Sometimes a movie score or television soundtrack can be more influential to a person than an album by their favourite and even unknown artists they just heard. Why’s that? Well soundtrack music obviously creates an atmosphere to what’s going on in the acting sense of the show/movie and it stirs the waters of the show rather than sit there and distill. Sometimes I’ve watched movies just because the soundtrack is brilliant, the movie can be totally irrelevant to me but the soundtrack is just awesome. This is just a snippet of the copious amounts of soundtracks that have influenced me over the years.
I was brought up somewhat different than other kids because sure I watched cartoons like they did but I also grew up watching a lot of war movies with my dad on the weekends because that’s when you got a lot of those campy propaganda films about WWII on tv and I also saw quite a few in the theatres when I was old enough to get in to them but the ratings were a little different back then in the late 70’s/early 80’s and yeah times have changed a bit on how films are rated but you go with what you know. Of course when I was a kid the music really didn’t play such a big part to me as did the robots, monsters or trucks etc because I was all about that when I was little…wait, I still am lol
As I got older and could stay up later I discovered myself watching a lot of movies over and over and it was the soundtrack that really started to cling to me and I would find myself either humming the main theme or have it stuck in my head or singing something from it all day. As time grew on the films became the background and the music came to the forefront for me and yet I was unable to find the soundtracks on cassette tape or vinyl anywhere mostly because they were by then long out of print and even the used record shoppes didn’t have them nor seen them so when i did come across them I snatched them up like grease lightening! I would blitzkrieg record stores all day looking for these wonderful soundtrack albums with usually little or no success and end up buying more Progressive Rock records which was equally as good! But I grew up watching cartoons of course like most kids did and was influenced by the incidental music that would accompany the crashes and craziness and zany antics of my favourite characters. Classic cartoons like The Flintstones brought us slightly altered versions of popular music by rearranging the lyrics and band names to suit the “modern” stone age family setting along with of course the celebrities of the time but it too gave us a bit of that pop culture that as kids we really didn’t have a clue what it was all about AND because it ran in syndicate for decades after its original airing we were as kids in the 70’s and 80’s exposed to a genre of music that was out before we were born so the influences were everywhere.
But it really was the music of the Charlie Brown cartoons that originally began airing in the 1960’s that would make the show come to light for me because there was something magical about the groovy music that they contained. It was that jazzy influence and the not your typical cartoon score that one would hear in Charlie Brown cartoons by the wonderfully talented Vince Guaraldi and company who were the creative forces to these brilliant and classic cartoons. The one song that truly sticks out as the epicentre of all songs in them is Little Birdie which was by the way the first time that vocals were heard in a Charlie Brown cartoon and sung by Vince Guaraldi. The low bassy tones of the keyboards and swanky groove thrown over top and Vince’s voice just had that certain je ne c’est quoi to it that said, yeeeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhh this is cool. Of course nowhere to be found in any store or catalogue at the time. It wasn’t until last year that I was able to find it online as part of a two album set that contained the music never before released called, Lost Cues from The Charlie Brown Television Specials.
As I got older I was exposed to music that filled war movies and more television dramas as opposed to cartoons even though I still watched them through the week and on Saturday mornings but as we get older music begins to take on the form of radio and records than television so to find film scores more interesting was at the time maybe nothing much to my malleable mind but it stuck inside my head and served my palette for years to come. The scores to war movies was more epic and triumphant sounding, big walls of sound and crashing finalés with a full blown orchestra giving you that huge effect of being there and a part of it. Movies like Das Boot (one of my all time favs) having a soundtrack that was very empathetic and emotionally moving towards the crews of the U-Boats in WWII. It’s one of those rare films where you are told the battle of the Atlantic form the other side as opposed to the American muscle and British fighting spirit a-typical war movies that we are bombarded with. The score composed by Klaus Doldinger is a chilling and haunting work of art that is one of the most underrated soundtracks in movie history as far as I’m concerned. A jazz saxophonist who’s own project, Passport that still does well in Germany Klaus is best known for Das Boot and later in the 80’s the soundtrack to The NeverEnding Story featuring the voice of Limahl from Kajagoogoo fame. The main theme to Das Boot is just a gateway to the brilliant music that fills the film from start to finish.
For a feature film to be shown from the other perspective of the war, especially WWII it was a stirring glimpse in to how the Germans may have waged naval warfare and how they were viewing the goings on back home. An honourable mention is the Harry Saltzman film, The Battle of Britain that has both a great soundtrack and film showing both sides of the war in a non-favoured way. The grand sounds of conductor/composer John Williams has graced the ears of generations all over the world and who even if they don’t like the franchise knows the main theme to the iconic Star Wars series. When I went and saw the new episode VII The Force Awakens that initial blast of the words Star Wars in that warbly yellow lettering and the first notes of the main theme come roaring through the theatre’s P.A. system it brought tears to my eyes from remembering the first time I recall seeing it as a kid. But when music can do that to you, you KNOW it’s good! John Williams music scores are so almost recognizable that you would think that he might as well do everyone’s movie music eh? Sadly for everyone else they have to struggle to be noticed because he tends to sweep up the soundtrack score scene but he is good at what he does! He’s good on a grand scale of sound whereas for movies where that’s not as prominently required it wouldn’t work as well. The darker sci-fi films where artists like Vangelis conducted the score for Blade Runner wouldn’t have worked for John Williams nor would his music have complimented the thematic sense of the film properly in my opinion.
Growing up I was very much exposed to the incidental music of the Japanese sci-fi/thriller/monster movies of the 60’s and 70’s like; Godzilla (of course), The Gargantuas, Daimaijan, Rodan, Mothra and countless others that took over Saturday afternoon television for the matinee fill in for when tv was still albeit not as young by the early 1980’s but still young enough that we got some pretty cool stuff to watch before being bombarded with endless channels of tripe and rehashed everything to the point of nauseating. But the scores to these films were the sounds of excitement and composed by Japanese artists that you never heard of so the music styles were very different and helped forge a sense of counter culture to the very abundant American film soundtracks that we got in North American movies. Dark and sinister, technical and robotic these film scores had a lot of what the Japanese music scene was emerging as and became in the future as it grew and expanded in to Rock and Prog bands of the late 60’s and 70’s.
I can honestly say I was never a fan of the American western movie. I always found it to be too full of bullshit and clichés that seemed just too hokey for me. The story line, the lack of real sets even though large amounts of credit go to the artists who created and painted those sets! Yes I am talking about: John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Gary Cooper & Burt Lancaster films and the other actors who portrayed that whole cowboy character. It was the Spaghetti Westerns of the 60’s that caught my attention and a blend between the story and the soundtrack with HUGE credit to Ennio Morricone who would often create the soundtrack before he even saw the raw version of the film. I’m talking about the Clint Eastwood films like; The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, Fistful of Dollars, A Few Dollars More et al. A brilliant genius of a composer who again I think is very underrated in North America. The stories of the Spaghetti Westerns always seem to have a more realistic feel to them where real sets, i.e. towns, plains, mountains etc were used as opposed to stage sets from Hollywood giving them a more realistic feel to them as they were filmed in Italy and Spain for a good part of them due to the similarities to what the “Old West” would have looked like here. Also, in the US I remember reading somewhere that there were laws saying you can’t show actors pulling guns out of their holsters and shooting each other but if the gun was already in their hand it looked more like self-defense whereas across the pond you could readily show actors pulling guns out and pulling the trigger so the realism certainly helped. But the soundtracks were for the movie and not “in” the movie like the US counterparts where songs were sung to give that warm comfy feeling to it. Not every US western was like that but still I stand by my convictions that they were just hokey to me and the music was equally as bland and thoughtlessly tossed in the mix. The scores to the Spaghetti Westerns had some underlying dark presence to them at times, adventuresome and glorious but not done from a North American perspective so it was more appealing to me and had a huge influence on what my musical palette craved then and now.
There are a few movies that had influences on me that weren’t your typical soundtrack format that I felt brought forth a strong sense of sound to me and a diversity that was more song structured than actual soundtrack/incidental scores. Movies like; Fritz the Cat, Rock and Rule, Smokey and the Bandit, Apocalypse Now and Heavy Metal. Apocalypse Now was a blend of soundtrack score meets band music a la The Doors which had a profound impact on the film and brought forth the ominous presence of the Doors song The End back to life in the late 70’s and how it was a very big Vietnam influence that The Doors music had on the men and women who fought over there. But the dark theatrical style of their music helped create a lot of the emotional presence in the film making it more influential as a song and a film. Plus the soundtrack itself was dark and foreboding giving the film an eerie feel to the whole picture. Breathtaking.
Heavy Metal was the magazine brought to life with an equally heavy soundtrack giving it that iconic cult film status when it came out in 1981. We would always try to sneak in to theatres that would occasionally still show it later in the 80’s when groups of us went to see films on a Friday or Saturday night. Rock and Rule was the Canadian answer to Heavy Metal and only in recent years made available on DVD but I remember taping it off television in the 80’s on CBC finding out later that there was two versions of released, the alternate version always being the one showed on TV and the soundtrack never being officially released but featuring great songs by; Cheap Trick, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry to name a few where the songs they did for this film were far better than anything they ever did on their own records in my opinion.
Smokey and the Bandit was one of those movies I grew up with and it had trucks in it so of course I was interested and Jackie Gleason as I got older got funnier throughout the movie to me, the sequels however paled in comparison to the originals but I always had a close connection to the soundtrack because I grew up listening to country music on 8-Track tapes in my parents old Chevy Vandura so Jerry Reed was a staple on a lot of the country various artists collections and his song “Lord Mr. Ford” I always enjoyed and is one of those guilty pleasures on my iPod now. So when upon knowing that it was him in the movie the soundtrack just added to the attraction of the film even more so to me making for more guilty pleasures on my iPod naturally.
Finally in our blog about soundtracks that have inspired me we come to the ever controversial and first ever R-rated animated feature film, Fritz the Cat. I first saw this movie when I was about 10 or so maybe. My oldest sister dated a guy who managed to get his hands on a copy of it after hearing my dad talk about seeing it in the theatres back in the 70’s when it was released. 1972 made headlines with this film by Ralph Bakshi’s adaptation of Robert Crumb’s notorious and debaucherous cat of the 60’s, Fritz. Crumb hated it so much that he had Fritz killed off in the comic book version to get even with Bakshi and anyone who enjoyed the film or thought highly of it. Guess I helped kill Fritz several decades later eh? I loved it because it was so unlike any other cartoon I had ever seen in my life to that point before I got heavily in to the Japanese animé and Manga stuff even though I grew up with the late 60’s Japanese animation like Danguard Ace, Grandizer and Star Blazers. They were nothing compared to what I would discover in the early 2000’s like: Ninja Scroll, Basilisk, Doomed Megalopolis, Angel Cop, Deadman Wonderland, Corpse Party, Another and many other disturbing animated tales and movies that were beyond gory and dark in nature.
Fritz the Cat made me discover things like drugs, alcohol and gratuitous sex at an extremely early age and exposed to what the hippie counter culture was sort of like in cartoon form. Sure it was totally wrong for me to watch it but when your parents aren’t home and you know where they hid it without boobietraps in the way your inner curiosity strikes out like a venomous snake at its prey! I watched it and almost puked laughing at what I saw! There was; swearing, violence, nudity and copious drug use to fill my head with the I have no idea what is going but it’s funny feeling going through my head. It was the precursor to when I was older and discovered Cheech and Chong movies which also have some great soundtrack scores to them as well! Up in Smoke…. Great soundtrack! But Fritz gave me the introductory to drug music and culture which surprisingly never led me to trying drugs and alcohol, I was more interested in the animation and the music. Plus memorizing and imitating the voices became more fun too. Finding the soundtrack to that movie was a blessing and the music of Ed Bogas and Ray Shanklin along with the popular names like Billie Holiday (love her music) and Bo Diddley within the score made it a great listen.
So there has been a lot of movies and television shows that have influenced my upbringing obviously but also engaged my musical palette where it was expanded and grew substantially because of it. Television theme songs like Dave Allen At Large and Monty Python, Benny Hill, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy all play a huge part in my influences but we'll get to that facet of TV next time! But there you have it, a little insider look to my soundtracks that have influenced my life mentally and musically and have helped in the creation of what has become my alter musical ego, OddsFiche. Enjoy
Published by OddsFiche, A Canadian Perspective