Continuing my summer of 2014 series, which was begun right here and chronicled my history with said device, examining the music that ended up on my iPod byway of the films that featured it on their soundtracks. An inventory, as it were, and one I continue to add to. Especially since I press on with my movies-watching and music-listening.
New song and those of a more vintage variety, even years after the initial screening, which still got there purely because of a movie. As alluded in another series, the convergence of the music and film arts is one I’ve spent much time toward. I’ll attempt to break these songs up into the categories most fit into, at least for my bizarre thinking, purely to make it more manageable in presentation.
Since this category was the largest, I’ll group them by the decade that brought them forth. Again from fewest to most. The decade with the third most up now.
A definition for what we’re talking about here (if you’ve dropped into the middle of it).
- theme song
- a melody used, esp. in a film score, to set a mood, introduce a character, etc.
- signature tune
- Brit a melody used to introduce or identify a television or radio programme, a dance band, a performer, etc. Also called (esp. US and Canadian): theme song
Somewhere in Time (1980): A theme keyed to the flute and string, John Barry’s piece was the height of soaring romance. Yet, when the piano and flute chime in, it’s supremely forlorn. Get’s me every time.
The Long Good Friday (1980): As stated here, “Francis Monkman’s score was masterful. Different than Roy Budd’s jazzy score for ‘Get Carter’, but nonetheless as important in telling this tale. Brassy that harkened back to the early 60s, but really in keeping for the up and coming 80s, the theme song I can replay endlessly, it’s so good.”
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back [Imperial March, aka Vader’s Theme] (1980): Proving John Williams didn’t require a Spielberg film to prove his mettle with a theme instrumental. The Imperial March remains readily recognizable, as Lord Vader demands it.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): Okay, John Williams is pretty damn good when he is scoring for Steven Spielberg. Happy now? You only need to play a few bars of this before everyone around identifies this. Must be pretty good to have this cache to pull from, I must say.
Escape From New York (1981): No one is going compare John Carpenter and Alan Howarth to John Williams or Hans Zimmer music-wise. Yet this little number remains catchy and identifiable, nonetheless. A tad bleak and cynical, but thoroughly in tone with the film. “Call me Snake.”
The Thing (1982): Has there ever been a theme instrumental that was simultaneously badass and grimly foreboding? I don’t think so. Ennio Morricone’s piece registers on those levels, and follows the Carpenter style to a tee.
Tootsie [An Actor’s Life] (1982): Breaking away of the dark, Dave Grusin’s main theme for the classic 80s rom-com fit like glove. All the touches for this composer, the melodic keyboards, rhythmic guitar, and sax solo are there, and spice up the strings for his usual fun turn with audiences and listeners.
The Right Stuff [Breaking the Sound Barrier] (1983): Music composed and conducted by Bill Conti for this space-bound epic too often gets overshadowed. It shouldn’t as it worked wonderfully for one of the great films of the decade.
Purple Rain (1984): Probably the best example of the iconoclast and perfectionist that is Prince is this theme song. As John Kenneth Muir described him in his book of the film, “He comes off as angst-ridden, self-centered, and isolated.” Yet, this was a vulnerable and pitch-perfect song for the film
No YouTube clip is around, but the link provides a clip to a live performance that featured the song.
Robocop (1987): Basil Poledouris work for Paul Verhoven’s audacious, violent, Christ-like allegory on film is just fantastic. Wondrous in parts, take-charge in others, it’s just a marvelous mix. Totally fitting.
La Bamba (1987): Essentially, a cover of the Mexican-American singer, songwriter and guitarist’s greatest tune, performed by the Los Lobos (who did its superb soundtrack). Originally a Mexican folk song, the late-rock ‘n roll icon Richie Valens turned it into a ’58 pop hit. But it surely rocks. Then, here, and now.
The Untouchables (1987): More by the living legend that is Ennio Morricone, an almost sinister, but fun theme instrumental for Brian De Palma’s thoroughly entertaining crime tale. A heart pounding piece, if I do say so, with one memorable and haunting chord running through it.
Batman (1989): Way before Zimmer and Howard composed a compelling theme for Nolan’s Batman, but after Neil Hefti’s guitar-riffed, surf rock piece for the ’66 TV series, Danny Elfman’s theme instrumental was the definitive for this DC superhero. Musically, it builds beautifully and still delivers, I might add.
Glory (1989): Highlighted by the Harlem Boys Choir, James Horner brought true inspiration to Edward Zwick’s solemn recounting of the 54th Massachusetts with this theme piece. It fills whatever emptiness within me every time I listen to it.
How about you? Any theme music from these periods you’ve collected because of a movie?
The entire series can be found here.