Tuesday, March 31, 2009

List habit

Matthew from the Culture Kills blog says he would like me to post what my 10 favorite film scores are.

Terence Blanchard's 'Fruit of Islam' is one of the few film score instrumentals that spawned a music video for airplay on MTV or in 'Fruit of Islam''s case, BET. 'Duel of the Fates,' 'Axel F' and the Chariots of Fire theme are some other instrumental themes that got video channel airplay.That's too much pressure, Matt! I dig so many of them. Scores come in many different categories or genres (film, TV, synthesizer, 80-to-100-piece-orchestra, blaxploitation, espionage, poliziotto, lederhosen porn...). It's too broad a question, and it'd be difficult to narrow them down to 10.

I don't spend much time on Facebook(*) anymore (mostly because I now prefer the more stripped-down Twitter), but there's one thing I enjoy doing on Facebook: making lists(**) of my favorite pieces of music on Facebook's LivingSocial and iLike apps.

(*) Damn, even Facebook's CFO doesn't like the new Facebook either. He hates it so much he quit!

(**) The title of this post refers to the "List Habit" tag that Kim Morgan uses for her list-crazy posts.

In LivingSocial's case, the app has you post Top 5 lists of your favorite things. So instead of a "Top 10 favorite scores" list, I'll repost the Top 5 lists of favorite score cues (or scores) under certain categories that I've been posting on LivingSocial and Twitter.

Five favorite marches from original film or TV scores
5. John Williams, "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)," The Empire Strikes Back
4. John Williams, "March from 1941"
3. Jerry Goldsmith, "Main Title," Star Trek: The Motion Picture
2. John Williams, "Main Title," Superman: The Movie
1. Terence Blanchard, "Fruit of Islam," Malcolm X

God, the Oscars are a joke. How could they not nominate Terence Blanchard for his 1992 Malcolm X score, which is filled with awesome themes like "Fruit of Islam," the cue he wrote for the film's Harlem march sequence? What was the score that won in 1993? Oh right, Aladdin. Give me a break.

Gene Roddenberry dug the Star Trek: The Motion Picture march so much that he recycled it for Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987. TV composer Dennis McCarthy wrote an updated arrangement of the march, and it was performed by an orchestra that was smaller than the 90-piece orchestra that performed it back in 1979. That explains why the TNG version lacks oomph. I prefer the original 1979 rendition. I like how the brass sounds jazzier.

Five other favorite marches
5. Ennio Morricone, "March of the Beggars," Duck, You Sucker
4. Jerry Goldsmith, "Attack," Patton
3. Elmer Bernstein, "Main Title," The Great Escape
2. Elmer Bernstein, "Stripes March"
1. John Williams, "End Credits," Raiders of the Lost Ark

Five favorite film scores frequently sampled by beatmakers
5. The Mack (Willie Hutch)
4. Superfly (Curtis Mayfield)
3. Trouble Man (Marvin Gaye)
2. Enter the Dragon (Lalo Schifrin)
1. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (David Shire)

Five favorite Danny Elfman film scores
5. Dead Presidents
4. Pee-wee's Big Adventure
3. Mission: Impossible
2. Batman
1. Midnight Run

Five favorite original TV themes
5. It Takes a Thief (third season version) (Dave Grusin)
4. I Spy (Earle Hagen)
3. Barney Miller (Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson)
2. The Persuaders! (John Barry)
1. Cowboy Bebop (Yoko Kanno)

Listeners like Portland film critic and CulturePulp artist Mike Russell have told me they became Yoko Kanno fans after hearing her Cowboy Bebop score tracks on my station.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, what's the crappiest original TV theme of all time? I was going to say Enterprise, but then I remembered the Diane Warren-penned "Where My Heart Will Take Me" wasn't an original work. It was recycled from Patch Adams, of all movies. (In a sketch I wrote for A Fistful of Soundtracks' 2002 Halloween special, gangbangers torture a hostage by subjecting him to the Enterprise theme.)

The worst original TV theme is Joanie Loves Chachi, hands down. Click at your own peril.


  1. "Listeners like Portland film critic and CulturePulp artist Mike Russell have told me they became Yoko Kanno fans after hearing her Cowboy Bebop score tracks on my station."

    That's me right there, man. Thanks again for introducing me to Yoko Kanno!

  2. This is a great list Jimmy. And your #2 for the television themes is just inspired.