How ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ Sent the Beatles Back to the Top 40
On June 11, 1986, the world was introduced to Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago — and the Beatles started a surprising trip back to the Top 40.
Both events occurred courtesy of the John Hughes comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off, starring Matthew Broderick as the titular teen on a mission to play hooky, spend some time with his girlfriend, rescue his best pal from a life of tedious suburban conformity, and torment the school principal — not necessarily always in that order. Written and directed by the decade's quintessential teen-friendly filmmaker, starring one if the era's most innately likable actors, and stuffed with an impeccably eclectic assortment of songs, it was always destined to be a hit.
Bueller ultimately ended up being the 10th highest-grossing movie of the year, but its impact reverberated beyond the box office. Although ostensibly aimed at a younger crowd, Hughes' film was also a sweetly traditional piece of work. While Ferris might have been a scofflaw on the surface, he was more interested in taking advantage of the system than truly subverting it — which made him a perfect cross-generational hero for the cheerfully conservative '80s.
This was all reflected in the movie's soundtrack, which — although it was never officially released — ran the gamut from modern techno-pop like Yello's "Oh Yeah" to vintage tracks such as the song that benefited most from Ferris Bueller's Day Off: the Beatles' cover of "Twist and Shout."
Originally cut for the band's 1963 studio effort Please Please Me, "Twist and Shout" had already been a hit for the Isley Brothers when the Beatles recorded their version. Tracked at the end of the 13-hour session that produced the LP, the band's take on the song peaked at No. 2 in the U.S. — it was kept out of the top spot by their own "Can't Buy Me Love" — during a 16-week chart run at the height of early Beatlemania.
The song was more than 20 years old when Ferris Bueller's Day Off came out, but it was still the perfect fit for the movie's big set piece (embedded above), a parade sequence that sees Ferris sneaking onto a float and captivating a city block with a lip-synced medley that starts with a cheeky rendition of "Danke Schoen" and segues into a show-stopping "Twist and Shout." Arriving in the midst of a period ripe with '50s and '60s nostalgia, the Bueller bit fit right into a cultural climate that had already gone wild for retro product like Billy Joel's An Innocent Man and the David Bowie/Mick Jagger cover of "Dancing in the Street" — and would soon make multimedia stars out of a troupe of animated singing raisins.
It was the perfect excuse for radio programmers to put "Twist and Shout" back into rotation — and the song took off all over again. Further buoyed by its appearance in another hit 1986 comedy, Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School, the Beatles hit enjoyed a new lease on Top 40 life, spending seven weeks on the chart and peaking at No. 23 toward the end of the summer. It just goes to show you that a great song is a great song, no matter when it was originally released — and so is a great film, as evidenced by the celebratory bonanza planned for Ferris Bueller's 30th anniversary.
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