There aren’t many soundtracks left that haven’t been released that I really want—but Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends by Johnny Douglas is one of them.
I was introduced to Marvel characters first by this show, in the early 1980s, even before I read the comics. It was Saturday morning appointment viewing!
All the episodes are up on Disney+ at the moment, and I tried watching a random one a few weeks ago, for nostalgia’s sake...and oh boy, they played much better at age 8 than 48. It was a rather stupefying experience.
But I do love the library score by English bandleader Johnny Douglas. There’s something to that mid-century English big band arranging style that makes it sound so big and lush—and Douglas was a particularly adroit practitioner of it.
I wish I could better explain the technique; certainly the string arrangements are a big part of it. You wouldn’t know this Dungeons and Dragons theme (album version) originated in a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon:
It was an inspired choice to turn to Douglas to score several early 1980s Marvel productions: Spider-Man (1981 series), Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, The Incredible Hulk, Dungeons and Dragons, G.I. Joe and The Transformers. The latter two have had at least some cues released on vinyl in recent years.
Douglas was great with tunes—and I always loved the crashing, dissonant brass chords that are sort of his signature. The main title from Crack in the World (released by La-La Land, priced down to $4.98) is a good example:
Looks like somebody extracted some cues from the finished audio of the 1981 Spider-Man:
This piece will be familiar to fans of Amazing Friends from the action scenes:
I recently found a YouTube interview by Douglas’ daughter and granddaughter with recording engineer Mike Ross-Trevor:
Unfortunately, they tracked the “pop” single version of the Spidey Friends theme underneath the conversation so it’s a little hard to hear.
The family is keeping Johnny Douglas’ legacy alive with Dulcima Records; check them out!
Years ago when I was doing the FSM CDs I looked into releasing the Marvel/Douglas scores, and got so far as to talk on the phone with Joe Siracusa, the music editor who, I just now learned, died in 2021 at 99. He remembered that they traveled to England to record the music libraries with the composer. But I couldn’t get anywhere as far as finding the tapes or even a contact for the licensing.
Also, speaking of Spidey, I met the voice actor for Firestar, Kathy Garver, years ago at a Comic-Con. She was only too happy to proclaim, “Firestar!”
Recently I saw her in an ad for Clear Captions. She’s older now, obviously, but you can still recognize her voice. Here she is on Bill O’Reilly’s show some years ago:
Well...so much for today’s incoherent nostalgia timewarp.
I hope somebody releases this one day!