Damien Omen II

My Soundtrack Collection, Circa 1978

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.

  1. Very interesting! I started collecting about 10 years earlier, around 1967 and ’68, when John Williams was Johnny, and impressing me to no end with lush jazzy arrangements for comedies. I remember well, though, the mid 70’s, because Johnny became John, and there was a rediscovery of classic film scoring thanks to Gerhardt and Bernstein re-recordings, and record companies like Citadel and Varese. For me, it was a period when my musical tastes, and considerable album collection, became almost mainstream and, amazingly, of value, even in conversation. I’d say the 70’s made weirdo soundtrack enthusiasts like me into audiophiles of genuine taste.
    I can really relate to your particular fondness for 1978, with the peaking of the new Hollywood blockbusters and their lavish, inventive scores. For me it was a time when Dolby and Lucasfilm where re-inventing sound systems that could again be compared with Cinerama and CinemaScope. It was invigorating when the multiplexes where becoming nuisances.
    Being 10 years older than you, I started collecting in the 60’s, so for me it was discovering International composers that I remember profoundly impacting me, both musically, and in my tastes in films – opening certain soundtrack albums back then were relevatory: Maurice Jarre/DOCTOR ZHIVAGO; Ennio Morricone/THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY; Michel Legrand/THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG; Francis Lai/A MAN AND A WOMAN; Nino Rota/ROMEO AND JULIET; Mikis Theodorakis/Z, to name a few – I still get goosebumps thinking about the first time I played those records!

    1. In my narrow little world, the 60s soundtracks meant all those Oscar nominees that I learned about years ago. Today, I think the international aspect of it is what I think about when I think of that decade in film scoring. And yet, it’s an area in which I am woefully (and shamefully) ignorant. Hell, I just listened to THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY for the first time last week!

      Note to self: Must explore more international composers before you lose all street cred and they take away your Film Score club card.

  2. My 1978 would probably be 1992. It was just a few years earlier that I picked up my very first score, Batman by Danny Elfman. At some point after listening to that score several times I realized, “Hey, I am really liking this. I wonder if other movies have good music.” I went down to my local library and found a large collection of film music. I checked out Star Trek II and The Hunt for Red October among others. I remember being very disappointed when I first heard Star Trek II. My naive thinking was, “What happened to the Star Trek theme from the Motion Picture?” The Hunt for Red October introduced me to synthetic elements and soon my interest expanded. I remember I bought my first CDs at the mall including The Last of the Mohicans, Total Recall, Glory, and 1492. I had no idea really what to expect. All I knew was all the music I had heard by James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith so far was excellent, Last of the Mohicans had some cool track titles like “Elk Hunt,” “Fort Battle,” and “Massacre,” and I really don’t know what made me buy 1492. Maybe it was the interesting looking album cover? My budding habit was definitely not in line with the in crowd especially for a high school student. Fortunately, my best friend also got into scores as well and we propelled each others passion for the art. Thanks for the post John! It was fun to think about my own early collecting years.
    .-= Travis´s last blog ..moviescores: RT @IntradaCDs: New Releases: PRINCE OF PERSIA THE SANDS OF TIME & SHREK FOREVER AFTER (Harry Gregson-Williams) http://bit.ly/36odHq =-.

  3. Wow, I gotta say 1978 was my big year as well. I had gotten hooked on the genre a couple of years earlier, with CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, and didn’t really start collecting until 1978, with THE FURY (JW’s non-blockbuster masterpiece, for me) and of course SUPERMAN and JAWS 2. Those are still my absolutely favorites, I have to say. As for Jerry, I also came in late, with ALIEN in 1979, but I realized really fast that I was going to have to go back and get everything by him… and what a year 1978 was for Goldsmith! COMA, DAMIEN: OMEN II, THE SWARM, CAPRICORN ONE and MAGIC. A lot of composers never even come close to a single one of those compositions, let alone five such masterpieces in one year. And he just kept on creating incomparable music for the next decade or so. Unbelievable.

    I have a special playlist set up on my iTunes just called “1978 Soundtracks” that includes Barry’s STARCRASH, Morricone’s DAYS OF HEAVEN, and even some of Stu Phillips’ music for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, which is pretty great stuff, too.

    Glad I ran across this post. Go, team 1978!

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