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Album Cover Art
1988 Geffen
2011 Warner
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed and Co-Produced by:

Conducted by:
William Ross

Orchestrated and Co-Produced by:
Steve Bartek
Labels Icon
Geffen Records
(May 31st, 1988)

Warner Brothers Records
(April 12th, 2011)
Availability Icon
The 1988 Geffen album is a regular U.S. release. The 2011 Warner set is a limited edition of 2,000 copies, sold for $500 primarily through the official site of the album. Consult with the separate review of that set for more details about its availability.
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Decorative Nonsense
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you consider yourself a Danny Elfman enthusiast to any degree whatsoever and desire his unofficial "Handbook for the Recently Discovered Composer."

Avoid it... if the uniquely zany and frenetic scores from the very early period in Elfman's career are still too wild and inconsistent for your tastes.
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WRITTEN 3/1/99, REVISED 5/27/11
Beetlejuice: (Danny Elfman) It's difficult to say if filmmaker Tim Burton will ever be able to capture the magic of Beetlejuice in another project, though he has certainly tried many times through the years. Not only did Beetlejuice continue to define the director's quirky sensibilities in the late 1980's, but it also benefitted being a highly profitable honeymoon experience, being the public's first major glimpse at the morbidly comic style truest to his imaginative aesthetics. It also maintains fascination in that it contained a simply marvelous cast of relative unknowns at the time, most of whom would not only flourish in careers of their own, but continue to be a part of Burton's normal cast ensemble in many subsequent projects. The youth and vitality of both the cast and crew exudes its enthusiasm for fantasy in every aspect of the 1988 film, including Danny Elfman's score. Despite the Oingo Boingo lead's previous activities for the realm of Pee-wee Herman and other wacky projects, Beetlejuice was his broader introduction to mainstream audiences as an orchestral film score composer, establishing an irresistible knack for creativity that would astonish listeners and genuinely excite film music fans. Some veteran film score collectors were actually quite horrified by Elfman's ultra-dynamic, explosive sound at the time, rejecting him as an untrained freak from the world of rock. The composer's classic score for Batman the following year would squash all such concerns, though while Elfman continued exploring the deeply troubled gothic sounds that would culminate in the top notch scores for Edward Scissorhands in 1991 and Sommersby in 1993, fans can look back at Beetlejuice as a lovable bridge between Elfman's earliest and zaniest orchestral styles and the morbidly brooding music to follow. The plot of Beetlejuice was a perfect mould for this transition, posing the death of a young couple at the outset and forcing them to haunt their own New England mansion to expunge the next owners (who happen to be New Yorkers with terrible instincts regarding interior design). Together with the suicidal daughter of those owners, Elfman has plenty of mysterious tragedy to muster in Beetlejuice. More than countering that side of the score is the outright carnival atmosphere created by Michael Keaton's title character. A "fixer" for the dead, "Betelgeuse" harasses both the dead couple and those who moved into their home with horrific pranks, requiring an extremely frenetic and diverse score to match his personality.

The fact that Elfman met all the demands of the Beetlejuice story with musical ideas so perfectly matched to Burton's concepts should be no surprise. The two men had hit it off instantly three years earlier with Pee-wee's Big Adventure, sharing many of the same interests in unusually morbid concepts. More interesting is how unique the Beetlejuice score still sounds two decades later, and while Elfman has flirted with some parody and outright comedy in the years since his scoring career transcended to the A-list, he's never been able to resurrect the same outlandish manipulations of the Warner Brothers sound that he had initially tested in Pee-wee's Big Adventure. To describe the score in a technical sense is doing a disservice to its ambient qualities; it really is a difficult piece of music to describe with words because any such attempt to brush past so many different ideas would neglect the intangibles that draw them together. This wacky sense of free-wheeling fun was initially a disaster in the recording process. The studio had brought in legendary composer and conductor Lionel Newman to lead the orchestra, but the performances of the main titles cue that he solicited from the players completely lacked the offbeat pizzazz Elfman had tried to construct in the composition. After a full day of poor rehearsals, Newman was fired by Elfman (an extreme rarity for Newman and a point of lingering discomfort for Elfman) and William Ross was hired as a replacement; like Lennie Neihaus for Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Ross was able to translate Elfman's quirkiness from page for the players and the rest of the sessions were a success. It's not hard to understand why an icon from yesteryear like Newman was a poor match for Elfman. No rhythm is safe with the composer, who utilizes tangos, marches, waltzes, and even Caribbean calypso movements in Beetlejuice. His thematic development is also remarkably complex, with two distinct ideas created for Betelgeuse himself, along with themes for Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder), the Maitland couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis), and several minor characters. Even a nasty sand worm in the world of the undead receives its own recurring motif. No instrument is safe with Elfman either, who compensates for a smaller ensemble by pulling every last bit of effort from each performer. The piano is used in a somewhat perverse fashion, taking the concept of the instrument's innocent role as representing family values and giving it an almost demonic alternative life (though technically, it's largely thumping away in the bass in a similar fashion to Pee-wee's Big Adventure).

Ratings Icon
Average: 3.84 Stars
***** 2,104 5 Stars
**** 1,680 4 Stars
*** 1,098 3 Stars
** 545 2 Stars
* 261 1 Stars
  (View results for all titles)

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Read All Start New Thread Search Comments
Elfman's Style!
ane - January 11, 2012, at 4:55 p.m.
1 comment  (1563 views)
Lydia's Opera theme.   Expand >>
T.J. - February 20, 2008, at 2:23 a.m.
2 comments  (8529 views)
Newest: August 15, 2008, at 5:30 a.m. by
Elfman at his craziest
Jair Moncada - October 5, 2006, at 8:18 p.m.
1 comment  (4327 views)
Complete Score for Trade   Expand >>
Miles - January 7, 2006, at 7:33 p.m.
2 comments  (6492 views)
Newest: July 27, 2007, at 7:25 p.m. by
This Score is the BEST!
Alexander - December 18, 2005, at 7:39 a.m.
1 comment  (3212 views)
Danny - November 29, 2004, at 3:00 a.m.
1 comment  (3010 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1988 Geffen Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 36:18
• 1. Main Titles (2:27)
• 2. Travel Music (1:07)
• 3. The Book!/Obituaries (1:30)
• 4. Enter..."The Family"/Sand Worm Planet (2:50)
• 5. The Fly (0:50)
• 6. Lydia Discovers? (0:59)
• 7. In the Model (1:35)
• 8. Juno's Theme (0:48)
• 9. Beetle-Snake (2:08)
• 10. "Sold" (0:35)
• 11. The Flier/Lydia's Pep Talk (1:25)
• 12. Day-O - performed by Harry Belafonte (3:05)
• 13. The Incantation (3:11)
• 14. Lydia Strikes a Bargain... (0:52)
• 15. Showtime! (1:05)
• 16. "Laughs" (2:33)
• 17. The Wedding (2:02)
• 18. The Aftermath (1:21)
• 19. End Credits (2:47)
• 20. Jump in Line (Shake, Shake Senora) - performed by Harry Belafonte (3:08)
2011 Warner Set Tracks   ▼Total Time: 47:46

Notes Icon
The insert of the 1988 Geffen album includes no extra information about the score or film, but it did feature a funny advertisement for products related to the film in early pressings. The 2011 Warner set features some notes from Elfman about his choices of music for inclusion on the product.
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Beetlejuice are Copyright © 1988, 2011, Geffen Records, Warner Brothers Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 3/1/99 and last updated 5/27/11.
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