The Goonies (25th Anniversary) – Score Review

During the summer of 1985, there were two movies released which were executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Back To the Future and The Goonies. BTTF became the biggest box-office hit of 1985 and would generate two sequels over the next five years. The Goonies earned $63 million placing it among that year’s top-ten grossing films.

Written by Chris Columbus (Gremlins) and directed by Richard Donner (Superman), The Goonies a story of friends embarking on the adventure of their lives involving caves, pirate ships, secret treasure and a giant octopus, required a rousing adventure score which incorporated tender moments representing youth and longing. Donner chose Dave Grusin, a favourite of directors Sydney Pollack and Warren Beatty for the way he wove romantic score techniques with jazz elements.

However, The Goonies 1985 LP soundtrack featured very little of Grusin’s work. Instead, as typical of the mid-80’s, it featured a roster of pop performances – the main highlight being Cyndi Lauper’s ‘The Goonies ‘R Good Enough’ which spawned a 13 minute two-part music video featuring legends of the then WWF, The Goonies cast, The Bangles and even, Spielberg himself. If you’ve read Lauper’s biography, in it, she describes a meeting she had with Spielberg to discuss ideas for the video and at one point she told him his ideas weren’t very creative. End of meeting.

Spielberg must have had more patience with Grusin as their collaboration resulted in one of the composer’s finest efforts. Sadly, Grusin’s score would for over two decades,  remain as elusive as the treasure the Goonies attempt to locate. In 2010, Varese rectified this and released Grusin’s full 77-minute score to the delight of many.

The rousing ‘Fratelli Chase’ which starts off the CD (and film) is a charming and lively, opening action cue. This is a re-working of the movie’s opening cue as the Original ‘Fratelli Chase’ sounded like an Italian tarantella – something like what Carmine Coppola might have composed for a Godfather movie (this version is included as track #31 on the expanded album).  Spielberg suggested Grusin re-work this opening piece as He felt the tarantella sound was wrong. Grusin listened to his executive producer and the resulting  ‘Fratelli Chase’ perfectly captured the goofy exuberance of the entire movie.

‘Fratelli Chase’ would later be used in the trailers of other 80’s comedies (most notably 1987’s Innerspace, also executive produced by Spielberg). It is an absolute standout. Grusin introduces a mystery theme in track two ‘Map and Willie’ This mystery theme is reprised a number of times when Willie is mentioned. This theme also stands-in for Mikey’s (Sean Astin) theme. Track three ‘The Goondocks (Goonies theme)’ is a lush, melancholy theme representing the young small-town teenagers. a hint of Willie’s theme appears signifying the adventures awaiting The Goonies. This cue reminded me of what Hans Zimmer would later do in 1992’s Radio Flyer. Willie’s theme is featured prominently in track 4 ‘Doubloon’. More mysterious music on this track. Track 5, “Lighthouse” features the Fratelli’s once again. Besides a few sprightly flute statements which we heard in ‘Fratelli Chase’, this is a sinister track.

The action cues that audiences love about The Goonies kick into gear starting with track 6, ‘Cellar and Sloth’. A string of suspenseful and mystery cues follow, ‘Restaurant Trash’ and the album’s longest track, ‘The ‘it’, Fifty Dollar Bills and a stiff’ (Track 8) incorporates suspense, terror but takes unexpected turns when it includes a rousing Nino Rota-esqu rendition of Data’s theme (introduced briefly in ‘Fratelli Chase’). From there, the track incorporates a Bernard Herrmman-ish Psycho riff that’s a pure joy to hear. Track 8, is another of the album’s standouts.

HEY, YOU GUYYYS! The fun continues with a return of ‘Fratelli Chase’ right away in track 10, ‘Plumbing’. Grusin would incorporate this style five years later into his score for The Bonfire of the Vanities and If you have never seen that woeful movie, take my word for it.

More mystery and terror music (This time I detected a hint of Jaws) in track 11, ‘Skull and Signature’. Track 12, ‘Boulders, bats and a blender’ utilizes more Herrmann-esque strings. Music becomes frenzied and violent. Track 13, ‘Wishing Well and the Fratelli’s Find Coin’ opens with harps and reiterations of the Willie/Mikey theme. More bumbling music represents the Fratelli’s this time around. Track 14, ‘Mikey’s Vision’ consists primarily of Willie’s/Mikey’s theme. This is a more mature statement of the theme than previously heard. Action/suspense cues follow tracks 15 ‘Oath and Booby Traps’ and on track 16 ‘Triple Stones and a Ball’, which once again ends with a terrific rendition of Data’s theme.

If The Goonies has a love theme, it is presented on Track 17, ‘Pee Break and Kissing Tunnel’. A delicate rendition of the Goonies theme is featured along with the romantic sound Grusin is probably most famous for. The swashbuckling spirit of The Goonies is on full display in track 18, ‘They’re Here and Skull Cave Chase’ as the Fratelli’s are in pursuit of the Goonies as they cross precipitous bridge. Track 19, ‘Playing the Bones’ could fit right into an Indiana Jones film with its organ, ritualistic, sound. Track 20  ‘Waterslide and galleon’ should be familiar to anyone who’s seen any of The Goonies TV spots in 1985. It’s a fun, short, lively track.

The cues rounding out the album, offer a few more standouts. We get a few more reprisals of Mikey’s theme until things kick into gear with ‘Treasure, Data & Mouth, and Walk the Plank’ (track 24). Swirling harps start out this track which then introduces a walk-the-plank motif interspersed with more renditions of Data’s theme. The pirate-sound is alive in this cue.

Sloth (John Matuszak)  gets his heroic fanfare music in #25 ‘Sloth and Chunk’. The lovable Sloth is granted an almost militaristic march – Max Steiner’s The Adventures of Don Juan adapted by Grusin as he turns on his hapless Fratelli brothers. As mama Fratelli sings to her boy, Grusin introduces a gentle lullaby with chimes and flute that underscores the scene which builds to a triumphant statement of John Williams’ Superman theme. This is a terrific cue.

Concluding tracks see the Goonies defeat the Fratelli’s and return from their adventure and looking back on their adventure (and ahead to new ones). Mikey’s theme, along with ‘The Goondocks’ are well represented with more Sloth/Pirate music. Track #30, ‘End Title – Goonies Theme’ features a whimsical and beautiful string version of The Goondocks theme. Fans of Grusin’s romantic work should love this cue.

The Goonies was recorded at a time when film composers were embracing the use of synthesizers into their scores. Composers such as Jerry Goldsmith knew how to weave both elements into a memorable score that thrilled and moved audiences. The same could be said for Grusin’s fantastic work here.

The Goonies: 25th Anniversary Edition is now available from Varese Sarabande.

1 comment

  1. The Goonies and The Monster Squad are my two most favorite films when I was growing up as a kid.

    Although (as a fan of horror) I would love to exist in The Monster Squad universe; I also thought the Goonsters were the prime example of cool.

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