ELO

ELO: The Video Game – A Soundtrack To A Game That Never Was

In an age when Beatles Rock Band is old hat, It’s hard to remember a time when video game “product placements” or celebrity connections were a rarity, and kind of a big deal: Atari slapping Pele’s name on a new soccer cartridge, Mattel Electronics securing permission to emblazon every new sports video game with the name and logo of that sport’s professional league, or the one that started it all, a 1976 arcade, game awfully similar to Night Driver, called Datsun 280 ZZZAP!.

[Via] Hirudov gaming

And then there was Journey. Around 1983, you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger radio hit than Separate Ways (Worlds Apart). That synth line, the one that leads the whole song off, was practically made to be turned into video game music. Journey inspired two video games – a fantastic Midway arcade game, and the quirky but enjoyable Journey Escape for the Atari 2600.

[Via] MY SATURDAY M0RNINGS

Read: Celebrate Atari Day With Journey Escape And MTV!

But what if another band had been in the right place at the right time to cash in on the video craze?

That’s the idea behind another project perhaps best described as “quirky but enjoyable” – a soundtrack for ELO: The Video Game that was never, in fact, made.
ELO
The free downloadable “ELO: The Video Game” album from online label Pterodactyl Squad re-imagines several of the band’s singles, and a few lesser-known tunes, as chiptunes – as they would sound as music for intros, level-up animations, and even boss battles.
ELO
It’s a little disconcerting seeing the ELO spaceship – a fixture of the band’s album covers since 1977 – spewing missiles at everything within sight on the artwork for this release, but it’s a fun (and fast) listen.

Now someone just needs to create a game to go with the music.

Enterprise

A Little Bit Of The Enterprise

A lot has changed over the years. My hairline, my waistline, the number of bills I have to pay. But not my deep and abiding love for Star Trek: The Next Generation. A unique occasion has arrived to compare what’s probably the very first piece of TNG merchandise I ever shelled out money for, to the most recent addition to my collection…which are nearly the same size.

Enterprise
On the left, we have the Enterprise 1701-D from the Eaglemoss Star Trek Starship Collection. Eaglemoss is a UK published specializing in collectible “partworks” – magazines with goodies. Those signing up as subscribers to the Starship Collection get two $20 models a month, each with magazines detailing the histories of each ship both on-screen and off. That’s an awesome idea…and way too rich for my blood. But I did avail myself of a recent sale on Eaglemoss’ site to pick up a couple of additions to my own Starfleet.

On the right, we have my very well-worn die-cast metal Enterprise 1701-D, released by Galoob in 1987 alongside the earliest episodes of TNG’s first season. Now, given that I was a teenager when both show and ship arrived, you’d think this ship would have occupied a place of honor on a shelf somewhere, but no – full disclosure: it has been flown around many a room, virtually every place I’ve ever lived, and has almost as many battle scars as my old die-cast Kenner Star Wars ships. It is much loved…and it’s 30 years old this year.

It’s easy to see that there are worlds of difference between the two – advances in paint application and manufacturing abound over a three-decade time period. The Eaglemoss Enterprise has much more precise detail, down to the hull-plating “aztecing” that many a modelmaker (or admirer) obsesses over. The clear bits that are supposed to be glowy? They’re clear and, if you hold the Enterprise up to a light source, glowy.

The Galoob Enterprise is nothing to sneeze at. Yes, there are visible screws, and much of the detail is part of the mold rather than part of the paint job. But the amount of detail that’s there is impressive and accurate. It’s also worth noting that a lot of the Enterprise’s legendary “aztecing” wasn’t present in the earliest days of the show: it couldn’t be seen until a new four-foot model was constructed for filming roughly halfway into TNG’s on-air lifespan. The bluish-gray of the 1987 Enterprise reflects what we saw on screen.
Enterprise 1701 D

Oh, and the Galoob Enterprise can separate its saucer section – the Eaglemoss Enterprise can’t do that, full-stop. (Which is okay – saucer separation happened three whole times in nearly 200 episodes, four if you count the save-our-skins maneuver in the movie Star Trek: Generations; spoiler: it didn’t save the ship on that occasion.)

Eaglemoss’ model is equipped with a display stand that seems, well, a little on the delicate side. The ship is also on the delicate side: the saucer and main body are a lightweight metal, but the engines with their transparent components are plastic. This Enterprise would probably suffer critical damage if dropped. It’s meant to spend its time flying on a display shelf. The Galoob Enterprise has no stand – you’re on your own there – but has obviously survived some rough flying. It’s a hefty die-cast metal with no plastic.

A Galoob Enterprise in good condition will probably set your Starfleet fleet-building budget back a few credits, especially if it’s still in the package. The Eaglemoss model will also do this, but you get a much more delicate (but also possibly more accurate) model out of the deal. If you plunk down money for the subscription, there’s also a lot more where it came from; Galoob’s toy license for TNG was short-lived, and its die-cast Enterprise flies alone.
Enterprise

The good news is, they’re both the same beautiful ship.

If you’re not flying it past the camera or just your face and making whooshing warp drive sounds, what’s a little Enterprise for?

Charlie Brown

Retroist Scoreboard 3-22-17: Charlie Brown vs. The Devil

Soundtrack fans, there are some classics both well-known and obscure out this week, music for everyone from the Devil to Snoopy. Surely somewhere, in that vast spectrum, you’ll hear something you like.

Intrada has managed to squeeze onto a single CD two scores by the late, great Leonard Rosenman (Rebel Without A Cause, A Man Called Horse, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Lord Of The Rings, Star Trek IV, Robocop 2), but the difference in subject matter is a bit jarring. The scores in question are from the 1975 film Race With The Devil and 1982’s romantic drama Making Love (!). Intrada points out that fans of Rosenman’s music from his two entries on the original Planet Of The Apes film cycle will enjoy Race With The Devil. If you don’t get whiplash from the transition in tone, this one’s for you. Rosenman is film music royalty who often doesn’t get his due, despite a stellar high-profile resume.

For those who don’t feel like dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight, Kritzerland Records has a real treat – complete score from 1969’s A Boy Named Charlie Brown, composed by Vince Guaraldi and John Scott Trotter with songs by Rod McKuen. Though there has been an LP release for this movie, it was a dialogue-heavy “story album”, and this CD is the first-ever release of the music without that dialogue. Only 1,000 copies are being pressed, so you may need to fly a little bit faster than Woodstock.
Charlie Brown

For fans of modern reboots of their childhood, Varese Sarabande has has Brian Tyler’s score from the new Power Rangers . Tyler’s music has graced major franchises from the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies to Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Avengers: Age Of Ultron… it’s safe to say he’s on the go-to shortlist in Hollywood for “big-screen epic”.

And now, to further your soundtrack collecting education, here’s another chunk of the glossary. When is a soundtrack not just an official release of the original recordings? Well…there are some grey areas. And some of them are expensive.

Until next week, music lovers…

The Retroist Scoreboard Glossary, part 3: rarities & oddities
Bootleg – when a soundtrack is not commercially available on CD, it’s not uncommon for someone to perceive a demand that has gone unfulfilled…and fill it. For many years, soundtracks released only on LP (i.e. Tron, The Black Hole, Silent Running) were bootlegged on CD. Bootlegs should be considered, if not an absolute no-no, then an absolute last resort: proceeds from bootleg sales line the pockets of individuals who happened to own an old LP, with none of the proceeds going to the composers, the studios, or the musicians who brought the music life with their performances. Keeping an eye on the bootleg market, however, has provided the soundtrack labels with something of an indicator for which releases are desired: the three examples above have all since received official reissues, two of them vastly expanded. In this collector’s opinion, if an official reissue of a title is released, even if you’ve bought a bootleg along the way, it’s only proper to buy the official reissue. (In many cases, the sound quality will be vastly superior to the bootleg.)

Composer Promo – in the days before digital music could be embedded into a web site, composers seeking future work would ship out composer promo CDs to producers, directors, and studios’ heads of music. These were not intended for public distribution (but hold that thought for a moment), and as such were not officially licensed by the studios in question. To defray the costs of having custom CDs pressed, composers would sometimes quietly look the other way while the pressing plant sold a very, very limited number of copies directly into the soundtrack collectors’ market (and would likely deny all knowledge if a studio lawyer came calling). In the 1990s, one such operation, Super Tracks, was particularly brazen about selling composer promos of titles such as Krull and Galaxy Quest, eventually disappearing in one legal dust-up too many; studio lawyers often regarded composer promos as no better than bootlegs. A close cousin of composer promos is the private-label release, intentionally created for sale to collectors. With the advent of streaming audio from composers’ professional web sites, actual composer promo CDs and their attendant legal issues have all but vanished.

Private Label Release – some composers have decided to cut out the middle man and have small runs of their scores pressed for sale directly to fans and collectors (such as John Scott’s marvelous score from The Final Countdown, or the many soundtracks released by the late Joel Goldsmith’s Free Clyde label, named after his dog). These may be subject to the same licensing and quality issues as composer promos, and can suddenly go “out of print” for that reason, but are intended from the outset for public sale. For some lesser-known composers and their even-lesser-known scores, this may be the only way to obtain the material. In some rare cases (i.e. Dennis McCarthy’s score from the PC game Star Trek: Borg), a private label release will quietly go out of print and get a fully licensed official CD release on one of the soundtrack labels.

Rerecording – a from-the-ground-up reconstruction and new recording of a score, usually using the original sheet music and the composer’s original notes, along with extensive notation on the part of whoever is behind the new recording. This is a dirty word for some collectors, as what they’re getting is not the original recording, and may differ in terms of tempo/timing, performance or instrument quality (up to and including recreating orchestral recordings entirely with synthesizers – see also the wide spread of opinions about including dialogue in soundtrack releases, and magnify that controversy by a thousand). One thing to keep in mind: there are, sadly, many cases where original session recordings have vanished or have been damaged beyond the ability to restore them, meaning that rerecordings are the only way we can listen to those scores now (example: John Barry’s Raise The Titanic!).

Someday, My (Space)ship Or Space Shuttle Will Sail

The year: 1981. Pac-Man fever has incurably spread across the country. Both Mork and Mindy are still on the air. There are still pitched Battles of the Network Stars being fought on a yearly basis. The Sony Walkman has been on the market for a little under two years.

Oh, and Space Shuttle Columbia just blasted off for the very first time a couple of days ago, and is going to land very soon.

Now nearly six years since the last Space Shuttle lifted off, it’s almost unimaginable that a TV network would devote 3+ hours of wall-to-wall coverage to a perfectly ordinary Shuttle landing…except that this was the first time that a Shuttle returning from orbit ever came in for a landing. Every American space mission before this sunny April day in 1981 had ended with a splashdown in an ocean. But not this one.
[Via] Golden Pacific Media

It’s a slice of history, like a time machine: the first manned American space flight in six years was a big deal. And while it had taken longer to get the Space Shuttle airborne – on a scale of years – due to technical delays on the bleeding edge of new technologies, it had finally taken to the sky, something that looked more like a space fighter from a movie than it looked like a metal can with windows.

And perhaps most bittersweet of all, it had yet to let anyone down. The promises, made throughout the ‘70s ever since the Nixon administration had signed off on the Shuttle’s basic design, of routine, weekly flights to orbit, of a massive space station built by the 1990s that would be a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system…none of them had been broken yet. The reality of getting Columbia ready for her second flight hadn’t set in yet.

Nobody knew how difficult or costly it would be…or, just a few years later, how dangerous, as NASA tried to fly its fleet of Shuttles more and more frequently.

I remember watching the landing coverage at a friend’s house, the site of a spring break sleepover. He was ready to fire up the Atari, or go outside and kick a ball, and I wasn’t ready to budge. Like other budding space geeks who had grown up in a decade during which American astronauts had simply stopped going to space for years on end, it had all been building up to this – the lovingly illustrated National Geographic issue devoted to telling us what would happen “when the Space Shuttle finally flies”, the fleet of die-cast metal Space Shuttles that circled above the surface of the Earth (in my pockets), the plastic model kits of a non-fictional spacecraft that had never gotten around to flying…
Space Shuttle
(And yes, each one is actually a specific shuttle, in the order that I got them as a kid, and as such is sitting next to its name. The one with the tail cover is the Enterprise.)

For just a moment, the future was bright.

As of March 2017, we are now in a longer gap between spaceflights launched from American soil than the gap between the final Apollo mission (1975’s international Apollo-Soyuz Test Project flight) and the first Shuttle launch. When the next crew of astronauts blasts off from the U.S., whether they’re aboard NASA’s Orion, or SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, or something else, here’s hoping that my kids get that same sense of wonder – even if it’s a similar kind of naïve, momentary wonder – as I got from watching this: a moment where, in the future, anything could happen.

V'ger - Star Trek the Motion Picture

Retroist Scoreboard 3-14-17: V’ger, you’re my knight in shining armor

Soundtrack fans, we’re in yet another unexpectedly meaty week of wonders, so let’s waste no time in diving right in.

La-La Land Records, as previously announced, is now taking orders for their limited edition (1500 copies) double LP vinyl pressing of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, returning Jerry Goldsmith’s magnum opus to turntables for the first time in nearly 40 years, this time with the complete score spread across four sides. (The CD box set has even more music, if you’re after music instead of a display piece: Goldsmith scored half the movie before coming up with the iconic Enterprise theme, which was later repurposed as the theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the CD edition presents the complete score as heard in the movie plus what basically amounts to an unused alternate soundtrack.)
V'ger

While the first Star Trek movie is returning to vinyl, another classic movie is, incredibly, only just now making its way to CD thanks to Varese Sarabande, which is presenting Dave Grusin’s music from On Golden Pond, interspersed with dialogue from the movie (in some cases, quite lengthy chunks of dialogue).

Varese also has a trio of limited editions now available: an “encore” re-pressing of Elmer Bernstein’s score from Disney’s The Black Cauldron, limited to just 1000 copies for those who missed out on the last limited edition issue of this title.

For fans of high-octane action movies (and their music), there’s a new edition of Basil Poledouris’ music from the Steven Segal flick Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, more than doubling the running time of the original 1995 CD release. Even the movie’s source music is included as bonus tracks. What’s source music? Ask me that again in a minute.

And finally, John Williams’ score from the 1990’s Stanley & Iris gets a limited edition CD release of 3,000 copies, but that’s not all: tucked into the open space left by that movie’s score is a second Williams score hitting CD for the first time, 1972’s Pete ‘n’ Tillie. The two movies’ music are a good fit to share a CD: both are heartfelt relationship movies, and hey, it’s John Williams.

So…about source music: it’s a wonderful thing when original source music winds up as a bonus track on a CD…of course, that’s assuming that the director isn’t married to his temp track. Confused yet? That’s why we have another slice of the Retroist Scoreboard Glossary this week.

The Retroist Scoreboard Glossary: How The Sausage Gets Made
Additional Music – you’ll see this in movie and especially TV credits these days…often in small print. Particularly with the breakneck production timetable of television, but also with movies, composers must hire extra help to ghost-write the sheer amount of music needed within that timetable. Some of today’s biggest names were yesterday’s up-and-coming “additional music” composers: the ubiquitous Bear McCreary (10 Cloverfield Lane, The Walking Dead, Agents Of SHIELD, Outlander, Black Sails, Da Vinci’s Demons) got his break composing “additional music” for the 2003 Battlestar Galactica miniseries, whose primary composer moved on, leaving McCreary to take over the hourly series, making his career in the process. Due to the structure of CD release contracts with the primary composer, this additional music may or may not appear on an official release, leaving music from memorable scenes off the table. (Thus was the fate of the pivotal, Joel Goldsmith-composed “Flight Of The Phoenix” scene from Star Trek: First Contact, which was left off of the original 1996 soundtrack release at the label’s demand, simply because it wasn’t by primary composer Jerry Goldsmith.) In a few cases, the assistant composers may release their material as a composer promo.

Music+FX Track or Stem – a special mix of a movie or TV show’s music score and sound effects, prepared so that local voice artists in various parts of the world can do a language dub without the original actors’ voices in the background. Particularly with older films, this may be the closest we come to having a film’s original music tapes; it’s exceedingly rare to see a CD release of a Music+FX mix, but not unheard of (i.e. La-La Land’s “archival” release of Jerry Goldsmith’s rare score from The Satan Bug). Music+FX mixes are more often the domain of bootleggers.

Source Music – composers may be called upon to create “source music” for a scene in which a movie’s characters can hear that song in question from some on-screen source – a radio, a jukebox, a band on stage, to name a few examples. (Contrast this against the movie’s score, which the characters do not hear.) Some reissue producers go out of their way to include specially composed source music, particularly if it’s been the subject of “what was that song…?” debates for years and years. In some cases, source music is a piece of music from a movie’s songtrack.

Spotting – a process during pre-production of a movie or TV show in which the composer sits in on a screening of a rough edit to discuss the timing, placement and emotional thrust of the music with the director and/or editor(s), sometimes using temp tracks as a guide. (These meetings are called spotting sessions.) Once spotting is complete, the process of composing actually begins, though some composers may discover at a very late stage that the director’s ideas on spotting has changed, and their music has been tracked over a completely different scene…or has been replaced with a piece of the temp track.

Temp Track – a “temporary track” is often assembled, during a movie’s editing process, by the director and/or the film editor to track scenes in a movie that has no score yet. Temp tracks are often cobbled together from classical pieces or other movie soundtracks, and a composer hired to score a movie will often be asked to compose music with a similar feel…without actually duplicating it note-for-note, of course. The history of film music is rife with instances of directors falling in love with their temp tracks to the point that they either don’t hire a composer, or reject a specially commissioned score when it doesn’t live up to the director’s expectations (perhaps the most famous specimen of this category being Alex North’s unused original score for 2001: a space odyssey). Temp tracks are controversial in film music, whether for the perception that they limit a composer’s creativity, or for the not-limited-to-Kubrick phenomenon which plagues composers to this day (just this year, Johann Johannson’s score for Arrival was disqualified from Oscar contention because of the prominence of Max Richter’s composition, “On The Nature Of Daylight”, in key scenes of the movie – a holdover from the temp track that the director felt couldn’t be improved upon, costing his composer a nomination).

Tracking – once a composer has turned in a completed score, that music is at the mercy of the film’s director and/or editor(s), and may not appear where it was originally spotted. The music may be chopped up, edited and tracked in a different place entirely, such as >em>Star Wars Episode IStar Wars Episode III. Additionally, licensed or specially commissioned songs may be tracked into scenes, replacing sections of more traditional scoring (Ray Parker Jr.’s memorable song was tracked into as many scenes of Ghostbusters as possible late in editing, leaving significant portions of Elmer Bernstein’s score on the cutting room floor).