Godzilla: 50th Anniversary – music by Akira Ifukube

“Subtle” isn’t normally a word used in connection with Godzilla. However, Akira Ifukube’s soundtrack to the original Godzilla movie is deceptively subtle.

Most soundtracks have themes for characters and scenes that echo the main theme. But in Godzilla, nearly every piece of music is the main theme. With shifts in tempo or style, or emphasis on different types or individual instruments, the theme is reformed in many ways, each of them sounding completely unique and original. It’s a testament to Ifukube’s skill that he was able to stretch the theme into so many nearly unrecognizable shapes.

The main theme itself is a brisk and tense thriller, primarily using woodwinds with some brass for emphasis. When he appears in Tokyo Bay and moves on shore, the music becomes slow, dark and ominous using deep, throaty sounding muted trumpets to represent Godzilla and an almost disconsonant piano to highlight the people’s helplessness.

Ifukube often weaves two or more variations into the same piece of music. Among the most interesting are those hiding in a happy military march and tucked away in an island festival. There are even strains of the theme heard in a harmonica played by a sailor on a merchant vessel. The “Prayer For Peace,” which remains one of the most haunting pieces of music I’ve ever heard, brings the theme to a funeral dirge. When we see Godzilla on the ocean floor, the theme shifts to help us realize that the King of the Monsters is a victim as well.

4 out of 4The latest trend on the internet is to create original works in “mashups” of different source material. Akira Ifukube did it the old fashioned way- using only one source and without using “loops.” Godzilla: 50th Anniversary is an excellent achievement that is not only good to listen to, but can also be used as a study guide for budding composers.

Order this CD

  1. Godzilla Approaches (Sound Effects) (0:49)
  2. Godzilla Main Title (1:31)
  3. Ship Music / Sinking Of Eikou-Maru (1:06)
  4. Sinking Of Bingou-Maru (0:23)
  5. Anxieties On Ootojima Island (0:50)
  6. Ootojima Temple Festival (1:21)
  7. Stormy Ootojima Island (1:53)
  8. Theme For Ootojima Island (0:34)
  9. Japanese Army March I (0:42)
  10. Horror Of The Water Tank (0:42)
  11. Godzilla Comes Ashore (1:52)
  12. Godzilla’s Rampage (2:25)
  13. Desperate Broadcast (1:12)
  14. Godzilla Comes To Tokyo Bay (1:25)
  15. Intercept Godzilla (1:27)
  16. Tragic Sight Of The Imperial Capitol (2:18)
  17. Oxygen Destroyer (3:11)
  18. Prayer For Peace (2:48)
  19. Japanese Army March II (0:21)
  20. Godzilla At The Ocean Floor (6:20)
  21. Ending (1:41)
  22. Godzilla Leaving (Sound Effects) (1:04)

    Bonus Tracks

  23. Main Title (film version) (2:03)
  24. First Landing (film version) (3:37)
  25. Tokyo In Flames (film version) (2:17)
  26. Last Assault (film version) (2:21)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 46:28

The Best Of Godzilla: 1954-1975

It’s no large secret that Godzilla’s popularity has helped him wreak havoc and chaos on Japan for over 50+ years. But while all the action and mayhem is displayed on the screen, one thing tends to get lost on moviegoers: the music. Fortunently, this disc helps rectify that. Containing the best selections from Godzilla’s tenure on the big screen, The Best Of Godzilla: 1954-1975 is the first part of a two disc set (a companion CD was released as well that covers the years 1984-1995).

Like the name implies, this disc covers the years 1954-1975, which ranges from the original Godzilla movie to Terror of MechaGodzilla, and also serves as the first “era” of Godzilla films. The songs here are listed in chronological order, which means that the disc starts off with selections from the original Godzilla, composed by Akira Ifukube. Ifukube’s music lays the groundwork for the film scores to follow: Here, we hear the string-and-horn driven main theme for the first time, as well as the “Japanese Army March” which would later be reused as a continuing theme in the Godzilla universe. “Godzilla’s Rampage” is another fine example of the early soundtrack: its dissonant piano and low, growling horns accentuate the sobering aspect of the giant lizard’s destruction perfectly.

The next major movie to be represented is King Kong vs. Godzilla, which music most Americans never got to hear, since it was replaced in the US with a re-used score from a different film. Akira Ifukube composed the music for this film as well, and keeps the theme that he employed for the previous movies, making the music tense and dramatic.

Mothra vs. Godzilla is next up, and it’s interesting to hear how the film scores have evolved from movie to movie. Ifukube is still onboard, but the music has taken a dramatic leap from the original Godzilla. For example, “Mothra’s Song” sounds like a cross between traditional Japanese music, and the 60’s pop that was so prevalent at the time. It also includes sung lyrics, which was only attemped once before in the “Main Theme” of King Kong vs. Godzilla, but even that didn’t sound nearly as polished as it does here. In fact, out the 3 pieces from Mothra that were selected for this disc, 2 of them have female vocals. This is the film where, I believe, Ifukube really comes into his own style.

Some other top tracks on this disc include the “Main Theme” from Son Of Godzilla, which was composed by Masaru Sato. The shift in musical styles is eminently discernible; instead of the tense, dark mood that Ifukube set with his score, this “Main Theme” sounds more suited to whimsy to gloomy — I can’t help but think this could also double as the theme for The Dick Van Dyke Show! Even though it’s not what you would think of when you think Godzilla, given the subject matter, it works. Another interesting track is the “Godzilla March”, a song specially made for the original LP of the soundtrack to Godzilla vs. Gigan, and composed by Kunio Miyauchi. The song is steeped in 70’s pop/faux-disco that the Japanese seemed to be so found of (see: Lupin ’78 theme song).

As another sign that the times were changing, compare the soundtrack of Godzilla vs. Megalon (composed by Riichiro Manabe) to any of Ifukuda’s original score. The rock beat that accompanies Manabe’s score may cause purists to turn up their noses. Indeed, while Manabe’s compositions may have worked under any different guise, being a part of the Godzilla canon gives it a weaker feel, and lacks the “punch” needed to add emotion to the Godzilla movie.

There are some other shortfalls on the disc as well. Obviously, to dedicate a complete overview of the Godzilla filmography would require nothing short of a box set, but yet it still feels incomplete in the fact that films like Godzilla Raids Again and Godzilla vs. Hedorah (and several others) only being represented by the obligatory “Main Theme” and nothing more. Another qualm I had was the fact that the disc was peppered with tracks of just SFX — classic movie buffs may dig it, but I felt they were included just to pad the disc’s length. Also included on the disc was a version of the “Godzilla Theme” performed by Neil Norman And His Cosmic Orchestra. It’s inclusion seems wholly arbitrary (why place a “modernized” version of a theme song on an album comprised of original music?), and it’s nothing really outstanding, either.

3 out of 4Your feelings on the disc may be skewed towards which Godzilla era you prefer. But as a primer on the not-so-humble beginnings of Godzilla, it serves as a wonderful introduction, and a nice jumping point for those who may want to explore further into their favorite film’s music, and maybe even try to locate the full soundtrack.

Order this CD

  1. Footsteps FX (Godzilla) (0:36)
  2. Godzilla Main Theme (Godzilla) (1:31)
  3. Ootojima Temple Festival (Godzilla) (1:19)
  4. Japanese Army March (Godzilla) (0:38)
  5. Godzilla Comes Ashore (Godzilla) (1:51)
  6. Godzilla’s Rampage (Godzilla) (2:25)
  7. Ending (Godzilla) (1:42)
  8. Main Title (Godzilla Rides Again) (1:24)
  9. Helicopter/Man Screams/SOS FX (King Kong vs. Godzilla) (0:23)
  10. Main Title (King Kong vs. Godzilla) (1:57)
  11. King Kong Roars FX (King Kong vs. Godzilla) (0:13)
  12. Planning King Kong’s Transport (King Kong vs. Godzilla) (2:13)
  13. Mothra’s Song (Mothra vs. Godzilla) (2:23)
  14. Mothra FX (Mothra vs. Godzilla) (0:09)
  15. Main Title (Mothra vs. Godzilla) (1:52)
  16. Sacred Springs (Mothra vs. Godzilla) (3:49)
  17. Main Title/Monsters Appear In Yokohama (Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster) (2:33)
  18. UFO Approaches/Monsters Fight FX/Monster Battle March (Main Title) (Invasion Of The Astro-Monster) (2:56)
  19. Main Title (Son Of Godzilla) (2:07)
  20. Godzilla vs. Kumonga (Son Of Godzilla) (2:16)
  21. Ending (Son Of Godzilla) (2:46)
  22. Godzilla FX/Toho Logo/Main Title (Destroy All Monsters) (1:35)
  23. Title Credits (Destroy All Monsters) (1:23)
  24. Four Monsters Attack Tokyo (Destroy All Monsters) (1:46)
  25. Destroying The Remote Control (Destroy All Monsters) (0:40)
  26. Showdown On Mt. Fuji (Destroy All Monsters) (2:47)
  27. Ending (Destroy All Monsters) (1:26)
  28. Cute Kid Theme/Monster Fight (All Monsters Attack) (2:43)
  29. Godzilla’s Fight (Godzilla vs. Hedorah) (1:09)
  30. Main Title (Godzilla vs. Gigan) (2:11)
  31. Main Title Repeat (Godzilla vs. Gigan) (1:26)
  32. Godzilla March (Record Version) (Godzilla vs. Gigan) (3:09)
  33. Jet Jaguar/Megalon FX (Godzilla vs. Megalon) (0:15)
  34. Main Title (Godzilla vs. Megalon) (1:27)
  35. Godzilla Of Monster Island (Godzilla vs. Megalon) (2:13)
  36. MechaGodzilla FX (Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla) (0:30)
  37. Godzilla vs. Anguiras (Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla) (2:27)
  38. Miyarabi’s Prayer (Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla) (4:03)
  39. Main Title (Terror Of MechaGodzilla) (4:31)
  40. MechaGodzilla II (Terror Of MechaGodzilla) (1:44)
  41. Godzilla’s Entrance (Terror Of MechaGodzilla) (1:14)
  42. Ending (Terror Of MechaGodzilla) (1:15)
  43. Theme From Godzilla – Neil Norman And His Cosmic Orchestra (1:33)

Released by: GNP Crescendo
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 78:30