On Saturday, August 6, 2016, it will be the seventh anniversary of the passing the brilliant writer / producer / director / 80s film hero and a personal hero of mine, John Hughes. John was in NYC when he died of a heart attack at the far too young age of 59.
Over the past 20 years on my little 80s radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), there have been various tributes to John and the music from his films. On the Sunday following his passing in 2009, I vowed to dedicate a show every August as a tribute to John. On Sunday, August 7, 2016, it will be my eighth and last John Hughes tribute on STUCK IN THE 80s and WMPG.
One of the songs that has frequented those annual tributes is “Ring Me Up” by Divinyls, a 1983 song that appeared in John’s first film as a director, SIXTEEN CANDLES from 1984 (which he also wrote).
John Hughes had this amazing gift of music – selecting and securing music for his films, introducing legions of fans to music they never heard of (yours truly included), and making the music an integral part of the story for each film he directed and/or produced in the 1980s.
Divinyls, a New Wave / Rock band formed in Sydney, Australia in 1980, was led by singer Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee. They are prolly best known for their huge 1991 hit, “I Touch Myself,” which reached No. 1 in Australia, No. 3 in Canada, No. 4 in the U.S., No. 8 in Ireland, No. 10 in the U.K. and No. 17 in New Zealand.
In early 1983, years before that success, they were a young band with an Aussie Top 30 EP to their credit (MUSIC FROM MONKEY GRIP) and a new album called DESPERATE, their full-length debut album. DESPERATE featured popular singles like “Science Fiction,” “Siren (Never Let You Go)” and “Boys In Town,” a No. 8 hit in their Australian homeland.
But it was another non-single song from DESPERATE that John Hughes wanted to use in a scene at a high school dance for SIXTEEN CANDLES – “Ring Me Up.” It was used in a scene where everyone had left their coats and sophomore Samantha Baker (the wonderful Molly Ringwald) wanted to talk to the boy she was crushing on, popular senior Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), and unbeknownst to Samantha, Jake was interested in her and would have loved to talk with her. But, Samantha ended up chickening out and walked away, hiding behind a doorway in her humiliation (“I can’t believe I’m such a jerk”), and leaving Jake to just shake his head in disbelief.
Only about a third of “Ring Me Up” was used for the scene (over 30 songs were featured in the film), but the choice of song was perfect for the scene (of course, John Hughes did have a brilliant way about him when it came to picking out music for anything he did).
SIXTEEN CANDLES wasn’t a huge hit, but it did ignite the careers for stars Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall (each would star in three John Hughes films), as well as supporting actors (and real-life brother and sister) John and Joan Cusack. It was also one of THE best-reviewed films of 1984.
Divinyls would go on to release four more albums through 1996, and before “I Touch Myself,” they released “Pleasure And Pain,” a great single from their 1985 album, WHAT A LIFE!, which was a minor hit here in the U.S. in 1986. Divinyls were together through 1996, and reunited from 2006 through 2009, releasing one song, but not any new albums.
In 2007, Chrissy Amphlett announced she had multiple sclerosis, and three years later, she announced she had breast cancer and was being treated in New York, where she was living with her husband, (Brooklyn, NYC native) Charley Drayton (who famously played the drums on The B-52’s big 1989 hit and forever wedding staple, “Love Shack”).
Sadly, Chrissy died in April 2013 in NYC after her long battle with breast cancer. She was just 53 years old.
I continue to remember Chrissy through her music, and I continue to remember John Hughes through his films and the music that appeared in them, and for just a minute in a lovely and hilarious 1984 high school film about a forgotten birthday, these two talents meshed together to bring a sweet, awkward and funny scene about unbeknownst teenage love.
While I’m sure this isn’t true, sometimes I find myself wondering if I’m among the few out there who still celebrates John and these films and watches them often like I do. And if there are more like me out there, I also wonder if they’ll ever have a John Hughes marathon movie night or weekend or something (not far from me), and if THAT’S true, you better ring me up…