It was "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" when Elton John--set to write and perform the theme for John Hughes' "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," with Steve Martin and John Candy--abruptly took off like a "Rocket Man" just two days before the recording session. Which leaves the film to be released Nov. 25 without a title tune.
Hughes Entertainment isn't talking, but Gary Osborne, writing the lyrics, told us that "contractual technicalities" was the cause: "We'd seen and loved the film, the lyric was written and Elton had almost finished the tune when we discovered Paramount wanted various things which were difficult to arrange."
Chiefly, the studio wanted ownership of the recording master.
"It's not exactly an unusual request, but neither is it common," said Osborne. "However, in Elton's case, there's a problem created by the fact he's on MCA (as is Hughes' record division) here and PolyGram for the rest of the world. Contractually, the moment he creates a song, it's owned by PolyGram. Had the contract come through earlier, we might have been able to negotiate a transfer of the rights."
Osborne said the offer to do the theme couldn't have come at a better time. Both he and John were in the country for business--he was collaborating on songs with Albert Hammond and John was filming a duet of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Minnie Mouse for an upcoming 50th anni salute by Disney. "I'm afraid we really dropped the ball on this one."
Said a Paramount spokeswoman, there'll be lots of music in the picture--but no title song.