Get down with your bad self

Face The Music: The Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey soundtrack is most outstanding

Matt Looker

4th September 2020

With Bill & Ted Face The Music coming to a cinema/streaming platform/post-Covid quarantine bunker near you soon, it's a good time to revisit the Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey soundtrack - surely the most absurd collection of musical ditties ever assembled for a film.

This compilation of glitzy guitars and wailing vocals might seem like standard fare for a 90s party movie, but within the niche genre lies a diverse range that runs from epic glamthem to, well, forgettable meh-tal. Every song feels like an exercise in delivering excruciatingly cringey singer ad-libs and committing some of the widdliest diddles to ever grace a fretboard. And, as the first album I ever bought, at the age of 10, I couldn’t love it any more.

Listening back to it again now, the album runs a pretty varied gamut in tone. It starts with the wonderfully optimistic Shout It Out by Slaughter, which preaches a love for music so profound that it somehow defies the establishment, but then - barring the glory track of God Gave Rock N Roll To You II - things very quickly turn aggressively downbeat. The whole album reaches a dystopian low-note at the point of Megadeth's Go To Hell, which features the lyrics "And as my body decays / Mold begins to fill my grave / The smell of death permeates / The silk within my coffin lays". Poetic! It turns out that this isn’t just a soundtrack to The Wyld Stallyns’ second adventure, but to the year 2020. There’s even a rock song version of Cats.

Let’s pretend we're the NME for a moment and go through this track by track.

Shout It Out - Slaughter

Ok, straight away, we’re treated to the glorious rug-pull of a PSA... but for fun! "This station will be conducting a test / Of the 'Good Times Broadcasting System', that is!" It’s a bold song that starts with "Sorry about this, everyone. Please bear with us. We’re just having to go through this rudimentary drill... ha, NOT!"

This intro then proceeds to dangerously oversell the remainder of the song, promising that listeners are guaranteed a "ride" that is not only "wild" but “way bueno". Truly, this is the Space Mountain of rock. Please make sure the overhead bars are in the correct position as we begin our descent into awesome. We're only at the 30-second mark.

The majority of the song is basically about how the singer and his friends like to play music loudly in the street, unlike the squares who just "watch the six o-clock news". Obviously we have to accept that this was a different time, and now of course any self-respecting rebellious youth knows to only take to the streets after watching the six o’clock news. Otherwise, Mr Slaughter (real name), how do you know what you’re rebelling against?

The song very neatly ends with a section that ups the tempo to double-time and contains some more direct messages for listeners, saying that "it’s been great to party" with them, and signs off on the last note with a spoken "see ya". Although I recall that the lyrics in the inlay had this written as "c-ya", showing that Mr Slaughter (genuinely his real name) not only found a way to further abbreviate "I will see you later", but essentially invented text-speak in the process.
Battle Stations - Winger

Doubling up on Slaughter’s anti-establishment sentiment, Winger go full-blown trigger happy with this song that somehow claims to weaponise rock music. "My guitar is my ammunition", claims lead singer Kip Winger as the band "opens fire" with some legit weapons-grade noodling.

The violent aggression perpetuated throughout the song – targeted at "preprogrammed morons; computer sleaze" no less – does sadly get undermined in two places. First, with a single line of deep-voice backing vocals at the 1.40" mark, which makes the whole venture sound less 'cut-throat rebel' and more 'Right Said Fred'.

Secondly, a closer look at some of the lyrics gives away an ulterior motive beyond standing up to a fascist regime of sleazy computer morons. The line "Six-string shooter, hear it screaming / Slicing your head like a laser beam" is an acute description of how lead guitarist Reb Beach can literally stab you with music, but then it is followed by "It’s true love when I’m cranking the metal / It makes me, makes me, m-m-m-makes me cream!". Ewwww. Don’t call it "cranking the metal".
God Gave Rock 'N' Roll To You II - Kiss

This is it. The rock anthem so epic that it not only invokes a deity but literally creates an entirely new theological concept in asking you to "put your faith in a loud guitar". This is something that is arguably never explicitly stated in the Bible (although some scholars suggest that it could be in mentioned in one of the Corinthians, but they keep getting those chapters confused so there’s no real way of knowing).

Interesting fact about this song: It's called God Gave Rock 'N' Roll To You 'II' because it is actually a cover version of God Gave Rock 'N' Roll To You. Kiss gave it the 'II' because they updated the song with a handful of new lyrics and some belting powerchords after realising that the original is – and I cannot stress this enough – shit. Go look it up. I’m not linking to it here. Go find it yourself. It’s by Argent, and it genuinely contains the lyrics: "Don’t step on snails, don’t climb in trees / Love Cliff Richard, but please don’t tease". Jesus wept (before shredding a wicked solo).

The song also ends on an epic spoken-word outro by Kiss’ Paul Stanley who passionately delivers a parting sermon: "I know life sometimes can get tough, and I know life sometimes can be a drag, but people, we have been given a gift. We have been given a road. And that road’s name is… ROCK ‘N’ ROOOOOLLLLLLL…" etc. I only mention this because I’ve only just discovered that he says "road" there. To my ears, and how I’ve been hearing it for the past 25-odd years is as either "roll" as in 'rock 'n' roll' or "role" as in 'purpose'. Both of these seemed to make sense to me, but it does mean that, for the past two and a half decades, in my head, I’ve been hearing: "People, we have been given a gift. We have been given a roll/role. And that roll/role’s name is… ROCK ‘N’ ROLL/ROLE/NO, WAIT, THIS ONE PROBABLY IS ROLL".
Drinking Again - Neverland

I'll be honest, the album never really fully recovers after the powerhouse three-fer of these opening songs. And that difference in quality is felt most of all here, when we leaves behind Kiss' euphoric rock epiphany and switch to this song, which can best be filed under "The 90s were an odd old time, weren’t they?"

Sanitised post-Aerosmith swagger combines with squeaky clean pop polish with all the style of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine. The band in question is Neverland, whom literally no one has heard of, not even - and I have checked - Wikipedia. In fact, I spent about an hour Googling them and the only information I can find out is that they recorded this song and they once opened for The Moody Blues, long after anyone cared about The Moody Blues. God, just imagine the live gigs, with all the presentable young rockers nodding along and throwing thumbs up.

I doubt the band themselves ever remember being in a band, and would be shocked to discover that they actually invented the genre of 'New Romantic Rock as played by The Wonder Stuff pretending to be U2 doing an impression of Guns 'N' Roses'.
Dream Of A New Day - Richie Kotzen

With each new song we’re getting further away from the true meaning of rock here, guys. Kiss would not be happy. Because while Richie Kotzen sings about yearning with a classic kind of gravelly voice that’s definitely all clad in denim, the endless slappy bass and whammy guitar that persist throughout the entire song suggest 'Spin Doctors'.

The funk in this song is simply off the charts and there is no place for this kind of self-indulgent muso-nonsense on a fun, party flick soundtrack.
The Reaper - Steve Vai


Here’s Steve Vai with another trademark record attempt at trying to fit as many musical notes as possible between his musical notes. This instrumental, which is ever so slightly different to the music that underscores The Reaper Rap later, is a masterclass in boring off via an amp. It's the musical equivalent of listening to a drunk man effusing passionately about why cricket is ultimately about athleticism and discipline.

This song is what happens when the guy at the party who insists on playing an acoustic guitar he’s found in the corner of the room goes completely unchecked for decades. No one told him to stop. And now here he is with a three-minute composition for you that he only wrote to really show off the many beneficial aspects of playing an Ibanez with a mahogany fretboard and custom-made pick-ups. This is the Ron Swanson of songs. The Ron Swansong.
The Perfect Crime - Faith No More

From a song with no words to a track with lyrics so unsettling it's hard to imagine how they have a place on any product associated with the gurning SoCal optimism of Bill amd Ted.

"Man drives nowhere / So he pressed the pedal, hit a few dogs and felt good". Whoa, excellent! "I can hear your voice echo / OK I lied. it's really the voice of the guy who kicked your head in". Most triumphant! "Boy hears teacher's words / So he closed his eyes and stepped in front of a train Whoo!" Party on, dudes!
Go To Hell - Megadeth

It turns out that Faith No More's lyrical despondency was a mere step along the way to this, a pit of pure despair and doom and all things wholly unholy. Don't get me wrong, I understand that Bill and Ted actually visit Hell in the film, but it's tonally a different kind of Hell, isn't it? The fun kissy Grandma and Easter Bunny ideas sit a little at odds with this LITERAL DESCRIPTION OF A ROTTING CORPSE DESCENDING INTO THE GROUND AS ITS SOUL EMBARKS ON A JOURNEY TO ETERNAL DAMNATION. Non-non-non-non-heinous indeed.

I will say though that, given the song's commitment to disturbing visual imagery, it's a shame that it ends the way it does, repeating the child's prayer from the beginning: "Now I lay me down to sleep / I pray the Lord my soul to keep / If I should die before I wake / I pray the lord my soul to take". In the final version, our wretched protagonist changes the words to: "Now I lay me down to sleep / Blah, blah, blah my soul to keep / If I die before I wake / I'll go to Hell for Heaven's sake". It's the "blah-blah-blah" that gets me. It's just a bit weak. C'mon, guys. You're Megadeth. At least throw in a "fuck" or two.
Tommy The Cat - Primus

To be completely honest with you, I'm not particularly familiar with the works of Primus (outside of South Park, anyway), and I don't know how this compares with the rest of their repertoire, but I can say with 100% complete confidence that this is the song that plays in your head when you have been driven insane from repeated viewings of Tom Hooper's Cats.

From the bombastic bass and shrieking guitars to the moment that singer Les Claypool begins his spoken-word journey into the biographical account of a horny cat, every element of the track is designed to debate the very notion of musical theory. And as Tommy the Cat takes over the narration of his own story, (complete with sexually-charged noir descriptions like "She came slidin' down the alleyway like butter drippin' off a hot biscuit") so too does he chronicle the listener's descent into madness. Right up until the point that Tommy declares his own name and then repeats the question "Say baby, do you want to lay down with me? Do you want to lay down by my side?" again and again until the song finally ends on a disjointed holler.

It's raw, unfettered nonsense brought to life by gonzo guitars and a vivid imagination. Catchy though.
Junior's Gone Wild - King's X

Notably, this song took the B-side slot on the single release of God Gave Rock 'N' Roll To You II, which presumably denotes it as being the second best song on the soundtrack? To be honest though, whenever it comes around, I'm normally still just reeling from Tommy The Cat.
Showdown - Love On Ice

Ok, this is more like it again. We're back on track with glam rock at its finest again; all stompy beats and synthesiser vocals delivering absolutely meaningless words pouting about dreams and love and hot nights of kissing and rolling on the pillow or whatever. This is a return to the most triumphant and defining sound of Bill & Ted: overly long guitar solos with poodle hair strutting about in six-inch platform heels.

Probably. It turns out that Love On Ice are another band that are largely absent from the worldwide web. For shame, because Love On Ice is truly a "way bueno" name for a band and they deserve more attention for that creative choice alone.
The Reaper Rap - Steve Vai

Here it is. The final track on the album, affording Steve Vai another opportunity to compete each of his individual fingers against each other in race against time with exactly zero stakes. Handily, this song is essentially the same as the previous The Reaper, only with quotes of dialogue from the film over the top that recap the entire plot from start to finish. Y'know just in case you wanted to experience the movie again but didn't have time to rewind the VHS.
Come back next week, when I'll compare the soundtracks for House Party and House Party 2 and conclude which of them would make for a better house party.

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