• Lukas Kendall

Heavy Metal: Classic Elmer


Here is the tape box to part one of Elmer Bernstein’s masters to his glorious symphonic score to Heavy Metal (1981). This was one of my favorite CDs we ever did.


And...it’s long sold out. If you go to the FSM CD page, it indicates you can still buy it. That’s a mistake which we’ll correct ASAP (I don’t know where the problem is).


I checked eBay and Amazon and they are used copies selling for $50 or $100+ which deeply frustrates me. I always wanted this music to be available and tried to press in large-enough quantities so that everybody who wanted one could get one.


But oftentimes we over-pressed, so poor Craig at Screen Archives is still sitting on way too much inventory of stinkers...I am sorry, Craig! (Man Called Adam, anyone?)


And for “hot” sci-fi titles like this one, I thought we made enough, but apparently not. Thus the price gouging continues on the used CD market.


Maybe one of the other labels will want to reissue Heavy Metal: The Score. I hope so. They’d make money!


It was relatively simple for us to produce this CD because Elmer, thank goodness, kept a 1/4'' tape of master mixes (of which part one is above).


Note the recording venue: Olympic Sound Studios closed at some point and artists were supposed to be informed to pick up their masters, but not everybody got word. I believe that’s why some of Elmer’s Film Music Collection was missing, when we did that box set, and we had to use vinyl for some discs (which fortunately sounded okay).


But he had this one, probably from right after he did it—and it was safely stored at USC, where he donated his archives.


Back in those days, USC would just loan us anything we needed. Nowadays, it’s like dealing with the Soviet Union, with the bureaucracy and the arrangements and the requirement to use their own transfer house—another reason I quit the FSM label.


If you look at the Heavy Metal CD page, you’ll see I made a joke, “Premiere CD release made possible through the courtesy of Rhino Entertainment Company, Elektra Entertainment Group, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., Irving Azoff, the estate of Elmer Bernstein, the University of Southern California Cinema-Television Library, and the Loc Nar.”


I was only sort of kidding. This project was a pain to track down the rights for the previously unreleased music. I feel like I talked to everybody, twice.


This is something that comes up again and again:


Movie Studio releases a Movie, for which they own the Score. They do a deal with Record Company to put out the Soundtrack. The Soundtrack ends up containing the Track List.


However...did the Movie Studio grant the Record Company the rights to ALL the music recorded for the film, from which the Track List was excerpted?


Or did they just license the specific content included in the Track List, and any unreleased masters still belong to the studio?


It depends on the contract. If the former, the Record Company already has the rights they need to add previously unreleased music. If the latter, Record Company and Movie Studio have to do a new deal to cover it.


In the old days, oftentimes the contracts were relatively brief and vague. So you kind of had to do a new, supplemental deal anyway, just to make sure everybody was okay with it.


That bit us on this project: nobody knew the answer, at least at first, and companies are notoriously gun-shy to make assumptions.


Fortunately, Elmer’s manager, the late Robert Urband (super nice guy), had done legwork on the project in 2002, before Elmer passed, for a possible release on Amber Records (Elmer’s label). Robert got the blessing of legendary music manager Irving Azoff, executive producer of the movie, who handwrote on a fax: “I don’t think I have any rights—if I do, I have no problem with this. Did anyone contact Ivan Reitman?”


Robert did reach out to Reitman who also approved, enthusiastically.


Eventually, Rhino approved the previously unreleased music for us—how, I don’t know, and they wouldn’t say (by which time I didn’t really care, although I sort of did)—and we made the totally fantastic CD.


One final memory about this project. We were in touch with Nicholas Meyer around this time, releasing CDs to his films Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Time After Time.


Nick would always graciously sit for interviews with us (sometimes he wrote liner notes, too)—although he always warned us, “This will be like the detective interviewing the guy for the 14th time: I’ll tell you everything I know, but it’ll be exactly like the last 13 times.”


He had Jeff Bond and I over to his lovely home in Pacific Palisades, where he told us about the making of Star Trek II, which is like bedtime stories for Trekkies.


Nick is a huge classical music aficionado, which extends to film scores, and was very enthusiastic and appreciative of some of our releases, like Mutiny on the Bounty, which I was delighted to send to him.


Finishing our Star Trek II interview, I told Nick about Elmer’s Heavy Metal, which we had almost finished, thinking he’d absolutely love that one. But he demurred, “You know, I’ve never really been a fan of that...”


I was surprised at first—but then I realized, Nick thought we meant it actually was heavy metal music. So I said, “No no, you don’t understand.”


I later sent the CD—I hope he gave it a shot!

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