Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – The Soundtrack Of Our Lives

CamNo, not the great Swedish band but actual soundtracks. We all have our own individual soundtracks for our lives but what of those that were made for stage and screen? The world has changed since the days of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Webber and Rice and what constitutes a soundtrack for today’s generation is a long way away from “Oklahoma!” or “West Side Story”. For every horrible cash-grab “Glee” volume there is a Trent Reznor-Atticus Ross collaboration on the score for “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” or “The Social Network” to balance the equation. Of course both of those were ‘scores’ which is a somewhat different kettle of fish.

Now a great song does not necessarily mean a great soundtrack. “The Theme From Jaws” was brilliant but would you ever play the entire album? Same goes for the five-notes in “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”, perfect for the film but not a way to kill an hour of your time.

soundtrack-the_big_chillOnce upon a time soundtracks were written almost exclusively by a lyricist and a composer but that all changed in the seventies when the classic big-budget musical began to fade away and music supervisors rose to prominence as they selected the songs for both the film and the soundtrack. “Saturday Night Fever” in 1977 proved the soundtrack was alive and well and with the release of “The Big Chill” in 1983 the record labels released that the right collection of songs, in the right movie, could cause the money to fall right out of the boomers pockets. When you could re-package these monsters on a CD the money just kept flowing.

Here are some of the soundtracks to my life….

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Can still sing every damn word. Richard O’Brien wrote the words and music (as well as the original play) and also starred in the film as Riff Raff. Far too many a Friday night was spent at the Original 99 Cent Roxy (and later the New Yorker) watching the film. This was in the days before all the toast shenanigans and when we merely clapped in time as Tim Curry’s shoe appeared on the elevator and hissed every time Dr. Scott appeared on screen. When I discovered the original stage production album in the mid-seventies I found it interesting but not as good as the movie soundtrack. “Time Warp” has worn out its welcome over the years but I still get chills when I hear “Science Fiction/Double Feature” and “I’m Going Home”. I was pretty excited in about 1979 when Carole Pope introduced me to Tim Curry at the old Beverly Tavern. He signed his autograph “one from the vaults”.

Jesus Christ Superstar

I can thank my grade seven music teacher Ms. Chrysler for this. Now at first I had no interest in a “rock opera” about Jesus but once we learned that Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan was the voice of the big guy a few of us started to pay attention. Didn’t know who the hell Murray Head was at that time but knew he had a great voice. Still love everything about the original London production album. Was never a fan of the movie soundtrack (or movie for that matter). Beacher Norman Jewison made the movie and I just finished his autobiography “This Terrible Business Has Been Good To Me”. Maybe it was because he was born around the corner or that he went to the same high school as my parents, kids and me, but I found it a really good read.

West Side Story

Another one that harkens back to grade seven and the same music class. Now for this Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim classic I much prefer the movie version over the original Broadway cast. The one thing that Ms. Chrysler showed us was the humour in these productions. Outside of the classic “Jet Song” she led us straight to “Gee, Officer Krupke”, and, in the case of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Jesus Christ Superstar”, she led us to “Herod’s Song (Try It And See)”. This album still hold the record for the most consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts with a stunning 54 week run.

American Graffiti

This double album taught me about the early roots of rock’n’roll. I loved the film and it brought me to love the music. From The Crests to The Diamonds to Booker T & The MG’s this was a 41 song musical education.

A Hard Day’s Night

I never really ever thought of this as a soundtrack but it really is. Although the British and North American pressings were different both contained nothing but Beatle’s originals. It was a huge turning point for the band.

The Wizard Of Oz

Back in the sixties the only way to see “The Wizard Of Oz” was when it aired annually on CBS Television. If you didn’t have a colour TV you missed a lot of the magic. With words and music by E.Y Harburg and Harold Arlen there isn’t a person over 45 who doesn’t know every song.

Purple Rain

We all knew Prince was good, and 1999 was bordering on genius, but I don’t think anyone was ready for the movie and soundtrack to “Purple Rain”. His acting left a little to be desired but the songs and the live performance sequences were genius.


Loved the album, really disliked the movie.


Loved the movie, loved the album.


Cam’s column appears every Thursday

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Cameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

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2 Responses to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – The Soundtrack Of Our Lives”

  1. Strummer Says:

    A great double soundtrack, and an All-American one at that,is from the movie Forrest Gump…

  2. It is strange for me to look at “American Graffiti” as education, having grown up with all of those tunes (and radio to bring them to us— radio was the center of most kids’ world back then), but I suppose it was to the younger set. I have never looked at music from both sides (now), but wonder what it must be like to see rock ‘n’ roll as retrospect. It was new and exciting the first time around, but I suppose it was only historically exciting to those who didn’t experience it first-hand. As for Prince, I have never heard genius in his works. I hear boring. But that is what makes music personal, doesn’t it— the abilities to hear or not hear. “West Side Story”? In every drug store in every small town I passed through. “Rocky Horror”? Kept the repertory theaters going for a few years (God, but I miss them). Sold what seemed like a million “Big Chill” albums, but had heard the music before on the initial run. I do remember that I was shocked how many people my age bought it. Was it the movie or was it them using it as a flashback— an “oldies” album? I need you to stop writing columns like this, Cam. I have work to do and this was just distracting. Good read, though.

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