Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (soundtrack)

Welcome to another edition of Soundtrack Sunday, and a very happy seventy-second birthday today (November 27th) to the legendary Tina Turner.

In the summer of 1985, Turner starred along with Mel Gibson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, the third film in the post-apocalyptic sci-fi series (the first film being Mad Max in 1979 which helped make the then-little-known Gibson an international star and Mad Max 2: the Road Warrior in 1981). Turner’s role in the film is Aunty Entity, the ruthless ruler of Bartertown.

The film hit theatres on July 10th of 1985, and its soundtrack album was released the next month. That record spent thirteen weeks total on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 39.

Side one opens with Turner’s hit song “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)”. The single went to number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, denied the number 1 spot by another soundtrack hit of the summer - John Parr’s “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)”. The song did reach number 1 though in a number of countries including Australia, Canada, Germany and Spain; in the UK it topped out at number 3. The Grammy nominated song tells the story from the perspective of the oppressed people who are reluctant to put their hopes in the hands a hero who may not be able to save them. I like how it uses a gentle rhythm for the verses that gives the sense of an open, expansive outback before gaining a booming presence with the chorus. And, of course, it has a wonderful saxophone solo by Tim Cappello and the angelic backing vocals of the Kings House School Choir.

Next up, she delivers “One of the Living”, the second single from the soundtrack. This one hit number 15 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and only number 55 in the UK. The song did win Turner a Grammy for the Best Rock Vocal Performance - Female. This one a quirky percussion to it and Turner’s feral vocals that set a nice mood for the fantasy film. I can recall how this one had a short but popular run in the dance clubs in 1985.

The side closes with an instrumental version of the opening track, giving the listener a better look at the Terry Britten/Graham Lyle composition. This one was probably very useful for club deejays looking for teaser snippets to mix in their sets before playing the full hit song.

Side two features three pieces composed by Maurice Jarre and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It begins with “Bartertown”, an eight and a half minute ominous opus. I like the use of the heavy bells and other clanging percussion; they bring to mind the downtrodden, fatalistic community that is Bartertown. About a third of the way through though the tempo picks up with a saxophone heavy movement that represents a ray of hope that is the arrival of the film’s hero. The next movement takes a tone of caution and intrigue with subtle percussion, stealthy strings and urgent horns. The second sax strong movement reprises again before a final, very exotic closing.

“The Children” has a carnival sound, light and airy and full of innocent wonder. I like the use of the didgeridoo, a wind instrument from the native Australia, here.

The side and album closes out with the epic fifteen minute long “Coming Home”. As with the first track on this side, this one is composed of a number of movements. The predominant tone is that of hope and retribution, thanks to soaring strings and fanfare-filled horns.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome has a nice balance of rock anthem and orchestral brilliance.

1 comment:

Tendraftsdeep said...

This is a very well done soundtrack in my opinion. Sometimes movie soundtracks can suffer an abrupt shift in delivery when going from top 40 singles to orchestral backdrop movements, but this one somehow pulls it off. I've listened to it many times.

I think Tina deserved an Oscar nod for her performance in this film.