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Section Header
Heartbeeps
(1981)
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Orchestrated by:
Herbert W. Spencer

Performed by:
The Hollywood Studio Symphony

Label:
Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
November 1st, 2001

Also See:
The Towering Inferno

Audio Clips:
8. Crimebuster (0:33):
WMA (215K)  MP3 (266K)
Real Audio (165K)

9. Phil is Born (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

17. The Junkyard (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (235K)
Real Audio (146K)

26. End Credits (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

Availability:
A limited Varèse Sarabande CD Club release of only 3,000 unnumbered copies. This album was the first of three to begin a resurrection of an earlier CD Club that existed in the late 80's and early 90's. Its initial cost was $20, but it eventually sold out at soundtrack specialty outlets and escalated in price. Full index: VCL 1101-1001

Awards:
  None.







Club

Heartbeeps

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Buy it... only if you consider yourself one of the most avid John Williams collectors, because Heartbeeps is among the composer's most unconventional works.

Avoid it... if the sound of early MIDI-like synthesizers in comedy duty gives you an instant headache.



Williams
Heartbeeps: (John Williams) The lovable 1981 Allan Arkush film Heartbeeps was a rare opportunity to see Andy Kaufman on the big screen. He and Bernadette Peters star as obsolete robots in the future, awaiting their demise in a company warehouse until they decide to break loose by stealing a van and searching for a life on their own. Other malfunctioning robots go in pursuit, though a happy ending awaits as the two primary robots discover the concept a love and, after building a child out of spare parts, retire to a blissful existence together in a junk yard. The film, despite having some star power in its cast and crew, went nowhere. When an average movie-goer (or even a film music collector) thinks about John Williams soundtracks of the early 1980's, Heartbeeps isn't exactly what comes to mind. But as is the case with every established composer, a successful collaboration with a director or producer for a major film will often lead to a subsequent collaboration on a smaller, more personal project. Such was the case with Heartbeeps. Williams had worked with the producer, Michael Phillips, on Close Encounters of a Third Kind, and when this lighthearted Phillips comedy was being assembled in 1981, Williams accepted the scoring job. It was perhaps awkward for such a score to be written and recorded by the maestro in between The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the mystery is deepened upon hearing its very unconventional instrumental style. For the reason of a lack of interest from an ambivalent population of fans, Heartbeeps was never released into the digital medium until long after all of Williams' other post-Star Wars era scores had debuted on CD. With the resurrection of the once popular Varèse Sarabande CD Club in 2001, the score was finally pressed onto CD to, quite frankly, the praise of only a few Williams collectors. Unfortunately, as noted by more than a few film score experts, soundtracks such as Heartbeeps don't go un-pressed on CD without good reason. In fact, the overriding reason that this score was absent on album for so long was because it has very little that resembles the John Williams known to the world. Nor is it particularly listenable.

Williams approached the very short film with a touch of comedy and a more pronounced use of electronics than in any other score of his career. While there are tender orchestral performances of especially the score's love theme, the tone of the work is dominated by the extremely simplistic, MIDI-like electronic style chosen specifically to augment to robots' somewhat comedic and cheesy existence. Also at work is a sense of jazz that existed throughout the composer's early years. If you had a strong opinion about "Johnny" Williams' days of writing music like A Guide for the Married Man and Not With My Wife You Don't!, then you'll probably have an equally strong opinion about the underlying comedy elements in Heartbeeps. While of different genres, the Williams style heard in the 1981 score is simply a sci-fi spin-off of the same pop-minded Johnny Williams music heard in the late 1960's. As such, for fans of the orchestrally complex Williams styles of the early-1970's and beyond, Heartbeeps will be one of his few post-Star Wars scores that is barely listenable, if at all. He intentionally produced electronics that merged with jazzy, contemporary instrumentation to produce a psychotic form of sci-fi disco. The programming is purposefully dumb, as to enhance the comedy and silliness of the film's content. The themes are trademark Williams on paper, but once fleshed out with the prancing electronics chosen for the recording, the music is a mesh of embarrassingly trite and ridiculous sounds. To accentuate the robots' newly discovered love for one another, Williams throws in some token orchestral performances of moderate size (with "Val and Phil" strongly resembling The Towering Inferno), but these moments, even in the customary suite format during the end credits, are never lengthy enough to steer the score away from the childish electronics. Of particular annoyance is the never-ceasing Crimebuster theme, a mind-numbing, pseudo-military repetition meant to represent the bumbling robot villain. After four or five of the numerous performances of that theme, the fast forward button on your CD player will be a welcome sight. Even the orchestral closing of the theme in "Crimebuster Always Gets His Man," which comically mirrors the hits at the end of The Fury, doesn't please the ears.

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Other than some of the tender, less obnoxious explorations of the love theme (and even the title theme in its organic variations), the only redeeming aspect of the Heartbeeps score on album (and one which may actually make it a worthwhile purchase for the most hardcore Williams fanatics) is that it is occasionally interesting to hear Williams' trademark stylistic mannerisms in such a bizarre context. These include little motifs that would later be expanded upon for his future classics. In the end, this is the kind of music you expect to hear in a Woody Allen film, or maybe a television cartoon, and resembles very little of the composer that Digital Age film music fans know and love. The synthetic tones even resemble the badly dated, arcade-like side of Wendy Carlos' Tron. What few moments Williams uses to concentrate on orchestral harmony cannot make up for the deafeningly irritating electronics, marking Heartbeeps as a surprisingly weak score to present as the very first entry in the second generation of Varèse Club releases. The original Varèse Sarabande CD Club began circa 1988 and finished roughly five years later, highlighting a movement made by the label to press limited editions of CDs in a series parallel to their commercial products. The final few Club CDs sat in the label's warehouse for ten years before selling out, so it is no surprise that the original series, despite some excellent successes (namely The 'Burbs by Jerry Goldsmith), fizzled to an unglamorous end. Always enthusiastic about the more obscure film scores in existence, however, Varèse producer Robert Townson chose to begin another Club series in 2001 with Williams' Heartbeeps as its centerpiece. All one has to do is read Townson's liner notes to grasp his overwhelming respect and joy for this score. It is indeed a fascinating score to study and even appreciate, but it is far from a coherent listening experience, and any Williams collector purchasing this album blindly will likely be disappointed the tone of the music. It's hard to fault Williams for producing the score that was necessary for this film, but given the subject matter, Heartbeeps is a potentially no-win prospect. Many older fans, however, maintain a strong affection for the work. Approach with caution, especially now that the album has sold out. **   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 336,590 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  


Regular Average: 2.92 Stars
Smart Average: 2.92 Stars*
***** 48 
**** 53 
*** 70 
** 65 
* 53 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   What a nice little motif at
  JB -- 1/29/07 (4:26 a.m.)
   Heartbeeps
  Alice Keymer -- 12/15/06 (11:48 a.m.)
   Re: My Heart Is Beeping Wildly
  PDQ -- 9/7/05 (11:05 a.m.)
   My Heart Will Beep On
  Ken S -- 12/26/01 (12:39 p.m.)
   Fascinating score, but worth the price?
  H.J. Carter -- 11/15/01 (10:42 a.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  




 Track Listings: Total Time: 54:19


• 1. Main Title (3:10)
• 2. Beautiful, Isn't It? (4:25)
• 3. Thunderstorm (0:39)
• 4. Seeing the Rainbow (1:09)
• 5. Projected Trip (1:43)
• 6. Sneaking Out (0:35)
• 7. Val's First Drive (2:43)
• 8. Crimebuster (3:25)
• 9. Phil is Born (1:50)
• 10. In the Woods (2:00)
• 11. Come Phil! (0:52)
• 12. It's a Camel (2:27)
• 13. The Love Scene (2:04)
• 14. Crimebuster Follows (2:24)
• 15. Crimebuster Breaks Up Party (1:05)
• 16. Domestic Spat (1:38)
• 17. The Junkyard (1:57)
• 18. Raccoon Chasing (0:41)
• 19. Crimebuster's Shadow (0:34)
• 20. To the Factory (1:49)
• 21. Val and Phil (4:22)
• 22. Catskill Rests (1:04)
• 23. Going to Sleep (3:30)
• 24. Domestic Bliss (1:18)
• 25. Crimebuster Always Gets His Man (1:56)
• 26. End Credits (4:12)




 Notes and Quotes:  


The insert contains a lengthy note from album producer Robert Townson, for whom it is customary to include lengthy analysis of both the film and score in the Varèse Sarabande CD Club releases.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from Heartbeeps are Copyright © 2001, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 11/7/01 and last updated 10/22/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2001-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.