The 20 Soundtracks That Defined The 1960s

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Composer: Sonny Rollins
If it's easy to forget that jazz was pop music back in the '60s and that Cilla Black was one of its stars, Alfie's score is a handy reminder. Blue Note saxophonist Sonny Rollins brought American bebop cool in spades to Michael Caine's Cockney chancer and his roguish (sexist) antics (double-entendres), with Brit jazzmen like pianist Stan Tracey joining him in the studio. Sadly, Alfie's six-track LP expunged those British jazz contributors, although the record did feature the famous Burt Bacharach / Hal David title track that, despite her early misgivings, would take Black to Number 9 in the UK charts. "I said to Brian [Epstein, her manager], 'Alfie?? You call your dog Alfie! [Couldn't] it be Tarquin or something like that?" Back to the menu

    img.album {            opacity:0.8;            filter:alpha(opacity=80); /* For IE8 and earlier */    }    img.album:hover {        opacity:1.0;        filter:alpha(opacity=100); /* For IE8 and earlier */    }    a.header {        font-family: "Fjalla One";        color:#ababab;        font-size:28px;        line-height:30px;        text-decoration:none;    }    a.header:hover {        font-family: "Fjalla One";        color:#333333;        font-size:28px;        line-height:30px;        text-decoration:none;    }1960s [1970s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s) [1980s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-80s) [1990s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s) [2000s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-00s) [2010s](/features/2010s-soundtracks-reader-choices) ![]( *Select an album to hear samples from the album and to find out why it made our list.* ![]( [![Alfie](]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p2%29 [![Bullitt]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p3%29 [![The Great Escape]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p4%29 [![The Good, The Bad & The Ugly]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p5%29 [![The Jungle Book]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p6%29 ![]%28 [![Lawrence Of Arabia]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p7%29 [![Doctor Zhivago]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p8%29 [![On Her Majesty's Secret Service]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p9%29 [![Once Upon A Time In The West]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p10%29 [![Planet Of The Apes]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p11%29 ![]%28 [![Psycho]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p12%29 [![Psycho]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p13%29 [![Spartacus]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p14%29 [![The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p15%29 [![Help!]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p16%29 ![]%28 [![Easy Rider]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p17%29 [![Where Eagles Dare]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p18%29 [![The Magnificent Seven]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p19%29 [![Breakfast At Tiffany's]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p20%29 [![8 1/2](](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s/p21) ![](   

Composer: Lalo Schifrin
This ‘Frisco thriller saw Argentine pianist-turned-composer Lalo Schifrin surf the wave between the swinging ‘60s and the seedier side of a movie decade that would regularly throw together the cool, the sexy and the corrupt, but rarely with as much style. Schifrin had graduated from Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in the ‘50s and that apprenticeship is channelled into a none-more-jazzy blend of pulsing bass lines and sleazy brass. Bullitt is remembered for this score and its epic, 11-minute car chase, but the two didn’t overlap: McQueen’s Mustang ride is soundtracked only by the screech of tires and purr of V8 engine: a whole different kind of jazz. Back to the menu

The Great Escape
Composer: Elmer Bernstein
It has become a boorishly repetitive anthem for English footie fans, but that just speaks to the enduring appeal of Elmer Bernstein’s military-themed score for this timeless POW pic. Helped by director John Sturges’ determination to give the music room to breathe on the movie’s soundtrack, Bernstein’s work is one of those scores that truly works on two levels. It provides themes for the characters and action, and works as a cohesive piece of music even if you’ve never seen a frame. Forget the football use – this is still the theme to countless bank holidays and Boxing Day memories. Back to the menu

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Composer: Ennio Morricone
A towering monolith of cinema scores, this is one of Ennio Morricone’s masterpieces, a collection of ten instrumental tracks (and The Story Of A Soldier) that still defines the spaghetti Western. Its use of gunfire, whistling, yodelling, cayote howling, flute (for Blondie), arghilofono (for Angel Eyes), and vocals (for Tuco) immediately transport us to dusty graveyards and unforgiving deserts. Morricone’s music was regularly played during shooting, with Leone making specific demands of his composer. For The Ecstasy Of Gold, he requested a song that sounded like “the corpses were laughing from inside their tombs”. Somehow Morricone, genius that he is, succeeded. Back to the menu

The Jungle Book
Composers: Sherman Brothers
Bringing jazz to the masses – or at least their offspring – The Jungle Book was the first animated soundtrack to be unquestionably cool. Arguably, it’s the first and only. Moving away from the classical scores that had preceded it, the Sherman brothers and Disney recruited some of the best jazz musicians of the day to voice their animated characters, and then let them cut loose on the soundtrack, relying on the animators to match their stylings. It worked in spades, giving the studio one of its classics and giving us a soundtrack that has endured for nearly half a century with no sign of growing stale. Back to the menu

Lawrence Of Arabia
Composer: Maurice Jarre
Listening to Maurice Jarre’s Lawrence Of Arabia Theme in all its romance, majesty and sandy bits, it’s hard to imagine that the Frenchman was third choice to pen the film’s score. When the call did come, he was left with only six weeks to compose the music for the Bedouin blockbuster, a scenario that took him on his own oasis-less journey. “It was panic time,” Jarre remembered. “I managed to sleep every three hours for ten minutes and could go just days and nights without stopping. After that, I spent four months recuperating.” The happy result of that slog was, like the film, an Oscar-winning classic, and thanks to a 2006 remastering, it’s still crisply evocative of a unique moment in British cinema. Back to the menu

Mary Poppins
Composers: Sherman Brothers
Until someone writes Flockynockynihilipilification: The Musical, Mary Poppins’ Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious remains cinema’s most joyously wordy ditty. It’s one of 30-plus songs written by the Sherman brothers for Disney’s childcare-by-witchcraft triumph, and while not all of them made the cut, most are available on a 40th Anniversary re-release that showcases the full Chim Chim Cher-ee’ing, bird-feeding, sugar-spooning, Oscar-winning magic of their work. Sixties subversion was coming, but thanks to the Shermans, audiences could still revel in cosier comforts if they wanted to. And, boy, did they. Poppins topped a box-office top four that saw Goldfinger sandwiched between The Sound Of Music and My Fair Lady. Even the big German would have been whistling along. Back to the menu

Doctor Zhivago
Composer: Maurice Jarre
A score that spawned an unlikely hit record, Maurice Jarre’s work on Doctor Zhivago was a lot less fraught than his previous David Lean collaboration. “After Lawrence Of Arabia, he always insisted for me to be involved from the beginning”, Jarre recalled. “I read the book and the script, and went on location.” The latter was probably a mixed blessing, bearing in mind the film’s Hoth-like locations in Finland, but Jarre was suitably inspired and his compositions, full of grace and turmoil, made good use of Zhivago’s beloved balalaika. Soon after the film was released Lara’s Theme – given lyrics by Paul Francis Webster and renamed Somewhere My Love – became an easy listening smash for Connie Francis. Trust us, it sounds better in Cyrillic. Back to the menu

On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Composer: John Barry
John Barry’s fifth Bond saw him experimenting with Moog synths, a new lyricist n Burt Bacharach’s songwriting partner Hal David), and an instrumental opener, the first since Monty Norman’s Dr. No theme. Moog, bass and tambourine launch Maurice Binder’s stir again into glorious life for the Piz Gloria downhill escape, while the David-penned We Have All The Time In The World haunts Bond’s doomed romance. The fast-ailing Louis Armstrong sang that love theme, and would do the same again for Guinness 25 years later, scoring a posthumous UK hit in the process. “It’s ironic that somebody’s selling ale and you get a hit out of it”, commented Barry drily, “but it’s the way of the world.” Back to the menu

Once Upon A Time In The West
Composer: Ennio Morricone
Leone and Morricone go together like Spielberg and Williams, Fellini and Rota, and Carpenter and, well, Carpenter. The pair’s rapport was close to its strongest for Sergio Leone’s brilliant, bleak epitaph to the Old West in which old heroes became villains, nameless men thirsted for revenge, the old gunslinger was damned to eternally wander and the Madonna figure was a whore. Sight-unseen, Morricone wrote musical motifs for each of those characters – Frank, Harmonica, Cheyenne and Jill – that caught their essence more perfectly than any amount of backstory. The director exploited his composer’s great score in the edit to sync together sound and image into a dazzling opera of the West. Back to the menu

Planet Of The Apes
Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
By the late ’60s Jerry Goldsmith had made a name for himself scoring war flicks and Westerns, and composing the theme to The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but it was Planet Of The Apes that proved his immense capacity for innovation. Its avant-garde style had never before been applied to an entire Hollywood picture, and its threatening trumpets, jabbed pianos, synthy crashes and lurching woodblock percussion proved as attention-grabbing as John Chambers’ make-up work. Goldsmith’s techniques included getting his horn section to blow their instruments without mouthpieces, using steel bowls as percussion and looping drums into an Echoplex. It didn’t win him an Oscar, but this score remains one of his most celebrated. Back to the menu

Composer: Bernard Herrmann
The track – you know the one – is called, appropriately enough, Murder. Not Shower or Wash & Go, but Murder. It’s track 15 of Bernard Herrmann’s fantastic soundtrack, and it may just be one of the ten most famous pieces of film music ever written: shrieking, staccato strings soundtracking the stabbing of Marion Crane, before deeper, darker, more dramatic cello and contrabass kick in, symbolising the ebbing away of life. Yet the rest of the dread-soaked score is equally fantastic, not to mention one of the most ripped-off soundtracks in history (hello, Re-Animator!), and is proof conclusive that Herrmann was Der Mann, all right. Back to the menu

Composer: Alex North
Easily scoring a place on American Film Institute’s list of greatest film scores, Alex North’s work was also recognised with an Oscar nomination. He was a forward-thinking composer, happy to blend modernist composition with more traditional Hollywood themes. But his true masterstroke was gathering an assortment of antique instruments that allowed him to craft music that sounds as though it came from Roman times. That’s wedded to his use of an ondioline – a forerunner of the synthesiser – that made its film-scoring debut here. North’s experimental ways proved a winner, and the result is a classic historical epic score that few others can match. Back to the menu

The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
Composer: Michel Legrand
Of Michel Legrand’s 200 plus film scores, none is likelier to snip your heartstrings than his work on Jacques Demy’s justly revered musical. Its influence is felt through Tom Hooper’s Les Mis, just as Umbrella’s Technicolor townscape was itself shaped by Vincente Minnelli and Gene Kelly’s MGM spectaculars. Every word is sung, an offbeam experience for audiences weaned on big show-stopping tunes, sure, but one they were carried through by the raw emotion of its lyrics, Catherine Deneuve’s gentle charisma and the cut-glass voice of singing stand-in Danielle Licari. “We had to do it completely in playback”, recalled Deneuve of the unusual shoot, “so we had to learn the film by heart”. Back to the menu

Composers: The Beatles
Richard Lester’s demented follow-up to A Hard Day’s Night may lack the zest and freshness of the Fab Four’s first foray into film, but the soundtrack more than makes up for it, not least because you get Paul McCartney’s Yesterday – aka Sir Not Appearing In This Film – into the bargain. The energetic title track, the introspective You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away and infectious jangle of Ticket To Ride – all written by Lennon – are amongst the Very Best Of The Beatles (Vol. 1), while even the eminently skippable Ringo song (Act Naturally) has a certain charm. Back to the menu

Easy Rider
Various Artists
Sometimes the efforts of a man combating boredom while ploughing through hours of footage can lead to greatness. Take a bow, then, Peter Fonda, director of Easy Rider. For while he had originally asked Crosby, Stills & Nash to score the movie, editor Donn Cambern used music from the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Steppenwolf to pass the time. The result was a ‘musical commentary’. “The music became inseparable from the pictures,” cinematographer Lazlo Kovacs told MovieMaker magazine. “When the film was cut, they ended up licensing the music Donn was using. They spent $1 million licensing music, which was about three times the budget for shooting the rest of the film.” Back to the menu

Where Eagles Dare
Composer: Ron Goodwin
The ‘60s were a purple patch for war flicks, many of them RAF adventures that soared in scale as well as altitude. If you knew your ‘cabbage crate’ from your ‘dicky birdy’, there was a cockpit for you in the likes of 633 Squadron, Battle Of Britain or Where Eagles Dare – although you’d need a parachute for the latter. Coming out of your Hurricane/Mosquito/Junkers’ stereo would be the tunes of Guildhall grad Ron Goodwin, lip-stiffening themes that were perfected in this Burton-and-Eastwood spy thriller. Source music – jaunty polkas guaranteed to elicit the Clint sneer – sits alongside tense cues and crowd-pleasing variations on its main theme. We’ve written the names of them down in a notebook. No, you can’t see it.” Back to the menu

The Magnificent Seven
Composer: Elmer Bernstein
Elmer Bernstein’s signature was big tunes that stir movies into life through their sheer orchestral might. His Magnificent Seven theme, paced somewhere between a canter and a gallop, was a typical feast of brass-and-strings that accompanies McQueen, Vaughn, Bronson, Coburn and co. across a dusty landscape. The eastern-tinged Calvera’s theme, meanwhile, gave the baddie the menacing motif he deserved. This score remains a highpoint from a man whose career spanned everything from The Ten Commandments to The Great Escape to Ghostbusters. Sadly, The Seven’s iconic theme was hijacked by the Don Drapers of the day for a Marlboro ad, a crime for which the culprits should be lassoed to a cactus. Back to the menu

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Composers: Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer
When asked by Blake Edwards to compose the music for Tiffany’s, Henry Mancini eschewed the 1960s trend for rock scores and turned the clock back with a jazzy accompaniment to Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly. The other memorable takeaway is the iconic Moon River, written by the composer with lyrics from Johnny Mercer. “It took me a long time to figure out what Holly Golightly was all about. One night after midnight I was still trying. I don't drink much, but I was sipping,” Mancini told Time magazine. “And it came to me. I wrote Moon River in half an hour.” A Paramount executive wanted it gone. The producers and Hepburn fought to keep it. It won an Oscar. Job done. Back to the menu

8 ½
Composer: Nino Rota
Art-house quiz: who was Federico Fellini’s most valued collaborator? Marcello Mastroianni? Screenwriter Tullio Pinelli? Perhaps his wife and muse, Giulietta Masina? His dinner jacket? Nope. According to the man himself, it was composer Nino Rota. “Nino had a geometric imagination”, he enthused of the man who’d scored for him since 1951’s The White Sheik. “[He had] an approach worthy of celestial spheres”. For 8½, Rota plumped for altogether earthier motifs. Its theme captured the ‘60s tumult not just of the story, but of the whole nation, while raunchy rhumbas mingled with classical nods to Rossini and Wagner on screen. Rota’s score was homaged on Rob Marshall’s remake, Nine, with intentions that were a heck of a lot better than the results. Back to the menu | Back to the soundtrack celebration hub