saw a woman come in dressed in cowboy boots and a tutu. The two ended up having a conversation, and by the end, she asked Oates to go to a New Year’s Eve party in several weeks. The woman never showed up. Instead, Oates spent the even writing music. He started writing the song from the chorus “if she’s not coming tonight, she’s probably never coming.” Several days later, Hall came back to the apartment. Morose, after a breakup, the two collaborated and wrote the rest of the song.
3. 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover – Paul Simon
During the mid-seventies, Paul Simon got a divorce. Like many other recording artists, he channeled his feelings into a song instead of doing sad songs to lament like Bridge Over Troubled Water. He started jotting down comical ways someone could exit a relationship. The song was released in December 1975 and spent three weeks at number one during February 1976. In March of the same year, it was certified gold. Simon’s younger brother said that Simon came up with the rhymes in the song while teaching his son to read. Four years later, he guest-starred on The Muppets, and Floyd and Janice from the Muppet Band Electric Mayem played the song. One additional note, the title is hyperbole; there are only five ways to leave your lover in the lyrics.
2. A Man Alone – Frank Sinatra
Rod McKuen was an American Poet whom Frank Sinatra met at a party one night. After the encounter, Sinatra asked McKuen to write an album of songs and for him to sing. The album was released in 1969. Several of the songs on the album, including Man Alone, were sung by Sinatra. However, several of the songs were McKuen speaking poetry over Don Costa’s instrumentation. The combination of McKuen’s poetry with Sinatra’s voice was thought by some melodramatic. Yet, Costa’s talented arrangements brought the two together. Even though this was not one of Sinatra’s most well-regarded projects, it was one of his most exciting collaborations.
1. Foxy Lady – Jimi Hendrix
According to The Guardian, the lyrics of this song are inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s girlfriend. Lithofayne Pridgon dated many talented musicians, including Hendrix. Her first kiss was Little Willie John. Then, when she was sixteen, Sam Cooke feel for her. Yet, it was Hendrix who captured her heart. They were together from 1963, even before he was famous. In many ways, she became his muse. Even though it was never confirmed she was the titular character, many of the lines sound like parts of her personality. Pridgon was outgoing as well as take no prisoners. Many remember her laugh and fearlessness. It sounds very much like the foxy lady Hendrix wrote about in this song. One additional clue to the identity of the mystery women is that in the album liner note, Hendrix wrote this it was the only song he wrote when he was feeling happy, which was atypical. The song was recorded on December 13, 1966, the same day he made his first T.V. appearance. At the time, The Jimi Hendrix Experience had only been together for several months.