SoundTreks | Wayne’s World
Wayne’s World, while 24 years old, seems to have remained undiminished in the minds of its fans. Wayne’s World, based on a Saturday Night Live sketch conceived by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, is still good-natured, legitimately funny, pleasantly self-aware, and features a pair of memorable characters – Wayne and Garth – who once occupied popular culture in a fairly dominant fashion.
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More than merely being a well-remembered piece of ’90s nostalgia, though, Wayne’s World has persisted – I think – because of how smart it was about music, and how kind it was to 1992-era fans of heavy metal. Director Penelope Spheeris, it should be remembered, made the Decline of Western Civilization movies, a trilogy of documentaries that are about punk rock, mainstream metal, and street-dwelling punk burnouts respectively. Spheeris knew about “the scene” better than, perhaps, even the film’s stars Mike Myers and Dana Carvey.
So when it came time to direct a movie about Wayne and Garth, Spheeris knew to populate the film’s soundtrack with a very carefully-chosen set of songs. SoundTreks is now here to listen to that soundtrack, and see what kind of people Wayne and Garth really were, judging by their taste in music.
Track 1. “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
“Bohemian Rhapsody” was released in 1975 on the excellent Queen record A Night at the Opera. It was well-noted by Queen fans, but until 1992, it was considered something of an obscure Queen track. It’s a great, great, near-operatic song with a few glorious tonal changes throughout (it starts as a ballad, turns kooky, and ends on hard rock). But outside of the hardcore fans, few ever mentioned it.
Until Wayne’s World popularized it, that is, shoving it joyously into the canon of best-of-the-’70s rock hits. After Wayne’s World, everyone – EVERYONE – knew “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It invaded bars, karaoke, and “Weird Al” polkas. Wayne’s World‘s unironic appreciation of the song (which, in the movie, skips the ballad portion) is gloriously energetic, as the characters sing it merely for fun. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the fun they have on a Saturday night. It’s a weirdly perfect choice. These silly, childish metalheads would, we think, listen to this “silly” ’70s track. And they’d all headbang in unison. It’s not all Black Sabbath for these boys.
Track 2. “Hot and Bothered” – Cinderella
One may be able to generously call Cinderella a glam metal band, but really, they were hair metal through-and-through. The high screechy vocals and nice, big, round bluesy metal guitar riffs place them right in the heyday of the 1980s. And this song, about being horny, falls in live with the shallow “we love pussy” ethos of 1980s metal (see The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years for more of this).
The inclusion of this track is perfect, as this is most certainly what characters like Wayne and Garth would listen to. The meedly guitar solos, the fun pop sound, and the bare-balls machismo shaped an entire generation of white suburban kids. They listened to shallow music, but they were having fun with it, loving it, and shaping their lives around consuming it. Wayne and Garth would likely have never called Cinderella one of the best bands of all time, but they would have owned a few Cinderella records.
Track 3. “Rock Candy” – BulletBoys
Apart from Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” I’m having trouble thinking of a song that was more perfectly intended for strip clubs than BulletBoys’ “Rock Candy.” The video – featuring a steady stream of super-hot model babes – certainly holds this out. This is a song for slow headbanging, or perhaps just some hard banging. BulletBoys were a supergroup formed from members of Ratt and King Kobra. They are harder than Cinderella, and seem to fulfill a more seriously libidinous function. “Hot and Bothered” is almost childish when compared to the grinding of “Rock Candy.”
Track 4. “Dream Weaver (Updated Version)” – Gary Wright
This was exactly the type of mealy-mouth wuss music that Wayne and Garth would most certainly not own, listen to, or even think much of. But, when Wayne falls in love, this is the song he hears in his head. Wayne would have known a lot about the wussy adult contemporary of his time; we glean that he, and the filmmakers, are well-versed in all pop music. The use of this song is a comedic juxtaposition, of course, to the metal aesthetic of the protagonist’s life, but it also shows that his machismo topples down when he falls in love. This is not a song about sex (at least not explicitly). This is about dreaming of a true love. All male-ness breaks down in the face of Tia Carrere.
Track 5. “Sikamikanico” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers is one of those beautifully iconoclastic bands that has been claimed by several genres over the years. They have been called post-punk, punk, pop metal, alternative, and goodness knows what else. Their inclusion on this soundtrack reveals that metal kids were actually more diverse than they got credit for. Sure, they all worshiped at the alter of Alice Cooper, but they were consuming a lot of different stuff. This was the milieu of the 1990s. The various musical scenes weren’t so clearly delineated, and youths would consume a great variety. Spheeris was wise enough to know this.
Track 6. “Time Machine” – Black Sabbath
But then, metal kids were called that for a reason, and bands like Black Sabbath loomed large in their minds. A 1970s British band that included Ozzy Osbourne once stood astride the American metal scene as one of a small pantheon of metal gods. Although mainstream listeners (who love Gary Wright) would find this “too hard,” it would feel wrong not to include them (or one of their fellow gods) on this soundtrack.
There is a definite divide between the teen who listens to Black Sabbath, and the unhappy teen. This is hard music, but Wayne and Garth are not unhappy people. This is music with power. It’s the power one respects. Not necessarily the messages of death.
Track 7. “Wayne’s World Theme” – Mike Myers and Dana Carvey
It’s party time. It’s excellent. Fun, fast, jumpy, silly. Aerosmith once performed this song on SNL. It sounds very much like what a twentysomething metalhead living with his parents might write. It’s playfully rudimentary. It’s hard not to enjoy it.
Track 8. “Ballroom Blitz” – Tia Carrere
“Ballroom Blitz” is currently in theaters as part of the film Suicide Squad. (Curiously, so is “Bohemain Rhapsody.” Hm.) Although the version featured in Squad is the original 1973 version by The Sweet. The song is oddly shaped, but remains one of the more electric and energetic songs of the ’70s. This soundtrack is not going to slow you down too much. We’re going sprinting.
The version sun by actress Tia Carrere keeps a lot of the energy of the original. It would have to. In the context of the film, it’s her audition piece for a record executive, and it seems like a good choice for such a thing. Love of The Sweet declares what kind of music you’re into – upbeat ’70s hard rock – but also seems like it would be hard to play. I’m trying to understand what kind of band Crucial Taunt is supposed to be (Crucial Taunt is Carrere’s in-film band), but they play well enough, and have a hot chick frontwoman. They would be popular.
Track 9. “Foxy Lady” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
While Wayne dreams of women to “Dream Weaver,” Garth’s fantasies are about being assertive and up-front. He dreams of seducing Donna Dixon to the strains of “Foxy Lady,” and who has more bigger, more metallic sound than Jimi Hendrix? I wonder if anyone actually tried what Garth did in his fantasy.
Track 10. “Feed My Frankenstein” – Alice Cooper
Another intermission for some actual metal. Thank you, Penelope. Alice Cooper, once again singing about horror and monsters, growls about eating his true love – or is perhaps merely calling his genitals “Frankenstein.” Make my tattoos melt in the heat indeed.
Track 11. “Ride with Yourself” – Rhino Bucket
In the context of the film, “Ride with Yourself” played in the background of a donut shop. For metal kids, it would sink into the background. This is calming mood music to Wayne and Garth. In a way, it’s “metal lounge.” It has the sound you need, but not too much energy to dominate the conversation. I know very little about Rhino Bucket except that, at the time of Wayne’s World, they only had released one album. So this is a deep cut. I love deep cuts.
Track 12. “Loving Your Lovin’” – Eric Clapton
Wayne and Garth likely owned a few Clapton records, but it would be more through respect and history than for active adoration. Although there are plenty of 1970s metal bands on this album, Clapton strikes me as being a little too bluesy for your average metalhead. Wayne and Garth would know all of Clapton’s more important songs, and could likely even sing them, but their taste would skew more toward, well, Black Sabbath.
Track 13. “Why You Wanna Break My Heart” – Tia Carrere
Following Wayne’s World, Tia Carrere – gorgeous and funny – tried out several careers, never really striking it as big as she did with the movie. In the movie, she played a Cantonese woman, although she is, in actuality, Polynesian. As such, when she branched out into pop music – perhaps inevitably – she eventually fell to making Polynesian music. Four of her five (!) studio records are Hawaiian. Her first record, Dream, is not good. The mealy ballads on it are akin to “Why You Wanna Break My Heart,” which is bland.
Which is Better: The Soundtrack or the Movie?
The movie remains something of a comedy classic, and could even be seen as one of the defining films of Generation X. Wayne and Garth represent the music-obsessed milieu of young people of the time (even though Mike Myers and Dana Carvey were not really “young people” themselves anymore). Although Wayne’s World presents a slightly sanitized version of these kids, who live in a friendlier world of rock: there’s no drugs or violence, just headbanging, an occasional beer, and a deep respect for silly metal songs.
The soundtrack may cut slightly deeper, but wholly represents Wayne and Garth through-and-through. In a weird way, the soundtrack is a perfect companion. It’s a great record to listen to, but also a spot-on representation of the movie. I would say the two are tied.
Top Image: Paramount
Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon. He also contributes to Legion of Leia and to Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.