Music played a large part in the popular culture of a time period.
The first music heard is the one loud note Marty played with his Erlewine Chiquita guitar which overloaded the speaker. "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and the News was featured on Marty McFly's walkman headphones as he skateboarded around the town. The Pinheads played a hard rock version of "Power of Love" for the band auditions. Goldie Wilson’s campaign van played the introduction to "Washington Post March" by John Philip Sousa. Marty heard "Power of Love" again as Jennifer’s dad drove up (the guitar can actually be heard playing at a low volume as Marty and Jennifer are sitting on the bench, and even while the Clock Tower Lady is soliciting funds), and as he skateboarded home.
Marty also heard "Time Bomb Town" by Lindsey Buckingham on his clock radio when Doc woke him up by telephone. "Heaven Is One Step Away", by Eric Clapton, was playing on Red the Bum's radio when Marty returned from 1955. Finally, another song by Huey Lewis, "Back In Time," was playing on Marty's clock radio when he woke up the next day.
The first song heard in 1955 was a fifties hit, "Mr. Sandman" as sung by the Four Aces, that was playing from a speaker at Roy's Records. The clock tower carillon played half-hour chimes at 8:30 a.m., and Red Thomas’ mayoral campaign car played "Washington Post March" along with the same slogans that Goldie Wilson used. When Marty entered Lou's Cafe, another fifties classic advertised at the record store was playing on the jukebox, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett". Then, Marty’s watch alarm went off in the phone booth. As Darth Vader, Marty made George listen to an untitled Eddie Van Halen song from 1985. "Dance With Me Henry" by Etta James played on the jukebox at Lou's Diner, which someone unplugged when Biff came in. At the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, the Starlighters played "Night Train" before taking their break. As Lorraine and Marty sat in the Packard, they listened to "Pledging My Love" by Johnny Ace on the car radio as they talked. When the Starlighters got out of their car during the break, one could hear the jazz music they were listening to on their car radio. When they returned, Marty joined the Starlighters on stage playing "Earth Angel". He then led them in a Chuck Berry hit, "Johnny B. Goode". Chuck Berry's cousin Marvin Berry called Chuck to let him hear the new sound he was looking for.
When Marty returned to his home time, "Heaven Is One Step Away" by Eric Clapton was playing on Red the Bum’s radio. The next morning, Marty heard "Back in Time" by Huey Lewis and the News on his clock radio when he woke up.
When Marty explored the future of downtown Hill Valley, a commercial for Goldie Wilson III's Hover conversion Systems played an electronic version of "Washington Post March" by John Philip Sousa -- the same song that his grandfather and Red Thomas used for their campaign recordings. At the Cafe 80s (formerly Lou's Cafe) one can hear Michael Jackson's hit "Beat It" playing when Marty entered and again before he left. The news that the Cubs won the World Series was accompanied by an electronic version of "Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa. At his home, old Marty tried to play his audition song, "Power of Love", on a guitar with his injured hand
As Marty entered the Biffhorrific courthouse square, "I Can’t Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar was playing on an unseen outdoor speaker or portable stereo. This was interrupted by a fanfare (based on the Back to the Future theme) that was played over Biff’s documentary at his museum.
A reprise of "Mr. Sandman" played, probably from Roy's Records again, as Marty entered Courthouse Square in 1955. Biff listened to "Papa Loves Mambo" by Perry Como on his car radio as he drove from his house to the dance. The Starlighters played "Night Train" as Marty followed Biff into the dance. While sitting in his office, Strickland was distracted by a car horn that played "La Cucaracha". Marty and the Starlighters played the end of "Earth Angel", and Marty lead the Starlighters playing "Johnny B. Goode". Doc woke up at his home hearing "It’s Howdy Doody Time" sung by Buffalo Bob and kids on television.
In the bar scene when Mad Dog Tannen told Marty to dance, he moonwalked and was heard mumbling the Michael Jackson hit "Billie Jean". As the mayor started the clocktower clock, the brass band played a Civil War tune, "Battle Cry of Freedom". The Hill Valley Festival band played a country bluegrass song that a century later would be recognized as very similar to "Doubleback" by ZZ Top. The festival band then accompanied a square dance caller to the tune of "Turkey in the Straw", then Buford interrupted Emmett and Clara dancing to "My Darlin’ Clementine". After the marshal rebuked Buford, the band picked up with a reprise of the acoustic version of "Doubleback".
When Marty returned home, the "Power of Love" was playing on Needles’ truck radio when he pulled alongside Marty’s truck.
Behind the scenes
Robert Zemeckis notes in the DVD special features that he wanted a large score for Back to the Future, something to make the movie bigger than it was.
The original music was written by Alan Silvestri, who also conducted the Outatime Orchestra, the nickname for a 98 piece ensemble that was put together to play the various compositions. Silvestri's other credits include Predator, Delta Force, Forrest Gump, and Night at the Museum.
There was also a cameo appearance by Huey Lewis where he tells Marty's band, The Pinheads, that they are just "too darn loud."
In Back to the Future Part II, the original score by Alan Silvestri was played throughout this episode as well.
Back to the Future Part III brought Alan Silvestri back with some new music. His theme for the third film is not heard until Marty enters 1885, though it was played on the film's trailer. The themes for Back to the Future Part III are all much more Western, in the style of Aaron Copeland films.
"Back in Time" by Huey Lewis and the News played in its entirety during the closing credits of Back to the Future, and "Doubleback" by ZZ Top played during the closing credits of Back to the Future Part III.