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SoundTRAX: "Empire Records"

The cast of "Empire Records" poses on the cover of the soundtrack.
A&M Records
Warner Bros.

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

It was 28 years ago this month that Empire Records was released.

And audiences didn't care one iota. Critics were brutal.

But like so many coming-of-age films, it has only grown in popularity after nearly three decades— in no small part due to the soundtrack.

But first things first.

The movie follows a group of record store employees who are dealing with not only your usual teen crises, they're also trying to keep the shop from being sold to a big chain.

The film stars Liv Tyler, Renée Zellweger, Anthony LaPaglia and Ethan Embry— and can we just take a moment to appreciate Embry? The guy never became a household name yet managed to appear in 90s gems like Albert Brooks' Defending Your Life with Meryl Streep, plus Can't Hardly Wait and That Thing You Do!

I also have to give Maxwell Caulfield a hat tip for his smarmy portrayal of an aging rocker that actually continues to be celebrated in real life every April 8th as "Rex Manning Day."

But the music is the real star.

In addition to previously released tunes like Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You" and The Meices' cover of Generation X's "Ready, Steady, Go," there were lots of songs that debuted on the soundtrack from artists like Cracker, The Cranberries, Toad the Wet Sprocket and Evan Dando, who covered Big Star's "The Ballad of El Goodo."

But for today's SoundTRAX selection I'm going with the band that not only provided the lead single from the album, the film's production company was willing to switch to their record label just to have them involved.

The song was co-written by Marshall Crenshaw and as the band's frontman Robin Wilson told Huffington Post in 2010:

"Empire Records [is] a classic film that only a handful of people really saw, but it definitely made an impact on that generation. It was really cool to have been a part of that and to have co-written a song with Marshall Crenshaw that went to the top of the charts. It was the peak of our career, and it was at the peak of the machinery that was operating. A&M was so in tune, and so good at what they were doing that we recorded the song, made a video, and it was on the radio in like four months. It was an amazing experience putting that song together on so many levels. It was rewarding to co-write a song with one of my heroes and for it to succeed on that level and be part of a system that worked so well. It was a once in a lifetime experience, really."

For the 28th anniversary of Empire Records, it's the Gin Blossoms with "Til I Hear It From You."

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.

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