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Ten Years as a Soundtrack Fan

by Peter Daley

It's the 10th anniversary of FSM and this year also marks almost the 10th anniversary of the purchase of my first soundtrack. I apologize if I bore anyone, but I've got heaps of free time on my hands so I thought I would share my story on how it all began.

It first began with guitar lessons in 4th grade. My guitar teacher made a little arrangement of the Star Wars theme, and he lent me a tape of the soundtrack. (I was born in 1972.) I enjoyed listening to it but at the time it seemed more Star Wars music than music that was written for Star Wars (if that makes any sense). Still being quite young -- 9-10 years old -- I never considered buying any records myself.

My next memory of John Williams music was at about 16 years old and over at a girlfriend's house: Superman had just finished on TV and my girlfriend and her family started talking during the End Credits. I wanted to scream "Shut up I want to listen to the music!" but something held me back.

Then in 1991, still playing guitar, I bought a music book of film themes arranged for guitar. I mainly brought it for "Cavatina -- Deer Hunter Theme" played by the "other" John Williams. The book also contained an arrangement of "Can You Read My Mind?" and that sparked my curiosity -- I couldn't quite remember the love theme from Superman but I thought I would recognize it when I played it. Recognize it I did and it quickly became one of my favorite pieces.

That led me to hunt down the CD. On one my first visits to a music shop I found it, and there right behind it was the Varese Sarabande Star Wars Trilogy CD. Track titles like "Yoda's Theme," "The Asteroid Field," and "Luke & Leia" intrigued me and of course I could already hum the Imperial March. I clearly remember weighing up my options... Which one should I buy? I came for Superman, but knew I wanted the Star Wars CD.

I compromised by buying both, the start of a very expensive yet rewarding hobby.

I arrived home and the first piece I put on was the Love Theme from Superman, the concert arrangement. It was a revelation, one of the most beautiful pieces of music I had ever heard. Then Yoda's Theme and same result.

I saw JFK soon after and there on the screen were the immortal words "Music by John Williams." I bought the CD the next day. Around the same time I saw Medicine Man and noticed the name Jerry Goldsmith; I had seen that name thousands of times before -- Rambo II, Capricorn One, etc. I bought that soundtrack, then quite liked the music from Star Trek II (James Horner), so another CD was added to my collection.

My collection grew and looking back on the last 10 years there seems to be two stages: before the Internet and after it. Before the Internet I never really knew what each composer had written, so every now and then I would be pleasantly surprised by a previously unheard of score, Dracula and The Fury to name two. I also had no prior knowledge of new releases. I had walked into a shop one day to find the Star Wars Trilogy 4CD box set. I was amazed -- was I dreaming? By then I had come to the depressing conclusion that there was lots of SW music not on CD; in fact I had given up hope of ever owning it. But now here it was. (Or so I thought) I still noticed some missing music of course but I was thankful for all the new stuff. But I had accepted the fact that I would never hear that brief cool trumpet piece as the Rebel fleet is first seen in Return of the Jedi.

I also noticed at the the back of the booklet the words "Lukas Kendall is editor of Film Score Monthly." So I went to my newsagent and told him I wanted to order FSM, but he had never heard of it.

I discovered the Internet in late 1996. Now I can no longer walk into a shop and be surprised; I know almost years in advance what is coming out. Sometimes I think it would be nice to walk into a shop and find a previously unheard of Williams score, but of course there is no going back now, and I have to admit that almost every time I look at the FSM web page I'm left a little disappointed that there was no mention of a new Williams CD. So although I much prefer knowing in a advance what is coming out, it does have its disadvantages, i.e. the waits for Superman, Star Trek, etc. But it's always worth it in the end.

1997 was a very big year for me. I left Australia at the age of 24 to spend two years working, backpacking and generally bumming around the U.K. and Europe. I spent three weeks in March traveling around Ireland; the two most vivid (sober) memories of that time involve checking CD shops at every opportunity desperately awaiting the Special Editions of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The other memory is of wandering around the fields next to the Cliffs of Moher listening to "County Galway," "The Fighting Donnelies" and "Fighting for Dough." I was in heaven. It was my first taste of viewing beautiful scenery with John Williams blaring from my headphones.

A week later another big event: Walking around London totally by sheer chance I noticed in a shop window a magazine with Darth Vader on the cover. It was the elusive Film Score Monthly (!) and the shop was Rare Discs. That started me buying and eventually subscribing to FSM. In late '97 I planned a trip to Africa for the following year. I had to start saving, so from Nov. '97 to March '98 I only bought two CDs: Amistad and Titanic. Around the same time I was lucky enough to see Jerry Goldsmith give a talk about film scoring with the director of The Edge (late '97) I would have preferred to see him in concert but it was great to see him in person. By that stage I had about 80 of his CDs.

I made it to Africa and the song "Dry Your Tears Afrika" will always have a very special place in my heart. It brings back to me my most cherished memories - thank you, John. Africa was great but it was frustrating going weeks at a time without Internet access. The Close Encounters of the Third Kind CD was out and I couldn't hear it. Life's tough sometimes. Some of my best memories of the trip were enhanced thanks to film music. Driving through the Namib desert with Masada in my head, even walking through a jungle listening to "South America 1936" made me feel like Indiana Jones. One night our truck was driving through a storm, so I put on the Lost World theme and became convinced there were big nasty dinosaurs out there hungry for people. And whenever there was a beautiful mountain range to see or a herd of elephants, the theme from Jurassic Park made the view that little bit extra special and memorable.

The Africa trip was great but the whole time I was counting down the days to July 1, 1998. I arrived back in London in June and soon July 1st rolled around. Off to the Barbican, the most excited I had been in my life. John Williams was in town. Over the next four days I attended four concerts and one open rehearsal. Now I can die a happy man. One night I had a seat near the front and as John stood for the applause he looked in my direction and I mouthed the word "thank you." It hardly seemed enough to express my gratitude for all the pleasure his music has given me, but I'm glad I had the chance to thank him in that small way.

February 1999 rolled around and just two weeks before Jerry Goldsmith gave concerts at the Barbican, my U.K. visa expired and it was time to go home. I arrived home penniless and went back to university to gain my teaching qualification. No major soundtrack events to speak of in Canberra Australia, so not much to speak of during last year. I bought the book Memoirs of a Geisha after I heard rumors that Steven S. wanted to film it. If you haven't read it, it's set in Kyoto, Japan, which just happens to be where I find myself today. I just arrived to teach English in a high school for a couple of years. So I'm kind of hoping that one day I'll be able to either wander the streets of Gion Kyoto or reflect on the good times spent there with John's music overwhelming me. I also just heard that Jerry Goldsmith is coming to Osaka in October; I'm not far from there so hopefully I'll make up for that missed opportunity in London.

Every now and then I count the CDs in my collection and add up the price -- then I say "Oh My God!" but I feel extremely fortunate to have discovered a genre of music and a group of composers that will provide me with unending joy for the rest of my life.

Many thanks to Peter for sharing his recollections with us on the occasion of our 10th anniversary. If you want to send in your thoughts on your history of soundtrack collecting and your passion, please go ahead! We'll run it here on the site. -Lukas K.

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