Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Since they became so ubiquitous, I have never understood film soundtrack albums.

I mean it made sense that if a movie contained a lot of particularly worthy music, such as Queen’s work on Flash Gordon, then of course there might be a lot of people who would enjoy listening to it for its own value.

But every single other flick? Come off it.

Excluding musicals, songs used to be something of a rarity in movies, but the whole Original Soundtrack Album industry seems to have changed all that. For example, your average soundtrack album is about 60 minutes long, and predominantly full of lyrics. Your average film is more like 90-120 minutes. This means that every film that gets made now must contain singing throughout at least 50% of it.

Of course that’s not true, these days the songs on these things only have to be in the film briefly, if at all. The Blair Witch Project, I understand, contains no music, yet still managed to produce a soundtrack album anyway. On some level I have to admire such positive thinking.

In most cases though, a production company will now happily mix-in as much inappropriate music as seems necessary to secure better CD sales afterwards, often making a worse movie in the process.

Yet it took my purchase of the Major League soundtrack LP from Tower Records on 9th November 1989 to realise much of this.

I’d watched the film Major League several times while… what? What do you mean how can I remember the date? Why do you want to know that? Look, here I am trying to point an accusing cursor at the failings of an entire album genre, and all you can do is focus on one trivial little detail. What do you mean that’s what I’m doing as well? (sigh) Oh, all right, look, I can remember the date because I kept the receipt, okay?

Right, can we please go on now? Thank you.

I’d watched Major League several times in 1989 (because the year’s printed on my payslips okay) while working at my local Odeon, and there was one specific bit of drummy instrumental music that I particularly liked. It played over an establishing shot of the Cleveland Stadium at night.

So, like a mug, I went out and bought the album.

(insert receipt jpeg)
Y’see? I was GOING to put the receipt picture in HERE. Now I have to substitute the LP cover instead, which means somehow fitting it into my much smaller scanner, so I’m going to have to scan it in in four parts, and then seamlessly jigsaw them all together in Paint.

There – sorted.

Now here’s my point. There were only two instrumental tracks on the entire album, both towards the end of side 2, and neither of which was the one that I actually wanted.

The rest of the album, like so many soundtrack releases these days, is packed to bursting with songs, in the wrong order, and most of which we’d only enjoyed brief snatches of in the film, if at all. Admittedly, I haven’t been through checking each one, so maybe all nine of them were indeed buried away in there somewhere. It's starting to seem as though those samples in the movie were just adverts for the CD.

Anyway, those two instrumental pieces - Trial & Error and Pennant Fever, both by James Newton Howard and mixed by Robert Schaper - feature in the film in their entirety, and understandably wound up being my favourite tracks on the album. They even handily provided the intro music to my first broadcast radio show on 1st December 1991. (because I wrote it on the side of the cassette it’s recorded on)

I was still using those tracks 15 years later in New Zealand…

Anyway, back to the early 1990s, and one day I happened upon the CD album of the sequel:

This is probably the best of the three Major League CDs, and does indeed feature some instrumentals, particularly Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Rude Mood, which I find pleasantly reminiscent of The Goodies.

Ultimately I wound up playing this CD several times over, so much so that when I finally sat down to watch the film itself, I kept getting distracted by spotting all the familiar songs whenever they crept in. For example, one track can be briefly heard on a juke box in a bar. This broke the illusion.

When I came across the threequel’s CD, I made sure that I left it forgotten in a dark corner of my room for the many years that would pass until I finally got around to watching the movie first.

Well, since that day happened recently on 6th February 2010 (because it’s on my blog!), tonight I finally cranked-up the DVD player, plugged the headphones into the TV, sat back and listened.

This one contains quite a range of styles, from Scatman John’s slightly dogmatic Steal The Base, to the Cuban-sounding Oye Como Va from Takaaki Ishibashi, Dennis Haysbert & The Jay Miley Band.

But any instrumentals? The text on the CD itself states that Reverend Horton Heat’s Baby I’m Drunk qualifies, but maybe whoever typed that was (hic) drunk at the time.

The very last track on here however – Robert Folk’s Dugout - contains no lyrics whatsoever, and the wandering clarinet makes it sound curiously reminiscent of a Harold Lloyd movie.

Overall though, despite each one including a crowd-pleasing cover-version of a classic hit, on all three discs the dominant style is country, which I still find too laid-back to really get me interested.

I hardly ever buy soundtrack albums now.

Major League available to sample / buy here.
Major League II available to sample / buy here.
Major League: Back To The Minors available to sample / listen here.

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