I always remember reading material by Stephen, and also remember his enthusiasm for the music in Hammer films, James Bond and John Williams and for his passion for the music of John Barry.
1. Firstly, Why film music? And when did first become aware of music in movies?
I was born in a northern coal mining town and as a boy I was a dreamer, looking to the horizon for a life more cleaner and more glamorous than coal mining. I became attracted to escapism and fell quickly in love with science fiction shows like Star Trek and Doctor Who; and when ITV started showing the James Bond films in 1975, I fell in love with them too. Then Star Wars happened. I was seven when that film happened and I was completely thrilled by it. All these films and shows have very distinctive music, of course. I didn’t know names like John Barry or Alexander Courage or John Williams then, but while other kids wanted to listen to pop music, I wanted to listen to this music, because they took me right back to these fantasy times and places I so loved to escape to. From this, I developed my taste for film music.
2.What was your first record purchase. If it was not a soundtrack what was the first film music you went out and paid for?
The first two records I owned were Geoff Love’s Big Bond Movie Themes on the budget Music For Pleasure label and a budget label recording of the Star Wars soundtrack. Although my childhood was hardly a story of poverty (we had a roof over our heads, three square meals a day, a TV and perfectly good presents at Christmas), my parents were nevertheless at the lower end of the income spectrum, so buying the official Star Wars double LP or a proper Bond soundtrack was out of the question. I played these budget label recordings to death and loved them, but they did make me crave for the ‘proper’ recordings.
However, I wasn’t a collector yet. I did that thing of holding up a cassette recorder to the TV speaker to capture themes and incidental music I liked. But when I saw The Omen on TV, that was the first time I felt I just had to get that music and only the original would do. This was in the mid-1980s, when I was about 14. The search for that album led me to specialist retailers like Movie Boulevard (Discount Soundtracks as it was then) and when I realised all this stuff I’d loved was out there, I saved my pennies and started buying.
3. Before the arrival of the compact disc how many soundtracks did you have in your collection on vinyl?
Not that many. I got my first CD player in 1988 and my first CD was Silva Screen’s Damien Omen II. I’d only been collecting for about four years and it took me weeks to save up for LPs. I probably had about forty.
4. What was your most expensive soundtrack purchase?
The most expensive was the Star Trek Original Series box set from La-La-Land records, but the one that was most painful to buy in terms of how much it cost versus how much money I owned was probably John Barry’s Game of Death, well before the Silva Screen CD. I paid £45 for that LP whilst earning just £5 a week on a Saturday job at Barnsley Market. In fact, I had to share the LP with my friend.
5. Do you still buy lps, and which do you prefer.lp.cd or download?
I prefer CDs. I do still buy LPs.
6. Is there anything that you are looking for that maybe you have not been able to find?
The one title I wish I had but eluded me was the Japanese CD release of Fist of Fury, the Bruce Lee film. However, those Bruce Lee releases were music, dialogue and effects albums. I really wish that stuff would come out as pure music.
7. What composer would you say dominates your collection?
John Barry. John was always my favourite. I know that Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams are better composers on a technical level, in that they both display greater technical prowess in the medium of music for orchestra; and John’s music for orchestra is relatively simple, but his music got under my skin more than anybody else’s. It was the unusual colour and texture of it, coupled with it’s unerring emotional clarity. John had the greatest gift for melody, a wonderful gift for colouration, but perhaps his greatest attribute was simply that his music spoke so clearly.
The way I sometimes put it is that if John was a public speaker, he might not use complex words or long, flowery Shakespearean prose, but it would be a wonderfully soothing baritone voice speaking simple but captivating poetry. Whereas many modern composers would just sound like a crowd shouting.
Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone, John Williams and Lalo Schifrin all feature very large in my collection too. Barry and Herrmann are the only composers I’m completest for, though.
8. What is your opinion of the state of film music in recent years. compared to the 40.s 50.s 60.s and 70s?
I’m no longer a film score fan, it’s that simple. Only John Williams and Ennio Morricone do it for me now. I feel that film music has become more and more generic. Themes seem to be a thing of the past. Some people protest at me that the Marvel films have great themes. Well, okay, so there’s a two-bar fanfare for Spider-Man that you can remember. Big wow. The thing is, the only way to use that theme is to keep repeating those two bars. Compare that with something like the James Bond theme where you’ve got a dozen ways you can quote from that theme, all of which are different but all still very much say, “James Bond”. You can quote the opening line. You can quote the guitar riff. You can quote the bebop middle section. You can quote the punchy bridge to the final verse. You can quote the lead-out. You can even half-quote the opening line and it still says James Bond. You can even quote inversions, like in the opening manhunt sequence of Diamonds Are Forever, which quotes an inversion of the famous gun barrel opening. Now that’s a theme.
9. How do you store your compact discs?
I know what it’s like to be burgled and lose all your CDs, so I don’t have them out. I rip all my CDs to iTunes using the Apple Lossless Encoder and then I create a 320kbps AAC copy. The lossless versions are effectively the back-ups of my CDs and the AAC copy goes on my iPod. The CDs then get boxed and packed away. I listen mostly from my iPod away from home, but listen to my CDs at home. I just pull the boxes out, pull a CD and play it.
10. If you were asked by a soundtrack label to choose ten soundtracks to be released for first time or re released in a complete version what would be on your list?
I know that some of these are not possible, and my list probably changes with my mood. But right now, the ten things I want most are:
1. The complete original Deadfall
2. The John Barry James Bond scores re-done as double disc editions, with the re-mastered album programmes on disc one and the complete, chronological score on disc two. For Thunderball and OHMSS where the complete original score is too big for one disc, maybe some of the source cues would have to be on the album disc.
3. The original trilogy Star Wars scores re-done as a new special edition, with the album programmes and also the complete score programmes but edited differently to the prior complete score releases. I don’t like having about ten scenes crunched together in a fourteen-minute long track.
4. Joseph Koo’s Bruce Lee scores done as music only scores.
5. Herrmann’s Fahrenheit 451 and The Bride Wore Black. The Tribute recording of Fahrenheit 451 is perfect but I’d still love the original recording and The Bride Wore Black is simply a must.
6. Any Hammer soundtrack, especially the original Hammer DRACULA.
That must be way more than ten soundtracks by now.