I want to give a shout-out today to one of my favorite people, John(ny) Bender, and one of my favorite Facebook groups, The Retro Euro Cult Film Score Society.
The pic above is from a visit John and his wife Karen made to Martha’s Vineyard circa 1995.
What am I wearing??? This was, apparently, shortly before I murdered Versace:
Something you all should know about John: he is ENORMOUS. He said he is 6'9'', I think. I am 5'8" if you include what’s left of my hair. He sat like a pretzel in the front seat of my Subaru as I drove him and Karen around the Vineyard.
John came into my life in the early years of Film Score Monthly when he volunteered to write a column, “Score Internationale,” about the same material he chronicles in the Retro Cult group.
What is Retro Cult? I’ll let him explain from the Group’s “About” page:
Retro Euro Cult is a term I coined to represent a period of film music and a place where film music developed a distinct personality. The period would be roughly from 1960 to 1980, the place would be, of course, Europe—inclusive of England, Germany, France and Spain, but most especially Italy. I use the term Retro Cult when referring to American or Japanese film music of the Retro Euro Cult period.
Retro Euro Cult is expansive and it envelops modalities and sub-genres even outside of formal score for film, things such as Lounge, Easy, Exotica and Erotica, and critically the vast world of International library music.
The Retro Cult and Retro Euro Cult Sound ranges from Bernard Herrmann to Nico Fidenco, from Akira Ifukube to Henry Mancini, from Les Baxter to Ennio Morricone—and beyond. Important to Retro Euro Cult is an intense and intrepid fusion of styles—mixing jazz, blues, rock, prog, funk, bossa nova, ethnic or traditional, electronica, modern and/or romantic Classism and instrumental adult-pop.
Retro Euro Cult is many things but it is distinct. It has a mood, a texture, an attitude, and it expresses an awareness or acknowledgment of the effects of passage into the 20th Century. The bottom line is I know Retro Euro Cult when I hear it. If you listen to enough of the mp3 links I share on this forum then you will come to recognize it too. That special ability will give you much pleasure, and I can personally vouch for that. In fact I guarantee it.
Yes, mp3 links! John posts a ton of great stuff on the group—check it out! Just this morning I heard excerpts from Francis Lai’s 1970 score for The Games, for the first time—love it!
I have discovered so many great listening pleasures through Johnny over the years, sometimes directly from various mix CDRs he has sent me—thank you!!!
In fact, pretty much the only way I’ve discovered this era of film music is through John’s efforts. The films were before my time and, sad to say, whenever I’ve encountered them—Tarantino I’m not, they don’t hold much interest.
But the scores are phenomenal!
As a little kid—before I even discovered film music—I loved big band music.
Funny story: back in the 1980s, Red Sox games on radio in our area came from a Plymouth station, WPLM. Other than the Sox, the station carried big band for the older generation.
Most people who had to listen to WPLM for the games hated it, of course, and said the call letters stood for “We Play Lousy Music.”
I discovered big band tuning in to hear the Sox...and I loved it! I loved the horns, the harmonies, the arrangements. (Except for Dixieland which they played on Sunday mornings: I couldn’t stand that.)
I was always a bit of a misfit and didn’t get along well without other kids. So I loved the chance to discover other types of art and claim it as my own. Then I was bullied relentlessly. Mission accomplished!
To me, the Retro Cult style (and a lot of film music of the era) was an outgrowth of big band, just hipped up and on tons of drugs.
Some more pix of us hitting the Vineyard:
Johnny, thanks for your decades of friendship, and columns—and all the music!