Sometime between the 1960s and 1990s the so-called “death of vinyl” was supposed to have occurred. With the 8-track, Compact-Cassette, and the CD all being introduced as cheaper and more accessible alternatives to the large and expensive vinyl record, sales were suspected to halt; factories to shut down. But, here we are post-2000s and vinyl sales are still strong (relatively speaking). In fact, new plants specializing in vinyl production are opening and sales are up 900%. Record Store Day, an annual event used to promote the production and sale of vinyl, is stronger than ever. And, now with the introduction of numerous labels focusing on vinyl soundtrack releases (both reissuing classics and releases modern scores), vinyl soundtrack records seem to be as popular as ever. As horror fans, genre fans, film fans we have an affinity for nostalgia, for the “good old days” of analog, and that is what this column is about. This column is a dedication to those days; it’s a celebration of the vinyl soundtrack (both old and new) and the companies that keep putting them out; and, if for nothing else, this column exists because artwork just looks better bigger.
Sometimes to truly live, something needs to die and be brought back to life; a gestation period to recoup, revitalize. With that said, allow me to reintroduce Analog Alleyway with the promise that this will be a reoccurring place for me to ramble about backdrop to films we love; A place to honor music from the movies.
To kick things back off we have a score that came into my life recently, and one that I believe is significant for numerous reasons that I will get into. The score in question is Detto Mariano’s 1983’s Exterminators of the Year 3000 (Il giustiziere della strada) aka Death Warriors. If the name Detto Mariano doesn’t ring a bell, don’t feel too bad. Despite having over 50 credits to his name, Mariano did not work primarily with ‘genre pictures, like many of his contemporaries, but in comedies. In fact, he comments (in the liner notes) that his success in comedies lead to him being pigeonholed to that style and disallowed him to work outside of that style/genre. Despite that fact, we are happy that Camillo Teti (producer of Exterminators) took a risk, because Mariano’s work here is nothing short of spectacular. There are only a few times where I can genuinely say that a soundtrack out-performs a film, but I think in this case it is true. That is not a slight at Exterminators but an acknowledgement of Mariano’s contribution.
Exterminators is a film that had been on my radar for years but one in which was always pushed back. I kind of knew what to expect from it. When I did finally get around to it, expectations were matched: good cheesy, 80s Italian fun; one part Mad Max, one part The Warriors — an equation that produced a solid run of titles for Italy in the 1980s. What I didn’t expect, however, was how much the score would resonate with me. From the opening scenes, I was enthralled with Mariano’s style, a style which perfectly highlighted the post-apocalyptic aspects of the film and did wonders to elevate the low-budget production and give it a larger feel. My first reaction was that it must have been lifted from another film — after all, Italians have been known to recycle not only just ideas but also footage and scores. So I did some digging and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was not, in fact, borrowed but was an original score.
Listening to soundtracks as standalone works can sometimes be problematic. A composer does not necessarily worry about the validity of the pieces in sequential order, choosing to focus on how they work with the film. While this isn’t a problem with this score at all, the pieces are do become rather long and somewhat repetitive. However, if you are a soundtrack fan, the length of the tracks may come as a relief, as they did with me because it makes for a less scattered listen. The standout track is definitely the main cue, which, in spite of being composed almost entirely from a digital source, managed to have the feel of a full orchestra. Using predominantly a FAIRLIGHT iix — an early computer sampler and synthesizer — Mariano applied the logic he would have utilized had he been granted the budget to hire a full symphony, to digitally conduct the score completely on his own. Exterminators, thus, grants us not only the opportunity to hear a composer working outside of his comfort but also one experimenting with new technology. It’s a glimpse into the earlier days of digital music.
Unlike, however, a lot of Mariano’s contemporaries, the soundtrack for the film was never released along with the film. So the only problem I was faced with was getting my hands on it. More and more, I realize that we live in great times. This just happens to be one of those serendipitous moments because during my research I came across the German-based label Private Records, the parent company of Stella Edizioni Musicali who (ironically enough) had just announced their pre-order for the score. Even better, the double LP comes beautifully packaged in with a gatefold cover, liner notes by Mariano, and two nice sized posters. Had I watched the film earlier, perhaps I may not have been looking to pick up, maybe I wouldn’t remember it, but now I have tangible proof of the power of this score and we owe that Stella/Private Records. Stella have really gone above and beyond what I would have expected, give the popularity of the film. This release proves that they are among the best labels currently releasing records and one that you should keep an eye out for.