Vinyl Boarding: Eczema Records launches with soundtrack to lost ’80s comedy ‘Joysticks’

 
 

UPDATE August 9 @ 6:23 p.m.: The Joysticks soundtrack is finally getting a proper record release party, and it’s a film screening at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge on Saturday, April 13. Get more info here.

***

Every record label has an origin story. For Massachusetts-based Eczema Records, that story begins 33 years ago, a few years before founder and Brookline resident Jon Solari was born, and more than three decades before the label would issue its first release, a vinyl edition of lost 1983 arcade-themed sex comedy, Joysticks.

“I saw the movie in high school,” says Solari, a 29-year-old native of Derry, New Hampshire. “I usually looked for what looked ridiculous.”

And Joysticks is ridiculous. Starring Joe Don Baker of Mitchell infamy, a pre-Napoleon Dynomite Jon “Uncle Rico” Gries, and Morgan Lofting, who voiced the Baroness in the ’80s cartoon version of G.I. Joe, the raunchy film took in $3.9 million at the box office, but has been lost over time, tossed into the proverbial bin of old VHS tapes. The plot, we think, revolves around an arcade that’s threatened by an evil old business man, and efforts are launched to save the joint. Endless Porky’s-style sex jokes and a grand finale video game showdown are involved.

But even during the vinyl and arcade game boom of the ’80s, Joysticks never received a proper soundtrack release (it was released on DVD in 2006 then quickly pulled off the shelves). So Solari searched the cast and credits online, and eventually learned that the original music for the film — a funky mix of disco, new wave, and yacht rock — was created by a band called Legion and written by a Berklee College of Music graduate named Ray Knehnetsky, who today spends his days as Frankie Avalon’s band director.

“I showed it to friends during a drunk night of watching bad movies,” Solari says of the film. “And a friend said ‘I’d throw some money at this if you put [the soundtrack] out, so I took him up on it.”

Eczema Records was soon launched, and Solari hopes Joysticks is the first in a series of rare and unreleased film soundtracks. But Joysticks, which is available for pre-order now with a limited 1,000-run vinyl release this spring, has not been without its share of hiccups.

Solari says Knehnetsky was a bit tough to track down, and when he was reached, “he was confused, and a little suspicious… he wasn’t expecting the call, that’s for sure.” Solari says Knehnetsky expressed disappointed that a proper soundtrack release had fallen through back in the ’80s, so a deal was reached to license the songs for Eczema. (Note: We tried to connect with Knehnetsky for this article, but had no luck.)

Other stars of the film weren’t so receptive. “I sent an email to Joe Don Baker,” says Solari, “and within an hour [his management] said he wasn’t interested.” Reis has yet to respond to Solari’s requests to connect, but an interview he conducted with Lofting will appear in the album sleeve’s extensive liner notes.

Solari, a laid-back guy who playfully describes himself as a “goofy music nerd kid who always said he was going to start a label”, hopes Eczema becomes a source for other movie soundtracks that didn’t get their due when their accompanying film was first released. He’s got 1984 hot-tub comedy Hardbodies in his sights, but right now, the focus is on Joysticks. And as for his choice of label name, he’s pretty forthcoming. “I thought of it as a joke because I had eczema a lot as a kid,” he says matter-of-factly. “It flows well.”

For more on the Joysticks soundtrack, and to order the digital tracks, click here. Watch the film’s trailer below.

Joysticks Vinyl