From the Stereo to Your Screen: The Coupe De Villes and Big Trouble in Little China

“Big Trouble in Little China” by The Coupe De Villes from Big Trouble in Little China

 

 

I’m never putting the column’s selection up to a vote ever again. While I absolutely adore John Carpenter’s music, as well as Big Trouble In Little China as a film, this song is horrid. I’m pretty sure everyone either voted on this because of one of two things:

  • They knew the movie, but had no idea about the song.
  • They knew the song and wanted me to suffer.

big trouble cover

Knowing you people, I’m assuming the second, more than the first. This song’s rough. Carpenter’s a great musician, an excellent director, and interesting cat, but he sings like Jim Morrison fronting an ’80s skinny tie bar band. Like Huey Lewis and the News, but without the edge. The Coupe De Villes were basically this band that Carpenter put together in the ’80s as a way to have some fun. The band also featured director Tommy Lee Wallace and actor Nick Castle, and their one and only LP, Waiting Out the Eighties, was never commercially released. It wasn’t even supposed to be much more than a lark, but somehow, they’ve become this weird obsession for record collecting movie fans.

big trouble still

The song from the soundtrack is another one of those titular themes that ostensibly seeks to give you an overview of the film in a short, catchy pop song, and I guess it does. “Big Trouble In Little China” the song captures the feel of Big Trouble In Little China the movie, with lyrics about how nothing is as it seems, and running “through the mystic nights.”

The whole thing that really bugs me about all of this is that the movie’s kind of badass and weird, and aside from the pseudo-Asian synthesizer flourishes, this song doesn’t connect much in terms in tone. Big Trouble In Little China is just one of any number of tough action flicks from the mid-’80s with a song that attempts to rock hard, but falls on the lite-FM side of things. I’m thinking things like Cobra‘s “Angel of the City” or “Winner Takes All” from Over the Top — man, Stallone got hosed, huh?

big trouble cap

The video’s got a nice hook to it, in that Carpenter’s playing as if he’s watching the movie unreel on his editing station, and that the action onscreen is bursting out into the editing room where he and the band are grooving on this tune. Then, it even flips back to where Lo Pan is watching the Coup De Villes on his security monitors within the film, which is actually kind of clever.

Other than that, the song and the video are repetitive as hell. The phrase “Big Trouble In Little China” gets repeated several dozen times, and the three guys in the band essentially mug at the camera while wearing ’80s shades of which they should be ashamed. Seriously, those things would be ridiculous in a Corey Haim vehicle. Putting them on middle-aged men is just embarrassing.

That said, you’ll be wandering around humming it for days afterward. I can only suggest listening to the main title theme, “Pork Chop Express” on repeat until the Coupe De Villes’ song has left your brain.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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