The Final Countdown – music by John Scott

The Final CountdownThe Final Countdown may not have been the thrilling time-travel spectacle its producers hoped it would be when it was released in 1980, but it did boast a winning score that continues to be widely praised not only for its creativity but its ability to transform a flawed movie into something of an unlikely classic.

I admit to being a huge fan of this movie. It’s easy to appreciate it as something of an anomaly in 1980 when movie special effects had survived the growing pains of Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Alien – not to mention The Empire Strikes Back, to name just a few. Next to these Big Boys, The Final Countdown, with its embarrassing laser storm time portal and use of stock footage, comes across exactly as it was to make – cheap. However, that low-budget approach and earnest attention to story, underscored by a wonderfully propulsive score, is what gives the movie a lasting charm.

On the whole John Scott imbues the score with incredible optimism and purpose. At its core, The Final Countdown is a science fiction movie and Scott opens the movie in the main titles with Star Trek-ian fanfare. Like the Starship Enterprise, the U.S.S. Nimitz is treated like a character in the movie with its own theme (which takes a curiously menacing turn when the Nimitz first appears on screen and can be heard at the 2-minute mark in track 1). There’s little in the “Main Titles” to portend the forthcoming mystery and danger of the story. It’s a balls-out piece of heroic bombast that finds its fingerprints all over the rest of the score. Scott gives it a beautifully fatalistic feel in “Nimitz On Route” and a revisited heroic identity for “Splash the Zeros”. It’s hard to ignore the very obvious Tchaikovsky influences and one may take issue with its shameless patriotism, which makes the score feel like a marketing piece for the Navy (the movie was in fact used as a recruiting tool for the Navy). Despite this, the theme serves quite well what is, in essence, a very American movie.

Scott displays his true creativity with his “Mr. Tideman” theme, which may be, I would argue, one of the best themes ever created for a movie character. This track is certainly worth dissecting because it’s a work of undeniable genius. The nervous strings running throughout the track convey the appropriate anticipation and mystery surrounding the Tideman character and the horns echo the more stately and official elements of the Navy and Tideman’s relationship to it, but it’s that quick, playful little melody heard 45 seconds in that’s at the soul of the theme. It took me a few listens but I realized, whether intentional or not, that Scott was tipping his hat to “Tubular Bells”, which played a significant role in the score for The Exorcist.

Scott brings back the Tideman theme in romantic guise for the first real personal meeting between Commander Owen and Laurel. The theme, now stripped down and played with flute, not only underscores their budding romance but also foreshadows their relationship to the first appearance of Tideman earlier in the movie. The theme becomes more aggressive and fulfilled (not to mention creepier) at the end of the movie when it’s revealed Commander Owen is Mr. Tideman – or became Mr. Tideman, however you want to interpret it.

Sometimes the fanfare gets to be a little too much. “The Admirals Arrive” is a painful marching band composition and “Last Known Location,” with its overly dramatic tympanis and strings, feels entirely mired in dated ’70s and early ’80s adventure film scoring. I can’t say too much about Scott’s use of the Jaws theme to underscore the approaching time storm. After all, Jerry Goldsmith used it as well for The Omen in a key scene there. Here, Scott has time to truly play it out. It’s yet another nice nod to another influential film score from that era, even if it does seem like a lazy choice (even “An Hour Ago” sounds slightly derivative of Capt. Dallas’ air shaft crawl scene in Alien, with a few sneaky notes of the main Alien theme thrown in for good effect).

The Final Countdown is a relic of a time long since passed, when scores were treated with incredible care and attention, especially for sci-fi and adventure films. Call it the Star Wars Effect. Today, with emphasis and minimalism and irony in scoring, it’s easy to 4 out of 4
dismiss Scott’s score as dated or even jingoistic. As politically minded as we are today, a movie like this would be (if similarly made) filed on either side of the dividing line between red and blue ideologies. And that’s sad. It diverts attention from what is in essence a beautifully realized score that serves its movie well and makes it a memorable, if flawed, entry in sci-fi cinema.

Order this CD

  1. The Final Countdown Main Titles (3:53)
  2. Mr. Tideman (2:24)
  3. The U.S.S. Nimitz On Route (3:28)
  4. The Approaching Storm (4:22)
  5. Pursued By The Storm (2:45)
  6. Into The Time Warp (3:57)
  7. Rig The Barricades (2:16)
  8. Last Known Position (2:13)
  9. An Hour Ago (1:00)
  10. December 7, 1941 (0:46)
  11. The Japanese Navy (0:35)
  12. Shake Up The Zeros (2:13)
  13. Splash Two (1:05)
  14. Laurel and Owen (2:22)
  15. Climb Mount Nitaka (2:10)
  16. On The Beach (0:39)
  17. General Quarters (1:48)
  18. Operation Pearl Harbor (0:59)
  19. The Storm Reappears (3:28)
  20. Back Through The Time Warp (3:40)
  21. The Planes Return (1:27)
  22. The Admirals Arrive (1:30)
  23. Mr. and Mrs. Tideman (4:19)

Released by: JOS Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 53:20

MC Hawking – A Brief History Of Rhyme

MC Hawking - A Brief History Of RhymeLadies and gentlemen, I bring to you: the first-ever rap review here on theLogBook.com. But don’t assign too much street cred to me, for this is incredibly geeky rap. The whole humorous premise behind MC Hawking is as follows: what if Professor Stephen Hawking was moonlighting as a gangsta rapper? If you’re wondering what in the world that would sound like, you may already know more than you think: MC Hawking – the brainchild of parody webmaster Ken Leavitt-Lawrence – sounds like the voice synthesizer used by the real Professor Hawking (who, if truth be told, doesn’t go around popping caps on anyone’s ass). The lyrics are a combination of the prerequisite topics of gangsta rap – getting even against one’s rivals by any means available, drug deals, the ever-popular topic of bitches, etc. – and real live honest-to-God theoretical physics. MC Hawking tries to explain the basic tenets of entropy, and then busts out the refrain “You down with entropy? Yeah, you know me!”

It’s hard to explain the appeal to those who perhaps just don’t “get” this kind of humor – I, for one, file this under the same category as Ben Folds’ ironically pretty cover of a certain Dr. Dre tune – but if I’m in the mood for MC Hawking, this stuff is hysterical. It’s not something to play with the kiddo within earshot, to be sure, but it’s damned funny – and word has it that a certain Professor Hawking himself is fully aware of the joke and thinks it’s funny too. (C’mon, we’re talking about the same Stephen Hawking who wanted to do a guest shot on Star Trek: The Next Generation and once appeared in a Red Dwarf special. Aside from being one of the most brilliant human beings to have emerged from the 20th century, Stephen Hawking, God bless him, is cool. I’d like to think I could hang on to my sense of humor in his circumstances.)

Now, of course, there will be those who just don’t find the humor in “Hawking”‘s profanity-laden tirades about taking out rival physicists from MIT in a drive-by, or things like the skit in which he beats Moby senseless on general principle (presumably, he’s trying to see if fission initiates, in which case we really are all made of stars). But it’s hard for me not to be dragged out of a downer mood by howlingly funny tracks like “Big Bizang”, “E=MC Hawking” or “Entropy”. Others, admittedly, miss the mark – I find myself routinely skipping “Bitchslap” and “The Dozens”. This is rap for the cool geeks, the people who took time out from high school science homework to memorize Monty Python movies (not that I’m talking about myself there, mind you…I was too busy memorizing Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes in high school).

Most of this material has been available for some time on the “official MC Hawking fan site“, but in 2004 several of the raps from that site appeared with a few new skits and songs on this “greatest hits” album (in actuality, the 3 out of 4first and only physical CD that “MC Hawking” has released). This is one of those things where I vote with my money, sort of like buying the Homestar Runner DVDs, to show my support for not-quite-mainstream talent – and after you check it out for yourself, if you’ve got even one wickedly funny bone in your body, I have a feeling you’ll be doing the same.

Order this CD

  1. The Hawkman Cometh (3:01)
  2. The Dozens (2:04)
  3. The Big Bizang (2:53)
  4. Excerpt From A Radio Interview, part 1 (1:14)
  5. Entropy (3:22)
  6. The Mighty Stephen Hawking (2:00)
  7. Crazy As Fuck (2:23)
  8. Bitchslap (4:25)
  9. Excerpt From A Radio Interview, part 2 (1:41)
  10. Fuck The Creationists (2:23)
  11. E=MC Hawking (3:27)
  12. All My Shootings Be Drive-Bys (3:36)
  13. UFT For The MC (3:28)
  14. Excerpt From A Radio Interview, part 3 (1:20)
  15. What We Need More Of Is Science (2:42)
  16. GTA3 (2:56)

Released by: Brash Music
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 42:55

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Suckadelic – Supervillains

Let me see if I can even explain this one. Supervillains is an aural tribute to the pantheon of megalomaniacal geniuses from ’80s pop culture, back before fictional bad guys had to have a more logistically manageable agenda than ruling the world/universe. The equally evil remix geniuses known as Suckadelic basically combine sound clips, quotes, the sound effects from old video games, hip-hop style musical backing and the occasional snippet of soundtrack music to create a meeting of the minds that no superhero in his right mind would want to face – or at least hear from all at once.

The villains we’re talking about here are sound clips from classic Galactica’s Baltar and his Cylon minions, Gargamel, Skeletor, Ming the Merciless, and even Mezmeron, the overlord of the animated Pac-Man’s ghost monsters. And those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Music from all of those shows seep into the proceedings, along with sound clips from Atari 2600 games like Missile Command, Yars’ Revenge, and Space Invaders. In short, the stuff that world and/or universal domination in the ’70s and ’80s was made of. – bad guys you love to hate.

But will you love to hate Supervillains? I’ve found it best to try to absorb this occasionally hilarious sound-montage-over-breakbeats in small doses. I’d probably have to be on something to take the 3 out of 4whole CD in one sitting. Many of the clips are hysterically funny out of context, mashed up against each other and pureéd into a big foamy mess of nostalgia. After just a few tracks, though, it becomes readily apparent that most of these songs are drawing from the same material, and only the emphasis is changing.

But in small doses? Supervillains is diabolically funny stuff.

Order this CD

  1. Intro (2:04)
  2. Supervillain Fanfare (3:35)
  3. Traitors In The Midst (1:21)
  4. March Of The Suckbots (3:45)
  5. Powergrabs (3:33)
  6. Eternia’s Greatest (5:12)
  7. Cobra Stops The World (5:02)
  8. Mean Ol’ Wizard (4:03)
  9. Ball Of Evil (4:41)
  10. Gremlin Dust (5:35)
  11. Behold, Galvatron! (4:15)
  12. Plots And Schemes (2:45)
  13. The Malice Of Mezmeron (3:11)
  14. Master Of The World (2:50)
  15. Villain Invader Break (1:22)
  16. Hail Ming! (Ruler Of The Universe) (6:01)
  17. Trial By Stone (3:33)
  18. Galactic Super Battle (3:59)
  19. The Price (6:05)
  20. Bonus Track: The Nightmare (2:36)

Released by: Suckadelic Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 75:28