Pee-Wee's Big Adventure / Back To School (Soundtracks)

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure / Back To School (Soundtracks)

Danny Elfman’s work with Oingo Boingo always had a theatrical bent to it—in fact, the band had started out as a performance-art group that made a cult science-fiction movie (Forbidden Zone) before they ever recorded an album. So while Elfman feigned naiveté about the prospect of scoring 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, he was a natural fit. Inspired by the titanic Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann—the man responsible for Psycho, Citizen Kane, and countless other essential soundtracks—and the dreamy, carnivalesque music of Fellini collaborator Nino Rota, Elfman’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure soundtrack helped bring to life a world that was by turns manic, wondrous, wide-eyed, and a little scary. The combination not only characterized Elfman’s music for years to come, but became an aural signature for the director Tim Burton, who hired Elfman for nearly every movie he’s made since. Given how closely the two were associated, it’s easy to forget that Elfman also scored the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield vehicle Back to School. But you can hear shades of his Burton collaborations in such Back to School cues as “Action Medley” and “Triple Lindy”—tunes that also foreshadow Elfman’s creation of the theme for The Simpsons just a few years later.

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