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This year marks the 20th anniversary of two great Australian movies: The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Muriel’s Wedding. Chances are you’ll also remember their exuberant soundtracks, full of gloriously cheesy 1970s pop.
A new generation discovered ABBA thanks to Muriel’s Wedding – its soundtrack featured ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Waterloo’, ‘Fernando’, and ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, plus an instrumental of ‘Dancing Queen’. And evoking the film’s kitschy Queensland coastal suburbia are Blondie’s ‘The Tide Is High’, ‘Sugar Baby Love’ by The Rubettes, Peter Allen’s ‘I Go to Rio’, and ‘Happy Together’ by The Turtles.
Meanwhile, house parties across Australia lip-synced along with Priscilla’s drag queen characters as they ‘Go West’ (by the Village People) to Alice Springs. Its camp classics include ‘I’ve Never Been to Me’ by Charlene, Lena Horne’s ‘A Fine Romance’, and ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man’ by Trudy Richards. And of course, ‘Save the Best for Last’ by Vanessa Williams.
The Priscilla soundtrack also helped fuel the 1990s disco renaissance, with floor-filling anthems including ‘Finally’ by CeCe Peniston, ‘Shake Your Groove Thing’ by Peaches and Herb, Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ and ‘I Love the Nightlife’ by Alicia Bridges. Interestingly, Priscilla also included ABBA’s ‘Mamma Mia’.
We picked six more movie soundtracks that perfectly evoke the spirit of the mid-1990s, when grunge, rave and indie-pop met 1960s and 1970s nostalgia.
Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994)
Quentin Tarantino was the king of the mid-’90s soundtrack, mixing film dialogue with retro gems chosen for ironic effect. Whether you prefer the grim humour of Reservoir Dogs’ ear-slicing ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’, or Pulp Fiction’s Uma Thurman and John Travolta doing the twist to Chuck Berry’s ‘You Never Can Tell’, Tarantino knows how music can create cool cinematic moments.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Much like its title character, this two-disc album drifts like a feather through American music history, from Elvis Presley (‘Hound Dog’) to Bob Seger (‘Against the Wind’). In between are soul, pop, Vietnam-era rock, and hippie anthems. And, like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song ‘Sweet Alabama’, it’s even a little bit country.
Tank Girl (1995)
Based on a cult comic book, this edgy grunge-feminist film, ahem, tanked. But the Courtney Love-curated soundtrack has real Riot Grrrl spirit, featuring female-fronted songs by Love’s band Hole, Björk, L7, Belly, Veruca Salt and Portishead. Befitting a post-apocalyptic comedy whose tank-driving heroine shacks up with a mutant kangaroo (Ice-T, whose song ‘Big Gun’ is also included), there’s a Joan Jett cover of Cole Porter’s showtune ‘Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love’.
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1995)
Baz Luhrmann’s Shakespeare update was electric with teen angst. Who could forget the lovers’ first glimpse through a fish tank to Des’ree’s ‘Kissing You’? Or little Quindon Tarver’s gospel version of ‘Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)’? This exuberant blend of disco and indie-rock was a staple of every 1990s teenager’s CD collection as they let their ‘Young Hearts Run Free’.
Perky, slick and perfectly LA – from Coolio’s immortal ‘Rolling With My Homies’ to Jill Sobule’s ‘Supermodel’. This film was a clever twist on Jane Austen’s Emma; appropriately, many of these songs are retro covers: the Muffs tackle Kim Wilde’s ‘Kids in America’; Cracker cover the Flamin’ Groovies’ ‘Shake Some Action’; and World Party perform David Bowie’s ‘All The Young Dudes’.
Blending Britpop, alt-rock and electronica, Trainspotting turned the hipness radar back to the UK. Put on your cord pants and suede sneakers to dance to Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’, ‘Temptation’ by New Order and Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’, and bliss out to Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ – just not on heroin.