Song of the Week: "Don’t You (Forget About Me)" by Billy Idol (2001)

Before the Home Alone series of movies completely ruined him, John Hughes could put together some decent movies: National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and what I consider to be one of the most important films ever made, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. His teen coming-of-age movies were a cut above the typical celluloid fare aimed at adolescents. They were known not only for their scripting, but for their soundtracks as well: there were always at least three or four good alt-rock singles in each movie’s soundtrack album — with the notable exception of The Breakfast Club.

DVD cover for 'The Breakfast Club'.

The soundtrack album for The Breakfast Club was the least remarkable of the bunch, featuring only one track of note, both commercially and critically: Don’t You (Forget About Me), written by Keith Forsey. Looking for someone to perform the number, Forsey approached both Bryan Ferry (lead vocalist for seminal art-rock band Roxy Music) and Billy Idol, who was then enjoying the wave of success from his 1983 album, Rebel Yell. Both turned down the gig. Ferry’s reasoning is obvious: he’s an arts-school wanker (really, he has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and that gives you ten automatic wanker points) and taking the gig would be “selling out”. On the other hand, Idol is no stranger to the concept. He’d already traded in his punk cred from his prior band, Generation X (in fact, one hit single of his, Dancing with Myself is a remake of a Generation X number) — why didn’t he take the gig?

The band who would end up performing the number, Simple Minds, turned down the offer at first, not wanting to perform someone else’s music. Their record label pressured them to do so, and by caving, the band ended up with their biggest hit single. This was a sore point with both the band and their fans. Die-hard fans of the band would boo them whenever they played the song at their concerts in the mid-80s, and the band were annoyed that the song for which they will be remembered isn’t one they wrote or originally wanted to do.

The single was a big hit at parties; I own a very worn-out beer-stained 12″ vinyl single that spun several times, a few of which were during parties thrown while my folks were away in Europe. I would also end up playing the keyboard part on a borrowed Roland Juno-106 synth with my friends in our Billy Idol/Platinum Blonde cover band. I’ll have to write up some stories about those times someday.

In 2001, in what seems like an admission of “coulda, woulda, shoulda”, Billy Idol included Don’t You (Forget About Me) as a bonus single on his “greatest hits” album. His version’s pretty decent and gives us a taste of what could’ve been.

This song will be available for a week, after which it’ll evaporate. Enjoy!

Leave a Reply