Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Immortality - It's Not Always That Great"

I really wanted to play it for you. Hearing it would have a way more powerful impact than what I’m about to attempt. I was prepared to try “embedding” it all by myself. But I went on Youtube, and I couldn’t track it down. I’m sure I’d be able to, if I knew precisely what to ask Youtube, but I don’t.

Computers are incredibly helpful, when you give them specific instructions, but when every effort fails to deliver the desired result, the computer screen just stares at you blankly, like,

“What do you want?”

Maybe after you read this, someone out there will be able to help me with this. I apologize in advance for giving you the best I can give you, but it’s nowhere near as good as what I wanted to give you, but I can’t give you what I wanted to give you, because I can’t find it, so I have to settle for this. And I apologize for that sentence as well.

A one-sentence backstory.

When I finished writing the first thing I ever wrote that nobody asked me to write – it was a personal story I felt compelled to get down on paper – I put down my pen, and I said to myself – there was nobody else around, though it didn’t stop me from being dramatic about it…

“I’m immortal.”

I was shocked by those words. They just flew out of my mouth. A spontaneous utterance. I was uttering something big there. Something profound. You get something outside of yourself, it has a chance of sticking around longer than you will…

You’re immortal.

Which feels like a good thing to be.

Even if you’re personally not around to enjoy it.

The problem is, sometimes, immortality doesn’t always work out the way you’d like it to.


The thing I can’t find.

What is it? It’s the theme song, recorded back in the thirties for a “Poverty Row” movie studio, specializing in producing extremely low budget “B” westerns. Lone Star or Monogram, or Lone Star released by Monogram, I honestly don't know. The theme played at the beginning and end of all their movies.

And it’s a doozy. Rivaling, though not quite equaling, the energy and excitement of the Gold Standard of all western theme songs:

“The Lone Ranger.”

More than seventy-five years after it was recorded, when I sit down to immerse myself in one of these third-rate cowboy pictures, that galvanizing musical theme never fails to inflame my senses.

Okay, so here is my phonetic recreation of that music. If you heard it, it would be better, but what can I tell you? I already did tell you. I can’t find it.

We start with an orchestral recreation of the breakneck rhythm of galloping horses. Think: The opening bars to the Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties theme. Unless you don’t know what that is. In which case, you’ll have to settle for this:

Ba-dump ba-dump ba-dump ba-dump

Ba-dump ba-dump ba-dump ba-dump…

Breaking in is this sharp and stirring trumpet solo, carrying the melody.


Buh-duh-dum ba-dum
(You go way up on that last “dum”)

Buh-duh-dum ba-dum
(You go up again)

Buh-duh-duh dum…

And again.


Buh-duh-dum ba-dum (Up, up!)

Buh-duh-dum ba-dum (Up, up again!)

Buh-duh-duh dum…

The main theme proceeds to this Mexican-sounding musical bridge, which is a little cheesy, but most bridges sound cheesy…

Then it’s back to the theme.


Buh-duh-dum ba-dum

Buh-duh-dum ba…

The first time is fine. But on the second time through,

That’s when it happens.

On the final “dum”, the second time through after the somewhat cheesy Mexican-sounding bridge – oh, man, it tears me up just writing about it –

The note emerging from the trumpet…


Maybe it’s because of faulty fingering. A loss of concentration. Blowing wrong – I don’t know, I don’t play the trumpet. But for some reason, nearing the end of the up-till-then impeccable performance, the note comes out jarringly off-key. Like an adolescent choir member who’s voice is changing.

And they kept going. All the way to the end.

I can imagine the trumpeter, playing it cool to conceal his embarrassment, asking the conductor, “Can we take it again?” And the helpless conductor replying,

“We’re a poor studio. We can only afford one take.”

And there you have it.

One day, an itinerant trumpeter is leaving to work at some “Gower Gulch” recording studio, he kisses his wife and he says,

“Honey, I’m playing the solo for the studio’s theme song today. I’m going to be immortal.”

He was right. He is immortal.

But he’s immortalized with a broken note.


Neal said...

Ah well, as Woody says: 'I don't want to live on in my work, I want to live on in my apartment.'

Jim Russell said...

There are a lot of Lone Star / Monogram films available on

Gary said...

There's a pretty informative Wikipidea entry on Monogram Pictures, maybe that will provide some investigative clues.

Unknown said...

It's also possible that the note was SUPPOSED to crack...maybe they even took 7 or 8 takes to get the cracked note.