CD Review: The Goonies – Original Score Soundtrack (5,000 edition)
Composer: David Grusin
Label: Varese Sarabande
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Like THE BIG LEBOWSKI, THE GOONIES cult-dom is something you get, or don’t. And even back in 1985, I found it to be a kiddie version of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and THE LITTLE RASCALS for an audience that couldn’t handle the melting Nazi faces. And beyond the catchy Cyndi Lauper song and the video she did with Captain Lou Albano, I could barely even remember the underscore- though its “Fratelli Chase” seemed to end up on every juvie movie trailer for years afterwards. Basically, it was all about the more adult, longhair vamps of THE LOST BOYS for me.
Now before you all go Sloth on my ass, I can also see why THE GOONIES (like LEBOWSKI) would inspire a rabid following, especially for an underscore that fans have been clamoring for 25 years to get. Now in a time when it seems like just about every soundtrack holy grail will come out, there might not be a bigger treasure than the Varese Club’s release of 70-plus minutes of David Grusin’s GOONIES score- something which will undoubtedly beat anything those crazy kids found amidst the Fratelli’s treasure trove for fans of this movie. Now even for me, listening to Grusin’s wonderfully rambunctious score becomes a pleasure that borders on overdose. It’s hard to think of a sore that better summed up everything that made 80’s popcorn genre scores great, especially those to emerge from Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment machine.
As for the fourth movie released from Amblin, THE GOONIES typified the lush, thematic orchestral sound that truly brought across the production value that filled the likes of BACK TO THE FUTURE, INNERSPACE, HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS and * BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED. Where Spielberg kept John Williams to himself, it’s no wonder that the films he produced would employ like-minded practitioners of lush melodies like Alan Silvestri, Jerry Goldsmith, Bruce Broughton and James Horner.
Yet even an already-accomplished name like David Grusin wouldn’t be the first composer to come to mind for the Richard Donnor-directed GOONIES. Better known for such acclaimed dramatic, and jazzy comedy scores as ON GOLDEN POND, THE GOODBYE GIRL, HEAVEN CAN WAIT and TOOTSIE, even Grusin’s darker work for THE YAKUZA and THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR didn’t quite hint at the rollicking, adventurous score he’d be able to unleash for GOONIES, a movie done on popcorn scale Grusin had never quite handled before. But it was precisely the tender, likable relationships between its adolescent treasure hunters that made Grusin ideal for GOONIES, and the enthusiasm he’d tackle it with, especially when it came to giving these punk kids the swashbuckling musical prowess of an old fogey like Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
But then, perhaps the classical pastiche of GOONIES wasn’t such a surprise, given the Fratelli gang’s name conjuring an Italian Commedia dell’arte approach in Grusin’s notorious “Fratelli Chase” theme, his operatically playful Rossini-like melodies which getting topped off with harpsichords for “Plumbing.” It’s the chase theme’s rousing orchestral end that tips off Grusin’s full swing into 1930’s-style swashbuckling music with “They’re All Here and Skull Cave Chase.” “Treasure, Data & Mouth and Walk the Plank” has a fun, strutting heroism to it before Grusin dares to directly quote from Max Steiner’s THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN with “Sloth & Chunk” and “Mama & Sloth,” complete with trumpet fanfare and Latin fandango. It’s one of those great tributes in film scoring, at once turning the kids into combos of Errol Flynn and Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, here fighting “pirates” in the personage of Mama Fratelli’s nasty gang.
While it’s multiple versions of the “Fratelli Chase” theme and the ROBIN HOOD stuff that soundtrack fans will relish here among GOONIES many delights, this ultimate soundtrack offers many other treasures for them to discover. And Grusin takes a surprisingly creepy time along the way with such cues as “”The ‘It,’ Fifty Dollar Bills and a Stiff,” and “Boulder, Bats and a Blender” music which ranges from eerie string atmospheres to screeching PSYCHO-like string stabs and dark, dissonant action. It’s wonderfully scary music that manages to hammer in RAIDERS-like thrills for the younger-set that GOONIES was so obviously going for. Shire also soldiers on with the military timpani of “Wishing Well and the Fratellis Find Coin,” before the team is proudly united through the Korngold-esque march of “No Firme and Pirate Ship.” And in what might be Grusin’s most playfully unique adventure piece, jungle percussion interplays with the shipwreck’s organ in “Playing the Bones.”
But like the most popular Amblin entries, THE GOONIES has stuck around so long because of its ability to convey youthful dreams of becoming the hero, getting the girl, and finding new friends in fantastical creatures- the kind of warm, bonding emotions that didn’t have to come in Spielbergian trappings for Grusin (and ones he’d further delve into for his far more realistic, and beautiful scores to even later for his more realistically emotional youth scores to LUCAS and THE CURE). There’s a sentimental, almost downbeat theme for “The Goondocks,” painting the gang as losers looking to get out in much the same, wistful way as the youthful heroes of EXPLORERS. “Doubloon” introduces an oh-so-80’s electric piano (probably my favorite period-specific instrument in film scoring), a sound which interplays with a hesitant orchestra for “Pee Break and Kissing Tunnel,” at last going into a sweet song rhythm. The score proper ends with a more-than pleasant easy listening jazz payoff in the “End Titles” – the only score cue to appear on the original GOONIES song CD (and probably the reason it costs so many Doubloons). Topping off all the music a GOONIES fan could ever want are several unused and alternate cues, including an even more operatically comedic approach for “Fratelli Chase” and a boomy, bassy “Octopus.”
After writing the liners for that other Amblin classic BACK TO THE FUTURE, Michael Mattesino does a similarly winning job geeking out here about THE GOONIES’ cinematic, and musical virtues for the liners- in which Grusin also professes his amazement at getting to score the thing. Mattesino has also done a great job making sure the sound barely shows its age- though I certainly feel mine listening to this full-on trip back to the days when youthful adventure was all about lush melodies. It’s the kind of re-invigorating listen that might just make me give THE GOONIES a re-watch, and a re-think. For at last, David Grusin and his seemingly unlikely young friends are good enough.
Get instrumental with Sloth and the Goonies gang here