The Taking of Pelham One Two Three CD, Soundtrack, Import
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is a superb urban thriller: four men, dressed alike in trenchcoats and calling each other Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, etc., take a subway car hostage and demand $1 million in ransom. Walter Matthau stars as the transit cop assigned to the case; Robert Shaw is the leader of the terrorists. It's a brilliant '70s hostage movie with biting New York humor. For the score, David Shire came up with a stroke of genius. He wanted to do some kind of funk/jazz/big band, but wanted a way of making it dissonant and powerful -- not too light, but not too random. So for his melodic materials he utilized the 12-tone method of composition, a technique devised by Arnold Schoenberg in the early 20th century in which you make a theme by using all 12 pitches in a specific order, and then create other themes by playing that "row" backwards, upside-down, backwards and upside-down, or transposed. Shire ended up with a monster two-note bass line with these 12-tone themes running on top. For our CD, the first-ever release of this music, we have utilized the complete score, including around 15 minutes of music not included in the film. The 12-page booklet includes movie stills, composer photos, and track-by-track notes by Doug Adams.
Shire went on to score such gritty films as 1977's "Saturday Night Fever" and the Pelham-tense crime thriller, 2007's "Zodiac." His cinematic jazz-funk inspired scores of soundtrack composers and strains of his works (or samples, in some cases) can be heard on Beastie Boys tracks and definitely echo in Harry Gregson-Williams original score for the 2009 The Taking of Pelham 123 remake.
Now I gotta admit I never saw either movie. Which shows you what a dumb little tewrp I was. All those Saturday afternoons as a ten year old in New Jersey in 1979 moaning about being bored, when I could have been watching movies like Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3 on New York's WNEW, Metromedia 5: movies which I feel lucky to be able to find for rental now.
But I bet you one thing: this soundtrack stands feet tall over any modern remark soundtrack. David Shire composed this. Now, if you can picture the largess of Issac Hayes, the drive of Funkidelic, and Shire working with horns the same way Barry White did with strings, you get some idea of how BIG this music is.
Actually this music does not sound, directly, like any of the music I compared it too. But it is electric and orchestral and funky. If Shire was not listening to the above music, soaking it up as a nuance if not actual sound, I'd be very surprised. Funk, all stripes, was all over TV, film, program music during the mid-70s, and this music is a big representation of much of it.
Or, as they might have said in '74, Everything Is Everything, Baby.