Friday, September 18, 2009

Back with another one of those Hot Rockin' beats

On the Hot Rock sets, the movie was jokingly renamed Three Jews and a Jock.
Featured during this month's A Fistful of Soundtracks mini-playlists is Quincy Jones' laid-back main title theme from the 1972 Donald E. Westlake adaptation The Hot Rock, a cue that's both supercool (like Jones' sampled-by-the-Pharcyde cover version of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City") and an effective foreshadowing of how hapless Robert Redford's Dortmunder and his crew will be for much of the rest of the movie.

Long before his charttopping success as a producer for performers like Michael Jackson and James Ingram, the trumpeter/bandleader was a trailblazer as one of Hollywood's first African American film and TV composers (the original In the Heat of the Night, Ironside). I have an affinity for older caper movies like The Hot Rock and the funkdafied scores Jones wrote for several of those flicks. Every time a '60s or '70s Jones score is released on CD, like most recently, the score from another Westlake adaptation, 1968's The Split, it's an event at the Aquino castle. I wish more Jones scores got the same lavish treatment the Split score received from the Film Score Monthly label.

I hate how Broadway Video is either being stingy about rebroadcasting SNL's older sketches or not being more aggressive about rerunning them. The sketches from the Quincy Jones SNL ep, especially the ones with Jones playing Marion Barry and Dana Carvey playing a pretentious Eurotrash talk show host who keeps saying 'Q! Q! Q!' to his guest Jones, were childhood favorites of mine I'd like to see again.
The Dixieland-style end title theme is the only cut from the Hot Rock soundtrack that's ever found its way to CD. Rhino added it to the "Gone Hollywood" portion of 2001's Q: The Musical Biography of Quincy Jones box set. Unfortunately, the rest of the soundtrack, which was released by the Atlantic-distributed Prophesy label, remains out of print and can only be found on various mp3 blogs. The Hot Rock score's absence on disc is odd because it was one of Jones' favorite film music projects. He was so pleased with the results of his score that he wanted all the major jazz musicians who collaborated with him to receive on-screen credit. The long list of musicians at the Hot Rock scoring sessions who received credit included saxman Gerry Mulligan, trumpeter Clark Terry and drummer Grady Tate, whose militaristic-sounding solo at the beginning of the main title theme was sampled in Eminem's "Like Toy Soldiers" in 2004 (six years before "Like Toy Soldiers," Jurassic 5 sampled "Hot Rock Theme," a loungy and more upbeat version of the movie's main theme that the Don Elliott Voices recorded specially for the Prophesy album, in "Improvise").

Jones' Hot Rock theme makes me want to go steal a diamond.


  1. Jones used The Don Elliott voices quite a lot during this period, notably in Dollars, and The Anderson Tapes. I prefer his work running up to these like The Deadly Affair and Mirage.

  2. Have you heard Q's score for The Split, which Film Score Monthly recently reissued? It's one of his best -- better IMHO than his score for The Hot Rock and up there with Dollars.

  3. Of course I've heard FSM's Split CD. I mentioned the CD in the above post. I don't know if FSM has the rights to Q's Dollars score, but I wish they'd give Dollars the same treatment they gave to The Split.

    I like the Hot Rock score a little more than you do, but yeah, I agree with you that those songs that were on the Hot Rock LP (and weren't even part of the movie, if I'm not mistaken) are filler.