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SoundTRAX: "National Lampoon's Vacation"

A comically buff Chevy Chase holds golf clubs and a tennis racket.
Warner Bros. Records
Warner Bros.

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

Load the kids into the family truckster because today we're heading to Wally World!

Brace yourselves, friends, because National Lampoon's Vacation turned (gulp) 40 this year.

And it still resonates because we've all taken a long, torturous road trip with our nearest and dearest and vowed to never do it again... and then did anyway.

The film was inspired by a short story by— who else?— John Hughes, from his days at National Lampoon magazine, which led to him writing the screenplay. The equally great Harold Ramis directed and between those two and the perfect cast, it seemed destined to be a hit.

Chevy Chase as family man Clark Griswold, Beverly D'Angelo as his incredibly patient wife, Ellen, and their teenage kids Audrey, played by Dana Barron, and Anthony Michael Hall as Rusty— who couldn't have known how meeting John Hughes on this movie would change his life and career in the future.

The Griswolds are trying to get to an amusement park— the aforementioned "Wally World"— when one calamity after another slows them down, not the least of which is the unexpected arrival (and departure) of Ellen's Aunt Edna, played brilliantly by comedy legend Imogene Coca.

There is also, of course, Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie— back when we thought it was just his character that was unhinged— plus appearances by the terrific Eugene Levy and John Candy. You also get to see the big screen debut of a pre-30 Rock Jane Krakowski, plus director Ramis also has a little fun as the voice of "Marty Moose" at Wally World, and it's his own daughter Violet Ramis who plays Cousin Eddie's daughter, Mabel— you know, the one "born without a tongue."

Now for the music.

The score was produced by Ralph Burns, but you gotta love a compilation that features the likes of Prince protégés Vanity 6, The Ramones, a 1959 #1 hit from The Fleetwoods, Nicolette Larson, and Bonnie Pointer of the Pointer Sisters.

But the star of the album is clearly the guy who had just finished recording the 1982 album Mirage with a little band called Fleetwood Mac, when approached by Ramis to contribute not one, but two, songs to the soundtrack. He was hesitant but eventually persuaded and wrote a fun tune called "Dancin' Across the USA," and the one we all associate with Vacation— so much so it's also played in each of the many sequels.

From National Lampoon's Vacation, it's Lindsey Buckingham with "Holiday Road."

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

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