5 lesser known cuts from the eclectic soundtrack—and 5 equally extraordinary options for their use.
The contest for excellence in pre-Y2k music supervision is, expectedly, stacked. There’s Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly and Simon & Garfunkel’s folksy ode to milfs for The Graduate. There’s The Bodyguard, which shot Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” to the highest echelons of sing-along fame, and Saturday Night Fever, the film that shot John Travolta into a lifetime of gyrating on camera.
The runaway success of Dirty Dancing, which recently celebrated its 32nd anniversary, was hardly preordained. The album spent 18 weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 in 1987, and its closing number became the subject of many a reenactment, with varying success.
But Dirty Dancing is more or less an anomaly. The film soundtracks of the late ’70s and ’80s relied heavily on the star-power of their artists—take the Bee Gees on Saturday Night Fever or Kenny Loggins in Top Gun and Footloose. The soundtrack to Prince’s 1984 rock opera Purple Rain was among the top ten bestselling albums of the ’80s. With a minimal budget and modest name recognition from Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, who were virtual unknowns, recruiting talent for the album proved near impossible.
The search for top-ten artists dried up quickly; Lionel Richie and Donna Summer famously passed on singing the duet, “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life”, ultimately recorded by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warner. For original music, Lloyd was left to pursue lesser known talents like Alfie Zappacosta and Eric Carmen—even utilizing Patrick Swayze’s untapped vocals for “She’s Like the Wind.” The rest of the album was stocked with forgotten ’60s R&B and doo-wop hits from The Ronettes and The Four Seasons among others.
But succeed it did. The soundtrack went multi-platinum, spawning two follow-up albums, and a poorly received 1988 Dirty Dancing music tour. Motown oldies included on the soundtrack climbed the charts for the first time in decades, boosting the sales of groups like The Contours and Merry Clayton.
Several decades and remakes later, the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing barely clears the Top 20 on some rankings—and is omitted entirely from others. While Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction has been credited with “reinvigorating surf rock,” some might find it hard to ascribe the same artistic merit to Dirty Dancing’s admittedly corny use of rock slow jams and Otis Redding ballads. But something about its scrappy, soapy glory still strikes a chord.
For those not yet initiated beyond the jump catch, we’ve compiled a list of the Dirty Dancing deep cuts and the only scenarios for their tasteful deployment.
“Do You Love Me” by The Coutours and “Love Man” by Otis Redding
For showing off your halter top and twisting skills—or if you’d like to bump and grind with your coworkers. The latter is strongly discouraged.
“Wipe Out” by The Surfaris
Dirty Dancing’s foray into instrumental surf rock; Apply liberally to any solo dancing situation with multiple wardrobe changes.
“Hungry Eyes” by Eric Carmen
The soundtrack for a perfect storm of unplanned pregnancy, non-verbal communication of affection, and inadvertent cock-blocking.
“Overload” by Frank Zappacosta
Prove to your significant other that you’re willing to go out in the rain, and go “Hold Up” on your shitty car, to get them to that scenic view. Or literally anything other than that.
“Hey! Baby” by Bruce Channel
Set the stage for a flirty Charleston or miscellaneous acrobatic feats. If you can’t find a log, seek any raised, off-kilter, naturally occurring surface. Ten additional points for incorporating show hands.