RON GOODWIN [1925-2003] ‘That Magnificent Man and his Music Machine’
RON GOODWIN conducting his Concert Orchestra
CD1 : The Early Years – popular singles
1. R3649 JET JOURNEY (Ron Goodwin); 2. R4074 BLUE STAR - theme from the television series "Medic" (Victor Young); 3. R4297 SKIFFLING STRINGS [SWINGING SWEETHEARTS] (Ron Goodwin); 4. R4349 LINGERING LOVERS (Ron Goodwin); 5. R4391 COLONEL BOGEY AND THE RIVER KWAI MARCH (Alford, Arnold); 6. R4041 SUMMERTIME IN VENICE (Icini); 7. R4272 RED CLOAK (Ron Goodwin); 8. R3736 THE MELBA WALTZ (Mischa Spoliansky); 9. R3890 THE MESSENGER BOY (Ron Goodwin); 10. R4649 THE GIRL FROM CORSICA (Trevor Duncan); 11. R4349 SWEDISH POLKA (Hugo Alfven); 12. R3999 UNDER THE LINDEN TREE (Felix); 13. R4144 CONCETTA (Harry Dexter); 14. R3923 ON THE WATERFRONT (Leonard Bernstein); 15. R4162 THE HEADLESS HORSEMEN (Ron Goodwin); 16. R3923 MIDNIGHT BLUE (Eric Spear); 17. R3855 THE SONG OF THE HIGH SEAS (Richard Rodgers); 18. R4391 THE LAUGHING SAILOR (Evans, Stock, Weldon); 19. R3775 TROPICAL MIRAGE (Ron Goodwin); 20. R4144 HANDYMAN (Russell, Chisholm);
21. R4041 THREE GALLEONS (Alguero, Jnr); 22. R3855 GUADALCANAL MARCH (Richard Rodgers); 23. R4094 THE LITTLE LAPLANDER (Delgada); 24. R4480 WAGON TRAIN (Rene, Russell); 25. R3649 WHEN I FALL IN LOVE (Victor Young); 26. R4094 BLUEBELL POLKA (Stanley); 27. R3686 SONG FROM THE MOULIN ROUGE (Engvick, Auric);
28. R4480 JOSITA (Philip Green); 29. R4272 ELIZABETHAN SERENADE (Ronald Binge);
CD2 : Ron Goodwin’s Original Compositions
from Films and LPs
1. TWO 142 633 SQUADRON – MAIN FILM THEME (from LP "Adventure); 2. 45-R5146 LOVE THEME FROM FILM "633 SQUADRON"; 3. TWO 142 THE TRAP – FILM THEME (from LP "Adventure"); 4. TWO 142 THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES – SUITE FROM THE FILM (from LP "Adventure"); 5. TWO 339 LANCELOT AND GUINEVERE (from LP "Ron Goodwin in Concert"); 6. PCS 3019 LONDON SERENADE (from LP "Serenade"); 7. PCS 3006 RETURN MY LOVE (from LP "Out Of This World"); 8. TWO 318 WHERE EAGLES DARE – FILM THEME (from LP "Excitement");
9. PCS 3006 MERCURY GETS THE MESSAGE (from LP "Out Of This World"); 10. 45-R4892 CAFÉ ROYAL WALTZ – FROM FILM "THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE"; 11. 45-DB8472 DECLINE AND FALL – THEME FROM THE FILM;
12. TWO 1007 FRENZY – FILM THEME (from the LP "Spellbound"); 13. 45-R4760 EL MOROCCO TEA ROOMS (as featured on the Peter Sellers LP "The Best of Sellers"); 14. TWO 142 OPERATION CROSSBOW – FILM THEME (from LP "Adventure"); 15 . PCS 3006 JUMPING JUPITER (from LP "Out Of The World"); 16. TWOX1034 MONTE CARLO OR BUST – SUITE FROM THE FILM (from LP "The Big Sound of Ron Goodwin"); 17. PCS 3019 INDIA (from LP "Serenade");
18. TWO 142 MISS MARPLE’S THEME (from LP "Adventure"); 19. PCS 3006 THE MILKY WAY (from LP "Out Of This World"); 20. TWO 318 BATTLE OF BRITAIN – FILM THEME (from LP "Excitement"); 21. 45-R4994 KILL OR CURE - FILM THEME; 22. TWO 339 THE GIRL WITH THE MISTY EYES (from LP "Ron Goodwin in Concert"); 23. PCS 3006 DEPARTURE (from LP "Out Of This World); 24. TWO 1007 ACES HIGH – FROM FILM "BATTLE OF BRITAIN" (from LP "Spellbound")
EMI 582 5502
In our last issue we paid tribute to Ron Goodwin the man, who had died suddenly aged 77 at his home in Brimpton Common, Reading, on 8 January 2003. This time we concentrate on Ron Goodwin – the supreme musician, who has been honoured by EMI with a 2-CD collection of some of his finest recordings, released on 31 March.
Ron Goodwin was a brilliant composer, arranger and conductor, whose tuneful music reached the furthest corners of the world. Fortunately he was a prolific recording artist, so future generations will also be able to enjoy his music that has so enriched all our lives during the second half of the 20th century.
The seeds of his future success were sown way back in the early 1940s, when the teenaged Ron Goodwin embarked upon a half-hearted attempt to build a career in the insurance business. In his spare time he formed a jazz band ‘Ron Goodwin and the Woodchoppers’ which convinced him that his future was with his first love, music. After ‘serving his musical apprenticeship’ with two London publishers, he eventually got work with the small independent British record company Polygon, where he accompanied their contract artists including Petula Clark and Jimmy Young (he arranged and conducted Young’s big hit Too Young). Ron also cut two orchestral 78s, which presumably brought him to the attention of George Martin at Parlophone, where his illustrious career really took off.
‘Ron Goodwin and his Concert Orchestra’ soon became a familiar name through recordings and broadcasts. As his records started selling well overseas (especially in North America), his name came to the attention of the people who mattered in the movie business. From the outset, Parlophone allowed him to record some of his own compositions, so his credentials as a composer, as well as an accomplished arranger, were soon firmly established.
Some of his most popular LPs included Film Favourites (1954), Music to Set You Dreaming (1956), Out of this World (his first stereo album in 1958), Serenade (1961), Adventure (1966), Legend of the Glass Mountain (1968) Excitement (1970), Ron Goodwin in Concert (1971), Ron Goodwin Plays Burt Bacharach (1972), and Spellbound (1972). He also worked with Peter Sellers on his best-selling comedy albums (notably Goodness Gracious Me with Sophia Loren in 1960), and soundtrack albums were released from several of his films.
The Early Years – Popular Singles
The first CD in this collection concentrates on the 78 & 45 rpm Parlophone singles that made Ron Goodwin a leading conductor, arranger and composer during the 1950s. Several of the numbers are his own compositions, while others were popular as film and television themes – or simply as catchy, bright and tuneful pieces which caught the public’s attention.
Appropriately the CD opens with Ron’s very first Parlophone 78 in his own name – Jet Journey – which he had composed himself, and it came to typify the way in which he was able to galvanise a large concert orchestra into a state of frenzied excitement. It caused quite a stir when it first reached the record shops in 1953! Other fine Goodwin ‘originals’ that generate a similar level of excitement include Red Cloak and The Headless Horsemen.
In the USA it was Ron Goodwin’s Swinging Sweethearts that first caused him to be noticed, and quickly prompted a sequel Lingering Lovers. Originally Swinging Sweethearts had been known in Britain as Skiffling Strings, but the skiffle craze of the 1950s failed to travel westwards across the Atlantic, so the title would have been meaningless to north American ears. It prompted EMI’s US subsidiary, Capitol, to release an LP of Ron’s British singles, and from then on his international fame was assured. It should not be forgotten that this happened before the name ‘Ron Goodwin’ became familiar on the credits of numerous films screened around the world.
Always willing to support his fellow composers, Ron recorded two singles that gave a big boost to Trevor Duncan (The Girl From Corsica) and Ronald Binge (Elizabethan Serenade). Each of them today has a rightful place high on the list of the top light music composers of the last century, but there can be little doubt that the best-selling singles by the lush Goodwin orchestra did their careers no harm at all.
That perky little number Swedish Polka was recorded by many orchestras around the world, but the Goodwin version predictably offered something different. It is a prime example of a clever arrangement that surprises (almost shocks) on a first hearing, then leaves the listener eagerly waiting for the unexpected to be repeated on each successive playing. What was it that caused so much excitement? The answer lies in the repeat of the chorus, when the folksy melody is suddenly grabbed by none other than a Dixieland band!
Television was starting to make a big impact during the 1950s, and popular themes included Blue Star (from "Medic"); The Song of the High Seas and Guadalcanal March (from NBC’s famous documentary series "Victory at Sea"); and Wagon Train,one of numerous cowboy series around at that time. There is also a tenuous television connection with Midnight Blue, which was composed by Eric Spear who later went on to write perhaps the most famous TV theme of all time for "Coronation Street".
Film music featured on this CD covers a wide range of moods, from Malcolm Arnold’s adaptation of Kenneth Alford’s Colonel Bogey for "The Bridge on the River Kwai"; the romantic sounds conjured up for Melba (the waltz is also called Dream Time) and Moulin Rouge (the song is known as Where Is Your Heart); Leonard Bernstein’s brooding theme for Marlon Brando’s equally brooding performance in On the Waterfront; and the passions that Philip Green portrayed for the character Josita in the film "Sea Fury".
Original Compositions for Films and LPs
Ron Goodwin became one of Britain’s major film composers, contributing memorable scores to a number of big successes at the box office. His composing skills were not confined to the big screen, and he often included some of his own works on the LPs he regularly recorded for EMI on their Parlophone and Columbia labels. The second CD moves from mono into stereo, and emphasises what a talented composer he really was, and how he managed to create such wonderful sounds from the forces of a full-sized concert orchestra.
Major films were very important in bringing Ron Goodwin’s work to the attention of a worldwide audience, and they cannot be ignored in any tribute to his memory. Although many of his admirers will already have the main theme from 633 Squadron in their collections, it is likely that the second track on this CD will be unfamiliar to many. The Love Theme from the film confirms an earlier comment that Ron never short-changed his public; some film composers are content to weave endless variations on just one theme, but the Goodwin philosophy was that different characters deserved their own individual music. Originally available as the B-side on a 45 single, a previously unreleased stereo tape has been unearthed for this beautiful theme which reveals it in its full splendour. Several other stereo versions of older mono singles are also included in this collection for the first time.
Where Eagles Dare is now very familiar through its frequent TV screenings, yet the brilliant opening music never fails to impress. Ron Goodwin described how he achieved such a dramatic effect: "It starts with a solo snare drum which is joined after eight bars by a second snare drum. Two more snare drums enter after a further eight bars, then the large bass drum (or grande casse), followed by the trombones, tuba, lower strings and lower woodwind on the first statement of the main theme. This is taken up by the full orchestra which leads into a fugal treatment of the theme, building into the orchestral repetition of the solo drum pattern. The main theme forms the dramatic basis of the whole score."
Peter Sellers made some wonderful comedy records, and perhaps the sketch which has been most often recalled is Balham – Gateway To The South (it was even made into a short film starring Robbie Coltrane). Ron provided the incidental music, and the sequence describing Balham’s exciting nightlife centred on the El Morocco Tea Rooms was accompanied by some suitably kitsch sounds. Pressure from the public prompted a rare 45 single, which keen collectors will be delighted to rediscover here.
From various theme albums we can hear again some original Goodwin compositions which deserve to be remembered: London Serenade – a bustling ‘busy’ number from the LP "Serenade"; The Girl With The Misty Eyes who obviously hails from Latin America; and India – another atmospheric work from "Serenade". Goodwin’s first stereo album "Out Of This World" provided a much happier impression of our solar system than that envisaged by Gustav Holst forty-two years earlier. Departure appropriately begins the journey with the orchestra building to a tremendous climax as the rocket is launched into space and rapidly gains velocity, before the escape from the Earth’s gravity allows the motors to cut out leaving our craft in the breathtaking immensity of the outer void. Mercury Gets The Message is scored for a small group consisting mainly of flute, vibes, piano and rhythm; a particularly interesting passage introduces four trombones playing a phrase based upon the Morse SOS signal. The composer described it as "jazz in the classical form". Jumping Jupiter is intended as an interpretation of the phrase, rather than the planet. The awe-inspiring splendour of the universe is unfolded in an overall panorama of The Milky Way, in which Ron faithfully captures the distant and nebulous nature of this enormous constellation. Finally Return My Love signals the end of the journey in a suitably romantic manner.
Ron Goodwin – to quote from the title of one of his most famous film scores – has made a magnificent contribution to the musical life of his native England and the world. His recordings, film scores and concert appearances have enabled him to become a familiar name to countless millions, and our lives are all the richer for the many beautiful sounds with which he regaled us. Thank-you Ron, from the bottom of our hearts.