Tag Archives: Transformers the Movie

Thunder in Your Heart Thunderdome!

Back in 1997 when I first saw the Paul Thomas Anderson flick Boogie Nights I felt like my brain was going to melt.  It wasn’t just that the film was amazing, it was and is still one of my favorite Anderson films, but it was one of the first times I experienced the weird pangs of childhood nostalgia in a situation that made zero sense to me.  When Mark Whalberg’s Dirk Diggler holes up in a studio to record a cover of Stan Bush’s The Touch from the 1986 animated Transformers: The Movie soundtrack my jaw dropped.  It’s like a pop culture Thunderdome.  Two pop culture properties enter, one new amazing property leaves…


This was pre-internet and a good four or five years before there was even a murmur of an 80s nostalgia wave about to hit pop culture. At the time I felt like I was the only person on the planet who adored the Transformers movie, let alone owned a copy of the soundtrack on CD and cassette. So the thought of Anderson (or whoever was helping to arrange the soundtrack for Boogie Nights) was aware of that song seemed weirdly impossible to me. Fast forward a decade and with a while new world of internet chat rooms, message boards, podcasts and blogs I realized that the fandom for Bush’s The Touch was much larger than I ever would have guessed. Still, that cross-pollination of musical pop culture fun has remained a fascinating moment for me.

Well, a couple weeks ago while on vacation with my girlfriend Jaime in Myrtle Beach, we stumbled on another instance of pop culture musical worlds colliding that again left me in a state of shock and awe. While digging through Spotify for some fun 80s era anthems to serve as our soundtrack as we made our final approach to the beach house, Jaime queued up one of my favorite songs, John Farnham’s Thunder in Your Heart from the Rad soundtrack. I’m pretty sure the whole Rad soundtrack is up on Spotify, but for once she was looking for that specific song and when it popped up in the search something amazing happened. It popped up with multiple results, two of which had me doing a double take. Right under John Farnham were versions of the song performed by two other 80s anthem powerhouses, Stan Bush and Joe Esposito! I’ve already mentioned Bush’s The Touch from Transformers, but for those unfamiliar with Esposito’s work, he worked on a little song you might have heard from the Karate Kid soundtrack called You’re The Best. Now there are a lot of great 80s anthems, and most folks will quickly point to bands like Huey Lewis and the News or Journey as some of the best at the craft. But for me, it’s all about the triumvirate of soundtracks from Rad, Transformers, and the Karate Kid when it comes to super motivational, montage rock.


I know Rad has a very rabid fan base, but for all that love, the film has still yet to make the transition to the modern home video age.  It’s never being officially released on DVD, let alone Blu-Ray or HD streaming, and the VHS release was only aimed at video stores and not the general public. Though I’ve heard through the grapevine that this is finally about to change next year, Rad is for all intents and purposes a pretty obscure cult flick. I’ve talked Ad nauseam about my love for the film (just take a look at the trading cards I designed for the flick, the episodes of the Cult Film club where we discussed the flick and interviewed star Bill “Cru” Allen, or my review of Mr. Allen’s memoir), but I’ve never really written all that much about the soundtrack.  It’s an album that I love dearly.  I own it on vinyl, on a bootleg, semi-official CD pressing that came out in the mid-2000′s, and even the official digital release that came out a couple of years ago.  The whole album is great (Sparks is probably in my top five favorite bands), but the handful of John Farnham songs, specifically Break the Ice and Thunder in Your Heart, are some of my all time favorite anthems.  So when I found out that not just one, but both of my other favorite anthem singers covered Farnham’s song from Rad I was gobsmacked.

John Farnham

John Farnham

As soon as we got back from vacation I had to figure out more about these Esposito and Bush TiYH covers, as well as the origins of the Farnham song.  I never really stopped to think about who actually wrote the song.  Honestly, I figured that it was a Farnham original, especially since he provided three songs for the Rad soundtrack, I was under the impression that he was contracted out by the production to provide some original music for the film.  As it turns out though, not only did Farnham not write the song, I think it may have even predated Rad.  In fact there is a possibility that the song was actually written with the intention of debuting on a completely different soundtrack.  Before I dig into that I wanted to take a second and look at the duo who is actually responsible for writing Thunder in Your Heart, Gloria Sklerov & Lenny Macaluso.

Left: Lenny Macaluso & Tina Turner. Right: Gloria Sklerov & Stan Bush

Left: Lenny Macaluso & Tina Turner. Right: Gloria Sklerov & Stan Bush

Lenny Macaluso and Gloria Sklerov are a couple of the unsung heroes of 80s era anthems.  Macaluso was the main composer on the show My Two Dads, co-wrote “The Touch” with Stan Bush and the duo wrote and composed the romance theme “Let the Love Begin” from Thrashin’ and more importantly “Thunder in Your Heart”.  Sklerov also co-wrote with Stan Bush.  The duo won an Emmy for their work on the song “Until I was Loved By You” for the soap opera Guiding Light.  Sklerov has also written songs for The Carpenters, Dusty Springfield and the song “Ain’t Love Good Tonight” for the film Clint Eastwood flick Every Which Way But Loose.  It’s rare that the composers ever get much of the spotlight, but the duo are definitely an important in bringing us some iconic 80s music for sure.

So let’s take a look at the actual versions of the song.  From what I can tell there are four versions that I know of,  two are from Rad (performed by John Farnham), one that made it into the film and on the soundtrack which is 3 minutes and 38 seconds long, and a second, alternate extended version that was released when the soundtrack was released digitally which clocks in at 4 minutes, 38 seconds.  Then there is a cover of the song performed by Joe Espositio that I’m having a little bit of trouble nailing down release information for.  That track clocks in at 3 minutes, 18 seconds and is the shortest version of the four.  Lastly, there’s a version by Stan Bush that was released this past year with his latest album, The Ultimate.  That version clocks in at 3 minutes, 30 seconds.  All four versions feature the same basic overall structure with slight differences in pace and timing, and in Esposito’s case some alternate lyrics.

In my mind, the Farnham version from the film and Soundtrack is the definitive version.  It’s the one I heard first and the version that just…sounds right, for lack of a better description. The second that song plays I see the qualifying race from Rad in my mind’s eye, without fail.  I know for a lot of people “You’re the Best” is the go to 80s anthem, and I do love it, but whenever I’m out running and need to finish that last mile or something like that, it’s TiYH for me.  As far as the difference between the original and extended versions of the song, the longer one is pretty much the same (though the guitar solo comes in a few seconds earlier) and at the 3:38 mark the song slows down with a more groovy feel to the beat in the background as it plays out the chorus one more time.

Here are the lyrics for those not familiar…

Thunder in Your Heart – John Farnham Version

You’re taking a chance, risking it all
For the thrill of the moment
Taking a stand, you ain’t gonna fall
And you’ve always known it
They’re dying to shake you,
Trying their best to break you
And though the going is rough, you’re going home as a hero

‘Cause there’s thunder in your heart
Every move is like lightning
It’s the power you feel when you get your taste of the glory
There’s a fire gonna start
And you know they’re going under
You can light the dark when they hear your heart of thunder.

Cry of the wind, spirit of fire
The heart of a lion
Taking control, burning desire
Your flame never dying

Don’t lose that feeling
Don’t ever stop believing
There’s one more moment of truth and you’re gonna face it

‘Cause there’s thunder in your heart
Every move is like lightning
It’s the power you feel when you get your taste of the glory
There’s a fire gonna start
and you know they’re going under
you can light the dark when they hear your heart of thunder.

When they hear your heart of thunder.

‘Cause there’s thunder in your heart
And you know they’re going under
You can light the dark when they hear your heart of thunder.

There is thunder in your heart
And you know they’re going under
You can light the dark when they hear your heart of thunder.

Powerful stuff.  So, as I mentioned above, as far as I knew up until a couple weeks ago the song was a John Farnham original, but now that I’ve heard the Joe Esposito version there are a few context clues that are making me wonder if it might pre-date the version from Rad.  First off, Esposito’s version is a little cleaner or stripped down, not as heavily layered with instrumentation.  Again, I haven’t been able to find any concrete release information for his version of the song, so I have no idea if it’s modern (like the Bush cover) or if it was released in the 80s when he was in his heyday.


Left: Joe Esposito

Another clue that makes me wonder is that there are some variations with the lyrics in the Esposito version.  Maybe it’s just me but it seems weird to think that Esposito would bother changing the lyrics if he were covering the song.  The differences between the two versions is also not stark, there really seems to be no obvious reason as to why the lyrics would have been changed.  It’s mainly the line “It’s the power you feel when you get your taste of the glory”, which Esposito changes to, “And you hit the mark with your hand on the wall you’ve been striking”.

Again, to me this feels like a slight shift in how the song was conceived and how it was potentially changed to fit in a bit better with the placement in the movie Rad.  Overall, the song is all about pushing through and kicking butt when the going gets tough.  But the line “It’s the power you feel when you get your taste of the glory” feels like it’s pointing towards winning in a competition, not just pushing through a tough point.  Esposito’s variation just reads a little more broad to me, and that feels like a first draft.  The theory that I have is that Esposito was the first to perform the song, very likely for inclusion in the Karate Kid soundtrack, but for some reason it was pulled.  Maybe Allee Willis was working on “You’re The Best” in tandem with Macaluso & Sklerov working on “Thunder in Your Heart”.  Maybe they were both in consideration for the final karate tournament montage.  Who knows.  But that’s the theory I’m going with as it’s all just conjecture on my part.  In an effort to be thorough I’ve reached out to both Macaluso and Sklerov (both are on Facebook), but have yet to hear back.

As for his version itself, I dig it, but I’m not nearly as fond of it as I am of Farnham & Bush’s versions.  His voice is raspier and his guitar solo isn’t nearly as fun as the other two.  That being said, there are some fun aspects to this version.  For one it’s much heavier on backing keyboards which I do enjoy, and at around the 2 minute 10 second mark there are some over the top thunderstorm sound effect overlays that are so goofy and spot on that you have to love them (like the Door’s Rider’s on the Storm…)


Last, but certainly not least, sees the reteaming of Lenny Macaluso & Stan Bush for a modern cover of Thunder in Your Heart that is in many ways similar to the Farnham performance of the song.  It was included on Bush’s most recent album, The Ultimate, and I hope that there are a bunch of Bush fans that will be exposed to the wonder that is TiYH.  Maybe, just maybe someone will dig a little deeper into the song and it’ll lead them to discovering the Rad soundtrack and eventually the film itself.  That’s what I hope at least.

So how is Bush’s cover?  Again, I enjoy it, but not as much as Farnham’s.  Bush has a much more tremble-y voice than Farnham, and he plays the song at a quicker pace. Because of this he doesn;t pause on the beats quite as much and to me it loses some of the power of the anthem.  There’s an art to performing a heart pounding song that really grabs you by the metaphorical balls and gets you pumped.  I think a big part of that is knowing when to be fast with a lot of intensity and energy, and when to pull back and let the audience soak in what they’re hearing.  Bush misses a lot of those dramatic beats in the song in my opinion.  On the other hand his solo is probably the best of the three, and like Esposito, Bush layers on thunderstorm effects and amps up the keyboards. So it’s not a total loss.

Before I sat down to write this article I was chatting with my girlfriend Jaime about it and she had a brilliantly silly idea that I totally fell in love with.  She suggested we create the audio equivalent all three versions of these songs battling it out for supremacy, in an environment like Thunderdome (from the 3rd Mad Max film.)  So she set to work to merging all three tracks into one, realigning them so that they all play basically at the same pace.  We call this the Thunder in Your Heart: The Thunderdome Remix.  It’s a cacophony of insanity, but it’s also probably the first time that John Farnham, Stan Bush, and Joe Esposito have every all played together at once (virtually that is!)

You can listen or down the Thunderdome Remix here


Transformers through the eyes of a 10 year-old…

If there’s one thing that I try very hard to do with this site it’s to attempt to transport my perspective into the mind of my 10 year-old self so that I can try and see things (like all the old cartoons, toys, and ephemera) as I did almost 30 years ago.  This is way easier said than done as it’s next to impossible to let go of a lifetime’s worth of baggage and my pesky adult perspective that I need to have in place for most of the time.  It’s at those times when it’s proving a real struggle to get back into that childlike mindset when I wonder what it would be like to have a child of my own who I could share all of the stuff that I grew up with and watch their reaction firsthand.  Having children just hasn’t been something that was in the cards for me up to this point, and most of my friends who have had children did so later in life and so most of them are still too young to share this kind of stuff with.

Well this past week I had the opportunity to babysit a friend’s 10 year-old son Alex for a few afternoons, and after spending the last decade literally reclaiming my childhood in the form of comics, toys, and a mountain of cartoons on DVD I figured I’d be in the perfect person to watch and entertain the kid for a few afternoons.  Well, even though I feel like I had a pretty good shot at relating to him and the stuff he’s into, I do remember what it was like being a kid and being babysat by someone who was trying their damnedest but failing to relate to me.  That was probably my biggest concern going in, that I’d attempt to be hip by knowing about stuff like current cartoons or cool for having a huge collection of toys, yet still failing to make a connection. I mean, I have a wall full of Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe toys still mint on card.  Would Alex think I was crazy for not opening them?  Basically all I knew for certain was that he was a huge Transformers fan who thinks that the Decepticons are jerks and that his favorite characters are all of the Autobots.  All of them.


I knew I’d be watching him for three days and on the first it was pretty much just as awkward as I’d expected.  Being really into Transformers Alex brought his copy of the War for Cybertron XBox game so that we could play it.  Well, if I haven’t already mentioned it on the site before, when it comes to modern video games I suck.  I’ll be honest, I very happily peaced out after the Nintendo 64/Playstaion era of gaming and never really had any interest in picking it back up.  I’d much rather play Galaga than Skyrim, and I’m totally fine with that.  I’m just not a gamer and if you hand me a controller that has more than 4 buttons and a D-pad I’m totally lost.


So when Alex busted out his copy of War for Cybertron I was actually nervous about having to try and play co-op with him.  Luckily he didn’t understand what the co-op option meant, so I just played dumb when there was no option for the second player to join after he launched the single-player campaign.  At that point I was fine just watching him blast a bunch of Transformers to rubble.  Actually, watching him play the game was kind of hilariously interesting because regardless of the fact that I mentioned to him that I was well versed in the lore of the Transformers he took it upon himself to tell me all about the characters and the world.  I decided to just play dumb and learn from the master.  “Whoa, that guy is named Jetfire?  What does he transform into?  A jet?  Whoa!”  Mind you, I wasn’t being sarcastic or patronizing, just trying to let him take the reigns of the discussion.  He played the game non-stop for 5 hours straight while I watched and asked about all the characters and locations.


Actually, this was kind interesting for me on another level since I’d never played the game before and have very distinct tastes when it comes to the Transformers.  The game is an amalgamation of visual design and continuity from all iterations of the mythology and universes.  So you have dialogue directly lifted from the 1986 Transformers movie mixed with references to the Bayformer movies, and character designs that are somewhere in between those live action films and the Classics toy versions of the characters that were released about a decade ago.  Mix that with dialogue from Frank Welker and Peter Cullen and it makes for a very trippy experience.  There are even nods to the original Marvel comics, specifically the smelting pits.

War for Cybertron Poster1

This also underlined something for me that I was well aware of, but never really out much thought into which is that a brand like the Transformers has a longevity that is kind of amazing.  I mean, I feel kind of old thinking about it, but having been around before they were originally designed and released, enough time has passed that there are almost three generations worth of folks who can lay claim to a variation of the characters.  In another decade we’ll being seeing families where the grandparents were into the original G1 versions of the characters, parents who grew up on the later 90s, early 2000s cartoons and the Bayformers, and there will be a new generation of kids whose reference point for the characters will be the new video games and the latest trilogy of Bayformer movies that are on deck to be released over the next few years.  We’re already seeing that with brands like G.I. Joe, but I find it fascinating that something that was developed and launched when I was a kid will have that sort of generational longevity soon.


Well, on the second day I was only watching Alex for a couple of hours and honestly I still had a headache from the constant barrage of crap blowing up in ultra HD in that game the day before, so I decided instead of firing the XBox back up, instead we’d watch a movie.  Knowing he loved the Transformers and since I’ve never been able to share some of my childhood favorite flicks with a kid of my own I decided that I’d take a chance and screen the 1986 Transformers movie for him.  I knew he’d never seen it and honestly I was dying to know if the flick still held up for today’s kids who have their own, way more kinetic versions of the characters than the ones I grew up loving.  I always felt the movie was ahead of its time in terms of the violence, the sort of crazy level of action and a plot that basically moves at the speed of light.  So what would a modern 10 year-old make of this film I love so dearly?


Well, I’m pleased to say that it held up pretty damn good, though there are some scenes where it was painfully obvious that Alex was getting bored.  All of the jokes seemed to hit him in just the right place (we both turned to each other and laughed during the scene where Grimlock is begging Kup to tell his war stories), and for the most part the fast-moving plot seemed to keep his attention.  The opening scene with the Lithonian’s planet getting eaten by Unicron seemed to bore him, and any scene that was devoted to back and forth bickering between Unicron and Galvatron also made him snooze.  But throughout the rest of the film there was definitely a mix of him literally being on the edge of his seat and standing up cheering.  It was really interesting seeing him react to the vehicle character of Daniel, one that most fans who grew up with the film tend to deride and mock, but Alex was all in.  Whenever Daniel was in peril I’d hear audible gasps from Alex, even in early scenes where he busts his hoover-board.


Probably the most gratifying experience was watching Alex react to a couple of key scenes in the movie, namely the death of Optimus Prime and the psuedo-death of Ultra Magnus before the final siege on Unicron.  There were no tears during Prime’s death, but this was probably the moment when Alex became fully invested in the story (at least judging from his body language.)  You could tell he was heavily focused on the characters and really wanted the Autobots to survive and to defeat the Decepticons.


He also really seemed to get behind the idea of the Matrix of Leadership because when it came around to the scene where Galvatron has Ultra Magnus ripped apart to get at it, Alex was really bummed out.  He actually screamed out “No!” when Magnus fell.  So even though at the outset he had that sort of disinterest because the movie seemed so old, three quarters of the way in he was hooked.  I attempted to ask him some questions afterwards, but being a sort of shy 10 year-old who never really spent all that much time around me, he was pretty tight lipped.  I was really curious if he noticed that some of the lines in this movie were also in the game he loved (“One shall stand, one shall fall”, “Bah Weep Grah Na Weep Ninibon”, “First we crack the shell, then we crack the nuts inside…”, etc.), but he didn’t seem to notice.  Granted, I’ve seen that ’86 movie over two hundred times, so the dialogue is permanently etched into my brain.


I was also curious about the infamous scene where Spike utters the word “Shit” when they try and blow up Unicron with Moon Base Two.  Again, he didn’t seem to notice during the actual film, and I wasn’t going to ask him a point question about curse words afterwards.  The final little bit of a litmus test to gauge his enjoyment with the older G1 versions of the characters, my girlfriend and I picked up a six-inch vinyl Optimus Prime figure (that is strikingly accurate in terms of the depiction from the original cartoon) as a gift for Alex.  I gave it to him right before we watched the movie and all throughout he was clutching it and posing it towards the screen. On the third day when he came back, he still had the toy with him, so I’m taking that as a sign that he enjoyed that 1986 film.


All in all, it was really fascinating to get a glimpse into what it would be like to share my nostalgia with a kid, and it gives me hope that if I do decide that the time is right to have a child of my own soon, that I’ll be able to pass down a love for some of my favorite 80s era stuff.  That actually gives me a lot of hope for the future and it reminds me that I might get a lot of use out of the overflowing shelves of cartoons I own on DVD some day.

No Seriously, I Guess I like Talking… ;)

All of a sudden one stops and takes stock of the past few weeks and it’s impossible to ignore the fact that you’ve been hosting or guest hosting on a ton of podcasts.  This happens to everyone right?  Seriously, I think I’ve been making up for my recent internet sabbatical in the form of podcasting.  It’s immediate, the editing is minimal (as if I edit my writing, pshaw), and the conversations tend to be a lot more fun than just banging away at my keyboard.  I’m not really comparing the two for any other reason than trying to rationalize how in the past two week’s I’ve had six podcast announcements!  Seriously, I guess I like talking…

Cult Film Club

So, what are the other three shows I’ve been involved with recently you might be asking yourself?  Well, first off, there’s a brand new episode of the Cult Film Club, the show I do with some criminally awesome co-hosts, Paxton Holley and Jaime Hood.  This should be of interest to folks who enjoy this site as the movie we chose for discussion is none other than the batshit insane Karate Kid III!


For real, this flick is crazy, and as my co-hosts point out, Karate Kid III is basically a parody of the first KK film.  John Kreese, down on his luck after all of the Cobra Kai students have abandoned him in the wake of some crazy car-window punching and nose honking, seeks revenge against Daniel and Miyagi by hooking up with his secret CK grand master and old war buddy Terry Silver.  They lure Daniel to the dark side of the, um, karate, and well, you have to watch this film to believe that it was actually made.  We chat about the film, the actors, some dream re-writes, and how we all secretly wish we were Terry Silver.  You can listen to the episode and join the Cult Film Club here!

Next up is the long awaited release of the new episode of the Saturday Supercast!


This time I check back in with hosts Jerzy Drozd and Dave Roman to discuss one of my all-time favorite flicks, 1986′s Transformers the Movie.  We’re joined by the super cool Matt Hawkins to discuss the film, the soundtrack, the casting, and we all provide some interesting arguments for how the Decepticons managed to hand the Autobots their buts so easily at the start of the flick!  We all had way too much for with the conversation and it ended up a long show.  So Jerzy and Dave broke it in half.  Check out Part 1 over at Sugary Serials!

Last but not least, I was kindly asked to be a guest on the latest Retro Retro Retro Podcast by the really awesome and swell guy Raven J!

retro retro retro

The discussion is all about magazine memories, NES and Gensis video game reviews, as well as some movie reviews.  I sat in on the discussion of magazines with Raven and his crew and had a blast.  Check out their site, and you can find the episode here!