This month, A Beautiful Perspective is exploring touch in all its forms and contexts. Click here to read more stories from the TOUCH Issue.
It takes only a handful of notes from Stan Bush’s fist-pumping arena-rock anthem “The Touch” (from 1986’s animated The Transformers: The Movie) for anyone familiar with the song to have it immediately stuck in their heads. (You’re welcome.)
Bush has written and recorded similarly anthemic rock songs for movies like cult classic The Wraith and Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicles Kickboxer and Bloodsport, and he continues to release albums (the most recent is 2017’s Change the World), but he’ll forever be known for “The Touch,” which has made him an icon among Transformers fans. He’s rerecorded the song numerous times, makes regular appearances at Transformers conventions, and he’s even been inducted into the Transformers Hall of Fame (which is a real thing, it turns out).
So, obviously ABP had to talk Bush for our TOUCH Issue. As he tells it, “The Touch” has been a blessing.
What was the inspiration behind the song?
When we were writing “The Touch,” initially we were thinking in terms of the [Sylvester] Stallone movie Cobra. It wound up that the record label got it in the Transformers movie instead. They said, “Oh yeah, it’s this cartoon movie about robots.” We were like, “Oh yeah?” Little did we know, right? It was just kind of an action theme. The title, how it came about was there was a Louis Gossett Jr. movie called Iron Eagle II, and at one point Louis Gossett turned to the kid and said, “Kid, you got the touch.”
When did you first realize that the song had become a phenomenon among Transformers fans?
At the time, Ninja Turtles was a bigger thing than Transformers. It wasn’t really until years later. I think in 1997, they had the first Transformers convention, the BotCon, and they invited myself and Vince DiCola to come and appear as guests and also perform, so we both went. I was like, this is cool. I just played kind of unplugged.
What’s your favorite fan reaction to the song?
There’s been a whole lot of people who have said stuff like “soundtrack to my childhood,” that kind of thing. Or maybe that somehow the song inspired them in some way. That’s something that seems to happen quite a bit. They’ll maybe be at a low point in their life or whatever, and the song somehow helped them overcome stuff.
How do you define “the touch”?
It’s almost a little bit like the Force in Star Wars, sort of this extra power that you have. Any of us, when we really go for something, or maybe the chips are down or whatever—you hear about the woman who lifts a car off of her kid, or something like that. You have this superhuman strength or power. I think we have something inside that we can tap into that can push you to do extraordinary things. We all have a lot more power than we realize, I think.
Are you still hoping to place the song in a new live-action Transformers movie?
Yeah. A couple of months ago at Comic-Con, Paramount had gotten me to come down there and perform “The Touch” to kick off their panel for the new Bumblebee movie. I’m not really sure if that means anything, but I’m hopeful that maybe it gets in the movie.
Do you ever get tired of being known mainly for “The Touch”?
No, quite the opposite. If you’ve got to be known for something, it’s a very cool song in terms of being positive and upbeat. And it gives a good message. I’ve written a number of songs throughout my career on a number of albums—there’s always at least one or two that have sort of the similar “Go for it, believe in yourself” type of message. And “The Touch” kicked that whole thing off. It’s motivational rock, if you will.