Anthony takes a nostalgic rollercoaster ride with Stan Bush’s memorable Transformers ballad – The Touch.
If you were lucky enough to see Transformers: The Movie at the cinema back in 1986, you’d remember hearing Stan Bush’s memorable song “The Touch”. Future of the Force investigates the tune’s journey from obscure rock single to a pop-culture phenomenon. Let’s rollout…
Way back in the mid-80s, Stan Bush’s anthemic song “The Touch” defined the childhood of Transformers fans around the world. Hearing the tune played at the cinema, kids truly believed they had the touch. They watched and listened as Optimus Prime kicked the Decepticons’ butts in Autobot City. Not only was it the soundtrack to the epic robot rumble between Prime and Megatron, but it also defined Hot Rod’s destiny to save the day and light the Autobot’s darkest hour.
Almost 40 years on, The Touch is undoubtedly the best piece of music of the Transformers franchise. But did you know about the song’s journey from obscure rock ballad to pop-culture phenomenon? For that, we have Sylvester Stallone to thank.
“The Touch” highlights the themes of courage and destiny in Transformers: The Movie. The spirit of our robot heroes is perfectly summed up by the song’s optimistic nature. While most people today associate it with marauding robots in disguise, Bush admits he’d never heard of the toys or cartoon until he had finished recording the song. Its inclusion on the film’s soundtrack was his first exposure to the franchise.
The story goes that the tune was inspired by two other well-known steel bodies of the 1980s; Sly Stallone and Lou Gossett Jr. Go watch the clip from Iron Eagle on YouTube, and you’ll see Gossett Jr saying to a young pilot, “Kid, you’ve got the touch.”
According to Bush, the song was written for Sylvester Stallone’s movie, ‘Cobra’. The singer-songwriter wanted it included on the film’s album. Thankfully, the record label had other ideas, and it was moved to Transformers where it found a younger, more enthusiastic audience.
While “The Touch” didn’t set the charts alight back in the day, it got plenty of airplay on rock radio. Its most significant legacy though is the powerful impact it made on a generation of kids who loved Transformers. Chances are that if you’re a fan who’s 40 years old or over, you’ll still have it on your playlist. And come clean – who doesn’t remember buying the movie’s soundtrack on cassette and reenacting Optimus’ battle with Megatron with The Touch blasting from the tape deck?
On that note, the movie’s soundtrack is another 80’s music gem. Not only does it boast Bush’s other Transformers song “Dare”, but also Weird Al Yankovic’s “Dare to Be Stupid”, plus “Instruments of Destruction” by N.R.G.
By the late 80s, the classic rock scene had given way to Grunge and Bush’s career began to fade. “The Touch” was just a distant, decade-old memory in a time of Nirvana t-shirts and angsty teenagers. However, the song refused to be condemned to the scrap heap. Weirdly, it resurfaced years later in Mark Whalberg’s ‘Boogie Nights’. With this, the tune’s comeback was on. Its bizarre outing in an adult drama about a former porn star was followed with gigs in ‘Chuck’, plus ‘American Dad!’ (Cops and Roger).
Listen carefully, and you’ll hear “The Touch” played across the pop-culture sphere.
Coming full circle, “The Touch” returned to its spiritual home on Transformers. As an in-joke for fans familiar with the song’s history, it appears in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee‘ when our favourite yellow Autobot plays it to encourage his human companion, Charlie.
34 years after its release, the tune is again on the lips of four-year-olds who happily hum the melody when playing with the latest generation of Transformers toys. Looking further across the Transformers universe, you’ll find an instrumental version of “The Touch” in the animated series Transformers: Prime, as well as the trailer for the video game Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Fittingly, it’s played during the rebirth of Prime in the animated TV series (The Return of Optimus Prime).
Cheesy but Uplifting
Yes, “The Touch” is cheesy in that 80s rock music kinda way, but it’s still uplifting and encouraging today. It will forever be associated with Transformers. The tune is the perfect soundtrack to a childhood defined by the magic of those form changing alien robots. It’s proof that the 1980s is very much alive and kicking in modern pop culture.
After all is said and done, “The Touch” is still a winner.
By the way, you bet your last Energon Cube I was listening to The Touch while writing this!
The Future of the Force. The future of pop culture writing.
Anthony Murphy is a new addition to the Future of the Force roster. A child of the 80s, Anthony is a Lucasfilm fanboy. A weekend watching Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Willow is considered bliss. When off duty being a dad and hubby, you’ll find him watching football, searching for the perfect Kuwahara BMX online and writing his Star Wars website, Rebel Briefing. Find him on Twitter @Anthony08042015 trying to make sense of the world, both real and imagined.