Today, Saturday, August 6, 2016, is 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 song that has made it on to nearly every tribute show I’ve done for John is a song that appeared in a brief but pivotal scene in 1987’s SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL (which John wrote and produced), and wasn’t on the soundtrack – “Beat’s So Lonely” by Charlie Sexton.
In his early days, the San Antonio, Texas native was taught (along with his brother Will) how to play guitar by the “Godfather of Austin Blues,” W.C. Clark. In 1982, not quite 14 years old, “Little Charlie” Sexton played a number of dates with the Joe Ely Band after that band’s guitarist broke some bones in his hand.
Charlie’s impressive guitar work was already legendary, especially for such a young man, and in 1985, then just 16 years old, he released his first album, PICTURES FOR PLEASURE. On the album, Charlie Sexton merged Rock and Blues with New Wave, and instantly drew comparisons to David Bowie and Billy Idol (Keith Forsey, Billy’s longtime producer and collaborator – and the man who scored the John Hughes classic, THE BREAKFAST CLUB – produced PICTURES FOR PLEASURE).
The lone single from the album, “Beat’s So Lonely,” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-December 1985 and took its time climbing the chart, reaching the Top 40 two months later. In early April 1986, (and a statistic only a singles chart nerd like myself can prolly appreciate), a then-17-year-old Charlie Sexton spent his third week at No. 17 (in its 17th chart week on the Hot 100) with “Beat’s So Lonely.” And, after that, for 24 years, Charlie Sexton was a (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s.
Then, in 2010, following the devastating Haiti earthquake, Charlie appeared on a cover version of Leonard Cohen’s eternal “Hallelujah” with Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris on the HOPE FOR HAITI NOW compilation, to benefit those affected by the earthquake. “Hallelujah” was one of 19 performances from the live telethon, which also included folks like Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Madonna, Bono, The Edge and Stevie Wonder. That version of “Hallelujah” reached No. 13 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 and was the most-downloaded song from the album.
Charlie Sexton has released a total of four albums between 1985 and 2005, but he’s remained busy. He performed in the brilliant 1991 Ridley Scott film, THELMA & LOUISE, and contributed to the soundtrack. He was also a guitarist for Bob Dylan’s backing band from 1999 to 2002, and again from 2009 to 2012.
To this day, Charlie continues to perform, supports other musicians such as Eric Clapton and Spoon, and has even done some more acting, appearing in the 2014 Richard Linklater film, BOYHOOD, nominated for six Academy Awards and picking up a win for Best Supporting Actress, Patricia Arquette.
And on this day, yeah, the beat is lonelier without John Hughes around, but every time I play songs like Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science,” “Pretty In Pink” by The Psychedelic Furs, “Tenderness” by General Public, “If You Were Here” by Thompson Twins, OMD’s “If You Leave” or this gem by Charlie Sexton, I know the beat of John Hughes is still there, and as long as people keep playing the music from his films, and watching those amazing films, the beat will always be there, and maybe, not so lonely…