Tag Archives: Jerry Goldsmith

Bond and beyond: Remembering John Barry part 2

Dean Newman continues on his musical journey with John Barry expert, Mike Copping, as he talks about two of his favourite Barry scores.

The Black Hole

MC:     The Black Hole for me is one of Barry’s best, although I know a lot of people don’t like it but from a from a Barry fan’s point of view it was one of those scores that seemed to cross over to the people who loved Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams, it crossed that kind of bridge where a lot of his work just doesn’t. Incidently The Black Hole was the first digitally recorded film score with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, by the aforementioned Goldsmith was hot on its heels. Sadly though, because of its rather dubious reputation and it wasn’t quite as successful as the first Star Trek film so the master tapes are perhaps not as well looked after as those stored at Paramount, which is a crying shame.

Goldfinger

MC:     From Bond you would have to include Goldfinger as apart from its impact in the film, that is the album that knocked The Beatles off the number one slot in the US, a soundtrack album knocking The Beatles off number one is just plain crazy, but it happened.

Like many elements of that film the music also pretty much set the standard and was the blueprint for every ensuing Bond adventure since. That was where everything gelled. Monty Norman had written a score for Dr No that Terrence Young (the Director of Bond’s first outing) called ‘mining disaster music’, a phrase which I love, and of course Barry’s total restructuring of the Bond theme firmly established something that had never been heard of before and was completely fresh.”

Although Monty Norman wrote the Bond theme he always credits Barry with creating the definitive arrangement, but my own personal feeling is that Barry created more than just an arrangement, he extended the melody and created the bee-bop section and all that.”

As the title suggests the thing that makes James Bond forever James Bond, over and above everything else, is not the actor, it’s that score.

David Arnold himself, who is obviously Barry’s replacement, has said that without the music it is just another action film. True there are various Bondian elements such as M, Moneypenny, the gadgets and the globetrotting, but so many films do that these days so the music adds tremendously to the whole character and atmosphere of the thing.

We also have to remember that Barry was also responsible for the title track, sung by Shirley Bassey, again creating the quintisential Bond theme that all others are in the long shadow of.

Because of all of that it has to be Goldfinger, but from a personal point of view I would have said The Living Daylights, Barry’s Bond swansong, or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

Musically, at least a lot of the Bonds take place outside of what was happening at the time so Barry was almost working in his own bubble but setting trends at the same time and being very influential because it worked.

Put simply, that is one of the reasons the Bond films are so successful and why they are still making them. The music’s importance should not be underestimated.

DN:     Barry never did return to the Bond franchise, bowing out with an exceptional score to Timothy Dalton’s debut, The Living Daylights (1987), but he did ensure that his musical legacy lived on and helped shape Bond for a new generation  personally recommending David Arnold, who had previously worked on Stargate and Independence Day, to Bond Producer Barbara Broccolli for Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) a score that is largely Barry in tone and feel, something that Arnold, who has helmed the music for the series ever since, has returned to with flashes of Barry in The World Is Not Enough and Casino Royale.

MC:     If you look at his first Bond venture,Tomorrow Never Dies, that is a blatant emulation of Barry in style, especially the pre-credits sequence. Most of that is pure Barry with its blasts of swaggering brass. Since then Arnold has moved away a little from that and given it a bit more punch, a bit more edge adding synth elements and drum machines etc. But it is something he keeps on returning to with for example the ski sequence in The World is not Enough, which is epic and broad, Vespa’s theme in Casino Royale and of course THAT familiar tune at the very end. Bond is only complete when that theme is heard. No theme, no 007, literally.

DN:     What now for the future of film music and what of Barry’s legacy?

MC:     For the latter half of the 90s and the Noughties melody was out of fashion and above everything else Barry was a melodist, he wrote just fantastic melodies and sadly they’ve been out of fashion for a number of years. It’s only recently with people like Alexandre Desplat, New Moon,  and Michael Giacchino, Star Trek, actually creating thematic scores that have been successful, which has meant they have come back to the fore and has seen them create dense thematic scores and not just ambient tonal pieces with no real structure.

DN:     Barry, who crushingly had not completed a score for a film in over ten years, was what was known as one of the four key silver age movie composers, pretty much helping shape and influence the last 50 years of film music, alongside John Williams, Ennio Morricone and Jerry Goldsmith, who passed away in 2004. You can’t help but feel that wherever Williams and Morricone where in the world a part of them died along with Barry as the fantastic four (or should that be score) of film music became an even more select group.

MC:     David Arnold did once say if you are going to bring someone new in as Bond then you want to surround him as much of the Bondian elements as possible. With that in mind, in spirit at least, the music of John Barry will return.

John Barry 1933 – 2011

Gremlins

To describe Gremlins as a kid’s film would be like describing the Bates Motel as a swell place to stay.

Cutesy in a typical Spielbergian world at the very beginning, sure, but it is soon revealed that we, the audience, and indeed the Peltzer family are sorely mistaken and have somewhat misread the situation in the ultimate ‘always heed the instructions’ moment in cinematic history

An animal is for life, not just for Christmas, such is the number one life lesson that we can all learn from the Spielberg Executive Produced, Joe Dante Directed, Gremlins. Rounding out this trio of talent is then scriptwriter – later Harry Potter Director, Chris Columbus – who was on something of a roll after penning scripts for both The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes around the same period. This ‘E.T. with teeth’ captivated and entertained and still stands tall as a comedy horror Christmas classic, and you don’t get many of those.

Originally a spec script by the young Columbus the feature was set to be a very different ‘beast’ with the Gremlins being even more dark and twisted, with the irresistibly cute Gizmo turning into Stripe, Barney the dog getting hung and Billy’s mum’s head rolling down the stairs!

Being a Joe Dante film it is a veritable reference of film and cartoon delights, from a cameo by the legendary animator Chuck Jones to a blink and you’ll miss it Steven Spielberg disappearing in a Time Machine

It’s a deliciously wicked and rich film, even until this day and has an almost timeless charm about it like that other 8o’s classic Back to the Future, which also shared the Universal backlot as its main set that created the town, Kingston Falls, and it does so spectacularly.

We get suckered into the cute, furry routine just like the Peltzers. It’s a family movie alright, but more about a families survival than in the traditional sense of the word. As such it caused such shockwaves Stateside and was one of two films that year, 1984, that helped create the PG 13 rating in America, the other film being Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

For all the Gremlins’ attacking from a Christmas tree, driving a bulldozer into the Futterman house, causing mayhem in the streets it’s a very low key scene that lingers in the memory and proves to be the most distressing, that classic monologue by Phoebe Cates on why she hates Christmas, a chilling story of them finding her dead dad stuck up the chimney dressed as Santa Clause. Inspired and perhaps only pipped by the SS Indianapolis story speech by Quint in Jaws for its powerfulness and evococativeness.

The set pieces and the imagery, their swirling lights of the swimming pool when Stripes throws himself in at the deep end, the tension of the death of the college tutor scene played against the rapidly beating heart on the projector, on par with anything in The Howling. Not to mention the discovery of the pods and the classic kitchen scene.

It’s a shame that Dante went for out and out comedy in the sequel as it would have been an interesting study in terror to see them go really, really dark. Of course, a remake or reimagining has been mentioned but it really does remain to be seen whether the Gremlins would hold the same appeal us knowing that they were merely pixels. The Gremlin creations by Chris Wallas are pretty much pitch perfect in design, that other unsung hero of the film is also Jerry Goldsmith and his blistering score that manages to be both comical and scary in equal measure.

It really is a nasty piece of work, and is all the more beloved and beautiful for it. Full of great energy, Dante clearly has great fun letting the Gremlins run riot in the usual Spielberg-like world, albeit one full of B-movie horror high jinks, and it all works wonderfully thanks to the film’s humour and the charm of its young leads. It maybe a special effects lead film but it’s the story that drives it, just like Back to the Future again in many respects, remember when that happened?

Alien is often mooted as the monster sci-fi movie of reference but for me it will always be Gremlins, for me it will always be a great big little monster movie.

Batons Beyond the Stars

In space no one can hear you scream, that’s because there is no sound. But when you think of your favourite science-fiction films and what makes them so special it’s rather ironic then that one of the things that stays with you forever is the music.

Sure, there’ll be other factors: favourite scenes or memorable dialogue, but the music is the life and soul of the movie. They say that you can’t make a great movie without a great script but equally the right piece of music can elevate a good movie, or scene, to greatness.

I spoke to movie soundtrack enthusiast, Mike Copping, a member of the John Barry Appreciation Society from its inception, who was first bitten by the movie soundtrack bug, aged ten, viewing the sci-fi tinged Bond-movie You Only Live Twice in 1967, scored by Barry, about what he considers the five greatest sci-fi movie scores of all time.

The following list is chronological and takes in several notable mentions along the way so lets (tap, tap, tap) strike up the orchestra for the greatest movie sci-fi soundtracks of all time.

Saying that purists will ‘wrap him in the mouth’ for not saying King Kong (1933), which saw composer Max Steiner arguably define the modern film score, Mike plumbs for fellow German composer, Franz Waxman.

He said: “Waxman holds equal claim to laying down the template to what we recognise as the modern film score as he was working at pretty much the same time on a wide range of films, so I’m going to have to say The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) as my first entry.”

“I see the score for the James Whale directed movie as a far more accomplished piece that works better with the film, is melodic and for me is the first really truly memorable, influential science fiction/ horror score that I would hold in that esteem, over and above Kong.”

There is no question for Mike in his second choice, Bernard Herrmann’s score for The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Hermann is mostly associated with his collaboration with Hitchcock and his fantasy scores for Jason and the Argonauts, and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.

Copping said: “A lot of people might pick Louis and Bebe Barron’s Forbidden Planet but if you listen to that away from the film, ‘Planet’ sounds like beeps and electronics noises, whereas ‘Still’ is a properly orchestrated score in the traditional sense, but what makes it groundbreaking is the melodic way it uses the Theremin, an electronic instrument, as an evocative, other worldly voice, which was the first time it had been used that way.”

Mike continued: “It’s a hugely influential score that is heavily imitated, fantastically constructed and is just wonderful, unlike the entirely forgettable remake, which doesn’t hold a candle to or honour the original in any way.”

Sticking with ‘Earth’ for his third choice is Jerry Goldsmith’s landmark score for Planet of the Apes (1968), which Mike lists as being groundbreaking.

He said: “Again it is a hugely influential score that has been copied ever since (elements cropping up in his later score for Alien) and features some wonderful experimentation and is outstanding as it works dramatically, sounds alien and other worldly and to this day people think he used electronics, but it was all done acoustically, and still sounds fresh 41 years later.”

Goldsmith was Oscar-nominated for his outstanding work but bagged his only golden statue for the creepy chorals of The Omen (1976), which Copping, along with many people see as a huge injustice and a failing of the Academy.

As an honourable mention Mike also suggests Goldsmith’s Alien (1979). He says: “It works so well in the film and contributes to that terrible unease that you get whilst you are watching it, which is just disturbing, although not as disturbing as Director Ridley Scott’s treatment of it, something he would do to Goldsmith several year’s later on the fantasy movie, Legend, which also deserves a mention.”

The US print of Legend saw Goldsmith’s score excised completely and featured totally new music by Tangerine Dream, whilst the longer European cut retained the superior Goldsmith score.

Fittingly, the fourth is with Mike on his penultimate choice. He said: “Star Wars arrived in 1977, roughly a decade after ‘Apes’ and during that period pop songs had wormed their way into films and become a marketing tool.”

“So when Star Wars came along it blew (rather like an operational deathstar) everyone away, it did more than underscore the film, it reastablished the traditional symphonic score, something virtually unheard of at the time, as a viable entity that could sell very well in its own right if it was the right film and Star Wars just happened to encompass all that.”

“It’s a beautifully orchestrated and complex score that is thematically structured; it’s just wonderful stuff and heralded the return of the composer as artist. For Williams, it was a triumph.”

The composer honed his craft on Irwin Allen sci-fi TV epics laying the groundwork for his development. Mike enthused: “If you listen to his TV scores for ‘Lost in Space’, ‘Land of the Giants’ or ‘Time Tunnel’ you can hear hints of the shape of things to come. He had a great training ground in writing the most outlandish things, so Star Wars was just so fitting, cementing his position, one that he hasn’t lost since.”

From 77 to 82 Williams had such a prolific period, encompassing Star Wars, Close Encounters, Superman, The Fury, Raiders, Empire and E.T. Encounters is something that Mike prefers listening to rather than Star Wars. He said: “It almost surpasses Star Wars. The idea that aliens were communicating via music, which is a pretty universal thing from an emotional level, I thought was just great. Williams took that idea and ran with that five note theme.”

Mike’s final choice takes us to the final frontier which sees us back with Jerry Goldsmith and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).

He asserts: “This is one of the finest scores written for film, let alone for science-fiction. The early sequence where the Klingon ships are taken out by the approaching alien entity is fantastic scoring.”

“That kind of instrumentation and barbaric quality in the music instantly conveys Klingon culture and at the same time drives the sequence adding immeasurably, just what Goldsmith did best. The main theme is also one of the best ever, being so successful that Trek creator Roddenberry used it as the title music for The Next Generation.”

Goldsmith revisited the Trek movie franchise several times, but for Mike he never bettered that original score, which he said: “Is beautifully constructed, melodically driven, incredibly evocative and helps save the rather leaden pacing in the second part of the film.”

If there was one moment that stands out where vision and music work perfectly with one another, it would be the scene where Scotty first shows off the Enterprise to Kirk, and the audience, from a shuttle craft.

Mike concludes: “The cue, just called The Enterprise, sustains its entire length and is just a superb example of what Goldsmith did with his music, he’s sorely missed.”

Have your orchestral soundtrack hunting manoeuvres left you in the dark?

Unlikely to find much beyond ‘songs inspired by the movie’ albums in the high street try the following for limited editions and new releases.

Intrada

Film Score Monthly

Varese Sarabande

eBay is also worth a look, but be warned as there are plenty of bootleg copies out there as well as bargains so be sure to read the description.