Friday, June 3, 2016

"Movie Scores I Love V (Music To Make Things Happen)

This one is personal.

When I was working on The Cosby Show, I was – if not literally, perilously closer to literally than figuratively – losing my mind.

The pressure was immense.  Or so it felt to a person who’d attempted assiduously to avoid pressure through the previous entirely of his life.  I had never worked on a sitcom writing staff; I had only written scripts, avoiding the withering line of fire poured on by hapless executives and insecure actors. 

Mine is a curious resume.  I was either a freelance scriptwriter or an Executive Producer, with nothing in between.  Consequently, when I accepted the responsibilities of the latter, I had no background and no experience.

No wonder I was shivering in the middle of the summer.

Aside from the fact that I had been assigned a temporary office where the air conditioning was on “High” and since it was the weekend, there was no one I could call to turn it down.  I was worried about opening a window, because it was ninety-eight degrees outside and close to “Freezing” in the building, fearing I would trigger a “weather incident” and it would start raining inside the office.

I had two days to complete the script.  I was terrified I would never be able to pull it off.  Normally, I’d write scripts in no less than a week.

I was sitting in my chair hugging myself, rocking back and forth looking for comfort.  I decided to take a break.  It’s okay to get nowhere during a break.  I needed failure without blame.   

I was billeted in Manhattan’s landmark Brill Building, famous for the music created there by the likes of Carole King and Neil Sedaka.  I went downstairs to Colony Records, situated on the building’s ground floor, I went in, and I bought a cassette tape.  (It was 1984).

The tape I purchased was The Natural, written by Randy Newman.  (Nephew, among other matters of interest, of Alfred Newman whose rousing score for The Mark of Zorro {1940} I could have easily included in this “Anthology of Favorites”.)

I took it upstairs, and I slipped it into my cassette player.

The Natural filled me with the spirit and confidence to finish the job.

Here’s a sample smattering.  The cut’s called, “Tear the cover off the ball.”

It starts quietly.  Then then listen to it build.

And imagine it inspiring a scared Executive Producer rise to the occasion.

Thanks, Randy. 

I really needed the lift.


JED said...

Thank you, Earl. Now I'm ready to knock the cover off the ball at work today.

I love movies. I love how so many things mix together to make this scene so memorable. Even with the announcer's commentary being included long enough to make us realize the daunting task Roy Hobbs faced. And how did they get the lightning to strike at just the right time? :-)

The Natural is one of my all-time favorite movies but I do think (as I've said before) that a major part of that comes from Randy Newman's score. I'll never understand how he (and the other great film composers) can take a simple theme and with seemly magical transformation get it to fit in so many different scenes.

Unknown said...

Was so hoping this would make your list. One of the all-time great scores, and one that should have won Newman the Oscar (Maurice Jarre won instead for A Passage to India). Newman's score was honored, in a way though, by being used in almost every new movie's temp mix for the next 10-ish years.

Josiah said...

Agree w/both David and JED, the score is fantastic. One of my fave baseball movies ever. And one of the few times when the movie makers changed the ending so drastically from the book, and I didn't mind. The folks at the Ballpark at Arlington play the main theme from The Natural whenever one of their guys hits a home run. I imagine other parks do, too.