My Top 20 List of Film and Television Soundtracks From 1970-1980

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 My Top 20 Film & Television Soundtracks From 1970-1980

(with a focus on horror, science fiction, and fantasy)

On rare occasions, when I am not making music, I have time to listen. When I listen, it is generally to radio plays. I also enjoy listening to soundtracks. There were a lot of great films made in the 70’s and 80’s and, as you would expect, some great music was created to go along with them. Of course, there is no guarantee that a great film will have a great score. Sometimes you can find great music in a bad film.  Whatever the case, there are many excellent films out there to enjoy and just as many fascinating soundtracks and scores to listen to.

I have enjoyed horror films and the music contained therein since I was a kid. Speaking of my childhood…the first film I remember seeing (not at home) was “Escape To Witch Mountain” at a drive-in theater in 1975.  They also played Pink Panther cartoons that night. While none of the music from “Escape To Witch Mountain” stuck with me, the theme from the Pink Panther cartoons certainly did.  It wasn’t the beginning of my life-long love affair with film and television music though.  That happened when I heard the theme from “The Twilight Zone.” There was a lot of great music in “The Twilight Zone” created by incredibly talented artists like Nathan Van Cleave, Jerry Goldsmith, Fred Steiner, and Bernard Hermann, just to name a few.

Twilight Zone ComposersIn my youth, I also enjoyed watching classic Universal and Hammer horror films, Godzilla movies, Three Stooges shorts, Marx Brothers films, and plenty of cartoons.  Speaking of cartoons, Carl Stalling, anyone? \m/ Since I’m digressing a bit, I should mention that there are some great pieces of music hidden away in thousands of radio plays. Not just CBS EZ Cue drops, either. Okay, back to film and television. Once the 70’s came around, synthesizers became more commonly used in film music. This is where my interest comes in.

The first time I heard synthesizers, I knew it was the future pouring into my ears. Hearing them used in film music was inspiring to me…no matter how cheesy or how low the film budget may have been, I couldn’t get enough of those futuristic sounds! Quite a few of my favorite tracks from film and TV have synths in them and most are from horror/science fiction/fantasy genres with a few exceptions. I will also confess I may have some sort of Mellotron fetish, but that can be addressed in another post.

On to the list!

20. Monty Python’s Life Of Brian – Brian Song by Michael Palin, André Jacquemin, David Howman, John Du Prez, and Sonia Jones (1979)

Lyrics by Michael Palin….and fine lyrics they are!

19. Exorcist II – Magic and Ecstasy by Ennio Morricone (1977)

Sure, the movie is…uh…not the best, but this track is rockin’! Speaking of, I like Exorcist III the best out of the three. Snakefinger did a great cover of this track on his “Chewing Hides The Sound” LP from ’78.

18. Andromeda Strain – Wildfire by Gil Mellé (1971)

Talk about futuristic sounds…lots of found sounds and atonal noise to put you on edge. The soundtrack was released on a hexagonal-shaped LP and can set you back $30-400! Perfect for fans of noise and difficult listening. You can see some photos of the LP on this blog.

17. Eraserhead – In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song) by David Lynch and Peter Ivers (1977)

Yes, it was THAT Peter Ivers. This song (and the film) is haunting, to say the least. I consider this track to be an incredibly powerful earworm. The rest of the soundtrack is worth listening to…in the dark.

16. Maniac – Maniac’s Theme (Main Titles) by Jay Chattaway (1980)

This is a beautiful and fiendish piece of music. I especially love the great melody and tasty fretless bass guitar work.

15. Suspiria – Suspiria by Goblin (1977)

Goblin is one of my favorite bands. Hell, I even own a Goblin t-shirt that glows in the dark! \m/ They were originally a prog-rock band when they were called in to replace the composer for “Profondo Rosso.”

14. Zombi 2 – Sequence 8 by Fabio Frizzi (1979)

Fabio Frizzi, another talented Italian composer on my list, has created seriously creepy music for Lucio Fulci films. Does it have synths? Oh yeah! Does it sound dated? Oh yeah! Is it good? OH YEAH!

13. Kolchak: The Night Stalker – Theme by Gil Mellé (1974)

I used to watch this show with my father and it scared the hell out of me. I still love it and the theme remains a favorite of all-time.

12. Fantastic Planet – Deshominisation (I) by Alain Goraguer (1973)

Having enjoyed cartoons since childhood (Warner Brothers, Tex Avery, Hanna Barbera, Filmation), I also love quite a few animated feature films.  This is one of the best from the 70’s in my opinion and the groovy soundtrack is quite enjoyable.

11. Phantasm – Intro and Main Title by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave (1979)

Do you like silver balls? Do you like silver balls that can fly? Do you like silver balls that can fly through the air, pierce your skull, and suck your blood out? Hell yeah! Don’t we all?!? This soundtrack has a strong scent of the 70’s, but don’t let that discourage you. It’s worth throwing on your over-sized headphones, kicking your bellbottom-covered legs up onto the speaker, and staring at your black light poster collection as you wig out to the freaky sounds created for this happenin’ film from 1979.

10. The Fog – Matthew Ghost Story by John Carpenter (1980)

John Carpenter is not only a great filmmaker, he is also a very talented musician who created some of the coolest soundtracks in the 70’s and 80’s.

09. A Clockwork Orange – Title Music by Wendy Carlos (1971)

This powerful title theme  (Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, Z. 860 by Henry Purcell) reinterpreted by Wendy Carlos still resonates with me after all these years. It’s hard not to visualize pieces of the film when you hear the music. Some may accuse electronic music of having no “soul” or depth or warmth, but I say Wendy Carlos proves that to be wrong.

08. Profondo Rosso – Profondo Rosso by Goblin (1975)

Goblin returns again! This was the track that sent them into the soundtrack stratosphere.  Claudio Simonetti blends a taste of classical music, prog-rock, and his own unique compositional styling into an incredibly memorable tune.

07. Nosferatu the Vampyre – On the Way by Popol Vuh (1979)

Florian Fricke, founder and mastermind behind Popol Vuh, worked on a handful of great Werner Herzog films. While originally interested in electronic music, he returned to acoustic music and composed some of the most majestic and beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard. This particular track is fairly minimal and works quite well outside of the film.

06. Star Wars (aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) – Main Title by John Williams (1977)

What 70’s soundtrack list would be complete without something from John Williams? What else is there to say? Well, I can still remember quite a lot about seeing this in the theater when it came out. When the music started, everyone in the room new it was going to be something special.

05. Halloween – Halloween Theme by John Carpenter (1978)

Yes, it’s the Top Five! This is a legendary piece of horror film music. I recall John Carpenter saying that the origins of the piece came from his father teaching him an exercise in 5/4. If you are a horror film fan and you haven’t heard this theme, you may live under a rock.

04. Aguirre, the Wrath of God – Lacrime Di Re by Popol Vuh (1972)

This is an incredibly beautiful piece of music. I never grow tired of it. While I have only seen the film once and enjoyed it, this track stands by itself extremely well.

03. Doctor Who – Main Theme (originally by Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire) updated by Peter Howell (1980)

Doctor Who left quite an impression on me as a young teenager. Who can forget Tom Baker and his impressive hair, long scarf, and wicked grin? The original theme is my favorite version, but this list only covers ’70-’80 and I really like the Peter Howell version too!

02. Dawn Of The Dead – L’alba Dei Morti Viventi by Goblin (1978)

If you will recall, I mentioned Goblin being one of my favorite bands, so it should come as no surprise to see them appear in the Top Five! Great movie, great soundtrack, great film library music cues, too! This track has been very inspirational to me as a musician (as well as Goblin). It is also another example of film music that needs no film to be thoroughly enjoyed.

01. The Shining – Main Title “The Shining” by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind (1980)

Finally we arrive at my #1 pick for the best film/TV soundtrack. The film itself is also at the top of my list of favorite movies. Symphonie Fantastique: Dies Irae connection? Sure! Dig those crazy tubas, man! But…this is so much better to me. I find it almost impossible to hear this theme and not picture the car driving through the mountains at the beginning of the film. I love all of the music used in the film. Krzysztof Penderecki, György Ligeti, Béla Bartók, Henry Hall and the Gleneagles Hotel Band, Al Bowlly & Ray Noble Orchestra, Jack Hylton And His Orchestra. It is an unforgettable piece of music and will probably remain at the top of my list for the rest of my life.

There you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this list and perhaps discovered something new. Feel free to leave a comment with your own top 20!

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Mildly Interesting: The Antique Pencil Sharpener

Chicago Automatic Pencil Sharpener

Before I tell the mildly interesting (boring?) story of how I found the antique Automatic Pencil Sharpener, I should explain something first. When we met the agent to have a look at the house we live in, we couldn’t help noticing that it was like a time machine back to the 50’s.  From the remaining pieces of furniture and antique appliances to the old paneling, tiles, and decor, the place was somewhat like a museum.

The little old lady who had previously lived here didn’t seem to change things very often. Even after moving in six years ago (it had been empty for some time), we still find old bits ‘n’ bobs left behind. I ran across owner’s manuals for some of the antique appliances that were in good condition (appliances AND the manuals), a very old bottle of dish washing detergent, old canning tools, an old painting by Grif Teller tossed in the insulation of the attic, etc.

Today I found an antique pencil sharpener in our house in a rarely used hallway in the basement where utilities are tucked away. I was looking for a place to run a microphone cable in my home studio. There was an old hat that I thought might be hanging on a hook. It was actually an old pencil sharpener. The sharpener was completely jammed with shavings. Knowing how the previous owner never seemed to update anything past the 50’s, I have no idea how long these shavings may have been in there. I decided to take a few photos of the sharpener before disposing of the shavings. It took awhile to scrape and pry them out.  After looking online for additional information, this particular sharpener seems to have been in production between 1915-1936. If anyone has any additional information, feel free to contact me. On to the photos.

  • APS_01

    Chicago Automatic Pencil Sharpener

  • APS_02

    Logo close-up

  • APS_03

    Case

  • APS_05

    Blades

  • APS_04

    Vintage shavings

  • APS_06

    Time to dump the shavings

  • APS_07

    Shavings in the trash

  • APS_08

    Empty case

  • APS_10
  • APS_09

    Still works quite well

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20 Tips For Drummers To Prepare For A Recording Session

20 Tips For Drummers To Prepare For A Recording Session

I had previously posted this to a music forum and received very positive feedback on it. I thought I would post it here in case it might help someone else along the way. While it is primarily aimed at kit drummers who may have never been in a recording studio before, it may also be helpful for anyone who might want a checklist of things to consider before going into a session.

  1. Before you even get to the studio, take time to tighten up any loose screws, nuts, bolts, or connections, and oil anything that might squeak. While most of this sort of thing may be buried in the mix, you may be surprised to hear what pops out in a mix when you least expect it.
  2. While you are auditing your kit, fix anything that may be broken. I personally do not recommend changing your gear (buying new drums, changing cymbals, using different size sticks, etc.) before recording unless you have time to rehearse with it.
  3. New heads will sound better, so change them a few days before you go in to allow them time to “settle.” Do not forget to clean any debris from the hoops and bearing edge and consider adding lube to the tension rods. If the bearing edge is damaged, have it repaired before recording.
  4. Expect to tune to the room you will be recording in as it can have a big impact on how your drums will sound. Depending on the temperature, the drums may also need a little time to acclimate to the room.
  5. Bring extra sticks, spare kick pedal (or at least replacement parts for anything that might break), and if you can, extra heads.
  6. If you are going to be recording with a click, practice with a click so you will be used to the experience. Some play better with a click than others, but if you are not used to it, it will help to rehearse with one.
  7. If you have not played with mics on your kit, you might consider doing a mock-up and getting used to having something there. While mics are generally placed out of the way, those unfamiliar with mics on the kit may find it obtrusive at first. Having stick control will earn you bonus points with the engineer which may lead them to using better mics since they may trust you will not damage their expensive gear.
  8. Be punctual (if not early). You may have more gear than anyone else and it may take more time to set everything up for your kit. Some studios may let you load in your drums early and possibly even the night before. Ask and see.
  9. Know your songs inside and out. A well-rehearsed band can usually work more efficiently in the studio.
  10. If you are working with a producer, be willing to take any notes they may have to offer as well as any technical suggestions the engineer may offer. Take the notes, but do not be afraid to state your feelings honestly and communicate openly. After all, you are working towards making something everyone can be proud of (or at least enjoy in some capacity).
  11. Pay attention to what is going on and listen as much as you can. Try to learn from the experience while you are there. Take notes, watch the engineer, note the mic placements, and take it all in. It will help you in the end, especially if/when you return to the studio.
  12. Bring duct/hockey tape, band-aids, stay hydrated, be well-rested, stretch, bring something for down time to prevent boredom, and be prepared to work hard and possibly for very long hours. It should go without saying that drumming can be a workout, so conditioning and practice will help you gain the strength and stamina you will need.
  13. Take photos/video to document your experience if you have time, but do not let it interfere with the work process going on. Also, photos of mic placements and similar can help with continuity if you have to tear down and continue at a later date.
  14. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or voice concerns regarding the sounds you are getting, but keep in mind any limitations in place as far as equipment and time available.
  15. Try to enjoy the experience. You may become a session player…or you may never return to another studio. It can be a very rewarding experience, especially when you are prepared.
  16. If possible, do not invite anyone else to the session in order to allow you to maximize your focus and attention span on the job at hand. While it is great to have the support of friends/family, it is more important to stay focused.
  17. Choose your battles wisely when you run into a disagreement or at least know when to discuss things in private. You should make a great effort to keep things in balance. Plenty of bands have imploded from recording sessions. Keep it positive if you can.
  18. On a very personal note, instead of pushing everything on the grid with Beat Detective or other tools of that sort, consider pushing yourself to improve your performances, preferably before you have to enter the studio.
  19. Make a checklist so you don’t forget anything.
  20. Do a dummy check before you leave for the studio.

I am sure there are other things that could be added to this list. Feel free to use the contact page and send in your suggestions.  Have fun and enjoy your session(s)!

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3 Reasons Why Cincinnati Is Photogenic

Downtown January 13, 2010

Aerial photo taken of Cincinnati taken on Jan. 13, 2010.

3 Reasons Why Cincinnati Is Photogenic

Cincinnati is a very photogenic city. As long as you have a camera and some time on your hands, I am sure you can find something interesting to point your lens at. It doesn’t matter if you are shooting with a Hasselblad, Holga, or your iPhone straight into your Instagram account, you won’t leave disappointed. Here are a few reasons why.

1. Architecture: From excellent French Art Deco like the Carew Tower to beautiful engineering like the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, you could spend all day walking around downtown filling up memory cards (or rolls of film). If you have a moment, visit the Cincinnati Museum Center and check out the largest semi-dome in the western hemisphere. If you go inside, you should be warned. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the hip of Orion, c-beams covered with glitter in the park, but I’ve never seen so many screaming children (one of them being my very own) rampaging around like something out of a scene in “World War Z!”

Look, even if you can’t tell the difference between Samuel Hannaford or the guy next door with his truck up on blocks in the front yard, just point the camera anywhere and shoot like a tourist! You can figure out what everything is once you get home and open up a cold can of Google!

2. Parks: If you aren’t into architecture, there are a lot of great parks with hills and excellent views of the skyline (not the restaurant, the city). When I say “a lot” it’s actually an understatement. We probably have more parks than chili parlors! Hell, we probably have more parks than every coney served at Skyline AND Death Star Chili over the course of a year! Okay…maybe not quite THAT many. That’s crazy talk!

I want you to know that a lot of these excellent parks are conveniently dropped on top of a bunch of hills we have strewn about all over the place. “Big deal!” I hear you say.  You aren’t very easy to please, are you?  Just go buy some coneys, pick out a park (with the exception of that one over by UC where the creepers like to park and wait for “friends” to show up), force those coneys down your throat, chase it with a magnesium hydroxide smoothie, and clean the grease off of your lens.  You are ready to go! Don’t forget to take off the lens cap.

3. Fireworks: Yeah, yeah…I know. You are probably thinking you could just attend your local 4th of July display and snap a few candid shots of toddlers setting dogs on fire with sparklers. Kids are dangerous! I know this for a fact (ask me about the time my daughter stabbed me in the eye with a drum stick).  But, if you haven’t witnessed the brown-trouser-inducing power of Rozzi’s fireworks display for Labor Day in Cincinnati, then you are truly missing out! They don’t just shoot off a few fireworks and call it a day…nosirreebob!  They blow up so much shit that you’ll find shrapnel dropping on your picnic a month later! It’s awesome!

If you drive into town a few days early, you can spread out your ground tarp, drop your beer cooler on top of it, and mark off a spot to photograph the fireworks down by the river. A word of caution. If you have any future plans to have children, you might want to skip the finale as the sheer volume of the explosions may render your wedding tackle effete. You’ve been warned. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention there are plenty of places to see fireworks all over the city for the 4th of July as well. If you are scared of fireworks, you can always attend the balloon glow at Coney Island, then run home to mama before the Rozzi family starts detonating Yonshakudama shells into Lake Como! \m/ Oh…almost forget that you can see fireworks at Reds games. I hear they fire off a round every time someone argues that Pete Rose should be in the hall of fame.

Don’t judge Cincinnati on my photography alone. I shot all of these from my basement window with a broken Walgreens disposable camera that I picked up used at the Goodwill.* I’m sure you will land some impressive shots with your Hasselblad and I expect you to send me a link! Also, if you are going to shoot photos through the window of your McLaren SLR 999, the least you can do is roll the windows down. Technique matters! :D

Cincinnati is a beautiful city with a seemingly endless supply of subjects to keep a shutterbug happy. Enjoy your visit!

*not true at all
  • Aerial View

    Aerial shot of downtown Cincinnati

  • Fireworks

    Labor Day fireworks

  • Skyline

    Downtown as seen from Devou Park

  • Riverboats

    Tall Stacks riverboats

  • Waterfall

    Labor Day fireworks and the “waterfall” display – note people on lower...

  • Brown Stadium

    Paul Brown Stadium as seen from Carew Tower

  • Union Terminal

    Tilt-shifted Museum Center (aka The Hall of Justice)

  • Scripps Center

    Building reflections on the Scripps Center

  • Fountain

    Tyler Davidson fountain: The Genius of Water

  • Sunrise

    Ceiling inside the Cincinnati Museum Center

  • Lamp

    Lamp post in Alms Park on a foggy day

  • Fog

    Fog settling around Lunken Airport

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