Highlights From the Complete Soundtrack of American Graffiti

Music review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Highlights From the Complete Soundtrack of American Graffiti Music Poster Image
Small-town, early '60s innocence frozen in time forever.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

Most of these songs are about fun, romance, and partying, and hence fairly upbeat and lightweight, though sometimes romance goes wrong. There's a more serious subtext to "Almost Grown" and "To the Aisle," in which the subjects seem to be propelled from childhood and innocent romance into marriage and responsibility without really knowing what hit them, and this seems perfectly acceptable to the singer.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" features not only a hero who practices his instrument a lot and is suitably rewarded, but also his mother, who encourages and believes in him.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

"Love Potion #9" comically gets the man who drinks it in all manner of difficulties.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this 25th-anniversary American Graffiti highlights collection is pared down from the two-disc complete soundtrack. It offers not only a nice assortment of oldies, but also an almost tangible sense of the emotional state of kids being sucked into adulthood in the small-town life they've always taken for granted, while nursing the hope that there's something better and cooler out there. Classics include "Rock Around the Clock," "Johnny B. Goode," "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," "Ain't That a Shame," and "Runaway." Songs like "Almost Grown" and "To the Aisle" are hilarious by today's standards in their unquestioning acceptance of white-picket-fence reality, and the closest thing to danger in this largely sunny collection is the outsider influence of growling real-life DJ Wolfman Jack.

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Teen, 14 years old Written bybookfangirl8 December 13, 2014

The music is great.

Any age would enjoy this music. I've listened to this since I was a little kid and I still enjoy it!

What's the story?

With 1973's American Graffiti, filmmaker George Lucas captured small-town California in the summer of 1962, and in the process launched a raft of Hollywood careers (including Harrison Ford's). The carefully chosen soundtrack, originally two discs and released as a highlights collection for the movie's 25th anniversary, includes many indispensable tracks that would have been blasting out of the radios and jukeboxes of the era, by artists from Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry to the Beach Boys, as well as much classic doo-wop, all enhanced with voice-overs by famed DJ Wolfman Jack, the movie's epitome of cool.

Is it any good?

Kicking off with Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock," HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE COMPLETE SOUNDTRACK OF AMERICAN GRAFFITI includes a number of era-defining, enduring hits, e.g. Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," Frankie Lymon's "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame." Not to mention the Del-Vikings' "Come Go With Me," Del Shannon's "Runaway," and The Platters' "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." It's more an atmospheric collection than a bunch of blockbusters, and in that context some of the less well-known songs are sometimes the most evocative of the times.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether any of these songs have anything to do with your life today. If so, which ones?

  • What do you know about Wolfman Jack and what he meant to teens back in the day?

  • Do you like to dance to this music? What do you think of the way kids danced to it at the time?

Music details

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Release date: September 8, 1998
  • Type: Album
  • Label: MCA
  • Genre: Soundtrack
  • Parental advisory: No
  • Edited version available: No
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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