18 April 2007

The fight for Gremlins

It was one of the biggest hits of 1984. It had a score from a famed name in film composition. It contained an addictive jazzy theme. But for mysterious reasons, Gremlins never received a proper film soundtrack release. All that music fans could get was a “Specially-Priced 7-Cut Mini Album” (so the cover advertised, see above) with three pop songs on one side, and four Goldsmith tracks, totaling under fifteen minutes, on the other.

And since then... nothing. Except for a recording of a suite Goldsmith sometimes played in concert and a bootleg. That’s it. Despite the huge amounts of both classic and obscure Goldsmith scores that have been available on CD, from Gremlins we’ve had a big fat zero. I thought that Goldsmith’s death in 2004 might hasten getting the score available as a memorial, but nope. Still nothing. Where is my Gremlins album? What’s holding it up? Apathy? Rights issues? Ignorance of the demand for it?

I finally wearied of simply hoping an album would appear and decided to do some checking. My first stop, Varèse Sarabande, the premiere CD releasing company for film soundtracks. They’ve release more Goldsmith albums than any other company and have licensed many scores from Warner Bros. films. I went to their website and fired out this email to the soundtrack division:
Dear Varèse Sarabande Soundtracks Department,

First of all, thank you so much for the release of The Vanishing. [Always starts these letters with a compliment.] As a Goldsmith fanatic who owns probably every Varèse release of a Goldsmith score available, it was wonderfully to finally get my hands on a score that I had previously thought “lost” forever to the listening world.

Second—and this is probably a question asked often about Goldsmith’s unreleased scores—what are the possibilities of a real, full release of the score to the original Gremlins? The only crumbs collectors have had is that tiny “mini” album released back in 1984. I know this would be a huge seller for a Goldsmith album. Are there legal issues involved with a release of such a score, such as issues with Warner Bros. music? Has any attempt to made to get such an album put together? If there are such problems, what can we as fans do to help?

Thank you for your time,

Ryan Harvey
A few days later, I got the following response from Varèse Sarabande:
Thank you for your note, kind words and suggestion.
That’s it (except for two pages of pasted-in advertisement for upcoming releases). A disclaimer on the mail page on its website says: “Due to the large volume of email we receive, we cannot reply to every message submitted.” However, I expected a slightly more detailed response to a serious letter that posed some serious questions. I’m thinking of writing back to Varèse and putting the question to them again. Perhaps they skimmed over it, or an intern was answering the mail that day. Anyway, considering my positive experiences with Varèse Sarabande in the past, this sort of brush-off is disappointing.

Next stop, the source: Warner Bros. Records. A Gremlins album would be perfect for their Warner Archives label. And perhaps they will know if there is a music rights issue involved. However, Warner Bros. Records apparently doesn’t want people to contact them through email, so after fruitless searching for an email address on their website, I had to resort to their snail mail address:
Warner Bros. Records
P.O. Box 6868
Burbank, CA 91510

Dear Warner Bros. Records,

I am writing this letter to inquire about a possible CD release of the full score to the motion picture Gremlins by Jerry Goldsmith. ­Gremlins was one of Warner Bros. biggest hits of the 1980s, and the late Mr. Goldsmith is one of the most revered film composers in history (and has a long line of excellent releases of his material to CD, even from his most obscure films). However, the only album of music from Gremlins available when the film came out was a “Specially Priced 7-cut Mini Album” which contained only four tracks of Goldsmith’s score on the second side, totaling about fifteen minutes. Since then, there has been no lengthier release of Goldsmith’s score with the exception of a bootleg, even though many of Goldsmith’s classic scores in his catalog have found their way to CD and eager fans; Gremlins is one of his best-known scores and comes from his long collaboration with Joe Dante.

Certainly, a full album of Gremlins is long overdue, and would sell well if it were released. It would be a perfect CD for Warner Archives, much like the release of the full score for the original John Williams score to Superman a few years ago. You could also license the music to the superb soundtrack releasing company Var
èse Sarabande: a limited run through their Soundtrack Club would easily sell out in a month.

Is it possible there is a rights issue involved in a release? Does Warner Bros. Music not own the full score? If this is the case, what can we as fans do to help expedite getting Gremlins onto CD?

Please consider my suggestion, and thank you for your time.

Ryan Harvey
I wonder if this will prompt any response. I doubt I’m the first person to bring this to either company’s attention, but every little prod helps. And that there is no Gremlins album at all is really completely nonsensical considering how many lesser Goldsmith albums (like the recent Vanishing release or my new CD of Breakheart Pass) are available.

If you have the time and the inclination, please give a shout out to Varèse or a mail to Warner Bros. and maybe we can get the rusty wheels of the music business moving and give us the Gremlins Rag!

Update: I chose to send a letter through regular mail to Varèse as a follow-up. The content remains the same as my email, but with this preface:

I recently sent you an email request regarding the possible release of a full-length CD album of Jerry Goldsmith’s score to Gremlins. I posed a few serious questions in it, but the only email response I received was the single line: “Thank you for your kind words and your suggestion.” I am now sending my questions through regular mail in hopes that this will receive the proper attention and response.

Polite, but expressing subtle disappointment.

Update II: And I never heard anything back.