1986 may be one of the greatest years for film and music in recorded human history. A year that saw the release of such highly lauded records as Bad Brains’ I against I, Cro-Mags’ Age of Quarrel, Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Beastie Boys’ License to Ill, The Smiths’ Queen is Dead, and so many more that I could write a separate piece on how 1986 is the reason why I think music is good. This was also a year that saw an incredible run of genre films such as Big Trouble in Little China, The Fly, Labyrinth, Highlander, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Chopping Mall, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Critters, and the greatest Sci-Fi action film of all time, ALIENS.
Anyone who knows me personally is aware of my long-term obsession with this film franchise, and has more than likely been punished by me on the subject at least once or twice. I’ve owned whole toy lines, read comics and expanded universe novels, tortured myself with fan-fiction, watched and re-watched the director’s cuts countless times, and even keep a photo of Ripley wielding a pulse rifle on my nightstand. No two people have felt the sting of my fandom more than my own sister Jaime Davis and best friend Joey Breeding, both occasional Cinepunx contributors. Both have served as captive audiences to my ALIEN ranting usually centered around Ridley Scott’s love for making male viewers uncomfortable, Cameron’s Reagan-esque return to “family values”, Fincher’s inability to make his own movie, or Joss Whedon’s uncanny ability to hit the rim every time he’s set up for a slam dunk.
I love the movies and music from 1986, and I love ALIENS more than anything, which brings us to the task at hand. I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to imagine what ’86 gems a handful of choice characters would be listening to on their Sony WM-F28s (three-band equalizer included baby). These are the songs and records from 1986 that would be in Hudson, Hicks, Drake, Vasquez, Burke, and Ripley’s dropship mixtapes.
Let’s start with Private Hudson. Possibly the most beloved member, and easily the most quotable colonial marine in the whole “chicken-shit outfit.” Hudson, big on appearances, would probably want his music tastes to give off the impression that he’s a real bad ass. This one took no time, Hudson is a Heavy Metal guy. Big on gusto and limited on guts, Hudson would be an AC/DC kind of bad ass, not a Possessed kind of bad ass. He’d definitely dabble in the heavier and thrashier styles of the time but would always fall back on the tamer fare. This is the playlist that Hudson would make for me, but I bet if no one was looking… he could be found in his bunk, spooning a pillow while sneaking in some choice cuts from the Bangles 1986 record, Different Light.
Let’s face it, Hicks is the steely bad ass that Hudson so desperately wishes he could be. Hicks is effortlessly cool, calm under fire, and a dude that was literally born to kill aliens in space with a sawed-off shotgun. We could also assume some level of sensitivity based on the heart painted on his armor, but those details are more attributable to James Remar’s portrayal of the character that seemed to incorporate some Vietnam “Full Metal Jacket” stylings and elements. Does all this this mean that his taste in music is going to be good? Not necessarily. You ever get a chance to see what was in a “cool kids” CD case in high school? It was usually pretty fucking desolate. If Hicks made me a mixtape it would probably be a mixture of ’86 cock rock, ballads, and maybe even a punk song or two. It wouldn’t be good punk either, most likely something popular and accessible. Without further ado, here is Hicks’ playlist:
Drake & Vasquez
Outside of maybe Ripley and Jonesy, ALIENS doesn’t feature a bond stronger than that of Drake and Vasquez. Their bond, which began in a juvenile detention center while they served separate sentences for murder, is what has led us to the only joint playlist you’ll find here today. Despite their similarities in prison sentences, career choices, weapon specialties, and “shoot first, ask questions later” attitudes, Drake and Vasquez are very different people. Drake is a serial complainer with an authority problem, and while you could argue Vasquez has a similar mindset, the fact remains that she cares more than Drake. Evidence can be found simply in her rank and in the fact that in the expanded universe she was a participant in the USCM’s at-risk youth outreach program. I think they’re musical tastes would reflect genres that are wildly different in sound but have common cultural threads such as the hip hop and hardcore punk scenes of the late eighties. I give you Drake & Vasquez’s playlist.
Fuck Burke. Everything about this dude fucking sucks. His whack neutral color suits, his quaffed space hair, and the fact that he wears the flannel/vest combo but never does any fucking work screams “If you hate me in space, you should see how fucking hard I suck on Earth.” This is the type of dude that if you looked in the center console of his ’86, fire red, Chrysler LeBaron he would only have paper-sleeved cassette singles from the most awful artists of the day. Fuck Burke. I’m glad a Xenomorph murdered him in the dark. Here’s my ode to the dude so shitty that the Xenos didn’t even deem him fit enough to bear their chest-bursting spawn.
Easily the series’ most complex character, Ripley is tortured by the memories of Weyland-Yutani’s betrayal and the resulting brutal murder of the Nostromo’s entire crew. She’s standoffish, bitter, and moody, but still resolute in her principles and strong in character. When looking to tune out and move some munitions in the power loader, I have no doubt that Ripley’s music tends to skew towards the melancholy. After all, as badly as Ripley wants to move on, she is inevitably doomed to relive the nightmare that is her entire adult life time and time again. Luckily for Ripley, 1986 brought us some of the greatest songs to feel like absolute shit to. Here’s what I think Ripley would have been into in 1986.
Oh and one more thing… fuck Burke for throwing around Ripley’s psych eval as bait to get her back to LV-426. What kind of deranged prick uses someone’s PTSD to strong arm them into going on a mission they want no part of. AND THEN, plot to have the whole crew be used as meat suitcases for the worst biological weapon ever to exist. Fuck you Burke and your stupid “space lapels.”