Friday Sept 30—Last Day for Free Raksin 5CD Offer! Purchase $100 of FSM CDs and get a free David Raksin at M-G-M 5CD Set—24 Hours to Go! Follow the link for instructions.
Here is part three of my overview of our FSM CD catalog—which titles were sold out, which are getting low (including exact quantities) and which would be around for some time to come. Go here for The Early Years and Volume 5 (2002) reports.
But First—Low Quantity Updates! 9/30/11:
Checkmate/Rhythm in Motion (Johnny Williams): Less than 100 left!
McQ (Elmer Bernstein): Less than 60 left!
Now, onto Volume 6…People tell me they like my anecdotes so I will try to add my recollections of each project. I wish I could scare the dickens out of collectors by threatening that these are about to sell out—but that is only the case with McQ. We made sure to press these in sufficient quantities so that everyone who wanted a copy could get one.
But as a consequence, we have to count on people buying these only after they’ve grabbed some limited edition of 1,200 just out of terror that it might otherwise sell out. What a bizarre business model: counting on people to buy things because they like the music! For the most part, it worked, but I would like to try to refresh people’s memory as to why we chose to release these titles—please click through to the product pages for sound clips.
Vol. 6, No. 1: Plymouth Adventure (Rozsa): We have pressed 2500 of the 3000-copy limited edition of which 350 are in stock. (When those 350 sell out, we will likely press the remaining 500 as we have the booklets and tray cards to do so.) My enduring memory of this project (besides adoring the Rozsa music) is asking Jeff Bond to make a CDR of a DAT that Warner Bros. had of the ancient MGM Records album master of excerpts from Madame Bovary, Ivanhoe and Plymouth Adventure. Back in the day, we had a portable DAT player and desktop CDR burner and they were an hassle to operate…this was only 8 years ago, but how times have changed with technology.
Vol. 6, No. 2: Ice Station Zebra (Legrand): We have manufactured 4500 of the so-called 3000-copy limited edition, which makes this one of those titles on which we have “gone over” and will pay the royalties to keep it in print—so long as our collector friends don’t chase us down with pitchforks for the fact that the packages still say “limited edition of 3,000 copies.” We have 400 in stock. GREAT Legrand score to a famous/infamous cult classic Cold War thriller with some awesome scenery-chewing by Patrick McGoohan and his forehead. I was thrilled at the sound quality we got from the six-track magnetic film masters compared to the dreadful old MGM Records album master.
Vol. 6, No. 3: Home From the Hill (Kaper): We have pressed 2000 of the 3000 copies of which 400 are in stock. Sadly, old dramas like this are not as commercial as adventure films, biblical epics, or, most notably, sci-fi/fantasy. Kaper’s score is absolutely lovely. The theme always struck me as resembling John Barry’s later Dances With Wolves “John Dunbar Theme”—I am not saying Barry copied Kaper, it is just one of those coincidences that apparently only I hear.
Vol. 6, No. 4: THX 1138 (Schifrin): I lost track of how many we made of these due to some lost booklets we had to reprint. I think we made 4000 of which we are down to the last 500-600. It was a real thrill to work on this George Lucas soundtrack, especially given how proprietary Lucas is over his universe. So while all of you complain about the endless changes to the Star Wars films, I have actually done something to strike back against the Empire, hee hee hee! (Don’t kill me. Only joking.) The music was not placed in the film exactly as Schifrin intended so it took some creative interpretation to make an album out of the recorded cues. I asked Warner Bros. for a license assuming if it was a problem, they would say no—they said yes and I am very proud of our release. It’s a terrific and evocative yet intimate Lalo Schifrin score from what he amusingly calls his “weird” period. (A few years after the CD was released, I got a call from Lucas’s personal secretary at Lucasfilm and apparently George had obtained a copy and wanted additional copies to give to some of his old USC filmmaker friends, at the time they were doing the special edition DVD. I held my breath and asked, “Did he like it?” although it might have come out, “Am I in trouble?” And the answer was no, apparently George liked it just fine and what can I say except I am still breathing?)
Vol. 6, No. 5: Green Fire/Bhowani Junction (Rozsa): We made 2500 copies of the 3000 limited edition of which 400 are in stock. Green Fire is a terrific, full-blooded Rozsa score, with Bhowani Junction a kind of Indian source music “non-score” that is nonetheless intriguing to Rozsaphiles. By the time of this CD I was becoming very hands-on regarding our booklets, whether or not I wrote the notes personally. Bhowani Junction was interesting to research in that the story of how George Cukor made the film was more interesting than the film itself. For Green Fire, all I remember is an anecdote where someone recalled Grace Kelly as a “sexual tyrannosaurus.” That did not go into the CD booklet, but it is amusing what the mind retains years after the fact.
Vol. 6, No. 6: All Fall Down/The Outrage (North): We have made 2000 of the 3000 copies, of which well over 400 are still in stock. Want to know perhaps the greatest film composer whose CDs sell the least amount of copies, even to the hardcore collectors? Alex North. I can only assume that it is because his music has such a refined and modernist character that it just doesn’t grip people the way a Rozsa symphonic score does—North’s action music is too intellectual, and his romantic themes too intimate and subtle (even as they are gorgeous). I was proud of this CD and enjoyed the music. M-G-M’s 35mm mag almost always survived the years in terrific condition compared to the Fox archives where the mag is wowing and problematic at best.
Vol. 6, No. 7: Knights of the Round Table/The King’s Thief (Rozsa): We have pressed 4000 of this 3000 copy limited edition—adventure Rozsa is always a hit! We have 700 in stock. The masters for Knights of the Round Table threw me for a loop because the unused British recording (which we later released in full on our 15CD Rozsa box set) was intermixed with the original soundtrack performance recorded in Los Angeles. Mastering engineer Doug Schwartz used to sing along with the opening bars of the Knights “Prelude”: “This is not Ben-Hur, this is not Ben-Hur, this is NOT BEN-HUR, NOT BEN-HUR, NOT BEN-HUR!” (Try it!)
Vol. 6, No. 8: Soylent Green (Myrow)/Demon Seed (Fielding): We have made 4000 and have 550 in stock. I am very proud of this CD. Both scores had to be slightly cut down to fit on a single CD and while I later stopped making edits of this sort, this album became very listenable (as opposed to not) through some sculpting and pruning of the ambient soundscapes. Our friend Scott Bettencourt (of Film Score Friday) told me he waited 30 years to hear the electric violin source cue in Soylent Green, “Can I Do Something for You?” That’s the kind of obscure, heartfelt feedback—I am not kidding—that is the most fulfilling when you do these CDs. Demon Seed was fascinating for the discovery of Jerry Fielding’s unused electronic cues that he (under protest) had to replace with symphonic music (that he mostly reworked from Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia).
Vol. 6, No. 9: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Moross): We have made 2000 of the 3000 copies and have 170 in stock. Moross did not score many films so it was a pleasure to be able to release this one. I hope I don’t get hate mail by saying that most if not all of his scores sound the same to me—but his style was great and always a delight to hear.
Vol. 6, No. 10: Our Mother’s House/The 25th Hour (Delerue): We have made 2500 of the 3000 copies and have 500 in stock. Lovely Delerue scores. I remember borrowing a copy of the 25th Hour LP just to make sure the channels had not been flipped on our master—that is one of the dozens of subtle little things that always has to be checked before a CD goes to the plant.
This particular month (I think June 2003) we released three CDs—a production challenge—and the third was a “bonus” of an oddball title (the first time we used a $16.95, not $19.95 retail price):
Vol. 6, No. 11: The Appointment (Legrand/Barry/Phillips): We have made 2500 of the 3000 copies and have 190 in stock. I am very proud of this CD. It was truly a bizarro-world project—three scores to the same film! It was an entertaining story to tell in the liner notes and I enjoyed all three scores. I was happy to release Stu Phillips’s score as he has been a good friend and supporter over the years—plus I like the score, flower-power vibe and all. I remember Stu’s recollection of rescoring the film: he said he watched a screening, after which he turned to the studio executive to ask, “What exactly do you want me to do that John Barry didn’t do?” I love his cue title, “Thank God, She Dies.” If you have seen the movie, or even if you haven’t, you can imagine the sentiment. I remember our product rep at Rhino asking, “Who’s that girl on the cover?” Ahem, that’s Anouk Aimee, but I guess it ain’t 1967 anymore.
Vol. 6, No. 12: Toys in the Attic (Duning): Stiff of the century! Did I mention dramas don’t sell? We made 1600 units and still have 189 in stock. No way are we going to press more as we’ll have these 189 for the next 20 years…unless YOU buy one! I have had a fondness for George Duning’s music ever since I heard his lovely Star Trek (1960s) episode scores like “Metamorphosis” and “The Empath.” Toys in the Attic was an exciting discovery because most of the United Artists master tapes were discarded during one of their disastrous changes in ownership. However, over the years, elements had been sent to United Artists Records to make record albums—or sometimes just for consideration for same. The UA Records tape library was stored with EMI-Capitol (their distributor), then returned to MGM in the 1990s—and is today the primary source for music masters from UA films. Toys in the Attic was a rare case where the ½” three-track masters were vaulted at the record company even though no album was made—thus we got to present this melodic Duning score in complete form and pristine sound. But when I send in the royalty reports to MGM, it’s pathetic, like 3 copies sold a quarter. Poor George Duning!
Vol. 6, No. 13: Hawkins on Murder/Winter Kill/Babe (Goldsmith): We have pressed 2500 of the 3000-copy edition and have 300 on hand. Terrific rare 1970s Goldsmith TV projects! Thanks to Jon Burlingame who wrote the liner notes. I can’t tell you what a dream it is when Burlingame does your liner notes: as a CD producer, you want a writer who can research the projects, give you primary-source quotes and facts you will never find anywhere else in the world—and can also write professionally and clearly to the point where you barely have to even proofread it…but if you do have an editorial or copyediting question, Jon is completely professional and will promptly make changes and improvements. It’s like driving a Mercedes, not a go-cart. I only wish he had more time to do more projects.
Vol. 6, No. 14: The Cobweb/Edge of the City (Rosenman): We have made 2000 of the 3000 copies and have—yikes!—550 in stock. Like I said—dramas don’t sell. Nonetheless I would release this CD a hundred times, these scores are that important. I don’t have time to write my entire recollection of Leonard Rosenman, but as arrogant as he could be in his interviews, in person he was charming and lovely and I adored him. Towards the end of his life he suffered from frontotemporal dementia (look it up) and it was tragic to watch such a towering intellect diminish—but he retained his happy spirit, warmth and humor. For The Cobweb, I asked Rosenman’s (fourth) wife Judie for research help, and she said she wasn’t around in the 1950s at the time of these movies, but would I like it if she called Lenny’s first wife Adele for help? Yes, Adele was still around and happy to be of assistance. A remarkable family. Lenny’s memorial service was a sad but also magical occasion and I remember talking to Irvin Kershner and Nick Meyer (separately) around the Rosenmans’ pool. The Cobweb is famously the first Hollywood score primarily constructed using the twelve-tone system of serial music. (It kind of takes a rarified ear to admire it, but once you do, it’s like fine wine.) Rosenman was an intellectual giant of the 20th century…he rubbed elbows with everyone from Kazan to Schoenberg to Kubrick to Einstein (yes, that Einstein). In the case of Kubrick, Lenny did more than rub elbows, he famously almost strangled the director over micromanaging the Barry Lyndon recording sessions. If there is ever a CD to Lafayette Escradrille, here is a quote from Lenny NOT to use in the booklet: “It was, as far as I was concerned, the worst movie ever made.” I loved Lenny!
Vol. 6, No. 15: Wild Rovers (Goldsmith)—SOLD OUT. Sorry!
Vol. 6, No. 16: The Brothers Karamazov (Kaper): We have made 2000 of the 3000 copies, and have 240 in stock. By this time, whenever we announced a Kaper CD, we were besieged by hopes and inquiries that it might be Mutiny on the Bounty, which took another year to complete.
Vol. 6, No. 17: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Vol. 2: Like Vol. 1, we converted this into an 10,000 copy edition—we have made 5000 to date and have 440 in stock. When we used to do mail order sales direct to customers, we took phone orders, and from time to time familiar names would call to place an order. I can’t remember who it was (maybe Jeff Bond) or what the CD was (maybe an U.N.C.L.E. release) when Harlan Ellison called to place an order. However, I was the lucky guy who answered the phone to take an order from a Terry Austin in New York state. As a lifelong X-Men fan, I asked, “Is this Terry Austin, the greatest comic book inker who ever lived?” and by chance it was and he was very modest about the compliment. I hope he does not mind my mentioning that he is a huge Man From U.N.C.L.E. fan who ordered all four of our U.N.C.L.E. releases and was most enthusiastic and complimentary about them.
Vol. 6, No. 18: On Dangerous Ground (Herrmann): We have made 3300 copies of this Herrmann noir thriller score and have 400 in stock—the irregular pressing number is due to lost booklets, then reprinting the booklets, which has happened on a handful of titles. I like to think I broke new ground on this release though you can blame me for subsequent “archival sound” releases where the scratchy, hissy sound is advertised like a badge of honor. The situation: On Dangerous Ground is a masterpiece and deserves a release. The problem is that no studio masters survive to this and most RKO films—there were acetates in the Herrmann collection at the University of California Santa Barbara but I was warned some cues exist in dreadful sound quality. At the time, Christopher Husted was the liaison with the Herrmann estate and he was a good guy to work with though he took forever to deliver what he promised—sorry Chris, but you know it’s true! But he did deliver and we got the acetate transfers restored by ace engineer Doug Schwartz who kindly wrote a note for the booklet about the facts of life in dealing with such sources. I think Doug was confused as to whether I was asking him to write an apology (for lack of a better word) in the liner notes—sort of, but to me that was what was required. Collectors are contrarians, let’s face it, so if we put out a press release saying how bad our CD sounded, we’d be assured everyone would say it sounded great! So, I am very proud of this CD and hope people have taken a chance on it…there I go again: Let’s not kid ourselves—people buy the scores and composers they want. It doesn’t matter how bad it sounds or how many times they’ve got it already—they would rather buy an unnecessary reissue of something they hold dear than the first (and best) version of something they don’t know. I personally think the labels are abusing this and should make a better effort to put these things out once, definitively, and make sure they are in the marketplace long enough so that everyone who wants it, can get it. (How many copies of Predator do I have, three?) That is what we have tried to do at FSM though it hasn’t necessarily paid as well as playing the ultra-limited, repetitive-reissue game.
Vol. 6, No. 19: McQ (Bernstein): We made 3,000 and the last 60 are selling now—don’t delay! This is not the most important Bernstein score, or even the best or most important Bernstein score to a John Wayne film…but the Bernstein-meets-Shaft take on the Duke as a Seattle cop was something I found irresistible. As with the other Warner Bros. scores of the late 1960s and ‘70s recorded by Dan Wallin, the quality of the recorded sound is phenomenal.
Vol. 6, No. 20: Moonfleet (Rozsa): We have made 2500 of the 3000 copies and have 170 in stock. This is a lovely symphonic score with shades of “Greensleeves” for a strange Fritz Lang historical drama (NOT a sci-fi film though the title makes it sound like one). We had a grab-bag of early alternate cues that we included on the CD (as is our wont). I found a few of these unusually fascinating as alternates go—oftentimes, alternates are basically the same music but with different timings, but here, the main theme is subtly different (compare both versions of “Letter of Introduction”). It’s only a few notes but clearly Rozsa revised the theme with a few nips and tucks to make it a better melody. We underestimate the skill and craft that our favorite composers possess, especially with regard to their melodies—they sound like they fell from their sleeves when in fact they are meticulously constructed. It’s rare to hear the “rough drafts” and compare them to the final versions: it’s fascinating how a master composer takes something that was already quite good and pushes and sculpts it into something even better.
Vol. 6, No. 21: Where Eagles Dare/Operation Crossbow (Goodwin): This CD just keeps selling and selling! We have made 6500 and have a few hundred in stock. The scores were recorded in England and are not subject to the AFM union rules that require editions to be limited (lest huge fees be incurred). So we hope to go on selling this as long as Warner Bros. will allow. I am not a child of the WWII “boys own” adventure genre but it has a huge following and I know Where Eagles Dare is beloved by Quentin Tarantino and was one of the inspirations for Inglourious Basterds (because of the eight thousand Nazis killed by Clint Eastwood). For that matter, it’s an inspiration for Star Wars because of the eight thousand stormtroopers killed by the good guys. About the music: these war scores were Ron Goodwin’s stock in trade and I’m pleased we were able to release not only these two, but later 633 Squadron/Submarine X-1. and Force 10 From Navarone. Many thanks to Ron Shillingford who arranged for us to use Goodwin’s personal tapes for Operation Crossbow, Submarine X-1 and Force 10 From Navarone.
Next Time: Vol. 7 (2004) CDs!