The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a popular coming-of-age novel written by Stephen Chbosky in 1999 and is slowly reaching Catcher in the Rye status as an essential tale of the highs and lows of high school. I didn’t read the book, but I did see the 2012 movie adaption starring Emma Watson (which was actually written and directed by Chbosky).
The movie was great, and I – as probably most of us would quietly admit – felt a strong connection with Charlie, a quiet kid who was nice and meant well and liked The Smiths (ok maybe not that) and hated high school and fell in love and had that one teacher you actually liked and all that jazz. I’ve been told that Chbosky changed a lot of the book’s story for the sake of making the movie more “watchable”, so everything I’m talking about concerns the movie plot.
But the best thing about the movie wasn’t the movie itself — it was the music.
“Over many years, I have collected songs…Some of the songs are popular. Some of them are not known by a whole lot of people. But they are all great in their own way. And since these songs have meant a lot to me, I just wanted you have them as a soundtrack for whatever you need them to be for your life.” — Chbosky in the album’s linear notes
For a movie dealing with the awkwardness that is our teenage years, the music had to reflect that isolated part of our lives, and Chbosky nailed it with his selection of tunes.
Here’s the album:1) The Samples – “Could It Be Another Change?” 2) Dexys Midnight Runners – “Come On Eileen” 3) Galaxie 500 – “Tugboat” 4) New Order – “Temptation” 5) The Innocence Mission – “Evensong” 6) The Smiths – “Asleep” 7) Cracker – “Low” 8) Sonic Youth – “Teen Age Riot” 9) XTC – “Dear God” 10) Cocteau Twins – “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops” 11) David Bowie – “Heroes”
The movie also includes the following:Simon & Garfunkel – “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” Procol Harum – “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” Nick Drake – “Time Of No Reply” Misfits – “Where Eagles Dare” Ride – “Vapor Trail” Suzanne Vega – “Gypsy” The Moody Blues – “Nights In White Satin” Smashing Pumpkins – “Daydream” Fleetwood Mac – “Landslide”
To save you some time, frustration and money, check out this awesome Spotify playlist for all these songs from the movie.
To Charlie, these songs were sources of comfort and reminders, for better or worse, of life in high school. For any rock and indie loyalist, these songs form a fantastic mixtape of nostalgic songs written before many of us were born.
And there lies the beauty of this soundtrack — it manages to make you miss high school, or at least remember it more fondly. Music has that strange power to make us remember a past memory or emotion, and this soundtrack nails the high school feeling. It reminds you of a great John Hughes soundtrack for a movie he might of made if he were making movies today (and wasn’t so charming as he was cheesy).
Ok, maybe you didn’t grow up loving Smashing Pumpkins or Fleetwood Mac or maybe you were actually popular in high school, why care? Because this is still a killer mixtape of great songs. The bulk of these songs are plucked from the nostalgic late 80s and early 90s but go as far back as the 60s. From classic rock to goth to new wave, the best selections from various genres are represented here for your enjoyment. Because of this album, I’ve started listening to more Nick Drake, Ride, and Suzanne Vega — there’s a new artist waiting for you within this soundtrack.
I’m trying very hard to stay away from a Garden State comparison, though that soundtrack (and maybe movie) is the closest thing my generation has to something that speaks true to our times (even if we mistake clinical depression for modern fears of our early 20s). But if that soundtrack is for our post college years, then The Perks of Being a Wallflower soundtrack should be for our high school years. Because even if you didn’t go to high school in the 90s, these songs speak universally for those four years that everyone remembers.
And if nothing else, maybe you’ll start listening to The Smiths?