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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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Back 13 of 16 Next

The Adventures Of Tintin
First heard in: The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn (2011)

The most American of composers, Williams went all Euro for the animated title sequence of Spielberg's take on Hergé's boy detective. In its not-to-be trusted cool evoking trench coats and peering over newspapers, it shares qualities with the opening of Catch Me If You Can (another animated title sequence), starting with sneaky woodwinds that are energised by some jazz drumming — nice! — before virtuoso harpsichord joins the party. At 0.38, we are introduced to the Tintin theme that Williams will turn heroic and swashbuckling with brass later in the score — indeed rather than a theme for the character in the movie, this feels like a tune to represent and pay tribute to Hergé's universe and legacy.

Listen to an excerpt:

A Big Beautiful Ball
First heard in: Not With My Wife, You Don't! (1966)

Williams started his film music career composing scores for a series of bedroom farces and light comedies such as How To Steal A Million, Penelope, Fitzwilly and Not With My Wife, You Don't under the soubriquet Johnny Williams. Studying music at the noted Julliard School in New York, Williams also worked as a jazz pianist and many of these scores have a lounge-y music-to-mix-cocktails-and-take-your-best-gal-dancing-at-the-Copa feel that was dominant back in the '60s. A Big Beautiful Ball plays over the titles of Not With My Wife You Don't starring Tony Curtis and George C. Scott fighting over the same girl (Virna Lisi) and is typical of Williams from this period. It might seem a world away from Star Wars and Raiders but many of the hallmarks — colourful orchestration, huge optimism and a ridiculously catchy tune — are already present and correct.

Listen to an excerpt:

Cantina Band
First heard in: Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope (1977)

However many times you hear the Cantina Band — or Filgrin D'An And The Modal Nodes to give them full Expanded Universe props— blissing out, they still sound fresh. As make-up men such as Rick Baker mimed on set in big headed masks, Williams employed trad jazz staples — trumpet, sax, clarinet — and combined them with more offbeat instrumentation — a Fender Rhodes piano, an Arp synth and a Caribbean steel drum — to create something that is simultaneously familiar yet otherworldly. "We filtered them so it clips the bottom end of the sound," remembered Williams. "We attenuated the low end a little bit and reverbed them so that it slightly thins them out." The band's other tune, heard when Han shoots first, is mellower but a little belter too.

Listen to an excerpt:

Lapti Nek
First heard in: Star Wars Episode VI Return Of The Jedi (1983)

Between the events of A New Hope and Return Of The Jedi, much changed. A brother and sister reunited. A father and son reconciled. An Empire got crushed. But less talked about was the shift in musical tastes in the galactic underworld. In A New Hope, the sleaze of Tatooine listened to up-tempo jazz in the style of Benny Goodman. Just four years later, the scum of Jabba's palace are now grooving to the disco pop styling's of the Max Rebo band — organist Max (real name Sirulian Phantele, you can see why he changed it), singer Sy Snootles, and on lead flute Droopy McCool — and in particular their hit song Lapti Nek. The song includes lyrics written in English by Williams' son Joseph and interpreted into Huttese by Anne Arbogast who also sung on the track — in case you've always wondered, Lapti Nek translates as "Work It Out". For the 1997 Special Edition, the song was unceremoniously dumped for the vastly inferior Jedi Rocks. The less said about that the better.

Listen to an excerpt:

Swing, Swing, Swing
First heard in: 1941 (1979)

It is no secret that Steven Spielberg has always dreamed of making a huge Hollywood musical. As such, trace elements have occurred throughout his work; with Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, he opened with a breathtaking staging of Cole Porter's Anything Goes translated into Mandarin Chinese that is straight out of the Busby Berkeley playbook ("I love Cole Porter," said Williams, "and I got the biggest kick out of doing that pastiche, with a female chorus and antique sax.") Yet Spielberg's biggest expression of his passion for musicals came with 1941, mounting a stunningly choreographed Jitterbug dance contest that develops into an equally balletic chase before exploding into a full-scale riot. Musically, the Robert Zemeckis-Bob Gale script outlined the dance would take place to Benny Goodman's 8 minute 1937 recording of Sing, Sing, Sing, an epic demonstration of big band virtuosity, and Spielberg used the song as playback for the dancers. Yet during post production, the cutting rendered the song unworkable with the images and Williams was brought into compose a parody ("I called my piece Swing, Swing, Swing — a little play on words thing there.") The result is just joyous, full of jumpin' clarinet, blarin; trombones, pulsatin' tom toms all played by a swingin' band yet full of musical accents for sync points that give it an almost cartoon-y feel.

Listen to an excerpt:

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Have Your Say
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Your Comments

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

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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