Like everyone else in the world, I recently binged the entire series 1 of Stranger Things in two days. Initially, I was put off by it – one of the first scenes is a bunch of kids shouting at each other, I had a killer hangover and couldn’t deal with that shit.
Anyway, it was good. Not best-show-ever good. Not Sopranos good or Breaking Bad good. But it was good.
That’s where my critique of the show ends, because what I want to talk about today is the music (or rather, electronic music in TV and film). I thought I’d share with you a few pieces I really love.
It probably goes back further, but a good starting point is Dudley Simpson’s original Doctor Who theme.
What a tune. Spooky, weird. It sounds alien. I suppose maybe that set the precedent for electronic music in sci-fi shows. There have been many reworks since (my favourite probably the more stripped-down version in Colin Baker’s final season), but the original is certainly the most haunting.
Okay. Enough of that limey bullshit (for now). The undisputed king of electronic soundtracks – John Carpenter.
Try Assault On Precinct 13…
So yeah, fucking evil, right?
And even though he didn’t direct it, he co-wrote the music to the wonderfully odd Halloween III.
Pulsing synths. Eerie sounds. Remind you of anything?
The BBC had another commendable stab at it for its adaptation of John Christoper’s Tripods trilogy. I think I actually prefer the graphics to this one rather than the music, but the two marry together very nicely. They only filmed the first two books. The series got cancelled before they got to The Pool Of Fire. Watching it again through my cynical adult eyes is a painful experience. The acting’s crap, the script is crap, the effects are crap and the whole thing seems to be shot through some blurry filter (mandatory for many British TV shows in the ’80s). Stick with the books and the title sequence below, I say (although they’re kind of a rip-off of War Of The Worlds, anyway).
I think people tend to look back at the eighties with fondness (am fully aware the Doctor Who theme and most of Carpenter’s best music were ’70s and ’80s, respectively). It was all Soft Cell and shoulder pads, right? Stranger Things is guilty of this. But anyone who was around at the time should also remember that most of it was terrible.
I might be in the minority here, but take the theme tune from Miami Vice
I just envisage about 10 guys, all with mullets and pink blazers with the sleeves rolled up sitting behind a mixing desk with a mirror of coke saying, “What we need, man, is more drums.”
“Hey do you think that guitar is obnoxious enough? You don’t. Let’s add some more obnoxious guitar.”
To me, Miami Vice sums up the eighties. It wasn’t a bunch of cute kids and some wonderful electronic music, it was a group of hair sprayed assholes in shit suits. It was Duran Duran.
I’m going off course…
At the of my (thankfully brief) foray into the world of soundtrack composition, I became disheartened with the whole thing. “Yeah, we want you to make it like Hans Zimmer’s Dark Knight score, but we, like, don’t have a budget, so can you do it for free, yeah?” That movie fucking killed soundtracks for a while. Everything was staccato strings and distorted horns. So I got bored and just wrote for myself. I started making these imaginary film scores using all the analogue synths I have accumulated over the years (they used to be cheap). And I’m not saying I invented that shit or anything, but in 2012, I did say “Man, I wish people were still into electronic film scores…”