"So, are you eating anything healthy yet?"
Jerry Goldsmith to the author after one of
his regular UK concerts in Nottingham
I have met three geniuses in my life - and, yes, I know how
overused that word is. I use it very carefully, very deliberately
after much thought. Each was a genius in communication, being
able to touch a great deal of people very profoundly through
their art and craft. One directed movies, one wrote books
and the third wrote music.
Powell stands as a colossus in world film-making and to my
delight, he agreed with my assessment that his best film was A Matter of Life and Death. What the hell
did I know? I was in my twenties. As an octogenarian, he wandered
Cardiff's high street with me in tow looking for the bookshop
in which he would dutifully sign copies of the first half
of his memoirs. I got the wrong bookshop and chaos reigned
for delicious minutes as an eighty plus year old man started
to deface books (albeit his own, unknown to the staff) with
great gusto while a horrified manager weighed his chances
of uprooting him. Powell died in 1990 and the world is a much,
much poorer place without him.
met the second, a writer, at another book signing (mercifully,
this time, in the right shop) in 1980 and stayed at his side
while we discussed the up and coming TV show of his famous
(now five part) trilogy. As his interests broadened into natural
history, we corresponded over films I had edited, films which
showcased places and people he featured in the book he was
most proud of - Last Chance to See. Aside from my
sharing his insane enthusiasm for Macintosh computers, Douglas
Adams seemed to be my 'celebrity' sub-conscious. His was a
unique voice. That voice was silenced in May 2001 at the horrifically
absurd age of 48.
Wednesday 21st July 2004, the third of my three geniuses died.
I spent more time in his company and was able to see him annually
when his touring and movie score recordings brought him to
the UK. Through close friend and Hollywood director Richard
Franklin, I even got to have a memorable meal at his house
in Beverly Hills. There's more on that farcical social faux
pas of mine later. The late and truly great Jerry Goldsmith
was a composer of the highest calibre. It's not for me to
list why he is truly a great (I'm sure his unending list of
film scores at imdb.com will make you gawp with astonishment).
This is to be a much more personal tribute. The flesh and
blood man is often very divorced from any myth surrounding
his accomplishments but Jerry was different. His vast legacy
continues to moves me, excite me and reach down into places
I'd only ever suspected were in me and brings them out more
often than not smiling. In person, the man himself was a joy.
man who hated salad' with Jerry Goldsmith
worked in a much-maligned medium. Known in the classical world
as 'programme music', scores for movies are and were never
held in high regard despite the fact that Stravinsky himself
was a film composer. It's music dictated by the images. Let's
ignore that Beethoven wrote some of his best work as programme
music (his 'Pastorale' anyone?) and a whole host of Mozart
works are musical scores to accompany another medium. It's
believed by a lot of music scholars that if there were a Mozart
of the 21st century, he or she'd be writing film scores. If
Schaffer's Amadeus is to be half believed,
making money was a very big priority for Wolfgang. After all,
Jerry lived in dollar-dependent Beverly Hills and at one live
performance in London before conducting his score for First
Blood, he stepped up to the podium:
can I say about Rambo?" - by then in the UK, a gung-ho
macho American joke. His reply was typical Goldsmith. "Well,
it bought my house…" And it was a great house.
in the 70s was awash with hummable themes. It was only when
I met the man, I realised that he had written many of them
(The Man From Uncle, The Waltons, Dr. Kildare). But Jerry's accomplishments
are more marked in his feature film work. There are several
'Goldsmith moments' that mean a lot to me. Jerry heavily researched
his scores. For Patton, he discovered that
the general himself believed himself to be reincarnated. Jerry
worked in to his score a glorious mythic brass evocation of
past lives that - in underscore over the scene when the general
kneels at an ancient battle site - sends shivers down my spine.
Karl Malden asks George C. Scott after the latter's account
of ancient warfare "How do you know this?" The answer
(with Jerry’s trumpets) "Because I was there…"
is no one on this planet so sorely misrepresented in the Oscar
stakes as Jerry Goldsmith. I have come to the rather mean
spirited conclusion that a man who is nominated seventeen
times (and wins only once) has a right to concoct a few conspiracy
theories. I mean, the Academy even asked Jerry to write a
theme for the Oscar Show itself. Why? Did John Williams have
flu? This isn't to denigrate Williams' contribution to film
scoring. I think Williams' work is superlative. I just wish
he wasn’t lauded and applauded for scores whose inspiration
and origins had stemmed from elsewhere. All you Star
Wars fans, please find a recording of Korngold’s
main theme for King's Row. Thank you. You'll
see what I mean. Jerry was either colossally unlucky or his
fellow composers were so in awe, they felt they had to vote
for the lesser scores, to 'get him back' for being so jaw-droppingly
to 1985. I had just been blown away by the first feature I’d
managed to get work on (OK, in a very lowly un-credited capacity). The Right Stuff was a tour de force and the
score won an Oscar for Bill Conti. In the Oscar race, it was
up against Jerry's score for Under Fire.
I was reminded by Andrew London, the editor of the film I
was working on in the UK, that Conti's score was a reworking
of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. I was crushed. I listened
to Under Fire as preparation for working
with Jerry in London. It is a complex, rich, joyous and dark
score. It is a true original, ethnically representative and
as dramatic as all hell. It lost. I could see why the man
was so disappointed but worse was to come.
was staying with the afore mentioned Richard Franklin in London
during the scoring of his film Link. I had
been warned to stay off the subject of Jerry's recent work
with Ridley Scott. Six years earlier, Jerry’s Alien score had become a horror score masterpiece (despite the appalling
chopping and changing that went on in post production). Jerry
was angered that some cues he had written for Alien had been dropped for (get this) music he had written for another
movie (Freud) and a piece from Howard Hanson's
2nd Symphony. The score on CD is complete - Goldsmith in toto.
Ridley Scott’s Legend was just coming
out when I found myself as Richard's assistant, being wide
eyed and puppy-like enthusiastic at the scoring sessions of Link. Andrew, the editor, had passed me a
tape of Jerry’s Legend score. I remember
giving two hours clear listening to this - as then unreleased
- gem in a very swanky hotel room at the Athanæum in
listening I think I was in a state of shock.
extraordinary piece of work was a movie score? This two hour,
masterful, musical experience was for a mere movie? I still
remember the awe I felt as I finished listening to it and
knew that in about ten minutes, I'd be sitting down to have
a drink with the man who wrote it. This is fan-boy territory
at its most sublime. I was, as I said, in shock.
then, something I will remember forever. I ordered a drink
- large vodka and tonic. By God, I needed it. Jerry said "I'll
have the same…" And yes, I know how sad it must
seem but this genius of a composer's favourite tipple was
my own. I told him how moved I was by Legend and how extraordinary the work had been. Both Richard and
Andrew wore sad faces.
score had been dropped - cut - excised. REMOVED from the film…
Can you imagine? "Sorry, Wolfgang, your Requiem is too good to be released…"
Because Jerry's score was too good for the movie? (Scott had
reported that a Universal exec had called Jerry's work 'monumental').
No. Apparently Jerry Goldsmith's score for Legend was 'too sophisticated' for American audiences. Oh,
no. No. It would be so, so terrible that sophistication would
lie bleeding. And you know what those demographic slaves put
in its place? Tangerine Dream's electronic over-score with
a Brian Ferry single to sell the movie. Jesus. The movie didn't
connect with an audience despite the presence of Tom Cruise
but oh, the score…
the punch-line. Europe created America from Europeans. Jerry's
masterpiece was cut from Legend - in America.
It was retained for European distribution. Go frickin' figure.
But it was subsequently butchered anyway. The full score is
available on CD and the Region 1 Special Edition DVD of Legend is about as complete as you could wish for but… As another
irony, a cue from Richard's own Psycho II had made its way into the final European soundtrack. Movie
gods work in mysterious ways. So in 1989 I was working in
California and stole a few days off to get to Los Angeles
and meet with Richard who gave me a tour of Hollywood's finest.
I visited the steps of Laurel and Hardy's The Music
Box. I stood in awe at Universal's studio sets for
Lon Chaney's Phantom of the Opera, still
in place after many decades. But most exciting of all, I was
invited with Richard to have lunch with a man whose skill
and talent had touched me more than any other.
sign on Jerry's front lawn announced ARMED RESPONSE. I didn’t
know what that meant then. I do now. I was ushered in and
politely sat at the dinner table as the food was served. Oh
God. Salad. This was like Superman being given the key to
the city - made of Kryptonite. I stared vacant eyed at Richard
who knew of my food problem but accepted I would make the
effort. I was served a bush of greenery that would make a
carnivore blanche. I prodded at the meaty bits (four percent
of the meal) and it was then that the great man intervened.
the problem? Don’t ya like salad?"
prodded at my plate and really tried to be gracious. And then
Joel, Jerry's son, leaned over and said "Can I get you
a burger?" and I could have kissed him. In subsequent
meetings with Jerry in concert all over the UK I became the
man 'who hated salad' and was glad that for that one character
flaw I was remembered. He will be remembered for a lot more
than that. Jerry Goldsmith. Your music will live on. I'll
see to that.