Fugitives on the Run With No Soundtrack

In March of 1992, two friends set out for an evening of rebellion and material pop culture satisfaction. This was not a story of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. It was a story of challenging boundaries and getting our ... er, their ... hands on a free movie soundtrack in the process.

According to The New York Times, the set-up for this adventure goes like this...
...two units of the Sony Corporation of America, Columbia Pictures and Columbia Records, teamed up to present moviegoers with a novel offer. People who bought tickets on the first day of the release of "Gladiator," a boxing film starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Marshall, would receive a coupon redeemable for a cassette tape of the movie soundtrack. 
"FREE Soundtrack!" was promised in newspaper advertisements for the film, which opened nationally in 1,295 theaters on March 6. The promotion, which had a retail value of $9.99 to $11.99 depending on cassette prices in local markets, was believed to be the first such offer by a film studio and a music company.
You've seen Gladiator, right?

Okay, maybe you haven't.

But the soundtrack was 1992 amazing! Two tracks from Warrant including a cover of Queen's We Will Rock You...a C+C Music Factory cover of U2's Pride (In the Name of Love)...and the last official track ever from 3rd Bass!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I was 15. My friend Matt was 17.

I couldn't drive. He had a car. A white 1978 Plymouth Duster.

Out with my driving friends -- I wasn't allowed to leave the boundaries of the small town I lived in. Matt, too, was kept in the city limits by his parents' restrictions.

Matt and I hung out often. In fact, he was my daily ride to and from school that year -- my sophomore year and his senior year. We'd spent 10-15 minutes every morning and afternoon of that school year on the road between his house and school listening to every kind of music from Hammer's 2 Legit to Quit to the Wayne's World soundtrack. While we certainly took part in regularly giving the full Wayne's World treatment to Bohemian Rhapsody, one song we could knock a sing-along out of the park to was 3rd Bass' Gas Face.

I was Pete Nice. Matt was Serch.

Somehow -- likely in the local newspaper -- we caught wind of the Gladiator soundtrack promotion. The only problem was that the nearest theater big enough to be showing Gladiator on opening night was 30 miles away. Still, our mutual interest was chatted up on the way to school:
Matt: "You hear about the Gladiator soundtrack thing? You can get it free at the movie theater on opening night."
Me: "Yeah, but I can't leave town and it'll break the hearts of my dear parents if they learn that I've violated one of their reasonable boundaries."
Matt: "Screw them. Let's go."
Me: "Okay. You are older than me and therefore much wiser. I trust your judgment and will follow your lead."
Or something like that.

I wanted the new 3rd Bass track. Matt wanted any new soundtrack. Especially for free.

Forget rules. Forget parents. We were going to do this.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday night. March 6th. 1992.

The first step in our plan was simple to complete as we told our parents we'd be catching a movie. We weren't lying. It's not our fault they just assumed we'd be going to the theater in our own town -- one of those places that got popular movies after they'd been out for a month or so. They never questioned us -- even though the main feature at that theater on that particular weekend was Prince of Tides.

It was going down. Our plan was in motion as we hopped in the Duster and drove the thirty miles south to the nearest "big town" with a movie theater. Excitement built with each car we passed en route to this soundtrack treasure and was at an all-time high when we found ourselves approaching the ticket window.
Matt: "Two for Gladiator."
Ticket guy: "IDs, please"
[Confused look from Matt and me]
Ticket guy: " Gladiator is rated R. If you're under 17, you can't get in."
Or something like that.

Either we hadn't considered this potential challenge in our initial plan or we assumed the guy selling tickets wasn't going to be a dick. Either way, panic set in as we back peddled to the Duster.

Driving back to our town in record time, we knew trouble was on the horizon. Were the cops on our tail? Or worse yet, our parents. I'm pretty sure there was a helicopter following us.

Plan B was needed...and fast. As we considered our options, we knew we'd told our parents we were going to see a movie and the only logical thing to do, of course, was to stick to that plan.

So that's what we did. We went to a movie.

Prince of Tides.

Two teenage dudes. Watching a Barbara Streisand film. Hiding out in a theater like Lee Harvey Oswald. Fugitives forming an alibi.

We saw our movie. Technically. But we didn't get our soundtrack.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Just over twenty-four years later, I'm happy to say that Matt and I are still in touch. We talked on the phone tonight about our Gladiator adventure and we laughed about our misfortune. But the biggest question about that night comes with our alibi.

Why Prince of Tides? We had every opportunity to come up with something better. Maybe we changed our minds about the movie and hung out at the pizza place instead. Maybe we spent the evening at Steve's house? Maybe we just drove around lip syncing the Cactus Album all evening.

Come Saturday morning, it's highly doubtful that any of our parents asked about our whereabouts from the previous evening -- definitely not to the extent where we'd need to produce a ticket stub as evidence. But we had sat through Prince of Tides just in case. I suppose we could've bought a ticket and then just left. But we didn't. We watched the whole damn thing.

A night that started with such promise -- such excitement -- had ended in shameful failure. Soundtrackless failure.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

April. 2016.

Well over twenty years later ... redemption is ours.

Ladies and gentlemen. Loyal readers. At a cost of one cent plus shipping, I have the Gladiator soundtrack in hand. Almost two and a half decades later, rebellion has won!

Much like the flea market discovery of feet for my Voltron, I have redeemed myself! I don't deny that the album is a gigantic piece of crap. But it's glorious.

So here's to Matt -- a life-long friend with whom I share many great memories.

And here's to the Gladiator soundtrack -- a wonderfully glorious piece of crap.


Kirk D. said...

I enjoyed this story, and I like how your solution revealed you and your friend's character.

I also like that it revived a few fuzzy memories for me too. Somehow I ended up with this soundtrack without attempting to see the film (and I still haven't). I know I got it for free and I'm pretty sure I got it in the mail, but I can't remember if I sent off for it or not. I used to send fan mail to a handful of bands (mostly metal) and I ended up on a few mailing lists. Some of them actually sent me cassette singles (cassingles). But I wonder if this was some other offer I (or my mom) responded to.

I remember being pretty blown away that it was an entire soundtrack for free. I will admit that the only song I really listened to was the Warrant version of We Will Rock You. (I also THINK I received it as a casssingle separately, and threw it away once I got the full album.) But this was during that weird time when Queen was not quite regarded as rock royalty. I've heard that Michael Myers had to fight to get it into the Wayne's World movie.

The album didn't stand much of a chance in my personal rotation because by '92 I had moved on to grunge. Anyway, your story prompted me to dig in my garage and find this tape premium again. Thanks to your post, my home will be filled with the sounds of Gladiator in the year 2016.

TL said...

Kirk ... After listening to this soundtrack myself for the first time in years, please accept my apologies for having anything to do with filling your home with the sounds of Gladiator. :)