Soundtrack of the Week- The Thing (1982)

Soundtrack of the Week- The Thing (1982)

It was dreadful news when I heard about film maestro composer Ennio Morricone’s recent passing. He was one of the greatest film soundtrack composers of all time with his scores lending the sonic landscape for so many cinematic masterpieces.

My favourite soundtrack by Morricone is the score he composed for John Carpenter’s The Thing in 1982. He didn’t even get to see the completed film when he wrote and performed the soundtrack as Carpenter was in the midst of editing the film and so it was from this incomplete state that Morricone came to write and realise his musical accompaniment.

Just as the film starts slowly and builds in intensity,  so does the soundtrack with the beautiful Humanity- Part 1 with it’s underlying menace as almost a warning of the full-on dread and horror to come. This is followed by the cello-heavy warnings of the track Shape as the music starts to build up as do the film’s events.

The sudden change in the film’s events are expertly captured on the next track Contamination as random discordant sounds multiply layer upon layer whilst getting faster and faster whilst becoming more mutated until the track is akin to aural insanity. Just as certain irreversible events within the film (I’m being ever so careful not to spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it!) leave the audience feeling that this is completely uncharted territory for both horror and sci fi, the music feels the same- a piece of music like this has NEVER been heard on a film soundtrack before and the effect is startling, disorientating and brilliantly effective.

The next track Bestiality is full of sturm und drang with it’s slabs of cello building up and up, again layer by layer until it reaches a shocking conclusion. It perfectly mirrors the action within the film. The Antarctic research unit has been rocked by events that will make sure that it’s never the same again.

A major theme within the film is that of the ominous silence and deafening quiet as the members of the research unit have to wait it out to see who will be the next to manifest signs of being the next host of the alien intruder, contemplate what can be done when this happens and how they will determine who the next will be. This disarming sense of silent and disquieting dread is also captured on the soundtrack and effortlessly conveyed in Morricone’s music. The stirring Solitude, the electronic pulse and distress signal of Eternity (here Morricone shows that he can excel not just when writing for an orchestra), the underlying dread, menace and claustrophobia of Wait, the heartbeat of Humanity- Part 2 that slowly builds into a low simmering manifestation of underlying menace and the impending terror of events to come.

This is all stellar stuff and completely revolutionary for the horror genre and film in general. This is music that has been conceived by a composer who has dared to think outside the box to accompany a film made by a director who has dared to do the same. This is a big reason why The Thing is a masterpiece and still beloved by fans and critics alike today.

The edition of the album that I bought was the 1991 CD by the ever brilliant Varese Sarabande (pictured below).

The album has now actually been remastered from the original master tapes and this edition will be next on my purchase list.

R-15458596-1591872125-4131.jpeg
The artwork for the new remastered edition

Soundtrack of the Week- Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Soundtrack of the Week- Dawn of the Dead (1978)

A peach of a soundtrack to look at is the Trunk Record’s compilation of some of the De Wolfe library music that was used within George A Romero’s masterpiece Dawn of the Dead. The fact that Romero used muzak that would be played inside a shopping mall within a film set in a shopping mall was both genius and audacious.

R-339672-1421680733-2608.jpeg

To use music that was intended as background music at best and drag it centre stage and use it within a film that would be placed under the microscope and examined closely by both critics and audiences was quite a gamble. Would the plastic music cheapen the film and dilute it’s power? Would critics and audiences alike ridicule the film because of  the music used within it?

The answer was a resounding NO! Romero’s vision was so precise, well defined and strong that the use of library music added yet another layer of meaning to the film. Hence we get the goofy genius of The Gonk by Herbert Chappell, the otherworldly and futuristic Figment by Park, the strangely introspective and minimalist Desert de Glace by Pierre Arvay and the melancholic Sun High by Simon Park all used to underscore and emphasise key scenes within the film.

Just as the tracks gave Dawn of the Dead more meaning, so the film also gave the tracks a new dimension of meaning. It was the cinematic equivalent of Andy Warhol’s silk screens of Campbell soup cans and their being analysed in art galleries after being taken out of the supermarket. Genius.

I’ve heard songs from Dawn also used in schools programmes, porno movies, episodes of The Sweeney and Prisoner Cell Block H. That’s a testament to the tracks brilliance and versatility.

This collection of these songs hangs together very well indeed and feels like revisiting old friends as Dawn replays in your head as you listen to them. Essential.

DawnoftheDeadCustardPie 2

 

‘Run, Nancy!’- A Nightmare on Elm Street Expanded Edition Available on iTunes NOW!

‘Run, Nancy!’- A Nightmare on Elm Street Expanded Edition Available on iTunes NOW!

I was superexcited but equally perplexed when I heard a few years ago that there was to be a new boxset of the soundtracks of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. The soundtracks were remastered and with bonus tracks and demos.

Alas, the CD’s weren’t being sold individually- it was the boxset or nothing. But whilst this was great news as I love the first film and it’s music, I had no desire to have to buy the soundtracks for the other films (OK, maybe I’d buy the soundtracks for Parts 2 and 3).

nightmare_layout_2048x2048
The Nightmare soundtrack box set
final_nightmare_sweater_2048x2048
The box set has it’s own dirty striped jumper! An awesome touch.

However, I’m happy to report that as with the boxset of the Friday the 13th soundtracks that was released a while ago wherein the soundtracks started to be released individually, the same seems to be happening with the Nightmare soundtracks. I checked on iTunes and the expanded soundtrack for the first film is up on there now.

On downloading and listening to this album I can tell you that it greatly expands on the original soundtrack that I bought back in 1989 that was a composite of the soundtracks for the first two films.

The CD I bought in 1989 was actually in a bargain bin at a record store in York called Track Records.

R-1642214-1290740717.jpeg
The album I bought back in the day- 1989 to be precise.

The extra tracks are actual different pieces of music that played integral and important parts within the first film. Quite a few expanded editions of soundtracks pad out their tracklistings with repetitive pieces of music that are slightly different from other tracks but not massively. In some cases it feels like a rip off.

On this expanded edition the remastering has also brought out extra layers of nuance and detail in the music. This unconventional score sounds even fresher and more brilliant to 2019 ears.

Also, some of the new added tracks show just how innovative composer Charles Bernstein was. Check out the isolated track of some of the stingers he wrote for the film and how unusual and innovatory they are. Just as Wes Craven was redefining the horror genre with the film, Bernstein was redefining the possibilities for the horror soundtrack.

It’s also great to see that the camp side of A Nightmare on Elm Street was so evident within the film’s production and what we see on the screen that it actually permeated onto the film’s soundtrack. The album has a track called ‘Run, Nancy!’ for Christsake!

This gem of a soundtrack is available on iTunes and all the other usual places.

 

Review- Danny Says (2015)

Review- Danny Says (2015)

A documentary about Danny Fields, the record industry A&R man/artist liaison/cultural barometer who was the friend of so many great bands and artists and more importantly, had a hand in making sure they could get record deals and record their music so that their genius could be shared with the world.

This documentary gets it just right- there are moments of animation to illustrate the narrative but these don’t overpower the film, there are many musicians and personalities who are either interviewed or spoken about but it doesn’t feel like some kind of bragging rollcall. There are also perceptive and very interesting insights into being gay in a small town and also when Danny had left home and was carving his adult life.

65ae1ad0-664e-11e6-91c7-7bc7b338d75a_20160819_DannySays_Trailer

As for the artists, all of the groups and singers who changed my life are here. From hanging out with The Velvet Underground to working and socialising with The Doors, The Ramones, Jonathan Richman, The Stooges, Nico, MC5…This is a life spent in the thick an alternative American musical history and you feel privileged to be a part of this. There are also hidden gems that are priceless- a taped phone call with Nico, a recording of the first time Lou Reed is played The Ramones and how elated he is by it.

I bought Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges at the age of 14 and it changed my life. And Danny Fields is partly responsible for this. This documentary helps to shed light on a hidden force who made this possible.

rs-dannys-says-740f22a6-ef34-4e25-a1d1-0a95557b6ed1

4 out of 5