If we harken back to the days of the silent film, theatres would employ some old chap to sit down the front on a piano to smash away at the keys while the projector rolled.
I guarantee the second you finished reading that you heard the classic ‘mild peril’ music the like of a Buster Keaton flick… Am I right?
If you think ‘Western’ you instantly think of the iconic Ennio Morricone score for ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’. The whistling section of that score is so famous people whistle it at other people when they are doing a bad job or have had a dodgy roof joist put in.
It has become the theme for cowboy builders worldwide.
Take the sound effect ‘Dun, Dun, Duuuuuuun’ for example, for the life of me I don’t know where it came from but everyone knows it. It’s up there with the end suspense music from Eastenders. Seriously, if anyone knows the history behind this three note wonder please get in touch as I would love to know.
Or the Jaws theme or the violin screeches from Psycho, the themes from X-Files or Star Wars, all iconic and everyone knows them even if they have no idea of the film reference.
But in the horror genre we have really been spoilt.
Some of the most atmospheric, and in my opinion some of the most iconic film scores have come from the blood splattered sound studios of horror.
Take for example the masterpiece that is Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ used as the theme for the 1973 satanic chiller The Exorcist. Not only did William Friedkin manage to make one of the most notoriously well know horrors of the modern age but he managed (with help from the genius of Mr Oldfield) to freak my mother out every time my phone rang while we were out for coffee. Yep, I had it as a ring tone… I’m that guy.
My old girl was petrified of that film for years and still can’t talk about it without a weird if slightly overacted shudder.
But saying that the piece still makes the hairs on my arms stand up a little. I guess it’s just one of those tunes that stays with you.
The Sounds of Slashers
Another chilling classic is the theme from John Carpenter’s Halloween. The second you hear that metronomic ticking at the beginning you instantly know what’s coming. A giant psycho in a Shatner mask is going to kill some high school girls… Hooray!
And I still smirk when I hear the theme from A Nightmare on Elm Street and some of the odd scraping sounds in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are just plain eerie.
Another long running slasher franchise that is as defined by not just its score but in this case a series of sounds is Friday the 13th. I can’t remember the theme tune to the film but all you have to do is make the echoing ‘chee, khaa’ sounds and I’m instantly thinking of a hockey mask, a blood covered machete and screaming people in tents… Magic.
But amongst all of these absolute classics there is one name that stands out from the crowd when it comes to writing amazing horror film scores… Goblin.
This Italian progressive rock outfit have penned more memorable film scores than I can count, working with the likes of Dario Argento and George a. Romero.
Deep Red (Profondo rosso), Contamination, Dawn of the Dead (Zombi), Phenomena, Zombie Creeping Flesh, Suspiria the list goes on and on; every one a classic.
And let’s not forget the three founding member’s (Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, Massimo Morante) involvement with the Tenebrae soundtrack which for me is one of their best.
A sample of the Tenebrae soundtrack was recently used by French electroclash duo Justice on their † (cross) album. It was in their tune Phantom II that really got me into the band.
I went to see Goblin at the Electric Ballroom in Camden at the start of the year and it was amazing. There was a huge screen behind the band that had clips projected on it relevant to the set list. I nearly wet myself with excitement when Suspiria and the ‘truck driving’ scene action music from Dawn of the Dead started up.
FYI, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin will live at Union Chapel, Islington, in London playing the soundtracks from Dawn of the Dead and Suspiria on the 18th and 19th of August respectively. There’s a link to the Facebook page at the bottom for ticket info.
I’m often reminded of Dawn of the Dead when I go shopping. Sometimes I whistle the end credit music to myself as I negotiate my way around the ‘zombies’ on my quest for pastry products and Java strength coffee.
Only once has some guy got the reference and shot me a knowing smile. Brothers in gore united in a sea of the undead.
There is a long list of soundtracks on my hard drive from Hans Zimmer’s amazing Inception score, Howard Shore’s Silence of the Lambs score, the awesome electro soundtrack from Drive and the ominous soundtrack from The Shining to name but a few. But there is a huge folder of Goblin and progressive electro act inspired by Italian horror ‘Zombi’, worth a listen, their stuff is amazing and can often be heard honking out from my quarters when I’m involved in a writing session.
So next time your clock watching at work on a Friday evening waiting for home time, just do what I do and think of the music from The Great Escape and relax… Or you could listen to Goodbye Horses by Q Lazarus and go on a naked rampage.
But anyhow, I’m off to sort my ring tone out as my mum is meeting me in town at the weekend… Can someone call me at around 11.15/11.30am?
Dun, Dun, Duuuuuuun!
Zombi – Night Rhythms