One of the early musical frontiers for the Moog Modular Synthesizer was the motion picture soundtrack. Bernie Krause told me that he and Paul Beaver worked on so many movies that he couldn’t keep track of the number.
But he estimated that they added Moog sounds to 150+ movies during the peak of this activity (1967-74). Almost all of this was done in post-production. The Moog was often used to create or enhance music but also for adding sound effects.
Hearing a Moog in a movie did not guarantee that the music would be available on a soundtrack recording. As today, the majority of films made in that era did not have accompanying soundtrack releases. Even if a soundtrack existed, however, there was no guarantee that any of the Moog sounds would make it onto the record. This was the case with many movies where the Moog was used for incidental music—background music used to create a particular mood.
Which brings me to soundtrack releases featuring the Moog. As part of my project to archive every commercial recording of the Moog Modular Synthesizer, I have found that a fruitful category of research is the soundtrack. While Moog appearances on soundtracks are often un-credited, Moog sounds can sometimes be found by giving a careful listen.
If the soundtrack was recorded in Los Angeles, it is likely that Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause were responsible for it. But by 1970, the names of other Moog contributors began to pop-up as well. I wanted to share a few Moog soundtrack appearances that surprised me and that I think you would enjoy tracking down:
Toomorrow, directed by Val Guest, music by Hugo Montenegro, Moog by Hugo Montenegro
(LP, RCA Victor LSA 3008, August 8, 1970)
Many things were wrong with the movie Toomorrow, but the soundtrack did include a groovy Moog Modular added in post-production by Hugo Montenegro. The movie was produced in England by the team of Harry Saltzman (co-producer of James Bond films) and Don Kirshner (creator of The Monkees). For this movie, Kirshner manufactured a pop group led by singer Olivia Newton-John, a newcomer at the time, and tried to orchestrate a Monkees-like publicity onslaught involving motion pictures and hit records.
But the entire premise fell flat, largely because of the cheesy movie. Following the soundtrack, the group only released two failed singles (none with Moog) and they disbanded in 1971. Why was this? Let’s just say that the movie didn’t help.
The plot involved aliens whose dying race could only be saved by the vibrations made by a London-based pop group called Toomorrow. The source of these healing vibrations was none other than a music “synthesizer” invented by a member of the band.
Called the Tonalizer, the instrument shown in the movie was a prop—it was not a real synthesizer but actually a combo organ with two keyboards and a mystery gear box on top equipped with assorted dials and patch cords to give the vague appearance of a Moog Modular (see photos).
Interestingly, when somebody in the movie played the instrument up close, you could hear the combo organ over which Montenegro overdubbed some characteristic Moog sounds, like sliding tones, in rough synchronization with the keyboard action. But most of the songs simply feature a combo organ. Tracks on which the Moog clearly had a leading role included the title song “Toomorrow” (vocal version only), “Let’s Move On,” and Montenegro’s “Spaceport.”
The movie was produced in part by Phil Ramone, whom, as you shall read below, was also making trips to London around the same time, providing Moog sounds for a James Bond soundtrack. It appears that Montenegro and Ramone were responsible for adding this Moog razzmatazz to Toomorrow.
Perhaps the fate of the movie and the group were established early when Rolling Stone wrote about a press conference given by Kirshner to introduce his concept. “James Bond + The Monkees = Toomorrow” was the title of the article, which declared that “the clichés were as plentiful and expensive as the hors d’oeuvres.” i
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Directed by Sydney Pollack, music by John Green, Moog by Paul Beaver
(LP, ABC ABCS-OC-10, May 23, 1970)
The Moog is only heard during the opening title track, which provides a flamboyant combination of swing music and Paul Beaver’s electronics. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, this movie is about the grueling dance marathons that took place during the Depression, all to the swing of big band music. While big bands dominate the rest of the soundtrack, the Moog establishes an eerie and foreboding mood to get this melancholy fable started.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Directed by Peter Hunt, music by John Barry, Moog by Phil Ramone (uncredited)
(LP, United Artists Records UAS 29020 (UK); UAS 5204 (US), January 3, 1970)
This ranks up there as one of the baddest versions of Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme, albeit brief. The sessions were produced in London. John Barry brought over American producer Phil Ramone to produce the Moog parts. Barry stipulated, however, that he would only use the Moog on the condition that it could be played live in real-time with other instruments.ii
This was an unusual request because almost all Moog recordings at the time were done as overdubs, embellishing tracks previously recorded by other musicians. The reason for this was a practical one—one just couldn’t lug the huge modular synthesizer around like most instruments.
Ramone consulted Bob Moog, who recommended that he employ three keyboards and three oscillators so that three harmonizing tones could be played simultaneously. Ramone programmed the Moog and played it (with three keyboard players) live with Barry’s studio orchestra. The Moog is heard on various tracks, such as the title theme (instrumental).
The most audacious Moog track is the brief but important closing version of the famous James Bond theme. In this version of the famous theme, the melody is rendered using gliding notes on the Moog keyboard instead of the usual twanging guitar The story behind this soundtrack is detailed in Jon Burlingame’s fantastic book about Bond music, The Music of James Bond.
Bob Moog Foundation Executive Director Michelle Moog-Koussa did an interview with Ramone in 2007 during which he talked about the Barry session:
You can hear the Moog version of the James Bond theme near the end, beginning around the 11:00 mark:
Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Directed by Ted Post, music by Leonard Rosenman, Moog by Paul Beaver (uncredited)
(LP, ABC ABCS-OC-10, May 23, 1970)
This was another Paul Beaver project. The album featured several tracks of dialog and music. Overall, Rosenman’s score was magnificent and modern.
So much so, that it’s difficult to pick-out the Moog sometimes because it is deftly blended with a full array of orchestral sounds and percussion. The clearest Moog sounds are on the tracks, “Main Title,” “Brent’s Interrogation” (dialog with “computer” effects), “Second Escape,” and “Mass Of The Holy Bomb,” (electronic opening and interludes mixed with vocals, chorus, rock band, orchestra).
On “Second Escape,” you can hear a series of Moog squawks and ring-modulated sounds beginning at about 1:40. The “Mass of the Holy Bomb” has many more obvious electronic effects.
Medical Center and Other Great Themes. Music by Lalo Schifrin, Moog by Paul Beaver (uncredited) and Lalo Schifrin
(LP, MGM SE-4742, December 5, 1970)
Lalo Schifrin is a prolific composer of television and movie music, best known in the 1960s for such tunes as the theme from Mission Impossible (1966)bouncy jazz style used for such films as Dirty Harry (1971).
He had experimented with the Moog on one track of his album There’s a Whole Lalo Schifrin Goin’ On (Dot, 1968). But when he wrote the theme for the television show Medical Center, he let the Moog all hang out in its glory. Schifrin later revealed, “I see an ambulance coming, and I thought, why not do the siren so that the sound becomes [a musical] pitch? So I did it with a big Moog synthesizer.” iii
The theme from Medical Center, also released as a moderately successful single, was played by Schifrin but programmed by Paul Beaver. The composer recorded an extended version of the theme for release as a single; it became the featured track on this LP. The album featured other television themes, but none of them featured the Moog.
In addition to legitimate soundtrack recordings, I sometimes come across near misses. Some of these include soundtracks that were not released when the movie was first shown. Others are not really soundtracks, but recordings made to capitalize on the popularity of a given film.
Here are a few examples of what I mean.
Themes from the film Slaughterhouse-Five; not an official soundtrack, Moog and Buchla by Douglas Leedy
(LP, EMI Angel, S-36876, July 8,1972)
There was actually no official “soundtrack” for this George Roy Hill movie based on the famous Kurt Vonnegut novel. The movie repurposed brilliant piano transcriptions of Bach by Glenn Gould, all from the Columbia vaults. Columbia itself released a collection of these tracks.
Angel, however, felt compelled to release a few ditties from its vaults as well and put out this record that combined arrangements of the same Bach works for chamber ensemble, harpsichord, and organ interspersed with four previously released Moog/Buchla tracks by experimental composer Douglas Leedy from UCLA. All four of these tracks were taken from his spectacular double LP set from 1970 called Entropical Paradise, and included excerpts from White Landscape, The Harmonarium, Doria, and Star Engine.
As far as Moog soundtracks go, this isn’t as legitimate as an actual movie score, but makes for an unusual program of music if you can find it.
Leedy’s original LP, Entropical Paradise:
The Illustrated Man (1969). Directed by Jack Smight, starring Rod Steiger, music by Jerry Goldsmith, Moog by Paul Beaver
While I believe that a soundtrack to this may have been released on vinyl, I have never been able to track it down. Fortunately, Film Score Monthly released a CD version in 2001. The film was an intriguing interpretation of tales from Ray Bradbury’s book of the same name.
The score includes one extended electronic work for Moog, “The Veldt,” and serves as a launching pad for many of Goldsmith’s later works using polyrhythms, atonality, and electronics.
Film Score Monthly: http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/daily/article.cfm?articleID=3294
Point Blank (1967). Directed by John Boorman, starring Lee Marvin, music by Johnny Mandel, Moog by Paul Beaver (uncredited)
Film Score Monthly released a CD version in 2002. Composer Johnny Mandel was noted for his musical work for MASH (the film and TV series), The Sandpiper, and having written the hit song “The Shadow of Your Smile.”
Point Blank was a stark, hardboiled caper movie with Lee Marvin playing a double-crossed crook trying to recover some money owed him. But all was not quite right and through subtle time shifts and memory lapses, Marvin’s character was thrust into a sequence of deadly rendezvous with “organization” heavies.
The mood lends itself to the unsettling tones of the Moog that were employed throughout, primarily to add a sense of strangeness and disorientation to several scenes. I cannot verify that this soundtrack was ever released at the time of the movie. But the reissue features several terrific, often musical, applications of the Moog including the following tracks, “Trackdown,” “At the Window/The Bathroom,” “Chris Scores.”
Film Score Monthly: http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/daily/article.cfm?articleID=3908
Didn’t You Hear? (1970), directed by Skip Sherwood, starring Gary Busey, Moog music by Mort Garson
Custom Fidelity CFS 2379 (1970)
This is an obscure soundtrack release for an independent film that apparently only had a limited release in Seattle in 1970. Garson’s soundtrack, using the Moog Modular, was billed as “the first completely electronically scored motion picture!” Of course, it wasn’t the first electronic score, but what’s to stop a publicity person from claiming this? The film was re-released in 1983, but not the soundtrack.
The LP shows that the motion picture was rated GP, a rating that existed only from 1970-72. Rarely has Garson’s music been so fully developed. This classically-slanting soundtrack with vocals is delightful.
The Name of the Game is Kill (1968), directed by Gunnar Helström, starring Jack Lord and Susan Strasberg, music by Stu Phillips, Moog by Paul Beaver (uncredited)
This is another soundtrack that was possibly never released in its day.
The music was by Stu Phillips, the king of soundtracks for surfing and motorcycle gang movies on the 1960s. He was also one of the busiest composers working in television during the 1970s and 1980s. The movie also included the Electric Prunes singing “Shadows,” but this did not include the sound of a Moog.
A CD company called Kritzerland in the Los Angeles area released a compilation of three Stu Phillips soundtracks including The Name of the Game is Kill, complete with some interesting comments from Phillips about working with Paul Beaver and the Moog on this one film.
The movie is full of incidental Moog sounds and the soundtrack includes several tunes with Moog tonalities and other electronic instruments from Paul Beaver’s studio, including electric cellos and harpsichords.
Pacific Vibrations (1970). Directed by John Severson, no music credits given, Moog by Beaver and Krause
“Like Woodstock on a Wave,” this was the soundtrack for a documentary film about surfing.
Legendary percussionist Emil Richards confirmed with me that he worked on this and contributed Moog modulations, possibly with the help of Beaver and Krause. The music was primarily a compilation of various artists and I cannot confirm that it was released as a soundtrack recording.
The movie was mostly shot in silent 16mm footage so the filmmaker used pre-recorded music over most of the material. A New York Times review at the time stated that in the film, “Imaginary lines are drawn between surfers and non-surfers. Moog synthesizer inventors Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause provide the soundtrack music” along with many other, including Cream, the Steve Miller Band, Ry Cooder, Sky Oats, Colorado Purple Gang, Ashish Khan, Pranesh Kahn, Zakir Hussain, and David Crosby.
i Rolling Stone, March 15, 1969.
ii Burlingame, Jon. The Music of James Bond (Oxford, reprint edition 2014), 85-87.
Thom Holmes is a music historian and composer specializing in the history of electronic music and recordings. He is the author of the textbook Electronic and Experimental Music (fourth edition, Routledge 2012) and writes the blog Noise and Notations. For his ongoing project The Sound of Moog, he is archiving every known early recording of the Moog Modular Synthesizer.
blog: Noise and Notations
If you want to read more from Thom Holmes, please see his many fascinating historical blogs here: http://moogfoundation.