Forget Neil Armstrong. John Williams‘ “one small step” (or more accurately half-step) was a giant leap…at least for film music. The simple, yet effective, two-note motif Williams employed in JAWS invokes terror from the opening bars. It has been parodied and plagiarized ever since.
Yes, Spielberg’s images would have been frightening by themselves, but the superbly edited trailer used Williams’ music to great effect, scaring the bejesus out of this 13-year-old kid. Anticipation for the film was high, but tales of problems on the set were rampant and no one expected the film to succeed. Due to the film’s success in advance screenings, JAWS became the first film to be released nationwide on hundreds of screens simultaneously. It ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster movies, a practice that continues to this day.
In the words of Spielberg, Williams’ score was “clearly responsible for half the success of that movie.” I’d bet more than half.