I was still a relative film score virgin in 1978. I had only been collecting soundtracks for a couple of years by that point. I’d gotten to second base but had yet to go all the way. With nearly 35 years of film music collecting under my belt, that year remains remarkably clear in my memory. With so many great scores over the years, the question is, “Why 1978?”
I can’t answer that. Certain years resound more than others with me. For instance, there’s 1969, the year Dorothy, I mean Judy Garland, died and man landed on the moon. That’s the first year I can vividly remember events that happened outside of my little 7-year-old sphere. Then there’s 1984, probably my favorite party year–drinking and dancing to the sounds of ABBA, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, Cyndi Lauper, and Purple Rain.
So what jogged this particular memory enough to write a blog post about it?
Last weekend, a friend sent me John Williams’s score to JAWS 2. I haven’t heard that score in probably 30 years. I never converted it over from LP and I don’t own the CD incarnation. I put it on and the memories came rushing back. There I was, at age 47, giddy with delight like the 16-year-old I was in 1978. I had discovered this forgotten gem all over again. (Shameless plug: I’ll be discussing this score a bit more in the June newsletter next week. Please sign up in the sidebar if you haven’t already.) From that one score came a flood of other scores from that particular year.
At the time, the anchors of my soundtrack collection (I’d never heard of the terms “film score” or “film music”) were the Big Three: THE OMEN, STAR WARS, and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. These were the first three scores I purchased and they remain central to my listening pleasure. (I gotta say, those are three mighty impressive scores to start out any collection.)
With THE OMEN taking the top perch (where it remains to this day), it was only natural that I would seek out more Goldsmith, and 1978 was a particularly fertile year for the composer. DAMIEN: OMEN II was a “must have” as was one of my favorites even today, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL. This doesn’t even include films like COMA (which I didn’t purchase at the time) and MAGIC (which wasn’t released until a few years ago), scores with memorable musical moments that took me back in time once I added them to my collection later on.
STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS brought John Williams a new level of fame, especially in my little world, and all new Williams scores became automatic purchases. Along with JAWS 2, there was the instant classic, SUPERMAN. But I have a certain fondness for THE FURY. As a sophomore in high school, my family had moved and I was now at a new school. I got surprisingly bumped to first chair in the clarinet section and made some instant enemies with a couple of seniors who expected the seat. Rather than play “Shake Your Groove Thing” in stilted marching band arrangements, I would have much rather had the chance to play the clarinet solo in Williams’s main theme.
The rest of my collection was an eclectic group of composers, like it is now. I can still see the stark white cover of Ennio Morricone’s DAYS OF HEAVEN, with the beautiful stills of Néstor Almendros’s cinematography. THE DEER HUNTER wasn’t much of a soundtrack album, but Stanley Myers’s “Cavatina” haunted me for weeks after seeing the film.
And by 1978 I had discovered Golden Age film music. Since most Golden Age scores weren’t available on LP (or I hadn’t gotten to them yet), I played the hell out of my Charles Gerhardt recordings.
Then there are the guilty pleasures. Few films are shamelessly schmaltzy as the blind ice skater flick, ICE CASTLES. But Marvin Hamlisch’s score contains some of his most beautiful music. Sidney Lumet’s adaptation of THE WIZ sucked then and now, but you’d never know it from the soundtrack album. Quincy Jones’s adaptation of Charlie Smalls’s Tony Award-winning score was inspired. If I close my eyes, I can still see me and my “harem” easing down the road in the Taco Bell parking lot. It’s not a pretty picture, but it makes me smile.
Great scores have come and gone over the years—some better than on this list, and many much worse. As I look back over these scores, I still can’t define why this particular year sticks with me. Perhaps there is some deeply (and probably justifiably) repressed personal memory still waiting to be unlocked. If so, maybe it’s best left in the dark. Not everything needs a reason. I still gain countless hours of listening pleasure from every score on this list. That’s a memory worth cherishing.