Very surprising news has arisen this week concerning the new Vangelis compilation, The Collection, that is released on CD next Monday (already the mp3 edition is out in some territories, but as an official Old Bugger I’ll wait for the physical disc, thankyou). The track Blade Runner Main Titles that was assumed to be the same track previously released on both versions of the official soundtrack album has turned out to be somewhat different. Extended by a few minutes, it features the music from the film’s ‘proper’ main title (heavy drum/bass reverbs with the main theme layered over)- this is music never released before, other than on bootlegs. I was always annoyed that the previous official releases of the soundtrack never featured this music, despite both having a track entitled Main Title– it has always been one of my favourite moments from the score. I will never forget sitting in the darkened cinema back in 1982, not having a clue what I was in for, and being instantly thrown into this darker than expected, dystopian vision by the foreboding Vangelis music that accompanied the films opening titles. Having it available officially at last is wonderful news, and the definitive Blade Runner music compilation just one more step closer. There’s just one more piece that I really long for- the percusion/synth underscore when Deckard and Rachel talk in his kitchen (music triggered by Rachel saying “I’m not in the business, I am the business”; its a very moody and tense, fragile piece of music. Well. Maybe one day. We keep on getting closer to a ‘proper’ Blade Runner soundtrack release.
I well remember back in 1989 walking into a record store in Birmingham and seeing the Vangelis-Themes compilation up in the new releases display. Well, a new Vangelis release was always a pleasant and unusual surprise, especially back in those pre-internet days when news was scarce regards Vangelis so you never got any warning. But I cannot describe my mixture of shock and joy when I looked at the tracklist on the back of the CD case and noticed it included the End Titles and Love Theme from Blade Runner– the first time any of the Blade Runner soundtrack had been released. Well I think I had what is commonly referred to these days as a nerdgasm; really I was utterly floored by it.
Ever since the film was released with the ‘available on polydor records & tapes’ on the end credit crawl I had searched endlessly for the soundtrack album to no avail. It was only sometime later that I noticed in a short news item published in Fantastic Films the official confirmation that there would be no soundtrack album released after all. No-one really knows why the release was pulled, only that it was pretty much at the last minute and at Vangelis’ behest. Various theories range from money wrangles, bitterness about how the editing of the film ended, industry politics…. the official word was that Vangelis was concerned at flooding the market with too many albums and becoming known more for soundtracks than his own studio work. I never bought that; this coming from the guy who, prior to Chariots Of Fire, would release two or even three albums in a year. There was always, I thought, something more to it. For myself I have always felt that, had Chariots of Fire not won him an Oscar or sold such huge numbers, we would have seen both a Blade Runner album and more studio work in the years since. Indeed, a cassette bootleg was doing the rounds at conventions following the films release that would likely indicate how the soundtrack would have turned out- possibly it was sourced from a promo copy of the actual album. Having never heard it I can’t say, but the tracklist would seem to be a better album than any of those eventually released officially, and more of a ‘traditional’ soundtrack that fans were expecting and never got.
I was commuting to work back in 1994, passing time in a newsagents whilst waiting for my connecting train when I noticed a music trade newspaper/magazine with a headline about Vangelis releasing the Blade Runner soundtrack at last. Well that blew me away just as much as the Themes album had some five years before. By now it was twelve years following the films release and its box-office/critical failure, and thanks to VHS , network showings and discovery of the workprint version, the film was getting a new lease of life, culminating in the Directors Cut version of the film (as it turned out, it wasn’t really a Directors Cut at all, but I digress). It was the period when the film changed from being a genuine cult, unloved and forgotten by everyone, into an established classic that was suddenly championed by all- it was like losing something somehow, something personal- suddenly the film had become everybody’s.
Well, the film lost its annoying voiceover but in an annoying twist of fate the soundtrack gained the voiceover – Vangelis choosing to drop some music, add ‘new’ music and layer dialogue and fx over it all. Very irritating at the time, I can understand to an extent Vangelis’ logic regards it being an album and a listening experience, but really, it was not the soundtrack I was looking for. Beyond the choice to hide music behind dialogue and fx, the choice of music was eccentric to say the least. The Main Title wasn’t anything of the sort (rather it was the music that tracked the flight to the Pyramid) and how one earth Vangelis could leave out The Prodigal Son Brings Death, one of the highlights of the score, bafflled me completely. However it has to be said its a great album, with fantastic music that we thought would never be officially released at all; Blade Runner Blues, Tales Of The Future… painfully it seemed it was the best we would likely ever get. Interestingly, we never actually got the complete End Titles, as both the Themes version and the 1994 album version were edited versions, each also mixed differently (the Vangelis film original being a 7-minute track bafflingly shortened for both releases).
Fast-forward to 2007 and the film’s 25th Anniversary. With Warner sorting out a new rights deal with the owners of the film, Ridley Scott managed to correct the erroneous belief that the Directors Cut was anything of the sort by creating The Final Cut, releasing it to much fanfare and even further reappraisal by the critical community. As part of the merchandising tie-ins on DVD and Blu-ray, another edition of the soundtrack was released, this time a 3-disc set. Trumpeted as the definitive release, there would be again a sting in the tail when it eventually saw the light of day. I’ll be honest, back when news filtered on the ‘net that Vangelis had created a 3-disc edition, I thought it was too good to be true, and I would be proved right. The first disc would be the 1994 album, dialogue and all, with a second disc of extra tracks (with some music not used in the final film) and a third disc of all-new music ‘inspired’ by the movie/original score. Truth be told, the second disc proved to be an excellent album of music familiar from the movie and other music that was sort-of ‘prototype’ score, which was a fascinating glimpse of how Vangelis worked out ideas and approached the soundtrack back in 1981. I’d have been happier had the first disc ditched the dialogue and fx and presented the music ‘proper’ but nevermind. As for the third disc, it was fine for a Vangelis album, but it was hardly a Blade Runner soundtrack. But of course, even across these three discs of material, some music remained unreleased, and in particular Vangelis chose not to release the ‘proper’ film’s main titles music. After so many years and so many attempts at releasing the score, I decided that was that, and that the remaining material would never see the light of day beyond the bootlegs.
And yet here we are with the main titles at last being released on a new compilation. How strange is this odyssey of the Blade Runner score being released? Back when I was searching the albums in HMV in 1982 I would never have believed that some thirty years later some of it would still have yet to see the light of day,much of the music released only in piecemeal fashion over several releases. Maybe within ten more years the rest will see the light of day. Time will tell.