October 20, 2010 | By | Add a Comment

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In the DVD commentary for the Criterion edition of The Blob, director Irvin Yeaworth mentions the love theme both he and his wife wrote for the film, and how its sale to a music library ensured the music had extra longevity, appearing in a number of films years after The Blob had come and gone from theatre screens.

Although Yeaworth doesn’t specify which library carried his theme, the function of a music library was certainly an aid for filmmakers with special needs for their commercial work, be it TV, theatrical, short form, documentary, or adverts.

On the one hand, library or ‘stock’ music saved time in seeking out and deciding on a composer, then dealing with spotting sessions, notes, theme samples, and the waiting as music was written, recorded, transferred, and edited to fit the final edit of specific scenes.

Library music was ready-made, and with the movie well-familiar to the filmmakers (and certainly the sound and picture editor), it wasn’t hard to find the right cue or cues. The only time spent was arguably listening to various samples, picking the music, and editing it into the final soundtrack.

The real trick was to make the music fit as a seamless score; not just as music filler in montages, but dramatically support the film.

Perhaps the use of library music was largely enjoyed by exploitation filmmakers because A) a bug-eyed monster was less attractive to a young musician/composer than a character drama; and B) most exploitationers were cheap, and music was probably the last ingredient to be slapped into a movie before a quick mix, prints were struck, and the film was shipped off to drive-ins, where it would play through crappy speakers. As long as the dialogue, key sound effects and music formed an active and coherent sound mix, it didn’t matter whether the music might at times be a bit off-kilter, particularly when said el cheapo film was essentially composed of familiar scenes and sequences.

In Part 3 of our edited conversation with Monstrous Movie Music’s David Schecter, the focus is on the nature of library music, its attraction to film music fans, some of the hurdles a soundtrack producer faces in identifying and ultimately releasing the music on CD, and the soundtrack label’s future projects.



Mark R. Hasan: Is there a list where when you can look up a particular track’s usage, or what films featured a specific cue from the Valentino library?

DS: Well, I basically posed the question you asked me verbatim to Thomas Valentino, and his answer was ‘No.’ and I said ‘Oh, boy…’

For The Blob (and other creepy sounds), I went after the stuff that I was familiar with, and there were a lot of other cues in there where I said ‘Oh, I know this music. Where have I heard it?’ and I sent it around to a bunch of people who, like Bob Burns and people like that who have seen all these films a million times… would go ‘Oh. Oh! I know track number 34.’

My guess is with every one of these cues I could fill up a fifty-page liner book with a list of all the places it was used, and that would be fun… I know I’ve heard them a lot, and a lot of people have heard them a lot. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I recognized some of the music inThe Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962).

MRH: The Blob CD features library cues from The Green Slime (1968) and Terror from the Year 5000 (1958), but when I noticed you included music from Brain, I was elated because it’s one of my favourite bad films. It’s completely ridiculous, and the music adds to the film’s fun because it accentuates the insanity of the whole production that I’m assuming the director was playing completely straight.

DS: Yes, I think he devoted 17 mins. to choosing the music for the picture… It’s just a mish-mash. Sometimes it’s effective, but mostly it’s wildly inappropriate music selections that only heighten the comedic aspects of things, or play against them, but I don’t know; there’s something so bizarre about that picture. What’s funny to me is all the people who write and say ‘I really like The Blob, but I’m so happy you picked the music from The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.’

Who would have thought!

MRH: There’s also the odd music credit at the beginning “Theme Music: “The Web” by Abe Baker and Tony Restaino by permission of Laurel Records.”

DS: Exactly, and I think I looked that piece up and nobody knows what that is. That one little excerpt had nothing to do with the Valentino library, and in fact Brain That Wouldn’t Die was not scored entirely from the Valentino library like all these low budget film. They licensed music from a bunch of different libraries for the same picture… and whoever wrote that one piece that’s credited in the opening, maybe part of their demand was ‘Well, I’ll give it to you for free, but mention the name of my piece,’ or something. It’s kind of odd that that was mentioned, and not much else.

MRH: For the cues themselves, I imagine that in the case of the Valentino library, it must be a very massive one. How much did they end up amassing over, say, a twenty year period?

DS: Well, I don’t know for sure because there were different phases of the library. It was originally called the Major Library, the Major-Valentino, and then Valentino.

Some of the stuff from the forties came from British libraries. Valentino acquired them, and it kind of became a licensing agent in America, which is why the music got into American films. At least in the beginning, they weren’t recording these things for their own library; they were just licensing other libraries. Then they started doing some of their own recordings in the sixties and seventies and all that.

There are a lot of cues that apparently are no longer in the library, but people have the old 78s of them, and I know there’s some music used in The Adventures of Superman (1952-1958) that came from the Valentino library but are not in the Valentino library as we know it today, even though there are thousands of cues in there. They’ve kind of been dropped out because people don’t listen to that kind of music anymore, or the recording quality isn’t up to the standards of fidelity that they needed in contemporary times. I’ve no idea how many cues have been in the Valentino library during its history. I know that there are a few thousand now.

MRH: One of my last questions is in regards to music libraries, and more specifically the orchestral jazz scores used in animated series like Spider-Man and Rocket Robin Hood in the late sixties. For someone who would want to release them, how difficult is in approaching a music library house with the desire to release the music?

DS: It depends entirely both on the library and the person you happen to be talking to, and whoever’s in charge at the time in legal or licensing or whatever, because sometimes the library controls both the master rights (meaning the actual physical recording), and the publishing, that is the concept of the music (the melody or whatever).

Other times there are arrangements because music libraries have been bought up and sub-licensed by all sorts of other companies, and over time a lot of the rights for certain libraries have become kind of murky, where you don’t really know who might own what, and can’t find a contract for this.

You know, a lot of things were done with a handshake or not even a handshake or maybe a wave or a talk over the phone and you might not have a paper trail. If you don’t have a paper trail and you have a good lawyer involved on the library end of things, he’s not going to do a licensing arrangement for you if he’s not good sure they own the music and they have the right to sub-license it to you. It all depends on exactly what the situation with that particular library is.

There are a lot of very reputable libraries out there, and there are also lots of definitely not reputable libraries out there, where maybe for 50 years they’ve been licensing music that they don’t really own. It was licensed to them for maybe a 10 year period, and they just kept doing it and doing it, so sometimes you’ll see similar library cues turning up in four different libraries and they’re all claiming they own it, and you don’t really know.

MRH: The Spider-Man series was released on DVD by Disney who apparently bought the licensing rights for the window between the first and third Spider-Man film released by Columbia, from 2002-2007, and now that the set is out of print, both the series and the music have once again disappeared.

DS: If Disney bought the rights for video distribution or airplay or anything like that, they don’t own the rights to the music if it is owned by a music library; they will have maybe distribution rights in the sync format within the show.

It’s kind of like The Blob music that has appeared in all sorts of pictures, but that doesn’t mean the owners of those pictures have any rights to the music separate from that particular film they have a licensing agreement with… No music library is going to sell their rights to the music because they need to keep making money on their assets, so it’s not like a one-time score; it’s meant to be reused over and over and over again

MRH: Lastly, are there any further original score CD releases in the works?

DS: I’m hoping to put out the original scores from pictures like It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), which is one of my favourite films, and was scored by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter; and also The Monster That Challenged the World (1957) by Heinz Roemheld – really great scores and really good quality recordings from the composers and their archives and everything – and Project Moonbase (1953) which nobody remembers (and maybe rightfully so) by Herschel Burke Gilbert.

There’s some nice scores out there that I’ve got sitting in reels in my closet or garage, and I’d love to put them out. Most of the battles right now are dealing with the rights owners. Somebody will have an asset that nobody has done anything with for 50 years, and as soon as you call and say ‘You know, there’s only 40 people who know this picture but we’d really like to put the music out because I think that it’s important that it gets preserved,’ and they go ‘Oh, well let me talk to so-and-so,’ and then they want $15,000 dollars for it because they think if somebody wants it, then it must be worth a lot more.

Sometimes it’s worth half of what I’m willing to pay, but I think it’s important to get it out there, so if these come out, it’s because the rights owners are not trying to destroy us financially; if it doesn’t come out it’s probably because they don’t want to help, so you do the best you can.

The nice thing about doing the re-recordings is that you get to own the recordings, and you only have to deal with one of the rights owners, and you don’t have to deal with the people who own the actual recordings; those are the people who usually hold you up.

When you’re talking about studio films… it’s really hard to get them to commit to anything because they have to get all their lawyers involved. There’s a minimum cost to that, and it’s usually not worth it. If you sell a 1000 or 2000 copies and we’re going to break even, that’s not really an investment [for them].

MRH: I think Gilbert orchestrated Richard Rodgers’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957), and he scored The Moon is Blue (1953), but from the latter’s soundtrack album (released by the murky Crown Records), it’s just one theme played endlessly.

DS: I know. I was so happy when I found the album and then I put it on, and I though ‘Oh boy.’

MRH: But Gilbert did write some interesting stuff in the fifties and sixties.

DS: He did a lot of good films. He’s a very good composer, but again, nobody knows him. He didThe Rifleman (1958-1963), but he doesn’t have any name recognition value there. When I talked to Hershel – this was probably 12 years ago – and I was interested in doing Project Moonbase for one of our re-recording albums, I called him up and I said ‘I’d like to do Project Moonbase. Do you have the scores or anything?’ and he said ‘Why would you want to do that?’

I said ‘Because it’s important to me,’ and he said ‘Ah, it’s in the basement somewhere, and nobody cares about that.’ Then we had another ten phone calls over the years and he was equally curmudgeonly and it never got out there, but then I discovered that the original tracks exist. Hershel’s not here anymore, so I’m not dealing with him, but I still have to deal with other people, so if we can do it I’d like to put it out. It’s got early use of Theremin and it’s kind of fun, and it’s much better than the picture!

MRH: The music from the TV series Burke’s Law (1963-1966) was released a few year ago on CD, and I picked up an old mono LP by Liberty, and it’s a nice selection of jazzy cues, beautifully engineered by Liberty.

DS: It’s a nice album. He did While the City Sleeps (1956), a lot of his music appeared in The Adventures of Superman, and he wrote music for Open Secret, an anti-Semitism move from 1948. He did a lot of nice work, and he also did that really weird film with Ray Milland – The Thief(1952) – where there’s no dialogue.

MRH: It’s a Cold War drama about spies.

DS: It’s like a 10 min. idea stretched out to excruciating length. It’s a hell of an assignment. Herman Stein used to say he hated doing main titles because he was ‘naked’ – it was just the music there, there was no dialogue, no sound effects or anything covering him, and certainly Gilbert in that score was naked the entire time.



In Part 1 of our conversation with David Schecter, we discuss MMM’s companion album, The Intruder (and other music by Herman Stein), which features Herman Stein’s complete score toThe Intruder, plus selections from unreleased projects. In Part 2 of our conversation with David Schecter, we discuss MMM’s companion album, The Blob (and other creepy sounds), which features Ralph Carmichael’s complete score, plus goodies from the Valentino Production Music Library.

Monstrous Movie Music’s current release is the two-volume Your Imagination Presents series –Space Flight to the Unknown and Mystery Island – an inventive interactive concept that combines original music, sound effects, dialogue, and a storybook where kids can create and enact their own sci-fi adventures.


KQEK.com would like to thank David Schecter at Monstrous Movie Music for discussing his current projects in detail (and some pointed opinions on herbal tea).

More information on Monstrous Movie Music releases is available HERE.

All images remain the property of their copyright holders.

This interview © 2008 / 2010 by Mark R. Hasan


Related external links (MAIN SITE):

CD:  Blob and Other Creepy Sounds, The (1958)

DVD/Film:  Blob, The (1958) — Brain That Wouldn’t Die, The (1962) —  Green Slime, The (1968) —  Terror from the Year 5000 (1958)


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