One of my favorite teen and music themed movies of all time (a favorite genre to begin with) is Times Square. Directed by Alan Moyle and released in 1980, Times Square is about the adventures of two teenage girls as runaways in New York City.
Meeting for the first time in the psychiatric ward of a NY hospital, Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado) and Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson) look like opposites. Nicky resembles a 14-year-old NY Doll and Pamela looks more Little Women. Very quickly, perhaps understanding that being young, disaffected and female is enough to trump the sizable gap in their respective socio-economic backgrounds, they flee the institution together to survive in the wilds of late 70’s New York.
Nicky and Pamela hustle around Times Square and live in an abandon warehouse by the piers, but most importantly, they form a band. Championed by Radio DJ Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry), the Sleez Sisters become famous for wearing trash bags and bandit masks, throwing tvs off roofs, and singing songs with choruses like “spic, nigger, faggot, bum, your daughter is one!”
The two teens learn a lot about themselves and form a close bond through struggling for survival, some incidental fun, and acting out against all things banal and bigoted.
The marriage of story and music is logical for this film (which I appreciate in the wake of Wes Anderson), but the narrative also fits perfectly for the punk tenants and emotional new wave sounds of the time. The double album soundtrack features music from Talking Heads, The Pretenders, Patti Smith Group, Joe Jackson, Gary Numan, XTC (who wrote “Take This Town” for the film), Lou Reed, Roxy Music, The Cure, original material by David Johansen, and more! It was reported that David Bowie wanted to be on the soundtrack too, possibly with new material specifically for the film, though it wasn’t to be with record contracts and such, and so a few calmer, more commercial songs pushed by producer Robert Stigwood made it on instead. To me, however, it’s clearly “Your Daughter is One” (written by William Mernit, Norman Ross and Jacob Brackman), just one of the three original songs performed by the lead actresses, that makes this soundtrack next level.
Listen to the Times Square Soundtrack playlist on YouTube
Robert Stigwood had produced Saturday Night Fever just a few years earlier, and he tried to steer Times Square in a similar, big market direction. Director Alan Moyle, who left the production before it finished, is clearly dissatisfied while talking about the final cut on the DVD commentary (Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2000). He felt many of the scrapped scenes hurt the story line, including the omission of a lesbian relationship forming between Pamela and Nicky. I wonder if the lesbian storyline originated in the actual found diary (which Moyle discovered and loosely based the plot on), or if it had been devised by Moyle and the two other screenwriters.
The final version of Times Square is more of an after-school-special than heroic punk tale, but as a result, the film may have reached a wider and younger audience. Many of the original targeted audience credit Times Square with expanding their limited 70’s AM Gold music knowledge at a time when one needs it most. Punk music and the underground scene is definitely not wasted on the youth.
Alan Moyle would later complete a triad of teens-and-their-music movies with Pump of the Volume in 1990 and Empire Records in ‘95.
Please enjoy the full movie streaming here:
Annie Pearlman is a Music Supervisor and co-founder of Groove Garden. She also is a visual artist and composer. Check her stuff out at anniepearlman.com