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Back to the 80s: Interview with Ilan Mitchell-Smith from Weird Science - Kickin' it Old School
10.17.14 (10:56 am)   [edit]
As I still feel the need to say each time, I am so delighted that interviews continue to be a legitimate part of this little blog of mine! When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the 80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.Ilan Mitchell-Smith

This time that awesomeness is Ilan Mitchell-Smith. He is best remembered to many as "Wyatt" from the 1985 film Weird Science. In addition to that John Hughes classic that has always been a personal favorite, he was in several other films from the age of 12 to 20. After leaving acting, he went on to become a professor at a university. We will find out about his time as a teenage actor, making Weird Science and more as we get on to some selections from my interview with Ilan Mitchell-Smith...

Q: When and how did you get your start in acting? Did you ever have any formal acting training? How was it like being a teenager starring in movies?

Ilan: I got started in acting by chance, actually. I had been a ballet dancer since the age of five, and so by the time I was eleven I was pretty good, I guess. I was at the Joffrey School for one of these programs when I was eleven, and the director Sidney Lumet sent a casting agent there to cast for a movie. Ilan Mitchell-SmithThere was no dancing in the role, but he wanted a young person who was used to working and who was also a young face. I guess I had a look that he thought worked well, and he cast me to play a young Timothy Hutton in a movie called Daniel [1983].

Once I had done a film, a manager and an agent fell into place and I started auditioning. I also started acting lessons at a number of places around New York, especially the Stella Adler School for a while. I found a home for a while later with a coach called Warren Robertson, and I studied there along with Stacy Haiduk (who is still in the business) and Grace Jones, who were both awesome.

It was weird being a teenager working in film, and I'm still not sure how I felt about all of it. There is no downside to everyone treating you like you're special and calling you "The Talent" (despite my suspicions that "talent" was not something of which I had a great deal), and there were more wonderful people and great moments than I can count. It was also a bit lonely, though, and I was working pretty hard as a dancer for a lot of that time. During any free time that I had I really just wanted to have some friends with whom I could play D&D [Dungeons & Dragons] and talk about comics, but that never happened while I was working on a job. In the 80s, it was a lot harder to be a nerd than it is today

Q: How did the role of "Jim Conrad" in 1984's The Wild Life come your way? What can you share about getting that role and your memories making that film?The Wild Life

Ilan: I loved that role, and I loved working with Cameron Crowe (the writer) and Art Linson (who is better known for his producing). I wanted the role very much because the character was so much cooler than I was, and Jim Conrad kind of became a part of me. Cameron would make me these mix tapes of 60s music to help me get into the role, but I hadn't developed a real musical taste yet and those tapes became the backbone of my musical interests for many years following the film. I don't know if he ever realized what an impact he was having on me. I was also thinking of getting a guitar at the time, so at one point he called his wife (Nancy Wilson of Heart) and she talked me through some of the things I would want to ask for when I went shopping. That was amazing, and I love the memory of that day.

I really liked everyone on that set as well, and I felt close to a lot of the crew. There is a scene in which my character blows up a statue outside his school, and every crew member signed that head and then surprised me with it as a gift. That is probably my favorite memory from all of my acting days, and I still have that head!

The Wild Life was released in theaters in September of 1984 as Cameron Crowe's writing follow up to Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The teen comedy-drama was only moderately successful at the time, but became more popular later on cable television. It featured a cast of young actors that went on to big things including Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson, Chris Penn and Ilan Mitchell-Smith. Here is a trailer for The Wild Life...

Q: The Wild Life included a great cast of young actors. What can you tell us about working with any or all of the following: Eric Stoltz? Lea Thompson? Chris Penn? Randy Quaid?

Ilan: I liked Eric a lot, and he went out of his way to hang out with me which was cool. While his character was a couple of years older than mine, he was actually about ten years older than I was, and so it was nice of him to spend some time with the kid on the set. The Wild LifeI later hung out with him when I was doing Weird Science because he was on the lot next to me playing Marty McFly in Back to the Future. It wasn't until that movie came out that I realized that he had been replaced with Michael J. Fox, and even now I remember McFly as Eric in that vest and jeans.

I was flat-out in love with Lea Thompson, and I remember her as being surrounded by glowing light with a voice that sounded like the taste of honey. If I am wrong about this memory I would rather not know.

Chris Penn was a lot of fun, but hard for a kid to get to know. Here's a conversation we had once:
Chris: "Seriously. I have no feeling at all in my face. You could punch me right in the face right now and I wouldn't feel a thing. You want to punch me in the face?"
14-year-old-squeaky-nerd Ilan: "Um... I just came over to get a snack at the Kraft Service table."

Randy Quaid was a great actor and a hard core professional. He scared me intentionally between takes by seeming distant and a bit off (put a cigarette out on his tongue while glaring at me). I later learned that he was preserving what he felt should be the mood of the scene, and I think it worked really well in the movie.

Q: Then in 1985, you were cast as "Wyatt" in Weird Science which was written and directed by John Hughes. Weird Science First, how did this role come your way? What do you remember about the audition process?

Ilan: I was working on The Wild Life when I auditioned for the job, and I read for John right off the bat, as I remember. I went through a number of callbacks and I finally booked the job through some kind of miracle that I still don't understand. I just don't think I did a very a good job at any of those auditions because I kept on laughing at the jokes. He was a funny man and the script was brilliant and Michael (my costar) was hilarious. Hall & HughesThat continued to be a problem while making the film, and still I wince during the scenes where I can tell I was trying not to laugh.

Q: What can you tell us about the late, great John Hughes and your experience working for him?

Ilan: I was lucky to work with John, and I was very sorry to hear of his passing. As I mentioned above, I was a pretty geeky kid (OK, I'm a pretty geeky adult, too) and I sensed that, unlike the other actors on the set, John had been a nerdy kid as well. In all of his works, there is a loving and empathetic depiction of imaginative and smart kids who don't fit in, and it was great for me to sense that John was similar to me in that way.

He was also brilliant and a great writer and director. I remember once on the set we were all standing in the blue kitchen, and he said something witty and smart, ate a blue chip and made a cool exit. I later asked him why he ate the chip, because I knew that they had been spray-painted blue. "Anything for a laugh, Ilan" he said to me with a little wink. It was a privilege to work with him and I am proud to be one of the alumni of Shermer High School.Weird Science

Weird Science was written and directed by John Hughes and released in theaters in August of 1985. Despite its ridiculous premise, it remains one of my favorite teen comedies of the decade for multiple reasons. It is a story of the nerdy guys turning from zeros to heroes in one fantastic (and a little absurd) weekend. Two unpopular high school students, "Wyatt Donnelly" (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) and his buddy "Gary" (Anthony Michael Hall) used a computer to make an actual woman of their own. They create "Lisa" played by the gorgeous Kelly LeBrock and she helps them find the confidence and coolness inside of themselves. It's not an easy process and includes many hilarious moments along the way. Here is the trailer for Weird Science...

Q: I want to ask about some of your co-stars. First, what can you tell us about Anthony Michael-Hall and your experiences working with him on this film? Did you two become friends during the process? You really seemed to have great chemistry together.Weird Science

Ilan: Michael and I became friends before the filming, actually, because we went to the same school for professional kids in New York (PCS - we were there with Malcolm Jamal Warner, Ricki Lake, Christian Slater, and lots of other young professional kids). Michael was a great mentor to me and we did hang around with each other to some extent. We didn't have a lot of the same interests, though, so there was a limit to how much we did together. I saw him as older (he is a year older than I am), more outgoing, and more experienced with everything we were doing, and I think all of those feelings played very well with our characters.

Here's an early scene in the film when "Wyatt" and "Gary" begin trying to make a girl with the computer ("We gotta make her as real as possible, Wyatt. I want her to live. I want her to breathe. I want her to aerobicize.")...

Q: Bill Paxton was perfect playing your older brother Chet. What can you tell us about Paxton and working with him?Weird Science

Ilan: Bill was one of the kindest and nicest people I have ever met, and I have been very happy to see his successes over the years. He was great to work with, and he was always ready to give some advice and notes on acting, for which I was thankful. As I remember it, a lot of Chet was Bill's own character development (the cigar, the laugh, the about-face door kick), and I remember learning from him what it was to really own a character.

A great scene with "Chet" is when the boys come home from a night on the town and he's there waiting for them ("You're stewed, buttwad!")...

Another memorable scene with Chet is when Wyatt comes down for breakfast, but is wearing Lisa's panties ("That's not a joke, that's a severe behavioral disorder. I mean, the next thing you know, you'll be wearing a bra on your head!")...

Q: Kelly LeBrock was even more perfect playing the role of Lisa. What can you tell us about the gorgeous LeBrock and working with her? You even got to have a romantic kiss and a shower with her! Weird ScienceWhat can you tell us about filming those scenes?

Ilan: I'm afraid to disappoint you, but none of the scenes with Kelly were as sex-charged for me as they were in the film. I wish they had been, and she was, in fact, absolutely gorgeous. When you know that a woman is kissing you or standing almost-naked in front of you because she is contractually obligated to do so, though, it takes the sexuality out of it. Weird ScienceKelly was concerned that the camera in the shower scene would capture her breasts because I think a previous director had done so without her consent. Knowing that, how could I steal glances at her without feeling like a total creeper?

The boys got to live out one of their fantasies by getting to shower with Lisa ("If we're going to have any fun together, you guys have better learn to loosen up.")...

Q: Was there any real chemistry between you and "Hilly"? How about that nice scene at the end when you take her home and get a kiss?Weird Science

Ilan: I am still great friends with Judie Aronson and we were always close during the filming of Weird Science. I'm not going to say that I didn't have a bit of a crush on her (because she was, and still is, so beautiful), but I was fifteen and she was in her early twenties. I like to think that I had some game when I was fifteen, but awkward boys in their middle teens have a hard time attracting beautiful young women in college. It was great just to be her friend, though.

Q: How different was the character of Wyatt to the real Ilan Mitchell-Smith back then? What were some of your favorite parts about playing "Wyatt" in Weird Science? Did you have any favorite lines or scenes? Did you have any least favorite parts?Wyatt

Ilan: At the time, I didn't feel very similar to Wyatt at all, and it was very much a question of what it meant to me to be in the category of nerd or geek. I never questioned the fact that I was, like Wyatt, in that category. I guess the answer is that I was enough like Wyatt that I was defining myself by the qualities that we either shared or didn't share.

I think he and Gary worked really well for Weird Science, but they are also early versions of the "sympathetic loser" trope of nerdiness where the audience is positioned to feel sorry for kids who are socially stunted, who enjoy stupid things, and whose friendships are categorized by annoyance, squabbling over trivia, and (often) outright hostility. This was not my experience with being so clearly in the nerdy category, and so I don't identify with Weird ScienceWyatt in the same way that I don't identify with the male characters on television's The Big Bang Theory, even if I love these shows and think they are very funny.

I really liked working on the party scene and I remember that there was a general feeling of chaos surrounding those scenes that was really fun. Bill Paxton, for example, dressed in sunglasses and a trench coat and put on some kind of hat while they were filming one of the scenes when things started going crazy, and he just snuck into one of the scenes. I don't know if anyone was able to pick out Chet, all disguised, as a guest at the party, but I thought it was so cool that he did that without anyone ever knowing.

Q: Any other interesting stories or facts about making Weird Science that you can share with us and let us in on? Do you have any favorite memories from making Weird Science? Do you still keep in touch with any of your fellow cast members?

Ilan: I have a lot of very nice memories from the set and from making the film, and I really enjoyed the people with whom I was working. My favorite memory might be this one:

I was on a lunch break, and I saw Eric Stoltz (see question #3) driving up in one of the golf carts that PAs and crew use to get around the lot. It turns out that he had somehow stolen this thing and he asked if I wanted to ride around a bit. At first we just toodled around the studio, chatting and looking at all of the sets and actors from the other films and shows. Weird ScienceThen Eric noticed a tram full of tourists who (in those days) were often taken through the working parts of the lot on their way to the Universal Studios Tour. For the next half hour Eric assaulted this Tram like a WWII fighter pilot going after a bomber. He first circled around to charge the flank of the thing at top golfing speed (which is faster than you would expect), only to peel off at the last minute among the shrieks of fear from the tram passengers. Weird ScienceCircling again, we charged another part of the tram, and then another, and then another, and the tourists were yelling and throwing up their hands and getting out of their seats to avoid what they thought was going to be an accident at any moment. Any 80s fan today would have absolutely loved to see, in full wardrobe, Marty McFly and Wyatt Donnelly relentlessly attacking the Universal Tour in a stolen golf cart.

When I left the business I concentrated on school almost exclusively, and so I lost touch with a lot of the people whom I really liked a lot. I am lucky enough to still be in touch with Judie Aronson and Suzanne Snyder, Michael [Hall], and Vernon Wells, who has recently invited me and my family to tour a Wolf rescue with which he is associated (

Q: What were your feelings about Weird Science when the film was released in 1985? Any different feelings about it now 29 years later?

Ilan: I wish I had a good story about the release of the movie. I was excited to go to the premier with the wonderful Yasmine Bleeth, which was fun, but I have always hated watching myself on film, so I didn't really watch much of the premier and I never saw the movie again until I was invited to introduce it to the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas while completing a Ph.D. at Texas A&M. Weird ScienceWhile I was filming the movie, I was always a little bit stressed about what my next job might be and the movie, in my mind, was a resume builder that I could be proud of. Now, I see the movie and my experiences in a much more relaxed way. It seems like lot of people enjoyed the movie and I am pleased to have been part of that enjoyment. I was a lucky kid to have been able to work in the film industry and I miss a lot of the wonderful people that I met during my time there.

Q: How often do you still get recognized as Wyatt? Do you enjoy your connection to this 80s classic or have you completely moved on?

Ilan: It doesn't happen all that often, and I look pretty different now than I did back then. My voice, for some reason, doesn't seem to have changed much. That is often the thing that tips people off.

I don't mind being recognized a bit, but I sometimes try to get out of it by playing it off like we might have met somewhere. It's not that I mind being recognized or talking about my acting, but sometimes I just come out and say it and the other person doesn't believe me, so then I am trying to convince some stranger that I used to be a movie star.

In a lot of ways I have moved on and it doesn't come up that much. I do, however, have a "Shermer High School" T-Shirt and it is one of my favorites
.The Chocolate War

Q: You were in 1988's The Chocolate War which was directed by Keith Gordon. What do you remember about making this film? How about working with the young first-time director Gordon?

Ilan: Of all of the work that I did, working on The Chocolate War was by far my favorite experience. Keith was a real actor's director and he was so connected to the work that you couldn't help but feel like you were part of something meaningful.

The cast was wonderful on that film and the crew were some of the best people I have known. I was very close with one crew member who was pregnant at the time, and she ended up naming her son Ilan because she liked the name (and I hoped because she liked me, too).

Q: Are there any 80s roles that you auditioned for and did not get that would be particularly interesting especially looking back now?

Ilan: It seems like I auditioned for all kinds of movies that later became pretty big deals. Ilan Mitchell-Smith I got some call backs on Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, auditioned for many of the things Zach Galligan and Patrick Dempsey ended up booking and turned down (much to my regret and only because of some bad advice from my agent) a small part in Say Anything. The ones I wanted most, though, didn't come out at all or were so bad that I am lucky not to have gotten them. I really wanted to do action movies, but the ones where I might have been appropriate turned out to be pretty goofy.

Q: Please tell us a little about where your career has taken you since the 80s. What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments?

Ilan: I am a professor of Medieval English Literature at California State University, Long Beach. I have published a little bit on medieval chivalric romances, violence and monsters, and I also have written a little bit on contemporary recreations of the Middle Ages, in Disney Princesses or in online gaming or in medieval action films.

I am proud of being at CSULB, which is an excellent school with a wonderfully diverse, friendly, enthusiastic friendly campus community. Ilan Mitchell-SmithI also have had some excellent students who have gone on to some very good Ph.D. and Master's programs as well as impressive positions in business and government. If I were to be honest, I think these people would do amazing things with or without my having been their mentor, but I will claim a small piece of pride for their accomplishments nevertheless

Q: What else has Ilan Mitchell-Smith been up to more recently? Both acting or otherwise? What can we expect in the future? Any remaining ambitions or regrets?

Ilan: I have no regrets at all, and in general I am a happy man. I recently did a little bit of voice over work for Fox ADHD's Axe Cop (which I followed and loved online before it was a show), but in general I am out of the business, and I love my job as a professor.

I have a wonderful family whom I love very much and I spend a lot of time with them or on dates with my wife, which we get a lot more of now that our kids are older. My two kids share many of my interests and we have a pretty good time together.

I am also a huge tabletop (not computer) gamer and I spend much of my free time (when not on a date with my wife) gaming with friends, local and state-wide clubs, and with my kids. I still play D&D whenever I can (and other games of the same kind) and I have been part of the board gaming renaissance that has been happening in nerdy communities for the last 20 years or so. I am also a proud member of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society and I am an avid painter of wargaming miniatures, which are used to play complex strategy games once we have painted them. In this hobby I join a long list of fellow enthusiasts, such as Ansel Elgort, Vin Diesel, Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin!), Peter Jackson and many others

Unfortunately, I don't know if you can expect anything exciting from me in the future, except that I host some pretty elaborate games that anyone can play at every Strategicon Convention in LA. I also attend, as a VIP, all of the events for TableTop, Wil Wheaton's online show that features celebrities playing Tabletop games. I am also known to attend some other conventions around the U.S. to sign autographs, and I usually announce these (and squee about the people I might meet) on Twitter (I'm @IlanMS).

I am so pleased that Ilan was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. I was so jealous of what his character in Weird Science was able to do back then (and still am at least a little). As he mentioned, if interested, you can him on Twitter at I want to take this occasion to again thank Ilan Mitchell-Smith for his contributions to 80s pop culture especially through Weird Science and, even more, for going back to the 80s with us here for a little while as well.

That's all for another special issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks as always for reading and hope you are enjoying the interviews as much as I am. If you want a summary of all of my Back to the 80s Interviews posted thus far, please click on that link. Be sure you haven't missed any of them. There is a link to a summary of all of my 80s issues in the left hand column below the Archives and you can use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any topics you are looking for or other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of 80s pop culture and Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. You can also hook up with us on Google+. Please leave comments so we know you're out there and let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.

Quote of the day: "If you want be a party animal, you have to learn to live in the jungle." -"Lisa" in Weird Science

Back to the 80s: Muppet Babies debuted in 1984 - Kickin' it Old School
09.12.14 (11:40 am)   [edit]
Though interviews have sort of dominated my content lately (and hopefully you have been enjoying those as much as I have), I still want to take time to recognize noteworthy moments in 80s pop culture history whenever possible. This month we acknowledge the 30 year anniversary of the Muppet Babies cartoon series debut on CBS Saturday morning television. Muppet BabiesThe popular series began on September 15, 1984 and went on to run for 8 seasons and 107 episodes ending in November of 1991. The show features animated childhood versions of the main Muppets characters living together in a nursery. Those characters include Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Scooter, Muppets Take ManhattanFozzie Bear, Rowlf the Dog, Gonzo and Animal with other characters making guest appearances in selected episodes.

Some are not aware that the animated series was inspired by a fantasy sequence included in The Muppets Take Manhattan, a live-action full-length film that had been released in theaters in July of 1984. In this fantasy sequence, Miss Piggy sings a song about what it would've been like to grow up with Kermit and included baby versions of Rowlf, Fozzie, Scooter and Gonzo as back-up singers. It is pretty cool that a series that ran for over 100 episodes started from this short scene. Here is that scene featuring the song "I'm Gonna Always Love You" from The Muppets Take Manhattan...

Muppet Babies took these familiar characters in their adorable baby versions and gave them hyperactive imaginations and cute baby voices that were used to sing original songs. The recipe proved hugely successful with great ratings especially for a Saturday morning cartoon. Muppet Babies was not only a commercial success, but also a critical success during its time on the air winning four consecutive Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Animated Program from 1985-1988. Here is the opening theme for Muppet Babies...

The Muppet Babies were watched over by Nanny, which was the only regular human character and her face was never shown. Muppet BabiesYou may have recognized Nanny's voice which was provided by Barbara Billingsley ("June Cleaver" on Leave It to Beaver). You may also find it interesting to know that Baby Animal and his catchphrase "Go bye-bye!" was provided by Howie Mandel for the first two seasons and then by Dave Coulier ("Uncle Joey" on Full House) for the remainder of the series. Another thing you may not remember is that, in order to have another female character, Scooter was given a twin sister, Skeeter, who has never been included in any other Muppet shows or movies. Muppet Babies would start a trend of popular cartoons creating new shows with younger versions of the characters including Tiny Toon Adventures, The Flintstone Kids and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo among others.

I fondly remember watching Muppet Babies on Saturday mornings at least for a couple years. Everybody loves the Muppets and they were probably at their peak back then. It is fun to see them make a comeback of sorts with the more recent films, but I will always remember them best from my favorite decade. And, yep, that was the 80s.

That'll wrap up another issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks so much for reading. There is a link to a summary of all of my 80s issues in the left hand column below the Archives and you can use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any topics you are looking for or other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of 80s pop culture and Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. You can also hook up with us on Google+. Please leave comments so we know you're out there and let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.

Check this out: There are many hilarious Muppet videos out there. Here is one with a little 80s connection. Enjoy getting "Rick Rolled" by Beeker...

Quote of the day: "There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million." -Walt Streightiff

Back to the 80s: Interview with Britt Leach from Weird Science, The Great Outdoors & more - Kickin' it Old School
08.22.14 (8:45 am)   [edit]
As I still feel the need to say each time, I am so delighted that interviews continue to be a legitimate part of this little blog of mine! When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the 80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.Britt Leach

This time that awesomeness is Britt Leach. He is an actor who just happens to be in two scenes from John Hughes films that I find absolutely hilarious. He played Gary's father in Weird Science and the guy who was struck by lightning in The Great Outdoors. Even though those are my favorites and he has been retired from acting for some time, he had over 70 credits in his over 20-year career as a character actor in both television and film. Find out a little about the Weird Science and The Great Outdoors roles, some of his other work in the 80s and more as we get on to some selections from my interview with Britt Leach...

Q: How did you come to be cast as "Al Wallace" in 1985's Weird Science which was written and directed by John Hughes. What do you remember about the audition process if there was one? What did you think of the script and your character when you first read it?

Britt: As an actor who was only attempting to work, get a job, do a part, I would go on interviews. Sometimes the first interview was with a casting person, if he or she did not know your work. Al WallaceAnd that was before you got a chance to read for the director. I can't remember if I had to read for a casting director first for Weird Science. But if I did I must have passed because next I met with John Hughes and the casting director, producer, etc., not separately but all together in a room where I read my part - with the casting director reading the other parts. Sometimes it was a conference room and sometimes it was simply an office on the lot at Universal or some other studio. And with Weird Science I remember it being an office. Oddly enough, I can remember that John Hughes was sitting on a couch nearby, to my left in fact, and I was in a chair. Weird ScienceAs to the script, I might not have even seen an entire script before the audition. It's possible that I only saw what are called "sides" - just part of the script with your character's words and sometimes only part of the preceding line, your cues in other words. The more secretive directors would do that. God forbid that the entire opus would get out. I kind of doubt that was true with Weird Science, but I can't remember if I ever saw the entire Weird Science script before I got the part.

As to what I attempted to do with that audition, I always tried for strong choices with all my auditions, as the character is going through whatever emotional changes he might be going through, in reading a line or reacting to another character. So that those gathered could get a good idea of how I would handle the specific part and acting in general. Lines change, directions change. Can this guy handle it? A director (and everyone else in the room) also likes to see confidence. They don't want an actor who will fold under the pressure of shooting a scene on a sound stage. Lights, crew, other actors, bad coffee. LisaSo the Weird Science audition was like any other audition, in that sense. And this character, "Al", was just one more husband dealing with his wife, one more dad dealing with his son and later one more dad dealing with a beautiful witch (Kelly LeBrock), who could just generally be thought of as one more physical threat, though a very beautiful physical threat, when she put the pistol in my face. Standard actor choices. Very easy to show fear with a pistol pointed at you or even an imaginary pistol pointing at you in the audition. Nothing special. Perhaps I could clarify the process this way. I was an actor trying to get a part, a job, pay the rent, eat. I wasn't auditioning for Weird Science knowing that it would become a hit for teenage boys everywhere for a long time or that I would be answering questions about it many years later. Just another job at the time. That thinking also applied after I got the job and was on the set. And, yes, even in the presence of Kelly LeBrock.Weird Science

Q: I am huge fan of all of the John Hughes films from the 80s. Did you get to know him at all during the making of the film? What can you tell us about John Hughes and your experience working for him (in Weird Science and also later in The Great Outdoors)?

Britt: John was a very gentle, supportive director who let actors work. He was never in my face with suggestions. I do remember that when I was improvising some curse words of terror with that pistol in my face, he told me to go for more PG-rated words. But that's all I remember about his direction. He also asked me if I wanted to watch dailies with him, but I never watched dailies (raw footage from previous days' work) for any film I did. My work was already on film. If John or any other director wasn't satisfied with my work, having seen the dailies, he would re-shoot the scene. Weird ScienceSo what good was my seeing the dailies? If my choice to not see the dailies displeased him, he never showed it. John was a gentleman. And even though John wrote and produced The Great Outdoors, I never saw him during that film's production. Howard Deutch was the director.

Q: You played the father of Anthony Michael Hall's character "Gary". What can you tell us about Hall and working with him?

Britt: Anthony Michael Hall was just one more professional actor doing his work, making acting choices. I worked off of him and he worked off me. No hanging out off-set. I didn't like to hang out with actors off-camera. It could be confusing for the time I was on camera. I wanted to always see the actor as the character. I'm sure that other actors could hang out and then do the scene, but I couldn't. Hall was a good strong actor. I did really enjoy working with him.

Q: You had a great scene with the beautiful Kelly LeBrock as well. What can you tell us about LeBrock and working with her?

Britt: Sorry if this is a little repetitive and boring, but I always tried to think of the actor as the character. Weird ScienceTrue with Kelly as well. Very professional actor who did the job. That kind of statement is true of 99% of all acting jobs during my years of acting and it would be my hope today. Actors have a job to do, and it's in front of the camera. I suppose that when an actor is doing a series and character work is repeated each day for months and years, it can become easy to chit-chat off-camera and gossip and play pranks on each other and then jump into a scene, but for most journeyman (and journeywoman?) actors moving from job to job, it's about concentrating and getting the day's work done. It's the scene. Very little can be accomplished while chatting around the crafts-services table - even with good coffee. My only modification to that statement would be that you sometimes run lines off camera. You sometimes ask the other actor in a scene if there's anything else they need, if you can help them in some way. But that's it and I don't remember any conversations of that nature with Kelly. Sorry I don't have more. She was very professional and did the job.

Weird Science was written and directed by John Hughes and released in theaters in August of 1985. One of my many favorite scenes from this film is when Gary (played by Anthony Michael Hall) brings Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) home to meet his parents. Leach plays Gary's plumber father "Al" who is a little taken back by this beautiful mature woman who is taking his 15-year-old son out to party. The situation escalates into hilariousness with Lisa threatening to kick Al's arse and everybody yelling on top of each other. I just think it is perfect and makes me laugh every time I watch it. Here is that entire scene for your viewing pleasure...

Q: Any other interesting stories or favorite memories from making Weird Science that you can share with us and let us in on?

Britt: This memory does not qualify as my favorite, but maybe it would work for most amusing. We first shot in Chicago, where we did exteriors. I did the scene in the car - "Gary, who's Gary?" - and I think there was a scene at a mall and some exteriors at the house. But my only scene in Chicago was that scene in the car on a street as Gary drives by. Anyway, time came to fly back to L.A and I sat in the hotel lobby waiting for, ahem, the younger members of the cast (who shall remain nameless) to show up for the car to the airport. They were late and then they were later. Britt LeachSo late that when we finally got to the airport I had to run to catch the flight. Today I weigh a very svelte 215 pounds but in those days I weighed considerably more and did not appreciate having to run through O'Hare to catch the plane. No TSA in those days mercifully. To say that I was out of breath when I finally made it to my seat on the plane would be an understatement. Okay, they will now be no longer nameless. It was Bill Paxton and Michael (Hall) who were late and required my running to catch the plane. I have no idea why they were late to the lobby. I don't know why they overslept. I wouldn't want to imply that they had been having too much fun or anything like that the night before. My hope is that they had been up late studying the Gideon Bible and got to bed late, after a prayer. That is my hope.

Q: What were your feelings about Weird Science when the film was released in 1985?

Britt: Again, I wish I could make this more special. But for a journeyman actor, it's always about the next job. I was never very good at watching how a film I had done was doing at the box office. I was just looking for more work and going through the audition process again. And again.

Looking back now, I hope Leach can appreciate how great he was in that role as well as the one we will talk about next.The Great Outdoors

Q: You appeared in another Hughes film with 1988's The Great Outdoors (which was directed by Howard Deutch though). How did the role of "Reg" come to you? Did it have anything to do with your previous work with Hughes?

Britt: I enjoy answering these questions because I like giving a touch of reality to the sparkle and glamour of showbiz and to whatever minimal fame (probably the wrong word) I might have. Sometime after Weird Science I was on a publicity tour for another film I did, Baby Boom. Before leaving for that tour, I had read for The Great Outdoors. The Great OutdoorsHoward Deutch and I had met in Milton Katselas's acting class (a master class if you must know) and he called me in for the interview for the part of "Reg". In those ancient days, they had the process of videoing the interview. So I was reading with the casting director and doing my only big scene at the bar, the lightning scene, and I broke her up, as we say in showbiz. She was laughing so hard at me that she couldn't get through the scene. So Howie Deutch took over and read the other lines (Candy's and Aykroyd's). My guess is that the video was for John Hughes. But before leaving for the Baby Boom publicity tour, I had heard nothing about my reading for The Great Outdoors. I probably guessed that I hadn't gotten the part.

The Baby Boom tour went to Houston, Miami, Atlanta. I was in Atlanta and had done a TV interview about Baby Boom and got a call from my agent. "You got the part in The Great Outdoors," she said. Wonderful. "And you're going to be needed at Bass Lake near Fresno the day after tomorrow to start shooting. And it's okay with the publicity tour for Baby Boom. I checked." Okay, the next stop was a TV station in North Carolina and then fly back to L.A. and then on to Fresno. When I reached wherever it was in North Carolina, I learned about the offer (the money) and it wasn't bad, more than I'd ever gotten before, so I was ready to go. And to cut it all very short, I went to Bass Lake near Fresno, California and did the part with dear John Candy and Dan Aykroyd. Okay, but there's something else. The Great OutdoorsWhy so long between the interview for the part and getting that call two days before I was to start shooting? Dear friends, I think the answer was that they were attempting to get a bigger name for the part. A cameo. And who the hell knows who that might have been? I don't. But it was a damn long time after the initial interview and damned short time before I had to start shooting. But that's showbiz. And more people remember me from that part than anything else I ever did including Weird Science. So I don't care how it happened. About my research for the part? I do nervous very well.

Q: The bar scene where you get introduced and we learn about your character getting struck by lightning is just pure comedy to me (not that getting struck by lightning is all that funny, but the way it was presented). What can you tell us about that scene?

Britt: Howie Deutch is a wonderful guy and a fine director. He, like John Hughes, allows actors to work. Very little direction. So we shot a bunch of film. I did my lightning thing over and over with dear John Candy and Dan Aykroyd. The Great OutdoorsYou sit down with a star when you're a journeyman actor and there are nerves working even though you're both just actors. So in the first few rehearsals I was blowing my lines, forgetting. "Damn, John, I'm sorry. I'll get it. Don't worry." And John Candy said, "Don't worry about it. I'll work off whatever you give me." Or words to that effect. Hand to my shoulder. A dear, dear man. There were only two camera angles that I can remember, and we shot a bunch of film. But it worked, and I finally remembered my words. To include the number of times the character had been hit in the head. 66. I still remember.

The Great Outdoors was released in June of 1988. The scene with Leach as "Reg" only lasts a couple of minutes, but is quite hilarious and one of my favorites from the entire film. "You'll never meet a guy more tuned in to the barometric pressure than Reg. Yeah. You see him running like hell for home, head for cover." Unfortunately I couldn't find a video (that allowed me to embed it here) of the entire scene with the full conversation between Candy, Aykroyd and Leach, but here is the end when "Reg" tells him just how many times he had been struck by lightning... in the head...

Q: As mentioned, you worked with John Candy and Dan Aykroyd, both comedy geniuses. Anything else you can tell us about your time working with each of them?The Great Outdoors

Britt: Other than what I already mentioned in the answer above, both were absolute pros. John's death, too young, was very sad to me. Dear man.

Q: Do you still get recognized for your role in Weird Science or The Great Outdoors? If so, which one more and how often or are there other roles you get recognized for most often?

Britt: I do remember being in a copying place in Studio City, California where I lived and seeing a man I'd never seen before who asked me, "How many times in the head?" That's all he said. Does that suggest anything? I don't know.

Usually recognition is not specified. You get a look. It's that look that I usually interpret as they remember me from something but can't quite place it. And I'll get: "I've enjoyed your work." Just a look and a nice comment. I do my best to be grateful to either.

Q: Horror fans may remember you from your role in 1984's Silent Night, Deadly Night as the toy store manager. Anything worth sharing about that notorious film which has gone on to become sort of a cult favorite?

Britt: In Silent Night, Deadly Night, my character died with an axe stuck in his head. Silent Night, Deadly NightOff-set anecdote (could be boring but maybe not): I was active in what was called Animal Rights in those days and was in a demonstration at UCLA against vivisection. I was and am an antivivisectionist. So a bunch of us animal activists were chanting whatever we were chanting about animals and across from us was a line of sheriff's deputies or campus cops, billy clubs at the ready. So when the demo was over and we all were heading home, a cop came over to me. "Oh, hell, here it comes," I said. "I'm dead now. Maybe I gave him a look during the demo. Maybe he's going to question my attitude." Instead, and to my great relief, he said, "How'd they get that axe to stick in your head?"

Q: As you mentioned earlier, you were in 1987's Baby Boom which starred Diane Keaton. What can you tell us about that role and working with Keaton in Baby Boom?Verne Boone

Britt: So Baby Boom came after Weird Science and before The Great Outdoors. Baby Boom seems to be as popular with fans as The Great Outdoors. I've never made a study of it, but that's my impression. It was shot in Manchester, Vermont, and the director was Charles Shyer, who had been one of my champions, had seen me in a play I did in L.A. and had recommended me to Jack Nicholson for Goin' South [1978], which I shot in Durango, Mexico. In Baby Boom, I played the plumber who gave the Diane Keaton character the bad news about (what else?) her plumbing. Frozen pipes in her house and a well that had run dry. But this plumber - Verne Boone by name - was also a sax player and had his own little orchestra. So in working on the character, I made him a man who thought of himself as a sax player first who happened to make his living as a plumber. Sort of like actors in Hollywood who make their living as waiters. Verne and his orchestra are seen and heard later in the film at the Harvest Festival dance.

Diane Keaton of course is a pro. Baby BoomAnd once again, as it had been with John Candy in The Great Outdoors, I was a bit nervous on my first day shooting with her and blew a few takes. Diane was gracious about it (even though she also had a baby resting on her hip while I was attempting to remember my lines). I sang in the film. Certainly didn't play the sax, but I was able to carry a tune, the tune being "Moonlight In Vermont." I recorded it at MGM in Culver City. The director of the orchestra rehearsed with me before the orchestra came in. "That's great," he said. "Just pretend like you're in the shower." And I did and had a great time singing.

Q: Any other memorable moments from making Baby Boom?Baby Boom

Britt: I was never a temperamental actor. Journeyman actors can't afford to be, but I remember that in doing Baby Boom in the snow of Vermont, I had a moment of snippiness that I probably took out on the wardrobe person or third assistant director. Those good people catch a lot from actors for some reason. Anyway, I had to wear about four layers of clothing for the scene at the well, including hip boots. And I had dressed and was called to the set. I should mention here that I was dressing in a room the size of a walk-in closet in an apartment building, not a walk-in in Beverly Hills or Bel Air, but a room where it was literally difficult to turn around. And I was fat, 240 pounds at the time maybe. Anyway, I have been called to the set and I'm on my way out of the door and I glance toward what is laughingly called the bed, where my wardrobe had been laid out, and discovered a layer. A Shirt, an undershirt, or something. No way that I could leave it off of my fat body, all the layers had been established in a previous take. So I had to tell the nervous wardrobe person or third assistant director that they'd just have to wait, I'd missed a layer. The temperament came from realizing that once again I was dressing in a closet. While the babies of Baby Boom (twins, of course, who played one child) had a damned motor home big enough to bowl in. "Tell them they'll have to wait!" But the scene at the well went... well and Diane Keaton was a pleasure to work with. Pro, all the way. It became a very popular film.

In addition to his many movie roles, Leach had many roles on television as well appearing in some of the most popular television shows of the time. Here are just some of the shows that he appeared on during the 80s: M*A*S*H, One Day at a Time, Dallas, Hill Street Blues, Three's Company, Newhart, The Dukes of Hazzard, Fame, St. Elsewhere and Tales from the Crypt.

Q: Anything memorable that you can share with us about your experiences on any of the popular 80s television shows you appeared on?

Britt: A blur for most of those credits. Can't remember most. Can't even see the blur. But Howard Deutch directed the Tales from the Crypt that I did ["Only Sin Deep" 1989]. (Here I should also mention that he directed Article 99 [1992], which I was also in but was sliced out of in editing. Much to my residual regret. I also enjoyed doing the film with Howie - and he apologized, but it wasn't his fault. Too long, the studio said.) On Tales from the Crypt, it was a weird and serious role, and it might have been a bit too weird and serious for old comedic me. I don't remember being particularly satisfied with what I did. I think I did three different episodes of Three's Company. Lots of fun. John Ritter was another dear man, left us too soon. Three different parts on Three's Company. I do remember that in one I lived with a parrot named Hortense. Oh, God. The things you remember.Britt Leach

Q: You seemed to have retired from acting in the early 90s. Why did you decide to get out of acting at that point? What have you been doing since then and what else has Britt Leach been up to more recently?

Britt: If I went into the business of why I got out of acting, I'd have to get into the business of why I got into acting. And that's something I am working on now in my writing. I have three websites that are up and running that contain some of my writing. Okay four. My wife, Catherine, and I left Los Angeles and moved to the mountains to the north. While there, we started a newspaper, which became a magazine. Country Connections by name [an award-winning bi-monthly magazine which covered environmental and progressive social issues]. It has an archive website I started writing seriously for it. After we had to shut it for lack of funds, etc., I started writing for websites which I designed and nurtured. They are and I'm now archiving my writing on I also have a piece coming out in the October issue (16.1) of River Teeth Journal, And I'm told that a piece I've written will be in North of 40 In other biographical news, I have a cat named Alex and a long-suffering wife named Catherine who is a terrific photographer and my love... Catherine Roberts Leach Thanks for listening.

I am so pleased that Britt was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. You can keep up with his writings at all of the sites mentioned above including I want to take this occasion to again thank Britt Leach for his contributions to 80s pop culture especially through Weird Science and The Great Outdoors and, even more, for going back to the 80s with us here for a little while as well. 66 times!

That's all for another special issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks as always for reading and hope you are enjoying the interviews as much as I am. If you want a summary of all of my Back to the 80s Interviews posted thus far, please click on that link. Be sure you haven't missed any of them. There is a link to a summary of all of my 80s issues in the left hand column below the Archives and you can use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any topics you are looking for or other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of 80s pop culture and Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. You can also hook up with us on Google+. Please leave comments so we know you're out there and let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.

Quote of the day: "You're only given a little spark of madness, you mustn't lose it." -Robin Williams

Back to the 80s: Top Albums Released in 1984 - Kickin' it Old School
08.05.14 (11:34 am)   [edit]
Top 10 lists used to be a regular feature here on Kickin' it Old School. Interviews have sort of dominated my content lately and hopefully you have been enjoying those as much as I have. Last year, I published my Top Albums Released in 1983 (check that out if you haven't before) so this year we will celebrate the great albums released 30 years ago in 1984.1984 Albums

1984 was an epic year for music. After ending 1983 as the album of the year, 1984 started with Michael Jackson's iconic Thriller on top of the album chart for the first 15 weeks and ultimately finishing #1 on the year-end chart for 1984 as well. Despite being so dominant in 1983 and 1984, Thriller does not qualify for this list since it was actually released in 1982 and this list will only include albums released during the calendar year of 1984. Only five albums topped the Billboard 200 album chart in 1984 (with only 3 of those actually released in 1984). That is the fewest of any calendar year in the chart's history.

The list will also not include any compilation/greatest hits albums that happened to be released that year. My rankings will not be based purely on sales, perceived quality of work or pop culture significance, though that will all be taken into consideration along with my personal taste level both then and now. As usual, the list will definitely lean heavily towards pop music for this particular year, though Run-DMC begins a slight shift for me as we get into the mid-80s. So with all of that said, here is OLD SCHOOL'S TOP 10 ALBUMS RELEASED IN 1984 (+ Bonus 10 & Honorable Mentions):

Honorable Mentions:
The Smiths by The Smiths
The Fat Boys by Fat Boys
Points on the Curve by Wang Chung
Talk Show by The Go-Go's
Agent Provocateur by Foreigner
Bon Jovi by Bon Jovi
Ice Cream Castle by The Time
Camouflage by Rod Stewart
"Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D by "Weird Al" Yankovic
Street Talk by Steve Perry
Into the Gap by Thompson Twins
Emergency by Kool & the Gang
Welcome to the Pleasure Dome by Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Christmas by Mannheim Steamroller
Learning to Crawl by The Pretenders

20. Ride the Lightning by Metallica
Release date: July 27, 1984
Notable singles: "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Fade to Black"
Notable details: The band's second album went 6x platinum; the album's name comes from Stephen King's novel The Stand

Ride the Lightning

19. The Unforgettable Fire by U2
Release date: October 1, 1984
Notable singles: "Pride (In the Name of Love)"
Notable details: Produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois; the album title is a reference to a traveling art exhibit about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that they saw at The Peace Museum in Chicago

The Unforgettable Fire

18. Big Bam Boom by Hall & Oates
Release date: October 12, 1984
Notable singles: "Out of Touch", "Method of Modern Love"
Notable details: The guys' 12th studio album went on to sell over 3 million worldwide and included their 6th career #1 single

Big Bam Boom

17. Suddenly by Billy Ocean
Release date: September 12, 1984
Notable singles: "Caribbean Queen", "Loverboy", "Suddenly"
Notable details: Three Top 5 singles including his first U.S. pop hit


16. New Edition by New Edition
Release date: July 6, 1984
Notable singles: "Cool It Now", "Mr. Telephone Man", "Lost in Love", "My Secret"
Notable details: Their second studio album went double platinum and solidified them as teen pop sensations

New Edition

15. Private Dancer by Tina Turner
Release date: May 29, 1984
Notable singles: "What's Love Got to Do With It", "Private Dancer", "Better Be Good to Me"
Notable details: Actually was her fifth solo album, but this one propelled her to be a star and eventually went 5x platinum; Check out my interview with Rupert Hine who co-produced this album

Private Dancer

14. Human's Lib by Howard Jones
Release date: March 17, 1984 (in UK); June 12, 1984 (in U.S.)
Notable singles: "What Is Love?", "New Song"
Notable details: Jones' debut album spent 57 weeks on the UK album chart; Check out my interview with Rupert Hine who also produced this album

Human's Lib

13. Vital Signs by Survivor
Release date: September, 1984
Notable singles: "The Search is Over", "I Can't Hold Back", "High On You"
Notable details: First for band with Jimi Jamison taking over lead vocals; Check out my interview with Jimi Jamison discussing these hits

Vital Signs

12. Chicago 17 by Chicago
Release date: May 14, 1984
Notable singles: "Stay the Night", "Hard Habit to Break", "You're the Inspiration", "Along Comes a Woman"
Notable details: The last album with Peter Cetera included those four Top 20 singles, went 6x platinum and became the best-selling album in the band's history

Chicago 17

11. Beverly Hills Cop Soundtrack
Release date: December 5, 1984
Notable singles: "New Attitude", "The Heat Is On", "Neutron Dance", "Stir It Up", "Axel F"
Notable details: Just squeaked onto this year's list by 26 days; Check out my interview with Allee Willis who co-wrote many of the songs on this soundtrack

Beverly Hills Cop

10. Building the Perfect Beast by Don Henley
Release date: November 19, 1984
Notable singles: "The Boys of Summer", "Sunset Grill", "All She Wants to Do is Dance", "Not Enough Love in this World"
Notable details: His second solo album made him a solo star with those four Top 40 singles

Building the Perfect Beast

9. Footloose Soundtrack
Release date: February 14, 1984
Notable singles: "Footloose", "Let's Hear It For the Boy", "Holding Out for a Hero", "Almost Paradise"
Notable details: Held the top spot on the Billboard 200 album chart for 10 straight weeks in April through June; Of nine total tracks, six reached the Top 40 and two hit #1. Check out my interview with Dean Pitchford who not only wrote the screenplay for the film, but co-wrote most of the songs on the soundtrack as well


8. 1984 by Van Halen
Release date: January 9, 1984
Notable singles: "Jump", "Panama", "Hot for Teacher", "I'll Wait"
Notable details: Spent 5 weeks at #2 on the Billboard 200 album chart behind Thriller; It was the last album with David Lee Roth (until 2012); see story on album cover in 'Check This Out' section at bottom


7. Like a Virgin by Madonna
Release date: November 12, 1984
Notable singles: "Like a Virgin", "Material Girl", "Into the Groove", "Dress You Up"
Notable details: Her second album gave the "Material Girl" her moniker and went on to become 10x platinum selling over 21 million worldwide; would reach the top of the Billboard 200 album chart for three weeks in February of 1985

Like a Virgin

6. Make It Big by Wham!
Release date: October 23, 1984
Notable singles: "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", "Freedom", "Everything She Wants", "Careless Whisper"
Notable details: The band's second album went 6x platinum and generated four #1 singles; would reach the top of the Billboard 200 album chart for three weeks in March of 1985

Make It Big

5. Heartbeat City by The Cars
Release date: March 13, 1984
Notable singles: "Drive", "You Might Think", "Magic", "Hello Again", "Why Can't I Have You"
Notable details: Included five Top 40 singles and would eventually go 4x platinum; The cover art is from a 1972 piece by Peter Phillips called Art-O-Matic Loop di Loop

Heartbeat City

4. Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen
Release date: June 4, 1984
Notable singles: "Born in the U.S.A.", "Glory Days", "Dancing in the Dark", My Home Town", "I'm On Fire"
Notable details: Spent four weeks on top of the Billboard 200 album chart during July (and returned for another 3 weeks in early 1985); Went on to sell over 15 million copies in the U.S. and 30 million worldwide with an incredible record-tying seven Top 10 singles (he previously only had one Top 10 hit); Would demonstrate longevity by spending 84 weeks in the Top 10 and become the best-selling album of 1985 as well

Born in the U.S.A.

3. Run-DMC by Run-DMC
Release date: March 27, 1984
Notable singles: "Rock Box", "Hard Times", "Sucker M.C.'s", "It's Like That"
Notable details: Run and D were only 19 years old when this album was released; Groundbreaking debut album ranks at #51 on Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Albums of the 1980's" and #240 on their list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time"; I can listen to this one from start-to-finish over and over


2. Reckless by Bryan Adams
Release date: November 5, 1984
Notable singles: "Summer of 69", "Run To You", "Heaven", "Somebody", "One Night Love Affair", "It's Only Love"
Notable details: His fourth studio album went 5x platinum selling over 12 million copies worldwide and generating six Top 15 singles; would eventually reach the top of the Billboard 200 album chart for two weeks in August of 1985; Check out my interview with Jim Vallance who co-wrote most of this album with Adams


1. Purple Rain by Prince
Release date: June 25, 1984
Notable singles: "Let's Go Crazy", "When Doves Cry", "Purple Rain", "I Would Die 4 U"
Notable details: The album held the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 album chart starting on August 4, 1984 for the remaining 22 weeks of that year and the first two weeks of 1985 (24 straight weeks is tied for the 6th longest all-time); it eventually went 13x platinum and sold over 20 million worldwide; Had four Top 10 singles including two that reached #1

Purple Rain

There's my list. As usual and as I mentioned earlier, these are based on my personal preferences and the order could very well change a little depending on my mood or nostalgia on a given day. I am sure there is much room for debate. Are there any albums released in 1984 that you feel I have overlooked? (Remember, they had to be RELEASED during 1984.) If so or if you'd rank any differently, please leave that in the comments section below and on Facebook. No matter what order you put them in, it is obvious that there was some awesome music released in 1984. That continued to a certain degree into 1985 as well, so expect a list of those albums next year.

That'll wrap up another issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks so much for reading. There is a link to a summary of all of my 80s issues in the left hand column below the Archives and you can use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any topics you are looking for or other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of 80s pop culture and Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. You can also hook up with us on Google+. Please leave comments so we know you're out there and let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.

Check this out: Appropriate for this list of albums released in the 1984, and just to put it in perspective (making us feel a little bit older), let's revisit the somewhat controversial album cover for Van Halen's 1984, created by Margo Z. Nahas which featured a painting of a smoking angel-baby. Though it's a painting, it's actually based on a photograph of then-four-year-old Carter Helm (not a picture of David Lee Roth as a baby, as many people often think). At the time, Nahas' husband Jay Vigon was a designer and art director who was helping a friend at Warner Brothers on the album release. When the band spotted the original photograph of Margo's friend's son in her portfolio, they decided that was the picture they wanted to represent 1984. So where is that smoking baby today? Here's a picture of what he looks like more recently...

1984 boy

Well, he's 35 years old, lives in San Francisco and works as an ocean cargo and inland marine insurance writer. Helm mentioned in an interview that "It was not until I was in third grade when it kind of hit me that being on that cover was something special." Here is a cool video that gives more details on the story behind the Van Halen 1984 album cover...

Quote of the day: "Not everything that can be counted, counts. And not everything that counts can be counted." -Albert Einstein

Back to the 80s: Interview with Skip Griparis from Major League - Kickin' it Old School
07.29.14 (3:18 pm)   [edit]
As I still feel the need to say each time, I am so delighted that interviews continue to be a legitimate part of this little blog of mine! When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the 80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.Skip Griparis

This time that awesomeness is Skip Griparis. He is a musician and a comedian, but likely best known to most from his role as Bob Uecker's radio partner in the film Major League. He was a character of few words, but the two provided some of the funniest parts of a very funny film. Find out a little about working on Major League as well as what he did before and has done since as we get on to some selections from my interview with Skip Griparis...

Q: Please tell us a little about what you had done in your career prior to Major League.

Skip: I started my crazy career in rock bands in 1964, eventually leading to a Mercury album release in 1971 by my band, Trilogy. Great album, no promo, so it and we died. Skip GriparisThen in 1972, I replaced my good buddy Ronnie Rice in Chicago's New Colony Six. By 1975, I was asked to play guitar and sing in the Olivia Newton-John band, which I did for four years, touring the states and the world. She was the biggest singer on the planet at that time. She was beautiful, sweet, sang like a bird - OK, I had a massive crush on her! I still can't talk to her without embarrassing myself. But she stopped touring and, by 1980, I needed a break from the music business, so I went back to school and got a speech/theater degree at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. Utilizing my music background with my developing acting/comedy skills, I created an original one-man rock comic impressionist act. Damn, if I didn't headline all over the country, including stints at the Ice House in Los Angeles, Zanies Comedy Club (many times) in Chicago and Dangerfield's in New York.Major League

Q: How did the role of "Monty the Colorman" in Major League come your way? What made you decide to audition and did you audition for that specific part? What can you tell us about the audition process and then when you found out you were cast?

Skip: I also was doing Chicago theater and auditioning for commercials, TV, movies and crappy industrial projects. I did do a few TV commercials and a number of voice-overs for radio. I was delighted to get a call to audition for a new baseball movie. I was asked to bring a ball and glove to prove I could really play (I had played Little League, Pony League and Park District softball). Most of my audition was for a player at bat. Then they asked me to read one line as "Colorman". I read, "You can't say fuckin' on the air!" Harry Doyle & MontyThey all laughed and said thanks. I said, don't you want to see me play ball? They said no. I said bye and I figured I had whiffed again. I had forgotten all about it two weeks later when I got a call from Glen, my agent at Harrise Davidson, "Skip, you got the part... Colorman!" If I didn't pee in my pants, I should have.

Major League was released in April of 1989. Written and directed by David Ward, the film follows an unlikely Cleveland Indians team put together to be losers who come together and do just the opposite. The film stars Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen and Wesley Snipes among many others, but it is Bob Uecker as "Harry Doyle" who often steals the show. Skip Griparis is often right next to him in the booth as "Monty" the colorman. The film has a strong personal connection for me, not only because I love baseball and found it hilarious, but because much of it was filmed in old County Stadium in Milwaukee. I was in the crowd for several nights of filming and even got to run on the field when they win the big game at the end. Here is the trailer for Major League...

Q: How long did it take to film your scenes in the booth?Harry Doyle & Monty

Skip: We filmed all of our scenes on a three-day weekend, days and evenings. It was a beautiful June in Milwaukee. Everybody was friendly. During long breaks, Bob would share hilarious baseball anecdotes.Harry Doyle & Monty

Q: What can you tell us about Bob Uecker and your experience working with him? Have you stayed in touch with Uecker since the films?

Skip: Bob was absolutely wonderful to work with, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I still see him occasionally at Wrigley Field, when he does the play-by-play there for the Brewers. Always cordial and funny.

Q: What were you told about your character or given as direction how to play him? How much of your character and Harry Doyle was on the page and how much was ad-libbed?

Skip: I was given almost no direction how to play Monty. I just kind of winged it. Monty & Harry DoyleI couldn't tell if I was sucking or what, until the morning of the second day when David came up to me and said, "Hey, we watched the rushes, and you're really funny!" I guess he hadn't paid any attention to me during filming - I was both complimented AND insulted! Uecker was given a lot of liberty to ad-lib and he was hysterical. I wish I could remember all of the lines that were made up on the spot, but it was too long ago. I do remember that Bob's lines were often re-written every day and he was handed new pages right before shooting, and he had to memorize them right away. He was amazing.

Bob Uecker's Harry Doyle delivered such memorable lines as "Juuuuust a bit outside!" and "This guy threw at his own son in a father/son game." Here is one of my favorite interactions with Monty...
Harry: That's all we got, one goddamn hit?
Monty: You can't say goddam on the air.
Harry: Don't worry, nobody is listening anyway.

Then there was another as the movie reached its climactic game. This is a longer scene, but at about the 0:40 mark you will get this gem...
Harry: Monty, anything to add?
Monty: Umm, no.
Harry: He's not the best colorman in the league for nothing, folks!

Q: What do you remember about the "You can't say goddamn on the air" and the "He's not the best colorman in the league for nothing" exchanges in particular?

Skip: As I added it in handwriting on my script, I believe this classic line was actually created on the spot - Harry Doyle & Monty"Monty, anything to add? Uh, no. He's not the best colorman in the league for nothing!" And FYI, "You can't say goddamn on the air", had been cleaned up for Bob, who didn't feel comfortable saying "fuckin'" (which was in the original script and my audition), at least on film!

Q: Even though you didn't necessarily have a lot of scenes directly with them, did you get to know or spend much time with any of the other cast members at all? If so, what can you tell us about any of them?Monty

Skip: I spent a little time with Tom Berenger in the hotel lounge. He was frustrated at that time, working with an inexperienced director David Ward. They didn't really click until a bit later in the shooting. And, of course, Tom came back for Major League II, so all's well that ends well.

Q: Other than working with Bob Uecker, what are some of your best memories from making Major League?

Skip: It was all a bit heady, having my own trailer and director's chair with my name on it! And I even had a stand-in - virtually a Skip Griparis tribute artist!

Q: What were your feelings about it when the film was released in 1989? What are your feelings about Major League now 25 years later? Harry Doyle & Monty Do people recognize you specifically from the films and/or come and quote lines to you?

Skip: It was a gas seeing the film released, and to be #1 in the country for two weeks. I thought Major League was very funny, but I could not have guessed the duration of its appeal. People do still come up to me and recite lines from the movie! They know more of my lines than I do. Some have the whole movie memorized, word for word! Can you say cult following?

Q: You returned for the sequel in 1994. When did you find out they were doing a sequel and were you onboard from the start? What can you tell us about filming the sequel? How did it differ from the original? Why were you not included in the Back to the Minors sequel?

Skip: Major League II was not as enjoyable as the first. Harry Doyle & MontyThis time we were in Baltimore in November, outside in 40 degree weather - you could see our breath, and yet we were dressed for summer! Once, after the Harry character passes out drunk, I looked over at Bob, dressed in a tank top, and his stomach muscles were spasming from the cold! Also, the director was coming down with the flu, and was really ornery. Finally, half-way through the shoot, he left the set to direct us by walkie-talkie from some remote studio! Not the best conditions. Now, Back to the Minors (a fitting title given its quality) was written, directed and produced by completely different people. Bob wasn't going to do it, but they made him a last-minute offer he couldn't refuse. I can't print here what he later thought of the production. They didn't even know anything about baseball. Let's just say I'm lucky to have not been involved!

Even though the film wasn't as great as the first one, Harry Doyle and Monty still had some funny parts in 1994's Major League II. At about the 1:50 mark in this clip, you get one of my favorites...
Harry: Dynamite drop-in, Monty. That broadcast school has really paid off.

Q: Please tell us a little about where your career has taken you since the Major League films. I am surprised that there were not more film roles after that. Bob Uecker & Skip GriparisWhat are some of your proudest professional accomplishments? What else has Skip Griparis been up to more recently?

Skip: I had major health issues during the first Major League - it's amazing I did as well as I did. But my health precluded my furthering my acting career at a time when I could have cashed in on Major League's success.

50 years into my career, I'm very proud of its diversity - from rock & roller to movie actor, stand-up comic impressionist, jazz musician, and now rocker again with "Skip Grip and the Oldies Trip". And, I've got a live CD of my jazz quartet available soon on my website, Yep, I'm still kickin' out the jams! And, who knows, I might still dance at Chippendales! Nobody rocks a thong like I do. And, yes, I'm seriously delusional. But, thanks for asking me about my career and Major League, which became a bigger part of my life than I could have ever imagined!

I am so pleased that Skip was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. You can keep up with him at his official website or his Facebook page I want to take this occasion to again thank Skip Griparis for his contributions to 80s pop culture especially through Major League and, even more, for going back to the 80s with us here for a little while as well. He's not the best colorman in the league for nothing, folks!

That's all for another special issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks as always for reading and hope you are enjoying the interviews as much as I am. If you want a summary of all of my Back to the 80s Interviews posted thus far, please click on that link. Be sure you haven't missed any of them. There is a link to a summary of all of my 80s issues in the left hand column below the Archives and you can use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any topics you are looking for or other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of 80s pop culture and Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. You can also hook up with us on Google+. Please leave comments so we know you're out there and let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.

Quote of the day: "The minute you're satisfied with where you are, you aren't there anymore." -Tony Gwynn

Back to the 80s: Interview with Gilbert Gabriel of The Dream Academy - Kickin' it Old School
07.24.14 (11:37 am)   [edit]
As I still feel the need to say each time, I am so delighted that interviews continue to be a legitimate part of this little blog of mine! When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the 80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.Gilbert Gabriel

This time that awesomeness is Gilbert Gabriel. He is part of the British band The Dream Academy providing keyboards and vocals while co-writing most songs with fellow band member Nick Laird-Clowes. Released in 1985, their first single "Life in a Northern Town" became the band's biggest hit and remains one of my favorite songs of that year. Find out about him, creating that great song, what he is doing now and much more as we get on to some selections from my interview with Gilbert Gabriel...

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a professional musician? When and how did you get your own start in the music industry? Please tell us a little about what you did earlier in your career before The Dream Academy.

Gilbert: I was obsessed with popular music when I was about seven with The Beatles and all those well-crafted hits that were in the charts at the time in the 60s. In fact, I remember having a transistor radio glued to my ear with the chart run-downs on a Sunday night when I was at boarding school. That's where I started having classical piano lessons because a very helpful and inspirational teacher named Roy Knapman noticed I had potential.

As a teenager, I had my own school band, which comprised of bass drums, guitar, vocals and saxophone. I played guitar and my longtime friend, Aidan Hoyle, played alto saxophone. We used to entertain the other kids and parents and even did a rock festival when we were 15. Although music wasn't officially on the school curriculum, there was a lot of it there with musicals, an orchestra in which I played clarinet, our school band, the local church choir and a fabulous record collection ranging from Bob Dylan, King Crimson, Rare Bird, Kevin Ayers, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Genesis, Pink Floyd, etc.

As I seemed to spend most of my time locked in the music room, the teachers decided I wasn't ready for the "normal world" and suggested I fit into a wonderful progressive arts college situated in the depths of Devon [southwest England] called Dartington College of Arts. It was a perfect place for a teenage kid who was unworldly and mesmerized by the colorful sounds of Debussy and would have been a useless carpenter! As well as studying music theory, classical piano and clarinet, I was exposed to a new world of art and creation. I was in my element in a foray of spontaneous artists, classical musicians and avant-garde dancers. The curriculum encouraged innovation, "art in a social context" and individualism. I was introduced to the work of composers such as Stockhausen, John Cage, Steve Reich, artists such as Jackson Pollock as well as alternative theatre dance work that included Robert Wilson and Merce Cunningham. I also had creative writing lessons where I would write sonnets by the river or learn about poets such as William Carlos Williams and E.E. Cummings which in turn later influenced the way we approached writing "Life in a Northern Town" from a "stream of conscious" point of view. There was also an amazing collection of folk music and world music in the old library that gave me ideas for fusing different styles of music together. Dartington also gave me time to read great books such as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game that precipitated the idea of a "Dream Academy".The Dream Academy

Q: Please tell us a little about when and how you met Nick Laird-Clowes. Did you just click musically right away?

Gilbert: When I first met Nick, it was after a long day of auditioning for several bands in London. I had previously read in a book called The Reader's Digest that suggested that the more people you meet the more chance you have of manifesting your dreams (pretty obvious really). So I decided to triple my efforts and work in several bands and keep checking out new options. After a long day of auditions and feeling pretty tired and hungry, I eventually met Nick rehearsing with his band The Act in a rehearsal studio in London near the torture museum! I immediately liked the melody and harmony of his band as they had three-part harmonies although I felt it lacked keyboards and should be a little bit more psychedelic. Anyway, the rest is history. We did some great gigs in London and a couple of tours in Spain but it eventually broke up and Nick and I plotted another destiny. The Dream AcademyWith the help of David Gilmour, we were able to produce some "original-sounding" demos that we also used for backing tracks and started performing as a duo called Politics of Paradise in alternative clubs in London (like the Titanic and the Language Lab). Once we appeared on stage after two naked strippers came off! There were classical violinists; a guy named Tom Dixon (became a leading Ikea furniture designer) that welded furniture on stage and a band called Funkapolitan hanging around. It was like a psychedelic version of CBGB's but in London! Nick and I shared the same youthful enthusiasm for experimentalism and the love of all that was psychedelic.

I remember ranting on one night, after a long rehearsal at David Gilmour's studio in Henley, to all of the band (The Act) about how we should be more progressive and multi-media. It probably drove them nuts. At the time, it seemed like another utopia with a massive C3 Hammond organ to play, David's giant stacks of Marshall amps piled up to the ceiling from his Floyd tours and my disbelief as David played some of the albums we had listened to so many times at school and speculated on how they were put together. A vivid memory of that time also includes playing for his daughter Alice's seventh birthday and then later meeting her as a young woman of 21 at an Earls Court gig in the 1990s when the Floyd performed Dark Side of the Moon- oh how time passes!The Dream Academy

So returning to your question, yes, Nick and I shared a similar creative space and wished to explore all the different possibilities of light, sound, cinematic backdrops, etc. Whereas Nick had learned his craft by being in the thick of the music industry since the 1970s with his three-part harmony group Alfalpha and I brought to the table an artistic "wackiness" inspired by many psychedelic nights in the depths of experimental Devon as well as an informed cultural input that was influenced by more utopian ideals.

Q: So how did The Dream Academy actually come to be out of that? Who came up with the band's name and what inspired it? Why did you make the change from Politics of Paradise?

Gilbert: As I mentioned, Nick and I used to gig under the name of Politics of Paradise that was inspired by R.D. Laing's title of one of his psychotherapy books called The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise (he was the guy that tried to cure Syd Barrett when he lost it after too many acid trips). The Dream AcademyI had read The Glass Bead Game that revolved around a special game played after many years of serious study of the arts, science etc. and also a poem called The Dream House that prompted me to write down the words "The Dream Academy". I think we had both decided Politics of Paradise didn't really feel right so I came up with another name.

Q: What were your musical goals/intentions for The Dream Academy? Why and how did you recruit Kate St. John to join the group?

Gilbert: When I was living in Southgate in London, I used to have a band of different musicians rehearsing in my living room on each day (a harpist, a sitar player, percussionists, saxophone players- the list goes on). You have to remember this was before the days of sampling. I was determined to work on some of the experimental and artistic ideas that I had come across at Dartington. As for Kate, I think Nick met her at a party. We both loved the fact she played the oboe and cor anglais and her Marianne Faithfull aura! Ironically, all these years later she often tours with her.

Q: The Dream Academy had its biggest hit with "Life in a Northern Town" which you co-wrote with Laird-Clowes and was released in 1985. Life in a Northern Town Please take us back to when it was written and recorded. What can you tell us about back-story about how that particular song was conceived? What inspired it?

Gilbert: I remember this song emerging gradually from the ether in autumn when I was living in Southgate in a shared house with other students. I was endlessly experimenting with different guitar chord shapes higher up the guitar fretboard on a guitar with only five strings. Eventually, I found two chords that seemed to achieve a sense of consonance that seemed to mesmerize me. Nick then learned it and came up with a lower inversion that I embellished with a colorful chord progression played on the Solina synthesizer. Nick and I would then sing various chants over these chords inspired by a library tape of some African children I asked my girlfriend to borrow from her college library. The idea was to "re-conjure" the 60s and more idealistic times through the visual imagery of the verses that were fused with a chant that sounded universal. Hence the reference to The Beatles and JFK that became the axiom that we would build it around as well as the massive chant. We consciously wanted to create a song that had a wide demographic appeal but communicated something honest, beautiful and universal - a song that could appeal to children, adults and grandparents. I think we achieved this.

"Life in a Northern Town" was released in March of 1985 in the UK and then in November of 1985 in the U.S. from The Dream Academy's self-titled debut album. It became an international hit peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February of 1986 while reaching #2 on the Adult/Contemporary chart. Here is one of the music videos for "Life in a Northern Town" by The Dream Academy...

"Life in a Northern Town" has remained one of my favorite songs from that year. I have always loved the chant chorus, but the verse lyrics are quite beautiful as well:
A Salvation Army band played
And the children drank lemonade
And the morning lasted all day, all dayLife in a Northern Town
And through an open window came
Like Sinatra in a younger day
Pushing the town away

They sat on the stony ground
And he took a cigarette out
And everyone else came down to listen
He said, "In winter 1963
It felt like the world would freeze
With John F. Kennedy and the Beatles"

All the work shut down
The evening had turned to rain
Watch the water roll down the drain
As we followed him down to the station
And though he never would wave goodbye
You could see it written in his eyes
As the train rolled out of sight, bye-bye

Q: Did you have any feeling when you first wrote or recorded it that the single was going to be something special or have the success that it did?

Gilbert: Yes, the song felt special from its inception. It seemed to capture a melancholic energy that portrayed the colors of autumn as well as having a universal sense of humanity in the chorus that could speak joyfully as though in all "languages". The Dream AcademyI think it was one of our most sincere creations that weren't shackled by the forces of commerce and all that music business nonsense that deadens most bands' inner core of creativity and self-belief. It felt like very special time writing and recording "Life in a Northern Town". I felt as though we were vessels receiving a gift from a higher force as it gradually revealed itself. The writing and recording of the track took a year of several incarnations from demo to the final product. The great ears of Gary Langham and David Gilmour helped us further realize a fuller and more in-depth final production of what was a wildly ambitious idea before the era of sampling! Yes. I personally always had a special feeling about the song.

Q: Was the original title of the song "Life in a Northern Town" really going to be "Morning Lasted All Day" and was it really Paul Simon that urged that it be changed?

Gilbert: Yes. Nick was having some lessons with Paul Simon and he thought the original title was a bit amorphous. I think he was right on a commercial level but it suited our "stream of consciousness" approach for the song. We are now using that original title Morning Lasted All Day to call our new retrospective album coming out this year.The Dream Academy

Q: What are your feelings about "Life in a Northern Town" now about 29 years later?

Gilbert: I think it still holds up pretty darn well. I feel it was a great achievement to accomplish making a record that is still loved today.

Q: There were two different music videos made for "Life in a Northern Town". Do you remember why a second video was made? Which one do you prefer? What memories do you have of making those videos?

Gilbert: Our first video was a bit of a disaster really. Tim Pope, the director of the wonderful Cure videos, made his first failure with us in the middle of winter on a particularly cold day in Halifax. Although laughable now, it was expensive. So the combination of a video made for the program The Tube and found footage ended being the better video. Perhaps a much better one could be made than that but it seemed to capture people's imagination.

Q: Speaking of music videos, your video received lots of exposure on MTV back then. What are your thoughts on the impact that MTV had on music in the 80s, especially in America?

Gilbert: We were blessed to be part of a new Warner Brothers operation that invested heavily in video promotion inspired by the success of their videos for Madonna, Talking Heads, Prince and Dire Straits. Some were corny, but it was a time of exploration and innovation and now adults that were youthful at the time look back at them with fond memories! Michael Ostin was our record boss and did a great job giving us this opportunity. He now manages Nile Rodgers from Chic and continues to do a great job. Also we must not forget the great input of Geoff Travis from Rough Trade who was there at the beginning for us!

MTV had an enormous impact how records were promoted in the 80s and gave us a visual accessibility to our stars that we never had before. Yes, somehow "video killed the radio star" and now many years later I think the industry suffers from the volcanic ash from its initial eruption of "style over content". Occasionally, we see a post-modernist ironic ‘take' on it but I still love some of the old footage from the pre-MTV era of live shows like The Old Grey Whistle Test and The Tube where you could see bands like Focus show their performance skills rather than their biceps or bottoms.Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Q: What led you to record a cover of "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" by The Smiths?

Gilbert: Nick and I were big fans of The Smiths. I remember seeing them live with Nick at a GLC festival in London organized by Ken Livingstone. At a time when the majority of the youth (and a few miners without jobs) felt repressed by conservative government ideals that celebrated money over "social contentment and equality", Ken's idea of giving us a free festival to encourage people to vote for a party that hankered after democracy and equality seemed a great idea. I personally was besotted by The Smiths music and used to have my Sony Walkman strapped on as I travelled to gigs. Nick chose that track, and I remember us all being in a wonderful state of harmony to record it in only a couple of days at Dave's studio in Henley. Ferris Bueller's Day OffIt felt that it came from an honest space and had a similar resonance and integrity to "Life in A Northern Town" that allowed Nick, Kate and myself to express ourselves.

Q: Many people would recognize your instrumental version of the song featured in the 1986 John Hughes film Ferris Bueller's Day Off. You also had a second song on that soundtrack as well as another on the Planes, Trains and Automobiles soundtrack. How did your songs end up on that soundtrack? What feelings do you have about your song being used perfectly in that beautiful scene in the Art Institute?

Gilbert: I think it's great! That was thanks to our manager Tarquin Gotch, who worked closely with the film's director John Hughes.

The memorable scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off where they are at the Art Institute of Chicago features the instrumental version of "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want", a cover of The Smiths by The Dream Academy. Here is a portion of that scene from the film...

In addition, the soundtrack included a second track by The Dream Academy titled "The Edge of Forever" which was used near the end of the film when Ferris is saying goodbye to Sloane after their exciting day. Here is a portion of that scene where you can hear it if you listen closely...

Q: Your second and third albums did not achieve the same success of your debut album. Do you have any ideas why those later albums did not register the same way as the first? The Dream Academy Why was the decision made in 1991 to go your separate ways and disband The Dream Academy?

Gilbert: Band politics and money seemed to dominate the more utopian foundations of our project. We also lacked the guiding force of David Gilmour's production skills and his engineer Andy Jackson that were vital ingredients in helping to capture the essence of our musical visions and imagination. This musical instinct, professionalism and experience became replaced by a more superficial overlay of multi-track productions without a clear narrative force or musical sensitivity.

Q: What do you remember best about the decade of 80s music?

Gilbert: In retrospect, it was an incredibly inventive time. Although Nick and I mourned the passing of the 60s and its culture at the time, I think in retrospect the 1980s was incredibly interesting with the array of bands that represented not only rich kids with equipment and contacts but also just working-class kids that were talented. The Dream AcademyIt wasn't accountant-driven as it is today. Some of my favorite bands of the time include: Talk Talk, The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, Dif Juz, The Human League, Pre-Fab Sprout, The Cocteau Twins and The Blue Nile. I also like what Youth did with Alex Paterson with The Orb as well.

Q: Please tell us a little about where your music career has taken you since the 80s. How have your priorities or goals changed over the years? What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments?

Gilbert: Well when The Dream Academy broke up I had several record deals with Geoff Travis on his labels Blanco Y Negro and Rough Trade. Unfortunately although I had some great music and Geoff Travis's support, the singer was not really cut out for the industry as she had big issues from her past (a daughter of a now-deceased famous pop star of the 1970s who hadn't really looked after her as a child). However, later I was able to do some good work with a musician, producer and good friend Andrew Fryer on the dance label we ran called Futurasound. Eventually I became tired of England and moved to Krakow in Poland from 2001 to 2008. This helped to rekindle my creative fire. I still visit Krakow regularly to top up on Bohemianism!

Well, two of my most prized memories are Morrissey from The Smiths sending us a postcard to say our rendition of "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" was "beautiful" and also Geoff Travis describing a song of mine called "England's Dreaming" as a classic. Of course there was also a special Dream Academy Day when we woke up in Denver flew to Portland (Oregon) for a lunchtime promotional stint and then that night to San Francisco where I stayed in a hotel in the same room that John and Yoko stayed and then flew to Los Angeles the next day to find our record was #7 on the American pop charts!

Q: Any chance of The Dream Academy reuniting to tour or create new music?

Gilbert: As for The Dream Academy touring again, we had an agent who contacted us a few times to do a reunion tour. It's dependent on money as touring is expensive. I guess if the right situation occurs it could happen - even the Monty Python team saw the light and realized it is not only enormous fun but useful to inspire new ideas.The Dream Academy

Q: So I read that you have a PhD. Could you tell us what you have been doing in the world of Education?

Gilbert: Well, as you probably can see from my other answers, education means a lot to me. As Alan Bennett's main protagonist (a teacher) says in The History Boys, "Pass it on". I feel my teachers were fantastic, so I feel a duty to pass my knowledge on as well as keep learning! I also had a wonderful English teacher at school called "Fez" who brought Chaucer and Shakespeare alive and introduced Larkin, Auden, Ted Hughes, Dylan Thomas and T. S. Eliot to us. I feel if we can all learn more about ourselves and the world then perhaps instead of fearing each other we can celebrate our wonderful potential as a species and conjure such beautiful worlds as the poets, artists, dancers and musicians that have passed before us and will arrive in the future.

So far I have been teaching the soundtrack at London Film School, Leeds Metropolitan University and invited by the National Film School to lecture there as well as teaching music composition and production at Brighton Hove College to some very talented students. I was also awarded a scholarship by Berklee College of Music in America and have now just completed a Master certificate in Film and TV orchestration which has been incredible fun and really useful. In the last couple of years, I have also finished composing for a couple of feature films and worked with an up-and-coming talented actor and director called Mike Hatton on a comedy film which is out this summer. I have also published a book on how altered states are signified by the soundtrack which is basically my doctoral thesis which I did with Theo Van Leeuwen, the world expert on sound semiotics and another great mentor. Finally, I also am co-authoring a book with David Sonnenschein on how subjectivity is presented and represented in the recent Oscar winning film Gravity that will be out by Macmillan in September.

Q: What else is Gilbert Gabriel up to nowadays? Musically and otherwise? What can we expect in the future?

Gilbert: As far as music making and CD releases are concerned, I have several! First there is The Believers (2004) and the Chapel of Dreams (2008) for sale already on my website and iTunes ( There are also three other albums that I will release this autumn that I worked on while I was living in Poland.

The Dream Academy - The Morning Lasted All Day - A Retrospective (July 29, 2014 everywhere except for October in UK) - Painstakingly compiled, comprehensively annotated and carefully remastered, it includes 24 tracks on two CDs features the band's hits plus some previously unreleased material and a new song.

Simeon Lenoir and Gilbert Gabriel - Before Leaves Fall (September 30, 2014) - A cross- cultural album with Simeon Lenoir (a talented bohemian French artist) that features not only French, with couple of songs inspired by Victor Hugo (a famous French poet), but also Polish, Spanish and African

Gilbert Gabriel - Another Sun (November 30, 2014) - Gilbert Gabriel's soundscapes is a mainly instrumental album that mixes Klezmer, World music and has echoes of Jean Luc Ponty's playing featuring the cinematic and elegiac tones of Tomasz Kurkuba's violin, viola and wordless singing. He is a founder of the Klezmer band Kroke and was invited by Peter Gabriel as a musician to play on the soundtrack of Rabbit-Proof Fence.

As you can probably see, my passion for creativity and experimentalism has not died. I also worked with a very talented soul singer on my latest film soundtrack for a feature film. He has recorded a tribute version of "Test Tape No. 3" that will probably appear on Todd Donahue's tribute to The Dream Academy album.

I would love to do some more feature film music (any offers?) and am also hoping Nick and I can finish off another Dream Academy album. We have quite a few tracks which are unfinished!

I am so pleased that Gilbert was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. You can keep up with him and all of his musical endeavors on his official website at I want to take this occasion to again thank Gilbert Gabriel for his contributions to 80s pop culture especially through The Dream Academy and, even more, for going back to the 80s with us here for a little while as well.

That's all for another special issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks as always for reading and hope you are enjoying the interviews as much as I am. If you want a summary of all of my Back to the 80s Interviews posted thus far, please click on that link. Be sure you haven't missed any of them. There is a link to a summary of all of my 80s issues in the left hand column below the Archives and you can use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any topics you are looking for or other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of 80s pop culture and Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. You can also hook up with us on Google+. Please leave comments so we know you're out there and let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.

Quote of the day: "You look at where you're going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you've been and a pattern seems to emerge." - Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


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