This is arguably, still one of the greatest melds of music and visuals ever combined in an opening credit sequence. The energy,excitment and anticipation that Williams' creates, (afterall, it's just a helicopter flying into San Francisco) is incredible. The track is a glorious set piece as it alternates back and forth between the bold rescue motive & syncopated city theme. You get a really cool vibe that the orchestra was having a ball performing this. While the whole cue is a favourite, my favourite moment occurs at 1.50 - 2.12 as the helicopter nears the coast and continues until it pierces through the fog before the Golden Gate Bridge. Just awesome, exciting stuff. Do you have a favourite moment?
I love it at 3:21 with the solemn Dedication to the Fire Fighters and at 3:44 where it cuts to the POV inside the Helicopter,
the whole Kit and Kaboodle is just Outstanding!
Love you Johnny Williams!
The Dedication to the Fire Fighters is my favourite moment as well. I bought this soundtrack in the late 70's, just after 'The Fury' Soundtrack. I missed the FSM release, but i still have the old vinyl release.
Yeah. Good one. I can play it in my head, like, whenever. One of the most upbeat, go to it, pieces of music ever. Someone gave the LP to me right after my Geoff Love Big Movie Terror Themes introduction. I remember thinking, "so this is J. Williams," putting the record on the turntable then . . . having my socks knocked off.
Excellent topic Steve. This film is increasingly becoming an easy target for cheap shot critics. It's an excellent film that has stood and, as far as I'm concerned, will stand the test of time. The special effects are very good, one of them being the music. The opening theme is a very rousing piece and a favourite one of mine too.
Another gripping piece is this one.
Starting at 13:15 for the build up 13:41 shifting gear and 13:53.........BOOOOM
I think it wrote a completely new chapter in music film history in that the countdown effect had never before been done with such power and with such an impressive approach. The only time that I can think of that I heard something like it, is the countdown to the blowing up of the powerplant of colony LV-426 in Aliens.
"Let there be light" is fun as it is the predecessor to the Superman "Krypton" theme.
As for my favourite listening experiences without the film, that'll be the light themes. I love 1970s waspy muzak: "Something for Susan" "More for Susan" "Harlee Dressing" "Alone at Last" and absolute number one "Lisolette and Harlee"
If ever there's to be a reissue, I want it to contain the LP version too as I grew up with that one, and it has all the best bits. If that is on the new release, I'll buy it straight away even though I have the FSM CD already.
This will forever be the movie that began my love of film music and John Williams. As a kid I regularly watched this several times a week!
In my opinion, it has absolutely stood the test of time. Whenever it's on TV I just have to stop doing whatever I'm doing and watch it. I'm still wowed by a lot of the special effects-- seriously, this movie does it better than any modern CGI. And the performances walk that nice line between realism and camp.
The opening titles-- my favorite moment is that upward french horn call right at the very end when Newman and the helicopter approach the rooftop and we see the tower in all it's glory.
I really hope that there will be an "Egyptian"-like scenario with this score someday-- where they find complete stereo tracks in fantastic condition. It would definitely be my holy grail.
I've never understood the fascination - or love - for this score. I saw the film at the cinema on a second run, probably about 1976, and that was a time when I saw lots of films and sought out the film scores (vinyl LPs) if I liked the music.
I don't recall ever thinking about getting that OST.
A fellow OST collector recorded the main theme for me on a cassette tape a few years later, saying how great a theme it was (is) - he was/is a fan of John Williams' scores - but it still did nothing for me.
I'm not sure I could ever be bothered to watch the film again so I think this is one of the greats which will pass me by ...
I'm not the biggest Williams' fan, but I do love this film, and his music for it, is part of that love. The man certainly can write exciting main titles. I think SUPERMAN's main title is his masterwork, but this one is certainly good.
Always liked the very beginning where all we hear is the helicopter motor and the music builds and rises up to take prominence. I like the way that works; the natural sound is replaced by cinematic sound.
And have to add a favorite moment is the overhead shot of the helicopter skimming over the shore line at 30 seconds in and Williams' music skates along with it. Fantastic little moment.
I have always been fascinated by this whole TOWERING INFERNO title sequence and I've come to realize for me it is a helicopter with music thing that clicks with approval and delight in my brain. What is one of cinema's most famous scenes? The Wagner played over helicopters flying through the air in APOCALYPSE NOW. Just something about helicopters being meshed with great symphonic music does it for me...and I can see does it for others as well.
Have to say, even better than those TOWERING INFERNO or APOCALYPSE NOW helicopter/music scenes is the "Journey To Blofeld's Hideaway" scene in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. That music and the helicopter flying amidst the mighty Alps...glorious scene.
I can probably go on and on with great helicopter/music scenes. The simple fact is there is something hypnotic and delightful about those types of scenes.
I've never been that hot on this score, for some reason.
Don't get me wrong, it's good and I have a soft spot for disaster epics (silly as they sometimes are), but just not the intense love I often see around here. The opening theme is great, as well as the "planting the charges" sequence. But there's a little too much sneaking-around stuff for my taste. Tenuti strings and so on.
This was John Williams circa 1974. His portfolio was only so big then. We all know it's a bit bigger now, of course, but back then this was a fresh new breeze. It has been argued that JW reinvigorated the symphonic score using the language of leitmotif from Star Wars, etc. Not so. That process began long before, IMHO. This was music with layers of complexity from the pen of a musical genius.
Along with the Eiger Sanction and the Reivers, the Towering Inferno it is one of my favourite themes from Williams. The first half of the 1970s was when Williams started to produce some really great scores and themes.
Favorite moment? Well, I love the main title completely and utterly. But, if I had to pick the "moment"... it would be when the tower is first seen. Wonderful stuff. Ah... the good old days of Irwin Allen disaster movies... Guess what I am going to listen to now...
Thanks Steve for bringing this topic back into people's memories. Hopefully it will stir the imaginations of listeners and be the impetus for some enterprising producer to instigate an entirely new edition of this wonderful score.
Most of you may know (gee just look at my avatar) that this film is my favourite of all time. I know every second of the score... and as sensational as the FSM CD was in 2001 there are still enough differences and omissions (for whatever reason: master tapes missing, damaged beyond repair etc) to warrant having a completely new and more annotated edition.
Digital restoration technology we are told, has progressed to an entirely new level and what may not have been possible ten years ago may certainly be possible now. I know Lukas has stated numerous times that the studio relationships it took to get this CD done no longer exist for them, so hopefully some label in the medium term future can get this out. Judging by the e-bay offerings and top dollar prices it commands, it surely indicates there is still a market for it.
I can fully understand that the film's score may not be everyone's cup of tea; I however err on the opposite side -- John Williams really created one of his most enduring works and certainly it was the catalyst that eventually led him to "Star Wars" and beyond to evolve him into the master composer he is revered as today.
I am sure I have noted this elsewhere in the forum in the past although I could not find the thread so here is what should be included if a future restoration release of this score ever comes to fruition:
"Main Title" alternate (Original LP version): This version -- recorded during the same sessions -- differs from the film version slightly and is almost identical. Those with astute hearing will notice there is a different balance of instruments in 2 spots, and in particular the snare drum percussion is much less prominent than the film version recording and features additional cymbal work.
"Something for Susan" The Warner Bros. LP track was a combination of the film version and it's reprisal (More for Susan) heard on the FSM CD.
"Trapped Lovers" Just for completist sake, the WB LP version omitts the 15 second extension scene of Lorrie smashing the chair through the window of the 65th floor office window.
"An Architect's Dream" - End Titles The anomalies associated with this cue are that the film credits version has a longer sustained final note than the original album track. Incidentally the original LP version has a more upbeat final coda than does this version recorded during the same sessions.
More importantly it would be great to have all of these extras which for time and space considerations were not available to FSM and would indicate that if all elements were found and cleaned up, that a second CD could make this a much prized 2 CD set if ever released again...
“Head Set Leakage” – source music for Phillip’s headphones.
“Again” – An instrumental by Fox music director Lionel Newman that is heard on the 81st floor as the Real estate agent shows a pair of prospective tenants through the lobby.
“The More I See You” – This Harry Warren and Mack Gordon tune is heard immediately following the dedication ceremony as guests make their way to the scenic elevator for a trip to the Promenade Room party.
“We May Never Love Like This Again” – Instrumental of the film’s Oscar winning song heard as an extension of the vocal film version.
“Lisolette and Harlee” (Alternate) – A pop arrangement of their theme accompanies the two in their scene following the vocal version of the above track which segues in from the instrumental.
“Maggie Shoots Pool”– A snippet of this cue from Williams’ score to “Cinderella Liberty” is heard as source music in the Promenade Room and is a different recording to that featured on the FSM CD of that title.
“The Promenade Room”– One of the most sought after unreleased cues from the film is the one where Williams provides some low-key lounge music for this source cue. Chief O’Halloran orders Duncan to evacuate the party; the music becomes louder as Lisolette and Harlee are seen dancing and Duncan lectures Roger. The track features a ragged ending as Duncan asks the house band to stop playing and is most likely the reason it was left off the FSM CD, but surely an artificial fade could be added in order to preserve it in its entirety?
“The Rescue of Angela” – When Phillip announces that his sister is missing, Roberts tries to find her. (This cue was missing from the master tapes, hence not included on the CD).
“The Blocked Door” – Duncan and Senator Parker check the stairwell exits only to find one clouded with smoke and the other cemented shut. (Missing from the master tapes, hence not included on the CD).
“Down the Ropes” – When a power outage stalls their service elevator near the 77th floor, O’Halloran and three of his men must rappel 12 stories down the elevator shaft. (This cue was missing from the master tapes, hence not included on the CD).
“The Kiss of Life” – Firemen discover an unconscious man overcome by smoke and attempt to revive him. This lengthy scene was edited out of the theatrical cut but appears in the longer TV Broadcast version. (It is scored with an un-titled 30 second cue that curiously does not appear on the official cue sheet nor on the surviving master tapes).
“Hanging Out”– O’Halloran struggles to hold on to the fireman until the scenic elevator can reach the ground. (While it is listed on the Cue Sheet, it is not heard in the film and wasn’t found on the master tapes.)
“What Explosion?” – O’Halloran is told he is the only one qualified to rig the charges to the water tanks. A string crescendo leads to his reaction when he learns he will not be able to escape before the explosion. (This cue was also missing from the master tapes, and hence not included on the CD).
The "Irwin Allen" cymbal crashes are a hoot, but I think the part where this track transcends "plain old main title territory" is at 2:22, when he introduces that energetic, syncopated countermelody. It continues along until the main theme comes back in again, giving a fun complexity to what otherwise might have been just a humdrum reprise.
To me, this is where Williams first exhibits the musical genius and perhaps also the years of jazz and other training that would later make his "preparation montage" fugues so much fun in later scores, along with other classical-form-inspired cues over the years.
For a fun challenge, I try to hum along with the countermelody (even after the main theme comes back) all the way through to its end.
To me the end credit theme, playing a few themes all together was just grand, fantastic, funny i remember before i bought the album in the early 80's, it got shown on network TV, and i cross my fingers, while i was taping it on my tape recorder, hoping, please no voice overs to ruin the end credit theme, i was happy no voice overs came on, and i think i worn out that cassette tape listening to that piece dozen of times till i got the lp a few years later.