21 August 2009

In which I discuss my Jerry Goldsmith obsession

I first turned into a Jerry Goldsmith fan in November 1990 when I listened to the score to The Omen—without the film to accompany it. This event was a musical lightning bolt to the brain for me. I had already started to collect film scores, in a neophyte high-school kid way (I was just starting my senior year) and enjoyed the populist scores everybody knew from John Williams, John Barry, and Ennio Morricone (and, believe it or not, Bernard Herrmann). I even had a few Goldsmith albums, and knew he was one of the most important of film composers. But the Satanic Majesty of The Omen twisted my mind around. It was flat-out terrifying, and I had never had a piece of film music actually collide with me as if I had stepped in front of a speeding Mack truck.

At that point, aside from realizing I was now officially a film music fan and not just some kid who liked the music he heard in Spielberg and Ray Harryhausen films, I decided I had to get as much music by this Jerry Goldsmith fellow as I possible could.

Here I am, nineteen years later and five years after the death of the composer, and I can make a full digital survey of my Goldsmith collection that came from that initial impulse. I’ve finished uploading my complete Goldsmith collection to my iTunes and then onto my iPod, where I have specially catalogued, dated, and organized them. I can now see, in cold data, my near twenty-year obsession with the greatest composer in the history of the medium of the film score.

I own 125 distinct soundtrack albums, each one consisting of a single score (some are the original recordings, others are re-recordings, but each contains the majority of the music heard in the specific film). Factoring in anthology re-recording albums that include only Goldsmith’s music as well as his concert music like Christus Apollo, the total play-length of my Goldsmith collection is ninety-four hours long, a touch under four days. If I counted all the Goldsmith tracks scattered over other anthology albums, I’m sure I’d get well into the fourth day.

Jerry Goldsmith remarked that he didn’t think that every thing he ever wrote should be available on album. I understand his reticence (all artists have done work that they later disliked), but nevertheless I certainly have made an effort to get all that’s available.

From 1986 until Goldsmith’s death and his last two released scores, Looney Toons: Back in Action and the unused music to Timeline, I am missing only one score: the 1994 I.Q. And the reason for that is the score was never released. Last week, looking over the list of what I had, I realized I never got the score to Not without My Daughter, which amazingly slipped through my hands when it came out. I immediately ordered a copy of it in the limited edition expanded version and uploaded it about an hour ago. So now, except for I.Q., I’ve got an uninterrupted Goldsmith catalogue from Poltergeist II: The Other Side to Looney Toons: Back in Action.

Earlier scores are a sparser in availability, of course. My ‘70s collection—Goldsmith’s best era, I believe—is very full, and only missing the scores that have never received an official release. My earliest albums are the only ones that are available to collectors: Studs Lonigan, Lonely Are the Brave (released last month for the first time), and Freud.

With such a long and prolific career, it’s natural that Jerry Goldsmith would produce some lesser work. Still, looking over my collection, it strikes me that there are only a few albums that I think are duds. I’ve explored a few of the albums that I hadn’t paid much attention to over the years, and re-discovered some hidden classics. I’ve had The Russia House score since it was first released (that December after I became a Goldsmith fan), but I never realized how amazing it is until now. Likewise for The Cassandra Crossing.

Surveying the whole collection, I picked out the albums that I return to again and again, and put them in their own playlist. Here’s my “Perennial Goldsmith” list: Alien, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Basic Instinct, The Boys from Brazil, Capricorn One, Chinatown, Christus Apollo, Damien: Omen II, Hoosiers, L.A. Confidential, Legend, Lonely Are the Brave (yes, already!), MacArthur, The Mummy (1999), The Omen (1976), Outland, Patton, Planet of the Apes (1968), Poltergeist, Rambo: First Blood—Part II, Rio Conchos, Rudy, The Sand Pebbles, The Secret of NIMH, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Supergirl, The Swarm, Timeline (unused score), Total Recall, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Wild Rovers, and The Wind and the Lion.

Yes, obsession. But I’m a Fan. I make no apologies.

I’m going to go listen to Rio Conchos right now: got a Goldsmith Western hankerin’.