When actor-producer Topher Grace decided to make a film set on one crazy night in the '80s, he knew music had to be at its core, like those winning movies of the era directed by John Hughes (Breakfast Club) and Cameron Crowe (Say Anything). So he made a mixtape, for inspiration.
"We were thinking about how much we love John Hughes movies, and we were kinda bummed people don't make them anymore, you know, where there's drama and comedy," Grace tells SPIN. "So we just made a mixtape, a super '80s mixtape, filled with stuff that might still be a hit today and has a timeless quality, but was specific to that time.... We just wanted to make a movie that could live in that genre, with that kind of music."
The result is Take Me Home Tonight (out March 4, also starring Anna Faris and Teresa Palmer), and Grace says 90 percent of the music on that original mixtape made it onto the film's soundtrack, which is out April 11. We asked Grace to talk about some of his favorite '80s music. Check out his commentary while you listen to the playlist below!
HUEY LEWIS & THE NEWS, "THE POWER OF LOVE"
Topher says: "That was it. Back to the Future was one of the first movies I remember seeing. I didn't even know what pop music was. I remember lip-synching to that in my den in front of my dad's video camera. I also remember when that came out, I bought a skateboard the next day."
FREUR, "DOOT DOOT"
"That to me was a big find. We didn't have that on our original list but Cathy Nelson, who was the big hero of the soundtrack -- she did High Fidelity, all the great soundtracks of when I was growing up -- she found it. She helped us clear all this stuff, which is a feat. We're not a huge blockbuster $100 million movie. This one plays when me and Tori [played by Palmer] get together in the film. 'Doot Doot' was a song that I wasn't familiar with, but now it's one of my favorite songs. It's just a really beautiful song."
GUNS N' ROSES, "SWEET CHILD O' MINE"
"In the '80s, there was actually still something called pop music, pop radio, where they played Run DMC and Guns N' Roses and Van Halen. We ended up not putting this song in the film, but we did put an Appetite for Destruction poster in. The film starts in Sam Goody. We wanted to use all these stores that don't exist anymore, like Sam Goody and Suncoast, for these kids that haven't ever seen albums or video tapes."
SIMPLE MINDS, "DON'T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME"
"That's one I knew couldn't go in the film. It's too on the nose, but it was on every mix we made that inspired us, because John Hughes did it so right. One of the things we liked about John Hughes movies was how everything happened in one day, or one night. When you look at those issues separately, it doesn't sound very epic, but if they all happen in one day or one night, they're very seminal. You hear that song and it's the feeling of the '80s we wanted to tap into."
EDDIE MONEY, "TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT"
"The reason it's not in the film -- it actually was, but we yanked it out -- we felt like it gets used so much in the promotion that it'd be distracting, but I do really love the song. We also talked a lot about how the '80s were really obsessed with the '50s and early '60s, and this song literally sounds like that ['60s girl group legend Ronnie Spector contributes guest vocals]. Look at Back to the Future. It's the kind of the same thing. People were obsessed with that period of time in the same way that we're probably obsessed with the '80s.
PETE TOWNSHEND, "LET MY LOVE OPEN THE DOOR (E. COLA MIX)"
"In the film, when [Grace's character] Matt and Tori get together in this scene, we weave this song's musical theme back through the film's score. It's my favorite song in the film and it's my favorite scene in the film. The movie's a lot of things, but it's a romance at its heart and you need a song like that. Cameron Crowe really showed us that."
THE BUGGLES, "VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR"
"We were thinking, 'How do we start the movie?' We only have one chance to make the quintessential '80s film that isn't making fun of the '80s so how would we start that? Your first impression is really important. Then we thought, 'It's the first music video. We've got this great opening. It really sets you in that time. And it's a really great song.' So it plays over the opening."
VAN HALEN, "PANAMA"
"I almost went with 'Hot for Teacher,' but I like 'Panama' more. This isn't in the movie. But it's just a personal favorite of the '80s. My nostalgia has caught up to the point that I'm nostalgic for everything. I'm nostalgic for Clear Pepsi. In terms of 'Panama,' there's no more fun than-- we tried to get that spirit into the movie."
KIM CARNES, "BETTE DAVIS EYES"
"This is one of the ones from our original mixtape that helped us sort of built scenes around the songs. And then it was great -- on set, we would be able to play the songs and act some of these things out to it. This is one of them. The first time you see the golden girl that he's chasing at the party, a little bit in slow-mo. There's just something about that song."
MEN WITHOUT HATS, "THE SAFETY DANCE"
"We wanted to feel other parts of the '80s, too. That's why Barry, Dan Fogel's character, exists. He gets fired and then we steal a car. It's an '80s movie -- we have to steal a car. In the glove compartment we find an eight-ball of coke and Barry, who has been totally straight-laced and didn't even go to college and has been working his whole life, goes in the bathroom and tries cocaine. First, he thinks it's not working and goes, 'Great, I got stuck with a bag of shit.' Then you see the card that he's been using to chop it up just stop and he goes, 'Blammo.' Then this song comes on."
MÖTLEY CRÜE, "KICKSTART MY HEART"
"'Kickstart My Heart' is a great example of where we're all getting ready for the party and it's a feeling you can't contain. We did a whole montage of people getting ready to go to a party in the '80s. It's like a dream in the film -- people putting mousse on, shoulder pads, tons of hairspray, people getting kegs -- and each time we'd be filming these vignettes, we'd be playing 'Kickstart My Heart.'"
ATOMIC TOM, "DON'T YOU WANT ME" (HUMAN LEAGUE COVER)
"The closing credits are set to this, but we also did a music video for it. To do a cast music video for a song that was done as a cover for a movie is a very '80s idea." (Watch the video here)
WATCH: Atomic Tom, "Don't You Want Me"
WATCH: Take Me Home Tonight trailer