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Sunday, 22 January 2012

CLASSIC BLOG: THE MUSIC OF "STAR WARS" (WELL, SORT OF...)

STAR WARS music by John Williams: seventies-style!


Long before John Williams all defining musical score for STAR WARS-truly one of the greatest compositions of all time- I had always been interested in orchestral score music-as a very small child I would often listen to compilation albums to classic films and television series that, at that time, I had never seen, but which I instantly knew the theme tunes to once I eventually saw them. As a child, when babysat by my Nan, I would listen to the GREAT WAR FILM THEMES and leap off the sofa pretending to be a parachutist to the likes of the DAM BUSTERS and WHERE EAGLES DARE (don’t get me started on that film-it’s just fantastic!!). Most of these seventies compilation themes were produced by the British MUSIC FOR PLEASURE range, and were not the actual brought in scores but new realisations, normally from the well respected musician/composer Geoff Love and his orchestra-who, at that time, were well known for their work in the television industry, providing music for live entertainment shows on Sunday nights. By 1978, we had had the war films, the western themes, the TV themes albums, but with the arrival of STAR WARS, and the film heralding a brilliant new zenith for orchestral scores, as well as a return to that type of adventure music with a plethora or rival movies, all of the music companies, including MFP, were keen to get a piece of the action profits-wise in securing rights for their own versions of the theme tune on their science fiction film/TV compilation albums. Geoff Love and his MFP tram responded with STAR WARS AND OTHER SPACE THEMES-one of the first albums I listened to after being blown away by the original two disc Williams album score. As a fan, still to this day, of other sci-fi series and films, those represented on the compiled album were ones that I’d always wanted to have and listen to again and again, and I loved listening to this compiled themes LP the most-how it never scratched or warped from the playing I don’t know. Some of the arrangements range from the extremely good-THINGS TO COME, the mighty THUNDERBIRDS suite, and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY especially (and the MARS theme from the PLANETS SUITE, though not necessarily from a film, it has been used in TV series like SPACE 1999)-to the kooky (like BARBARELLA-but that was just a plain kooky film anyway (and, again, don’t get me started on Jane Fonda in that film-what a babe!!), to the downright awful (the STAR TREK arrangement is one of the worst I’ve ever heard –it doesn’t even sound like Alexander Courage’s accomplished score!!). And, being the seventies, some of the TV series cover versions have a cool disco vibe to them, like the re-interpreted UFO (which is brilliant, and my favourite on the album, alongside SPACE: 1999- put on those flares and hit that disco beat, man!!). But, as for the STAR WARS theme, well… it’s not Williams but I have to say I really like Love’s interpretation of it-there’s an interesting echoy sound to it and the orchestra playing it is quite loud and bombastic-living up to the war drums into infinity description of George Lucas’s original script intent for the title crawl. They may not be The London Symphony Orchestra but Love’s team is certainly enjoying the challenge of it and giving it a bloody good go! There must also be a special mention to the arrangement of the Princess Leia Theme on the album-again that composition always has been a very special one in my affections-and this version almost matches the greatness of the Williams original.

A few years back, my dad found an old tape version of the album and I’ve played it regularly ever since-perhaps unconsciously returning to my youth, but then again, just enjoying it-and it’s a good and evocative background album to write to. It may not be to everyone’s taste, and it is a product of its time completely (and check out that album cover-due to likeness/image copyright restrictions, almost every film and TV show represented on it is only vaguely like what we’re used to-check out Luke and Leia-hilarious!! And Barbarella?-she looks like she’s had her finger in an electrical socket!), but, if you want to travel back to those innocent days of the MUSIC FOR PLEASURE era, then samples of the album can be found at places like AMAZON and PLAY.COM  (you can even download the whole album, which, interestingly, has classic tracks that weren’t on the original LP we bought in 1978, presumably added on from extra re-releases over the years, like BLAKE'S SEVEN, THE TIME MACHINE, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, LOGAN’S RUN and THE OMEGA MAN!!).

They say nostalgia is back in fashion, but I don't think it ever really went away...

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