The year was 1986 and director John Hughes had a problem.
Test screenings for his latest film, Pretty in Pink, indicated that his target teen audience loved the film up until the final scene, which featured Molly Ringwald going to prom with her geeky best friend, Jon Cryer. Audiences booed when they saw Ringwald dancing with Cryer instead of with Andrew McCarthy. Realizing that he would have to refilm that entire final scene in order to give the audience what they wanted, Hughes also realized that he would need a new song to fit the mood.
As OMD’s Andy McCluskey later told Songfacts:
“We were delighted to be asked by John, and went to the set where Molly and John Cryer were shooting. Unfortunately, the original song that we wrote didn’t fit after they changed the whole ending. We had 2 days to write a new track at Larabee Studios in L.A. We worked until 4 a.m. writing a rough version and sent a motorbike to Paramount. John heard it, liked it, and our manager phoned us at 8 a.m. and told us to go back in and mix it. That’s how ‘If You Leave’ Happened! The song had to be 120 BPM cos that’s the tempo of ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me),‘ which is the track they actually shot the prom scene to. Unfortunately, the editor obviously had no sense of rhythm because they are all dancing out of time in the final film.”
The popularity of Pretty in Pink led to If You Leave becoming OMD’s biggest hit in the United States. As a band, OMD was always more popular in the UK than in the US. Interestingly enough, just as none of OMD’s UK hits were big in the U.S., If You Leave was not a hit in the UK.
The video is typically 80s, made up of footage of the band performing intercut with a few scenes from Pretty In Pink. About halfway through the video, the lead singer starts to knock out pieces of a pink wall, as if they’re showing Roger Walters that tearing down a wall isn’t anywhere near as difficult as he made it sound.