Out Of Print Soundtracks We Need Back In Print
As a music geek with a film studies degree, I really like soundtracks.
But collecting soundtracks can be an incredibly expensive, and frustrating hobby, because they often go out of print just as soon as they’re released.
That’s because most soundtracks and scores are usually seen by movie studios as little more than promotional tie-ins to the films they’re associated with, not proper albums worthy of their own promotion or self life. Sure, there are some very notable exceptions to this, soundtracks to movies like The Crow, Saturday Night Fever and Flashdance will always stay in print, but that’s widely because the success of those albums and others like them often eclipsed (or, in some cases, caused) whatever the success the movies themselves had.
But for the most part, once a movie makes it to home video, the soundtrack or score is pulled from shelves and is almost never heard from again. The only chance collector’s like me have of snagging them then is on eBay or via a chance encounter at a used records store.
Of course, sometimes a re-issue label like Intrada, La La Land Records or Death Waltz Recordings get their hands on it and make it available once more. But even with those labels doing their best, a lot of amazing soundtracks continue to be unavailable, or they do get re-released, but only in super-limited runs that go out of print just as fast as the original versions. It’s a shame, and it shouldn’t be this way, especially in the age of digital distribution.
As much as I abhor “list” type articles, I really wanted to showcase how bad this problem is, and I couldn’t think of any other way to do it. So here, in no certain order at all, are my most wanted out-of-print soundtracks. Prepare to be shocked, both at what soundtracks continue to be out of print, and in my taste in bad 80s flicks.
The Andromeda Strain
A boring adaptation of the exciting Michael Critchton novel about an alien virus that might just wipe out all of mankind. It’s pretty amazing that someone could take an idea so thrilling and make it dull, but give Hollywood credit, they figured it out. The only thing worth noting about this film today is the crazy soundtrack.
Why The Soundtrack is Awesome
The score to The Andromeda Strain is worth mentioning for several reasons. Firstly, it was an early example of a predominately electronic score, composed by Gil Melle on some very early synthesizers. Secondly, it’s an incredibly avant-garde/experimental piece, with little in the way of tonality, musical motifs or structure, a bold score for a big budget mainstream flick.
Thirdly, it was shaped like a hexagon and was packaged in an crazy complicated unfolding “pod” shaped sleeve.
Yeah, it was different.
Aside from a brief non-hexagonal edition that came out shortly after the original version, this soundtrack remained out-of-print entirely until 2010, when Intrada did a limited edition re-issue on CD. You can find that version online if you search hard enough, but what we really need is a re-pressing of that original version with the hexagon vinyl and the crazy sleeve. Someone call Death Waltz.
Assault on Precinct 13
A murderous gang descends upon a nearly abandoned police station to lay waste to anyone inside. With the odds against them, both the police and the convicts being held in the station’s jail have to team up if they want to stand a chance against the zombie-like horde that surrounds them. An amazing horror take on the crime genre, this is the movie that really put John Carpenter on the map both as a director and a composer.
Why The Soundtrack is Awesome
Carpenter’s scores are well known for their minimalism, but this one really takes the cake. The entire score is just under 30 minutes long, but it’s all gold, amazing bare-bones synthesizer music that not only sets the tone for the film perfectly, but also became a major influence in the world of electro and early hip-hop.
For all its influence and critical acclaim, this score didn’t even get a release at all until 2003, and even then it was only in Europe. With all the amazing genre film soundtrack reissue labels out there right now, you’d think that someone, anyone, would try to get this puppy put out again. I think it’ll happen sooner rather than later.
It’s a classic.
Why The Soundtrack Is Awesome
Steel drums! Saxophone!
Seriously, in the pantheon of “scores that are 80s as shit” this score is the most 80s as shit. James Horner put out a lot of great work in the 80s (Aliens, 48 Hrs., Cocoon…Krull) but this is one of his best. It’s an entirely unique score, super high-energy and a lot of fun to listen to even outside of the movie itself.
And those steel drums are dope!
The soundtrack to Commando remained unreleased until 2003, and that limited edition CD pressing sold out almost immediately. It was re-released a few years later, this time with some bonus tracks, but that version also sold out lightning fast. You’d think someone would figure this out and just make a standard edition available for the multitudes of people who want to buy it, right?
The best comedy of 1987.
Why The Soundtrack is Awesome
The score to Robocop was composed by Basil Poledouris, the man who gave us the legendary score to Conan The Barbarian. If Jim Steinman was a film composer, he’d be Basil Poledouris. No subtlety, no undertones, no quiet moments, just non-stop bombast and energy. The man makes intense music. Screw motivational classes, the next time you’re feeling down, just put one of his scores on your turntable and you’ll have the energy to move mountains.
I like to listen to this when I do housecleaning, it turns my chores into epic conquests.
Another double-dipper, with re-releases in both 2004 and 2010. Of course, both are out of print, and of course, both are worth a miniature fortune. Thankfully, with the new Robocop remake coming to theaters soon, I suspect that interest in the original could create enough demand for another printing.
The ghost story ghost-directed by Stephen Spielberg that made every kid in America born between 1975 and 1985 fucking terrified of their television sets. And even more terrified of creepy clown dolls.
Seriously, that clown doll? Fuck that thing.
Why The Soundtrack is Awesome
Jerry Goldsmith’s score to Poltergeist is a tour-de-force, running the gamut between charming and quaint; creepy and tense; and bold and triumphant. Few scores do the job of making me think of the film they’re from as well as the score to Poltergeist does. One note of it and I start to recall scenes from the film; Carol Ann in the TV; the steak crawling across the counter; that fucking clown.
Seriously, fuck that clown.
The score to Poltergeist was re-released just this year! Good news, right?
Wrong. The score was put out by Mondo Tees, meaning it was a super-limited run that’s already impossible to find. Boo.
The score was also re-released in 2010 by Film Score Monthly, but that edition was a strictly limited affair. Thanks to Mondo, we’re probably not going to see a legit vinyl edition of the soundtrack any time soon, but I can’t imagine the CD edition staying out of print forever.
But not as afraid as I was of that clown from Poltergeist.
Fuck that clown.
This one is a bit odd. Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind composed a complete score for the film, but Kubrick decided not to use most of it, instead electing to go mostly with classical compositions. The official soundtrack is largely comprised of that classical work, and the small bits of the Carlos/Elkind score that Kubrick chose to use.
Of all the soundtracks on this list, I’m least hopeful for this one. While it did get an official release when the film first came out, it was quickly pulled soon after, allegedly because of some issue with the music rights. I’m willing to bet that will never be resolved, and that this one is gone forever. Thankfully, most of the material by Carlos and Elkin was re-released as part of Carlos’ Lost Scores series, including the music that Kubrick chose not to use.
Light Of Day
A band led by a brother and sister (Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett!!) try to make it in the rough and tumble Cleveland bar scene. Not the world’s greatest film, but it’s the only film made by Paul Schrader that isn’t a complete misanthropic mess. So of course, he’s gone on record saying he’s not too fond of it.
Why The Soundtrack Is Awesome
Bruce Springsteen wrote the title track, Joan fucking Jett sings it, and yes, it’s as awesome as that sounds.
Okay, if you need more than that, the album also features some great cuts by The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Ian Hunter and Dave Edmunds. Michael J. Fox sings on one track too, but best we not mention that one.
Some of these tracks have gone on to show up on other records. Thankfully, you can get “Light Of Day” and another Jett standout from the album, “This Means War,” on various Joan Jett releases. However, the two other Jett-led tracks on the album have yet to see a re-release, and the same goes for the songs by The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Dave Edmunds.
However, I think the only thing keeping these tunes from seeing the light of day (sorry) is studio laziness, so hopefully they’ll get around to it sooner or later.
Every Goddamn Tangerine Dream Soundtrack
Since 1977, Tangerine Dream have composed over 20 soundtracks and nearly all of them are out of print. Some of the more notable ones include the scores to Near Dark, Firestarter and Miracle Mile, but their excellent scores to lesser-known flicks like Wavelegnth, Flashpoint, Heartbreakers and Three O’Clock High are also MIA.
In case you were wondering, their scores to Risky Business, Thief, Sorcerer and Legend are all in print and relatively easy to find.
Why The Soundtrack(s) are Awesome
Because Tangerine Dream is awesome!
As you’ve probably already noticed, I’m a big fan of 80s synthpop and electronic music, and in the world of keyboard-centric electronic music, Tangerine Dream…certainly has the most keyboards.
Look, I’m not going to try and defend Tangerine Dream. They’re not for everyone and I get that, but it’s a shame that these soundtracks, definitely their best works of the 80s, are nearly impossible to find today.
Who the hell knows?
I suspect a lot of these are lost in legal limbo, with the film soundtracks owned by one label while Tangerine Dream is signed to another. I’m sure it’s the kind of thing that could be solved with a check, but I don’t think enough people care for it to be worth it for either side.
Howard The Duck
Based on the cult Marvel comic of the same name, the George Lucas-produced Howard The Duck is widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made, an one of the biggest box office duds of all-time. Although truth be told, the movie isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation suggests, and it actually broke even in theaters when it was first released. That, and the special effects by Lucas’ ILM were actually pretty good, save for the unfortunately unconvincing title character. Primarily an action-comedy, the movie also had a strong musical focus, with Howard’s sidekicks being the fictional band Cherry Bomb, fronted by a seriously hair-crimped Leah Thompson.
I never get tired of saying this: the soundtrack to Howard The Duck was primarily written and performed by Thomas Dolby, and features guest appearances by Stevie Wonder, Joe Walsh and George Clinton.
Let that sentence sink in for a bit, and when you’re ready, we’ll move on.
All in all, Dolby wrote five tracks for the album, and of those only one, “Don’t Turn Away” is available today, appearing on the deluxe edition of Dolby’s album The Flat Earth. However, the version on that album is the one with him on vocals, and not the Leah Thompson-led rendition that was was in film itself. In case you’re wondering (and I know you’re just dying to know) that version was only made available as the b-side to the 12″ single of the film’s theme song, which shockingly failed to chart.
The soundtrack to Howard The Duck has never been re-released, thanks largely to the toxic reputation of the film, I bet. While I’d love to see this one get a proper “expanded” re-issue, complete with the 12″ mix of the theme song and the original version of “Don’t Turn Away,” that is probably not going to happen, because I bet the only person who wants to see that happen, aside from me, is Leah Thompson.
Straight To Hell
A western on acid by Alex Cox (Repo Man) and starring Dick Rude, Courtney Love and Joe Strummer.
Oh, and Grace Jones, Shane MacGowan and Elvis Costello
And Dennis Hopper.
And Jim Jarmusch.
Yeah, it’s mostly known for its cast, who I assume were paid up-front in cocaine.
Alex Cox’s flicks have always been known for their stellar soundtracks, and this one is no exception, with most of musician-heavy cast showing up on it. The Pogues contribute five tracks, Strummer chimes in with two and Elvis Costello even pops up with an instrumental tune recorded under the pseudonym The McManus Gang. Zander Schloss from the Circle Jerks (who is also in the film) has a song here as well.
Nearly all of these tracks were exclusive to this release, and haven’t been seen since.
There was a CD re-release a few years ago, and it was even touted as an “expanded” version with more tracks. While that was true, and it did feature some never-before-released Joe Strummer tunes, it also was missing several of the tracks by The Pogues. There must be some sort of rights issue that’s tying up those songs. I assume they’ll see release again someday though, if not on a legit “full” soundtrack of this film, then on some kind of Pogues compilation.
I don’t think I need to explain this one.
The score to The Terminator is one of the most recognizable and powerful movie themes of all-time, and has been re-worked and remixed for every sequel that has come since. None of them hold a candle to the original though, a low-key, synthesized masterpiece of tension and fear that still sends chills up my spine. The album also features five original synth-pop/new wave tracks, most of which make their appearance during the Tech-Noir sequence in the film. They’re dated, but in the best way.
This has popped up on CD a few times over the years, but they’re all out of print now. Furthermore, the most recent version didn’t even include all of the original album, opting instead to include the complete score at the cost of the synthpop tunes.
This one boggles my mind. The Terminator is one of the most popular sci-fi series of all-time, how the hell has its soundtrack remained hard-to-find? It must be a rights issue, the Terminator series is full of them. Whatever the reason, I hope it gets resolved soon, more people need to hear Tahnee Cain and the Tryanglz “Burnin’ In The Third Degree.”