The Best 1980s Music

We remember 80s cartoons like Transformers and GI Joe because they were excellent.

There is more to this love of these shows, however, than mere nostalgia and the love of something that was loved when we were kids in the happier days of yore.  Going back to look at 1980s cartoons with a wider view of more than just the handful of classics that are widely remembered will turn up shows that really were not very good.  Case in point: Pole Position

Some shows, however, upon closer inspection, are even better today than we remember.  Case in point: Voltron, Defender of the Universe

While not quite one of the giants of the era, it was and is spoken of in the same breath as Thundercats and Rainbow Brite, a second-tier icon that was the Grimm to Transformers’ Supernatural.  A a reworked Japanese sci-fi series about a team of robot lions that formed into a giant warrior, Voltron had all the strengths one would expect (and likely recall) from the 1980s era cartoons, as well as many of its weaknesses.  But what it did have that many of its peers did not was an extremely unique and distinctive score.  Listen to three distinctive tracks from the Voltron Score by John Petersen

The Witch

Castle of Lions


These are not casual, throw-away tracks.  These are musically distinctive, incorporating sounds and instrumentation that were (and still are) unlike other scores found on television.  The instrumentation of the Voltron score, as well as the compositions themselves, was vividly new and unlike anything else, helping to create a very tangible uniqueness to the show.  But these tracks were the backdrop against which the show occurred.  The true masterpiece of the show’s music lies in its epic theme (ironically best demonstrated by the show’s closing music).

The other music of the score is interesting and unique and unlike anything else.  This track, however, is epic.  It defines epic.  It captures the essence of the over-the-top heroism this show is about.  This track can, and should be, mentioned musically in the same vein as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, two classics by music master John Williams who (when Voltron was being produced) was producing his most memorable work.

Voltron is a show with plenty of flaws, but flaws that are often balanced out or superceded by its strengths.  But an often unnoticed strength is the incredibly vivid and distinctive music that accompanied each episode.  A listener cannot mistake a track from Voltron for any other show of the era, or any other show period.

1980s cartoons had some truly innovative elements at play, and had inspiration to work from.  The success of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica (just to name a few possible influences) had established an artistic credibility for this genre of entertainment.  The result was a professional field that was willing to experiment and try new things in this genre.  Some shows like Transformers and Robotech would produce some truly excellent and unique scores.  But none would compare to Voltron as far as being truly unique and immediately recognizeable, which would only aid in the survivability of the series in the minds of its fans.

I love the movies; I hate GOING to the movies

I really like film and television.  I think they’re superb art forms and the occasional ‘Dude, Where’s My Car’ and ‘Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo’ not withstanding, I think they’re some of the best mediums going right now.

While television’s fighting to find its own niche with on-demand viewing versus living viewing, I feel like it’s holding its own.  What isn’t holding its own is the film industry.  Ticket sales continue to be abysmal and films that once seemed like a sure thing have become a gamble.  A great evaluation for this is discussed by one of the preeminent film reviewers, ‘Movie’ Bob Chipman.  Movie Bob asserts that many genres are bombing because of the way the market and audiences have changed.  I think this may potentially be a case of confusing correlation with causation.

Bullet To The Head didn’t appeal to me but the Last Stand did, yet I didn’t go see it in theaters.  Why?  It wasn’t because of a dwindling appreciation for the muscle-bound icons of old or the films that they created; it’s because I wasn’t about to spend $11 to see a two-hour movie one time.

Theaters have become damn-near hostile environments of late.  Ticket prices have skyrocketed and the product returned is pathetic.  The concessions stand is a joke, offering a poor selection of over-priced, underwhelming food stuffs.  And if I’m paying for two people to go see a movie, it’s actually cheaper to just wait until the DVD is released, even if I end up just using the DVD as a coaster after the first viewing.

Worst of all is the hubris of the movie theaters.  I frequent a Regal Cinema (but have had similar experiences at the other chains nearby) and the experience is that of a bombardment of television commercials before the movie, going on for sometimes upwards of fifteen-twenty minutes.  And this is after already having paid $11 (or more) just to sit down.  I paid to watch these commercials which I see all the time on TV.  For free.

But then, the true crux of my frustration, is the invariable ad from the cinema itself insisting that theater-viewing is the best option.  The aforementioned Regal Cinemas run an ad showing various landscape and action sequences on a gradually dwindling screen that shrinks to the size of what seems to be a cell phone screen and then asserts that ‘no movie should be reduced to this’, followed by their slogan ‘Go Big or Go Home’.  At least once, I’ve stood up and walked out.  That kind of arrogance and dismissal of the audience is just intolerable.

The film industry is in a lot of trouble, no doubt, but the biggest problem isn’t the films or the studios; it’s the cinemas.  Their arrogant disregard for their audience, and said audience’s extremely viable alternatives, is frustrating beyond words.  It’s left me waiting almost without exception for the DVD release of a film rather than putting up with the movie theaters.

I like movies.  I love movies.  And I want to support movies.  But I don’t want to support cinemas.  At least not until they give me a reason to think them deserving of my patronage.