Transformers: The Movie

Soundtrack

At 7pm on Thursday, September 27th, 2018, theaters around the nation will play Transformers: The Movie. In honor of the one night only showing, we wrote down our thoughts on the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack, Vince DiCola, Stan Bush, Autobots, Decepticons, and the idea of greed being good, at least in the case of the Transformers cartoon movie.

Stan Bush, Vince DiCola, Kick Axe, Lion, NRG, and Weird Al create an epic soundtrack to the legendary, Transformers: The Movie.

Way before Sam and Mikaela were riding around in a refreshed Bumblebee (Transformers Gen I Bumblebee is VW bug, not a (Bang) Camaro). But hey, at least they got the color right.

Way before the Dark of the Moon. Way before the Age of Extinction. Way before the Last Knight. Way before Revenge of the Fallen.

Way before Michael Bay, Josh Duhamel, Shia Lebeouf, Megan Fox, and John Turturro.

Before Steven Jablonsky wrote the score to the live action Transformers.

At a time when kids were playing Transformers outside in sandboxes, not playing Transformers on netflix.

There was the real Transformers movie. The 1986 animated cartoon movie. The Eric IDle, Orson Welles, Judd Nelson, and Leonard Nimoy, Micro machines guy, Michael Bell voiced Transformers. Peter Cullen, to be fair, appears as Optimus Prime in (nearly) all versions. Why? Cause he is a bad ass.

Better still, there was the music!

The movie soundtrack

In 1986, the legendary Transformers: The Movie soundtrack hit the shelves, putting records and cassettes into the hands of kids across the nation, filling everyone with joy. The motion picture soundtrack ranged from bitchin’ hair metal (Lion, Kick Axe, Stan Bush) to Vince DiCola’s perfect synth-industrial score. This was way before the Michael Bay live-action tentpole of 2007, with thankfully none of the Linkin Park.

Just pure 80s synth, hair metal, screechy vocals, amazing falsetto, huge guitars, and all sorts of other righteous musical motifs. This is the original Transformers soundtrack. This is the best Transformers soundtrack. And, as far as we are concerned, this is the only Transformers soundtrack.

Vince DiCola on scoring the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack

“From the beginning, I found this to be a very challenging project. The first surprise was realizing that about 75 minutes worth of music would be required. This amount of music is not particularly uncommon for a full lenght animated film, but was certainly more than I had ever been asked to produce for one movie. Another surprise nearly threw me into a panic mode. I was told that I would be writing most of the music not to picture, as is usually the case, but to “storyboards”, which is far from the norm. I traded in my initial shock for more of a can-do attitude and told the director and producers, “Oh sure, no problem at all … I can do that!””

What is amazing is that he wrote the music to the cartoon movie to the storyboards. Not the finished film, not a rough cut, the storyboards.

Rating

I give the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack a 910

How can you not? So anthemic, so kick ass, so everything in between.

The Transformers: The Movie Soundtrack (1986) album cover
You got the touch!

Transformers soundtrack listing

  1. The Touch - Stan Bush
  2. Instruments of Destruction - N.R.G.
  3. Death of Optimus Prime - Vince DiCola
  4. Dare - Stan Bush
  5. Nothin' Gonna Stand In Our Way - Spectre General (Kick Axe)
  6. The Transformers Theme - Lion
  7. Escape - Vince DiCola
  8. Hunger - Spectre General (Kick Axe)
  9. Autobot / Decepticon Battle - Vince DiCola
  10. Dare to Be Stupid - "Weird Al" Yankovic
  11. Unicron Medley - Vince DiCola
  12. Moon Base 2 - Shuttle Launch - Vince DiCola
  13. Megatron Must Be Stopped (Parts 1 & 2) - Vince DiCola
  14. The Transformers Theme (Alternate Version) - Vince DiCola

Tracks 11-14 were not on the original soundtrack release, but on the 2007 Volcano Entertainment re-release.

Transformers: The Movie soundtrack album notes

The Touch - Stan Bush

YOU GOT THE TOUCH! YOU GOT THE POWER!

Madly inspirational, Stan Bush at his (near) finest.

Fighting to the end, never giving in when you’re back is to the wall, seeking out the eye of the storm, fighting fire with fire, that is what The Touch is all about. That is what Optimus Prime is all about. So bad ass.

Love the synth/vox breakdown, right before the huge guitar riff plows back in.

Solidly clean, overdriven single coil guitar sprinkled throughout.

Stan Bush needs to be immortalized for his work on the album.

One Shall Stand. One Shall Fall.

“I’ll rip out your optics!” - Megatron

How many Decepticons does Optimus mow down there? More than enough.

Hot Rod becoming Rodimus Prime with the Autobot Matrix of Leadership
Except for Judd Nelson, he was ... Hot Rod!

Instruments of Destruction - N.R.G.

Instruments of Destruction sounds like a tune off of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, only if Dave Mustaine wrote it. Which is funny, because Megadeath appears on Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.

Power chords were invented for Instruments of Destruction.

Huge falsettos are all over the end of this tune, but none so much as the final note. Wow, those are some pipes.

Death of Optimus Prime - Vince DiCola

Vince backs off the full-time synth to lay down some dramatic piano. Makes sense, we just lost our hero in the story.

Calls in the synth choir and gets the tap tempo arpeggiator running. Sounds an awful lot like the Rocky IV victory score that he also did.

Heartbeat paced warning chimes. Not good. Employs some of the same techniques Harold Faltermeyer uses in Memories from the Top Gun Soundtrack (When Goose dies).

Dare - Stan Bush

The best song on the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack. Bar none. Dare is in a league of it’s own.

Triumphant doesn’t even scratch the surface of Dare. Even its intro in the movie is perfect. Imagine being a kid with a hoverboard and a robot buddy ready to catch you if you fall, flip over, transform, and then toss you behind the drivers seat?

And, for the best part, that robot buddy is Judd Nelson?!

That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!

Stan Bush absolutely raises everyone, both in the movie, and in the theather, to new heights with the magnificent Dare.

Stan Bush, now at his finest.

Dare with Vince and Stan

Nothin’ Gonna Stand In Our Way - Spectre General (Kick Axe)

Great pacing. Powerful chugging verse chords. Super tough, defiant chorus. Kick Axe won’t be denied.

Nothin’s Gonna Stand In Our Way … NOT TONIGHT!!!

Really emphasizing the “Nothin’s gonna stand in our way” motif with the pre-solo pseudo-verse.

Love the compact guitar solo. Crisp tone.

False ending at 3:17-3:18 with the harmonized vocals.

True ending with soloed out harmonized chorus vocals just a few seconds later.

The Transformers Theme - Lion

In case you were wondering what band plays the main soundtrack in transformers, it is Lion.

It is also the BEST version of The Transformers Theme. Better than the cartoon version. Better than Vince DiCola’s alternate version. Better than the 2007 live action movie Black Lab version.

Judge for yourself.

Lion version theme song

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Cartoon version (Transformers original theme song)

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Black Lab version theme song

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Mute Math version theme song

I get the space, robot, industrial thing. I really do. That said, this remix, because that’s what we should call it, is so far off brand that its laughable.

I think we can all agree that Lion’s totally bitchin’ hair metal version is the best version ever created.

Just harmonized lightning everywhere.

Although, the acoustic version from Cybertronic Spree is quite interesting …

Escape - Vince DiCola

Light-hearted Boy Meets Girl opening intro, before laying on the heavy bass. If Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, and the rest of the Flecktones went synth-metal, it would be the beginning of Escape, right before the video game music takes over.

Hunger - Spectre General (Kick Axe)

Kick Axe lets their heavy metal roots shine on Hunger. Huge opening riff. Crunch verses.

Hunger! I want it so bad! Gang vocals to close a chorus is always a tasteful choice.

Wailing pre-solo vox. The guitar solo, while decent, is somewhat reserved.

Autobot / Decepticon Battle - Vince DiCola

Solid pacing. Modulated notes of the main Transformers theme song. Jazz rock bass. Synth, like snowflakes falling all around. Maybe even a few notes in common with the Reading Rainbow theme music. Where is Levar Burton?!

Autobot / Decepticon Battle is one of the more dynamic tracks on the album. Vince DiCola ensures your attention is captured.

The Dare melody gets name-checked once or twice.

Dare to Be Stupid - “Weird Al” Yankovic

How Weird Al Yankovic made it onto the soundtrack is anyone’s guess. I bet Dare to be Stupid would be quite the karaoke song.

Yellow Devo jumpsuits. Synth-pop instrumentals. Weird Al. I give thee, the Dare To Be Stupid video.

It’s got little in common with The Transformers, conceptually. But the music does fit in the movie. The Junkions, led by Wreck-Gar, arrive to mess with Daniel and Springer, right before Hot Rod and Kup show up. Then a weird break dance sesh breaks out, Grimlock tweaks a bit, and now it’s time to plot Unicron’s death.

The absurdity of Dare to be Stupid need only match Eric Idle’s inclusion in the cast as Wreck-Gar. You would know Eric Idle from Monty Python. Makes sense now, right? Probably where bah weep granah weep nini bong came from.

You want to Dare to be Stupid? Walk around saying bah weep granah weep nini bong. Watch for the kind of looks you get.

… Yeah, probably high fives from all of the other Transformers fans around the world. It’s the universal greeting.

Fist up!

Unicron Medley - Vince DiCola

Sinister machine lord music, perfect for Unicron. The building menace is palpable. The dialogue balanced well off of the soundtrack score.

Orson Welles crushes all as Unicron, delivering legit lines like, “For a time, I considered sparing your wretched little planet, Cybertron, but now, you will witness…ITS DISMEMBERMENT!”

Huge guitar riffage at 4:40 after the fading church choir effect wears off.

Moon Base 2 / Shuttle Launch - Vince DiCola

Big bass hits. Industrial percussion. Pink Floyd synths.

Shifts to full on major scale triumphant notes midway through.

DiCola knew how to build tension. He could bend the tension toward tense drama, toward victorious jubilation, toward ominous doom.

Megatron Must Be Stopped (Parts 1 & 2) - Vince DiCola

Megatron Must Be Stopped is film score masking itself as a driving rock tune. The shifts in tonality were (maybe?) supposed to represent both the Autobots and the Decepticons. Vince DiCola does a superb job of pacing this track.

Gritty riffs. Chromatic runs. Dramatic battle snares. Quite anthemic.

The Transformers Theme (Alternate Version) - Vince DiCola

Stan Bush sings on this version of The Transformers Theme song.

We love you, Stan. But, there is a higher truth. You see, there is only one version of the Transformers theme song … and that is Lion’s.

Til All Are One (Stan Bush and Vince DiCola)

The entire motion picture score is much longer than the few tracks originally included in 1986 and the additional four tracks issued on the re-release (Moon Base, Unicron, Megatron must be stopped, and the Stan Bush alt Transformers theme).

This music was later released as a compilation titled, Til All Are One. It features Stan Bush’s Call to Action and Vince DiCola’s The Transformers: The Movie musical score. Acquire that and you have the rest of the tracks.

Other permutations of the Transformers music include

The Transformers soundtrack songs across pop culture

From Dirk Diggler singing The Touch in Boogie Nights to Stan Bush’s Dare adorning the 80’s wrestling revival, G.L.O.W., a fictionalized recreation of the real 80’s wrestling show of the same name, songs from The Transformers: The Movie soundtrack get used from time to time in pop culture.

Did this help Wahlberg score a role in Transformers 4? Certainly didn’t hurt!

The official Benders teaser uses Stan Bush’s The Touch. Benders lasted one season. Oh well.

How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson uses the theme song on his Get Psyched Mix. You should too!

When Greed Is Good (documentary)

Transformers: The Movie itself was meant as a transition away from Generation I Transformers, so that Hasbro could sell new toys and make $$. According to Lee Baron’s When Greed Is Good (below), the Transformers writers were given carte blanche to liberally kill off Autobots and Decepticons as they saw fit.

If you love the (Generation I) toys and the Transformers cartoon movie, it is worth your 11 minutes to watch.

“The toys were a phenomenal success and Hasbro decided to create a new generation of toys and discontinue the first. The only problem was they needed a way to stop the old generation and start the new ones at the same time.” - Lee Baron

The cartoon itself is direct to consumer marketing. The Marvel comic and cartoon doubled demand. 6 million dollar feature length movie.

You gotta give credit to the Transformers producers, they and their bosses were out to make the most amount of money they could through merch sales, and in doing so, gave creative license to writers to make a phenomenal movie.

Flint Dillie, Nelson Shin, and others were charged with killing everyone on the show, leading to ultimate creative freedom. From the start, characters are getting smoked with laser shots to their metal automobile chests. AMAZING for a children’s film. Killing Optimus Prime. The dark music overlaying his death as he turned to gray. The backlash from the death of Optimus Prime forced the producers of GI Joe to re-edit dialogue for the scene where Duke dies.

Final thoughts on the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack

It’s a masterpiece of robotic excellence. Triumphant in a way that only the mid 80’s could be. Amazingly relistenable today. Perfect highway driving music.

September 27th, 2018 - One night only, The Transformers: The Movie (1986)

And also amazingly rewatchable. It was great to see it on the big screen again.

Fathom Events one night only in (AMC) theaters, Transformers: The Movie on September 27th, 2018
You got the ... tickets!