Last month, 20th Century Studios released the first trailer for West Side Story, director Steven Spielberg’s much-anticipated remake of the 1961 musical, winner of 10 Oscars including Best Picture.
Silver screen, gold records
Here is a list of the 10 biggest-selling soundtrack albums, all-time.
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s home from work we go.
The first, commercially-issued motion picture soundtrack was Songs from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, an animated film that hit theatres in December 1937. The record was a modest success but it wasn’t until the 1958 release of the official soundtrack to South Pacific, an album that remained at No. 1 on the Billboard album sales charts for close to seven months, that record company execs began to think, “Hmm, we might just have something, here.”
Here is a list of the 10 biggest-selling soundtrack albums, all-time.
10. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000): includes Down to the River to Pray, Alison Krauss; (I am a) Man of Constant Sorrow, Soggy Mountain Boys
9. Top Gun (1986): includes Take My Breath Away, Berlin; Mighty Wings, Cheap Trick
8. Footloose (1984): includes Footloose, Kenny Loggins; Let’s Hear It for the Boy, Deniece Williams; Holding Out for a Hero, Bonnie Tyler
7. The Lion King (1994): includes Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Elton John
6. Titanic (1997): includes My Heart Will Go On, Celine Dion
5. Dirty Dancing (1987): includes (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes; She’s Like the Wind, Patrick Swayze
4. Forrest Gump (1994): includes Hound Dog, Elvis Presley; Sloop John B, Beach Boys, Joy to the World, Three Dog Night; It Keeps You Runnin’, Doobie Brothers
3. Purple Rain (1984): includes Let’s Go Crazy, When Doves Cry, Purple Rain, all by Prince and the Revolution
2. Saturday Night Fever (1977): includes Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever, both by the Bee Gees; Disco Inferno, the Trammps; If I Can’t Have You, Yvonne Elliman
1. The Bodyguard (1992): includes I’m Every Woman, I Have Nothing, I Will Always Love You, all by Whitney Houston
The new version, scheduled to hit theatres in December, will again tell the story of Tony and Maria, young sweethearts with ties to rival New York City street gangs. That the 2021 rendition will retain its predecessor’s much-loved score comes as music to the ears of Amanda Stefaniuk, a vinyl-record aficionado whose area of expertise is particularly unique.
The 41-year-old business analyst collects motion picture soundtracks, everything from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to The Breakfast Club, and from A Star is Born to Star Wars.
“West Side Story was actually the first soundtrack I ever bought with my own money,” says Stefaniuk, guessing she has in the neighbourhood of 1,000 soundtrack albums, give or take a copy of Flashdance, populating her shelves. “My father Mel, who passed away three years ago, took me to a used record sale at Minto Armoury when I was 12 or 13 and I remember fibbing to him, saying I’d paid a buck for (West Side Story) when I actually paid $3, only because I wanted him to think I’d gotten some great deal.”
Stefaniuk, the host of Mondo Hollywood, a weekly radio show on 101.5 UMFM wholly devoted to reel music (more about that in a bit), was born and raised in Beausejour. Her parents opened a video store, Oh Susanna Sunshine, on that town’s main drag when she was a toddler and through that she became a film wonk at an early age.
She chuckles, acknowledging it was actually a slip on her part that sparked her collecting bent. A fan of the 1992 flick School Ties — she had a huge crush on Matt Damon when she was a teenager and watched all his movies, over and over, she gushes — she especially enjoyed a scene when Damon’s character and his prep school pals perform an old, doo-wop number during a memorable dorm room scene.
One morning she was flipping through her father’s modest record collection when she spotted the soundtrack for The Pajama Game, a 1957 musical starring Doris Day. Believing a track on side 2 titled Hernando’s Hideaway was the song she knew from School Ties, she gave the album a spin. It turned out that wasn’t the ditty she was thinking of — she learned later the song from School Ties was Smokey Joe’s Cafe — but she got such a big kick out of it nonetheless that a light bulb went on in her head: what other music associated with the big screen was she unaware of?
Suffice it to say, she’s spent the last 25 years combing through garage sales, second-hand shops and used-record stores, in an attempt to answer that very question.
Reaching into a stuffed, plastic bag, Stefaniuk pulls out a stack of albums she’s transported for show-and-tell purposes. In addition to the aforementioned West Side Story and The Pajama Game soundtracks, she’s also brought along copies of 1963’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World (score by Mack David and Ernest Gold), 1985’s The Return of the Living Dead (key track, the Cramps’ Surfin’ Dead) and a 12-inch EP featuring Tequila by the Champs, from the screwball comedy Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.
“Here, let me show you,” she says excitedly, when asked about a record bearing the image of horror star Vincent Price. “This is called Co-Star — it’s one of a series of records that was released in the ‘50s and the way it works is you and an actor, in this case Vincent Price, perform scenes ‘together.’ It comes with a script; he says his line and then, during the silent part, you say yours. Isn’t that crazy?”
In October 2009 Stefaniuk’s father rented a table at Rockin’ Richard’s Record & CD Sale, hoping to sell titles he didn’t have any use for. His daughter was giving him a hand and, at some point, she thought she recognized the voice of a person hunting for jazz albums. “Excuse me, but are you Ray Alexander?” she asked.
Alexander is the longtime host of Fascinatin’ Rhythm, a UMFM program she tuned into every Sunday morning.
Alexander answered affirmatively, at which point the conversation switched to their individual taste in music. When Stefaniuk mentioned she collects movie soundtracks, the more obscure the better, Alexander said that would be a brilliant idea for a radio show and that she should get in touch with his station’s management team.
“I believe it was the winter of 2010 when my show started. At first I didn’t really know what I was doing, but the station managers Jared and Michael were so helpful, they taught me everything I know, pretty much,” she says, adding she’s come up with weekly themes almost from the get-go. For example, last week’s show focused on moms in the movies and following Cloris Leachman’s death a few months ago she cobbled together a tribute to the Academy Award winner, playing music from films she appeared in, including The Last Picture Show, Young Frankenstein and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
“Both Michael (Elves), the program director at the time, and myself are fans of a good soundtrack and I recall being pretty excited when Amanda pitched the idea,” says Jared McKetiak, UM-FM’s station manager. “Once we met her and learned not only her interest in films of all genres, but also the fact she grew up in and around her family’s video store, her vast knowledge and tastes beyond the norm made total sense.”
McKetiak says Mondo Hollywood, which airs from noon to 1 p.m. every Sunday (archived episodes are available here), has become “appointment listening.” He enjoys discovering what central topic Stefaniuk has chosen that week, and he particularly looks forward to the month-long Halloween specials she stages every October.
“Sometimes she’ll throw a bit of a curveball at you and do a spotlight on the music of Asian cinema or African-American show business pioneers and you find yourself learning something great you might not have known before,” he says.
Stefaniuk, who used to pen movie reviews for defunct entertainment newspaper Uptown, is the first to agree soundtracks often include an inordinate amount of filler. We mean, when’s the last time you listened to Side 4 of Car Wash? Still, it’s the thrill of the hunt, never knowing what treasures await her in the next record bin, that spurs her on. Recent purchases include the soundtracks from long-forgotten pics Walk on the Wild Side, a 1962 drama starring Jane Fonda, and The Trip, a 1967 feature written by Jack Nicholson described as a “counterculture-era psychedelic film.” She hasn’t slapped either one on the turntable yet — and isn’t entirely sure she ever will — but if she’s ever so inclined, they’re at her fingertips, she says with a smile.
What about holy grails? That’s an easy one. First is a hard-to-come-by soundtrack from a 1981 flick called The Monster Club, starring Vincent Price as a vampire named Erasmus. Second is an ultra-rare, Japanese-issued 45 r.p.m. single featuring Warren Beatty on lead vocals, plucked from the box-office flop Ishtar.
“I’m forever picking up on songs playing in the background that aren’t central to the plot at all.” ‐ Vinyl soundtrack collector Amanda Stefaniuk
Lastly, she’d “kill” for a bootleg copy of the soundtrack from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In spite of director John Hughes’ steadfast refusal to authorize an official soundtrack for the Matthew Broderick vehicle, that hasn’t stopped Ferris fans from piecing together their own score, featuring Wayne Newton’s Danke Schoen, the Beatles’ Twist and Shout and Yello’s Oh Yeah, and attempting to sell it online. (A message currently posted alongside an entry on vinyl record sale site Discogs reads, “This release has been blocked from sale in the marketplace. It is not permitted to sell this item on Discogs.”)
Packing up her records, Stefaniuk concedes she might be the last person you want to sit next to on a couch, enjoying a movie on Friday night.
“I’m forever picking up on songs playing in the background that aren’t central to the plot at all,” she says. “I’ll grab my phone to Shazam (a phone app that can identify snippets of music) when something sounds catchy. Then I’ll throw it on a Spotify playlist to keep in mind for a future show or, after listening to the whole song, take it off if isn’t that great, after all.”