Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Ask for Babs (Universal 100th Anniversary Mix)"

Wow, the Universal logo is now so detailed I can see my apartment from here.

To mark its 100th anniversary, Universal unveiled a revamped version of its globe logo (The Lorax is the first Universal release to open with it) and got frequent Fast and the Furious sequel composer Brian Tyler to update Jerry Goldsmith's rousing 1997 Universal logo fanfare with a choir and additional percussion.

What was originally supposed to be just a blog post I was going to do about Tyler's spiffy arrangement of the Goldsmith fanfare evolved into the mix below. Because of Universal's centennial, I've put together a mix--my very first one, in fact. It consists of favorite tunes that were written for Universal films or TV shows.

It's hard to find original score material from Universal films or shows that's as dance floor-friendly (or full of rhythm that makes my head nod) as J.J. Johnson's "Willie Chase" from Willie Dynamite or David Holmes' "Rip Rip" from Out of Sight, so I had to really dig deep into my station library.

Universal smash hits like the Bourne franchise and 8 Mile are represented on the "Ask for Babs" mix, as well as Universal releases that didn't exactly set the box office on fire but are great or good films and have gained--and I hate this term because cults are creepy--cult followings (Midnight Run[*], Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). The mix also includes material from some Universal films I've never seen (like the not-on-DVD 1969 curio The Lost Man, which has a couple of problems that bother the African American cinema blog Shadow and Act: "It's not good" and as a black militant, Sidney Poitier "is simply miscast in the role, and clearly looks uncomfortable"), but I love the music that was written for those films.

Determining the ways each track would transition into another and basing the order of the tracks on certain connections between them were particularly fun. I blended Vic Mizzy's Ghost and Mr. Chicken main title theme with 30 Rock's fake novelty song "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" to show how much 30 Rock composer Jeff Richmond must have been inspired by Mizzy's Ghost and Mr. Chicken score. Tracy Morgan is followed by The Roots' original track for the Best Man opening titles because both Morgan and The Roots are employees of Lorne Michaels. I had a Touch of Evil score cue follow the Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story main title theme because Dragon was about Lee having to put up with yellowface/brownface, and Touch of Evil was full of brownface. Plus, Lee starred in The Big Boss, and the Touch of Evil cue is called "The Boss." "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile segues into the best original theme from Out of Sight (the theme for Don Cheadle's Snoopy character) because both movies involve Detroit. Fast Five, the best of the Fast and the Furious films, was placed next to The Rockford Files because, uh, car chases.

Except for Quincy Jones' cowbell-licious re-recording of his own Ironside theme (a staple of vintage kung fu movie soundtracks that Kill Bill introduced to a new generation of moviegoers), the excerpts of beatmakers sampling Knight Rider and Public Enemy's classic sample of Queen's Flash Gordon theme, I didn't want this mix to contain covers of Universal film or show themes like the Lalo Schifrin disco version of the Jaws theme. I wanted it to be all-original music, but edgy, propulsive or funky original material instead of strictly symphonic material. So that meant crime-jazz-era Henry Mancini (Touch of Evil, Charade) instead of NBC Sunday Mystery Movie theme/A Warm Shade of Ivory-era Mancini, and no Jaws, Jurassic Park, E.T., To Kill a Mockingbird, Spartacus or--*yawn*--Out of Africa (although some of Alan Silvestri's Back to the Future theme turns up at the beginning). Yeah, Jaws was Universal's biggest cash cow shark for a while, and the Jaws theme was a great achievement in John Williams' career, but it doesn't make my head nod (there is, however, a brief soundbite of Jaws, which like all the other soundbites during the mix, comes from a Universal film or show).

My only disappointment with the "Ask for Babs" mix is that I so wanted John Barry's Ipcress File main title theme and Iggy Pop's Repo Man theme to be part of the mix, so I tried editing them into the mix, but all my editing trickery just couldn't get either of them to fit in well. Sorry, Harry Palmer and Harry Dean Stanton.

[*] Director Martin Brest's last enjoyable film is neck and neck with Do the Right Thing for my favorite film that was released by Universal. It features my favorite Danny Elfman film score. And years before lengthy bits of improv were an integral part of Judd Apatow-produced Universal comedies like Bridesmaids, there was the duo of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, ad-libbing most of their interplay and most of the brilliantly underplayed Red's Corner Bar sequence.

1. Nigel Godrich, "Universal Theme," Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Original Motion Picture Score, ABKCO
2. Alan Silvestri, "End Credits" (from Back to the Future Part III), Hollywood Soundstage: Big Movie Hits Volume I, Varèse Sarabande
3. Rose Royce, "Car Wash," Car Wash, Motown
4. Public Enemy, "Fight the Power," Music from Do the Right Thing, Motown
5. J.J. Johnson, "Willie Chase," Willie Dynamite, Hip-O Select/Geffen
6. Giorgio Moroder, "Tony's Theme," Scarface, Geffen
7. Jan Hammer, "Chase," Miami Vice: The Complete Collection, One Way
8. Stu Phillips, "Knight Rider," NBC: A Soundtrack of Must See TV, Tee Vee Toons
9. Timbaland and Magoo, "Clock Strikes (Remix)," Blackground
10. Busta Rhymes, "Turn It Up (Remix)/Fire It Up," Elektra
11. Punjabi MC, "Mundian To Bach Ke," Sequence
12. Johnny Harris, "Odyssey (Pt. 1)" (from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), Sunshine Sound Disco
13. Danny Elfman, "Main Titles," Midnight Run, MCA
14. Oingo Boingo, "Weird Science," Best O' Boingo, MCA
15. Nigel Godrich, "Chau Down," Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Original Motion Picture Score, ABKCO
16. Dan the Automator, "Ninja Ninja Revolution," Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Original Motion Picture Score, ABKCO
17. Randy Edelman, "Dragon Theme," Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, MCA
18. Henry Mancini, "The Boss," Touch of Evil, Varèse Sarabande
19. Henry Mancini, "Main Title" (from Charade), Music from the Films of Audrey Hepburn, Big Screen
20. Vic Mizzy, "Gaseous Globe," The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Percepto
21. Vic Mizzy, "Main Title," The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Percepto
22. Tracy Morgan & Donald Glover, "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah," 30 Rock, Relativity Music Group
23. The Roots feat. Jaguar Wright, "What You Want" (from The Best Man), Home Grown! The Beginner's Guide to Understanding The Roots Volume One, Geffen
24. Quincy Jones, "Main Squeeze" (from The Lost Man), The Reel Quincy Jones, Hip-O
25. Quincy Jones, "Ironside," TV Land Crimestoppers: TV's Greatest Cop Themes, Rhino
26. John Powell, "Jason's Theme," The Bourne Identity, Varèse Sarabande
27. Brian Tyler, "Tego and Rico," Fast Five: Original Motion Picture Score, Varèse Sarabande
28. Mike Post, "The Rockford Files," Synth Me Up: 14 Classic Electronic Hits, Hip-O
29. Richard Gibbs, "Main Title (UK Version)," Battlestar Galactica: Season One, La-La Land
30. Queen, "Flash's Theme," Flash Gordon, Hollywood
31. Public Enemy, "Terminator X to the Edge of Panic," It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Def Jam/Columbia
32. Stevie Wonder, "Jungle Fever," Jungle Fever, Motown
33. Eminem, "Lose Yourself," 8 Mile, Interscope
34. David Holmes, "Rip Rip," Out of Sight, Jersey/MCA
35. Brian Tyler, "The Perfect Crew," Fast Five: Original Motion Picture Score, Varèse Sarabande
36. Oingo Boingo, "Goodbye Goodbye," Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Full Moon/Elektra

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