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Producing Soundtracks

On one of my frequent trips to Los Angeles, I met Albert Glasser, a film composer, arranger, and piano tuner who had scored more than 100 movies and TV shows – mostly “B” sci-fi and horror drive-in flicks. We became friends, and I learned that he had arranged the score for “ROCKETSHIP X-M,” a low-budget, 1950 black-and-white spaceship mission to Mars, with entanglements among the good-looking male and female crew. In several ways it was a trailblazing sci-fi movie.

The score was composed by Ferde Grofe, known for classical American music like “Grand Canyon Suite.” X-M was a rare movie the great composer had agreed to do, featuring Dr. Samuel Hoffman playing the Theremin, a trailblazing instrument that yielded an eerie wailing electronic sound that Bernard Herrmann later used for THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.

Glasser owned the original X-M 16” studio transcription discs, recorded in 1950, before the days of audio tape. He trusted me to take them to New York, have an engineer at CBS clean and equalize the scratched, brittle, mono recordings, and launch STARLOG RECORDS by releasing a magnificent soundtrack score that might otherwise have been lost forever.

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Albert Glasser and I became good buds, and I was captured by his tales of working in Hollywood, impressed by the variety of shows he had scored. My next release for STARLOG RECORDS was “The Fantastic Film Music of Albert Glasser,” and it included the best tracks of 8 Glasser scores, including “THE BOY AND THE PIRATES,” “THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN,” and “THE CYCLOPS.”

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I have been in love with movie music since seeing my very first film, Walt Disney’s “DUMBO.” Norm was diligently handing much of the magazine publishing, so I was able to focus on expanding our operation with production projects, to further address the audience we had attracted. I dove into producing, and for the next few years, STARLOG RECORDS was my joy.

I hooked up with Laurie Johnson, a distinguished British conductor and composer who had worked closely with Bernard Herrmann. After Herrmann’s death, Laurie constructed the score for a sequel to the hit horror movie “IT’S ALIVE” -- using all Herrmann’s original themes, enhanced and developed with his own musical creativity. I released “IT’S ALIVE 2,” and because I had all the studio tracks, and was fascinated by QUADRAPHONIC sound, I released the album in 4-Channel SQ QUAD. Sweet!

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The Playpen Norm and I had built continued to expand. I went to England to work with Laurie, Christopher Palmer and the London Studio Symphony Orchestra, using a revolutionary new microphone to produce one of the first digital movie albums. We brought to fresh stereo life, Herrmann’s fantastic score for Alfred Hitchcock’s great thriller “NORTH BY NORTHWEST.”

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I released an album of Laurie Johnson movie scores, including “FIRST MEN IN THE MOON,” “DR. STRANGELOVE,” “CAPTAIN KRONOS, VAMPIRE HUNTER.” The final release of STARLOG RECORDS was soundtrack music from “THE AVENGERS” and “THE PROFESSIONALS,” TV shows scored by Laurie.

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I teamed with Tom Null and Chris Kuchler in Los Angeles who had launched Varese Sarabande Records, and we produced together, and they distributed. We built some of their early soundtrack catalogue, before they became the film force they are now.

I loved producing soundtracks, especially writing the liner notes for the albums. Apparently, I was good enough at it, that Varese Sarabande asked me to write liner notes for “The Star Wars Trilogy,” an album of main themes from all three films, produced by George Korngold, with a personal note from John Williams. A couple years ago, when Varese Sarabande decided to release a Deluxe Soundtrack 2-CD set of Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J.J. Abrams’ first “STAR TREK” movie, Michael asked me to write the liner notes for that special edition.

I also loved designing the album covers. I was determined to correct all the things I didn’t like in soundtrack albums. I designed a bold “lightning S” STARLOG RECORDS logo, and a record label that was easy to read, telling you Side 1 or Side 2.

The “producer bug” was surging in my blood, and I had rented an apartment in Hollywood, where I spent one week each month, developing various production projects, transforming the subject matter of our genre fan publications, into other forms – things I just knew my soul-mates out there would enjoy.

 

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