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80 Reasons Why John Williams Is The Man
We mark the movie maestro's 80th birthday with a celebration of his classic pieces

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Incident At Isla Nublar
First heard in: Jurassic Park (1993)

This is the kind of suspense cum action cue that Williams excels. A shifting snaking sinuous string motif that ebbs and flow, it is used to represent desperation stations in the park, be it dino-related — this version covers raptor action — or human-centric — a more elaborate take sees it cross cut between Alan Grant and the kids climbing the electric fence while Ellie Sattler labours to turn the electricity on. It's great to the ear but an assault on the nervous system.

Listen to an excerpt:


Barry's Kidnapping
First heard in: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

For many Williams greatest skill is his knack for coming up with accessible tunes that audiences can whistle leaving the cinema. Yet he is equally adept at creating the polar opposite, troubling atonal colours that are usually the province of avant-garde classical concert halls. It's a technique Williams frequently uses in the Indiana Jones movies to suggest scary animals — listen to the strings in the Well Of Souls — but it gets perhaps its most extreme example in Close Encounters. As aliens descend to abduct little Barry Guiler (Cary Guffey), the house goes ape-shit, the record player turning on (playing Chances Are by Johnny Mathis), the hoover coming alive and the floor vent screws slowly unscrewing themselves. Williams enhances the terror with full-on orchestral and choral tumult, the ensemble churning, rumbling, ascending and stinging for all they're worth. This is what it must sound like inside David Lynch's head.

Listen to an excerpt:


The Basket Game
First heard in: Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)

Back to Indy. In the liner notes for the Raiders soundtrack, Steven Spielberg suggests that all Indiana Jones had to do survive the perils of his adventure was to listen to John Williams score — "it's sharp rhythms told him when to run, it's slicing strings told him when to duck." It's a meta idea and nowhere is it clearer than during Egyptian bazaar dust up: as Indy sees off Arab ambushers, a lively light-hearted motif accents the choreography of the fight, upping the fun factor without ever diluting the excitement. It is the first sketch for a kind of playful action cue that would recur in the likes of Harry Potter.

Listen to an excerpt:


Isobel's Horse And Buggy
First heard in: Stepmom (1998)

Producing one of his most restrained scores — also see Stanley And Iris, The Accidental Tourist and Always — Williams replaced original composer Patrick Doyle (both later worked on Harry Potter) to soundtrack Chris Columbus' sudsy drama about the rival between Ed Harris' new girlfriend Julia Roberts and his dying ex-wife Susan Sarandon. The dominant mood is an airy orchestral score augmented by Christopher Parkening's classical guitar, but the standout is a catchy little scherzo that has hints of a hoedown. It's proof that even when the film isn't fantastic, you can rely on Williams to deliver the goods.

Listen to an excerpt:


The Catamaran Race
First heard in: Jaws 2 (1978)

There are soundtrack experts who argue that Williams score for the Jeannot Szwarc's fin de sequel is a more enjoyable listening experience than his Oscar winning music for the first one. Perhaps because the film is populated with teens, Williams gives the above-the-water music lots of pep, his music for the Catamaran race fizzes along on joyous brass, seemingly skimming through the water at a rapid rate of knots. And the next time it is on late on ITV 1, try and stay awake for the end credits music — it's really lovely.

Listen to an excerpt:

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Have Your Say
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Your Comments

1
freaking Lapti Nek is here but no Battle of the Heroes? Can we please stop pretending that the Prequel soundtrack is no good just because RLM doesn't like the films? More

Posted by NeoBrowser on Saturday May 4, 2013, 10:57

2 RE: RE:
Thank you sir. Your kind words will keep me sane when I get locked up for libel! More

Posted by Rob on Tuesday February 14, 2012, 11:22

3 RE: RE:
L: Rob Or more likely Darth Tax-eVader * .gif]ee what I did there?! *for humorous purposes only and in no way shape or form was it meant as a slander on his character. Just mediocre wordplay is all.ote]   py07.gif]py07.gif]   ert of Mirth, I salute you More

Posted by JIm R on Tuesday February 14, 2012, 11:10

4 RE: RE:
Or more likely Darth Tax-eVader * .gif]ee what I did there?! *for humorous purposes only and in no way shape or form was it meant as a slander on his character. Just mediocre wordplay is all. More

Posted by Rob on Tuesday February 14, 2012, 10:51

5 RE:
L: howie71taylor A master composer and what a back catalogue. Did you know Tottenham Hotspur FC walk out to "Duel Of The Fates" for every home game? sp; rry dress up as Darth Maul ? More

Posted by JIm R on Tuesday February 14, 2012, 09:41

6 A true genius
Just about every film he's been involved in has been improved greatly by the soundtrack, sometimes subtle but always worthwhile. A great old fashioned genius, long may he reign as King of the soundtracks. Excellent article :) More

Posted by jamiecfc on Monday February 13, 2012, 15:13

7 Indy's Very First Adventure - The Last Crusade
Cracking cue ploughs along with the train chasing Indy all the way! More

Posted by wayne302919 on Monday February 13, 2012, 11:10

8 Departure of Boba Fett
Fantastic cue ending in four huge blasts from the whole orchestra - gob-smacking! More

Posted by wayne302919 on Monday February 13, 2012, 10:59

9 Short Round...
There's a moment in Temple of Doom's end credit music that literally has the Raiders March & Short Round's theme playing AT THE SAME TIME and perfectly complementing each other - how ingenious is that?! More

Posted by wayne302919 on Monday February 13, 2012, 10:46

10 Gasps of astonishment...
I once played Temple of Doom's Mine Car Chase to a friend of mine - a grade six flautist - she ran out of the room gasping!! More

Posted by wayne302919 on Monday February 13, 2012, 10:39

11 RE: We're gonna need a bigger list...
With any subjective list, the temptation is to point out anything that's missing, as opposed to what's there. So, let's get mine out of the way now: - Throne Room / Medal Ceremony from A New Hope? Lapti Nek from ROTJ is there but not this glorious piece of pomp and circumstance?! However, this article is one of the best that Empire has ever produced. Very deep research and clear evidence of passion and understanding of Williams' entire career. The temptation would be to go for the obvious, and I reckon I could come up with 80 highlights from Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones alone. Full credit for going beyond the obvious though, and here's another one - the original Lost In Space TV show had a theme tune from John Williams, although then he was still Johnny! My version of the ET soundtrack has Escape / Chase / Saying Goodbye in a beautiful 15min single track that I happened to be listening to when I started reading the Empire homepage today. I'd recommend that everyonMore

Posted by BelfastBoy on Sunday February 12, 2012, 11:19

12 We're gonna need a bigger list...
...but this is a magisterial survey. Superb work by Ian Freer and (presumably) team. I've been here hours, reliving old favourites and making a few rewarding new discoveries too. Thank you to John Williams for so many of the great tunes of my lifetime - and crucially, many happy returns! More

Posted by Dextraneous on Sunday February 12, 2012, 01:01

13 Thank You Empire
What an amazing feature, fitting tribute to someone as massively talented as John Williams More

Posted by james dean on Sunday February 12, 2012, 00:54

14 Wow
the man is amazing.....I will be testing my friends More

Posted by Paddy Kieran on Saturday February 11, 2012, 21:41

15 Thank you so much
Delighted to see The Towering Inferno titles and the Empire asteroid chase on here. Brilliant, thanks. More

Posted by Schnorbitz on Saturday February 11, 2012, 20:10

16 Amazing Feature for an Amazing Man
Ian Freer hats off to you, this is the best feature Empire's ever done, online or off, and I salute your encyclopaedic knowledge of the great man. And what a man. His music has lifted me so high, so often. Magic from start to finish. More

Posted by BondVsPredator on Saturday February 11, 2012, 14:44

17 RE: 80 Reasons Why John Williams Is The Man
Awesome feature Empire! It is a tribute to the Maestro that you can list so many great tracks and there are still bucket loads more that immediately come to mind: the main theme from "Jane Eyre" and the "Lowood" theme; "Cadillac of the Skies" from "Empire of the Sun"; "Dorinda's First Flight" from "Always"; the Main Title from "Dracula"; the "Call of the Crystal" from the last Indiana Jones monstrosity (that we shall mention no further). I bought the double cassette of Star Wars in 1977... then the double fold out LP... then I was hooked. Thanks John Williams for a lifetime of hummable tunes that work for just about every occasion in life! More

Posted by mellowwellowmann on Saturday February 11, 2012, 11:26

18 Thank You
I really enjoyed this. so many memories, so many wonderful pieces of music! More

Posted by orazzak on Saturday February 11, 2012, 10:06

19 A Humble Genius
Having had the pleasure of meeting him many years ago, he was most humble when I thanked him for the joy he he brought to my life. He said it was his pleasure. From Star Wars to War Horse, no one has brought more to the world of film music than John Williams, and may he continue to produce masterpieces for many years to come. Thank you Empire for THE BEST FEATURE EVER!! More

Posted by ddumbell on Saturday February 11, 2012, 04:26

20
A master composer and what a back catalogue. Did you know Tottenham Hotspur FC walk out to "Duel Of The Fates" for every home game? More

Posted by howie71taylor on Saturday February 11, 2012, 03:32

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