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The Towering Inferno
Album Cover Art
2001 Film Score Monthly
2014 Rhino/Warner
Album 2 Cover Art
2019 La-La Land
Album 3 Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:

Orchestrated by:
Herbert Spencer
Al Woodbury

Song and Lyrics by:
Al Kasha
Joel Hirschhorn

Song Performed by:
Maureen McGovern
Labels Icon
Film Score Monthly
(April, 2001)

Rhino/Warner Brothers
(October 27th, 2014)

La-La Land Records
(December 3rd, 2019)
Availability Icon
The 2001 Film Score Monthly album was a limited release of 3,000 copies, available originally through only soundtrack specialty outlets. It sold out almost immediately and was long a top collectible. The 2014 Rhino/Warner re-issue of the LP contents is a commercial digital release, with high-resolution options available. The 2019 "Disaster Movie Soundtrack Collection" from La-La Land Records is limited to 5,000 copies and debuted for $75 through the soundtrack specialty outlets.
The Williams score and Kasha/Hirschhorn song, "We May Never Love Like This Again," were both nominated for Academy Awards, the latter winning. That song was also nominated for a Golden Globe.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... as part of the 2019 La-La Land Records set if you want to explore the best of John Williams' endeavors for blockbuster disaster flicks of the Silver Age.

Avoid it... if twenty to thirty minutes of classic Williams action and melodrama can't compensate for the dated sound of the contemporary 1970's elements rendering the score's character and romance portions.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 4/28/01, REVISED 4/9/21
The Towering Inferno: (John Williams) In the early to mid-1970's, disaster films achieved their greatest heights in mainstream imaginations. With Hollywood long suffering from a preference for smaller character films and B-rate action flicks, the mega-blockbusters of immense special effects were ready for a return. Irwin Allen, the "Master of Disaster," had just exploded onto the scene by providing the world with The Poseidon Adventure two years earlier, a film which stunned Hollywood with its smash box office success. With the epic-length The Towering Inferno in 1974, the genre of realistic disaster films reached a climax not to be touched again until the late 1990's. With two studios, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers, preparing two films based on very similar stories, the pair made the unprecedented move of combining their resources for The Towering Inferno, splitting costs and profits. The resulting production of mammoth proportions led to a monumental cast led by Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, and William Holden, incredible special effects, and stunning cinematography and editing, both of which garnering Academy Award wins for the film. The plot details the opening of a magnificent skyscraper in San Francisco, parties occupying its top floors while the architect of the project realizes that specifications weren't met for safety during construction. Predictably, a fire breaks out, engulfing the building and trapping the dignitaries in the upper floors. Gruesome deaths and unlikely rescues are a stuntman's paradise in the production. The movie will also be remembered for producing one of the most awkward screen moments of all time, with Fred Astaire and O.J. Simpson sharing the same frame at its conclusion. Even many decades later, The Towering Inferno is an awesome film, a guilty pleasure at the least and a classic at its best. It is therefore appropriate that quickly rising composer John Williams scored the film. The budding maestro had worked with Allen several times in the past, reaching all the way back to the "Lost in Space," "The Time Tunnel," and "Land of the Giants" television scores, and including, of course, The Poseidon Adventure.

Aside from Allen's projects, Williams would cement his role as the "Master of Disaster Scores" by also composing for the subsequent Earthquake and Black Sunday, using the genre to shake his reputation as a writer of eclectic music for character films and setting the stage for his shake-up of the industry's music in the Bronze Age. Even when he had all of these disaster scores under his belt, though, it is The Towering Inferno that stands tall as Williams' greatest score for the genre. Williams was already in a position to pull some weight with the studio and director as of 1974, and it was his idea to showcase the score so prominently during the opening helicopter sequence. A highlight of the film, the first five minutes of the score, consisting of one of Williams' best adventure themes of all time, marches across the soundscape almost unimpeded, leading to the magnificent initial view of the massive tower standing at the heart of San Francisco. While the entire film would pass before the theme would receive another lengthy performance of heightened bravado, the inclusion of this landmark main idea is alone usually worth the cost of the score for many Williams collectors. The final two cues, dealing with the aftermath of the fire in "Finale" and "An Architect's Dream," showcase some great shots of the charred and mangled tower, and Williams' score once again swells to magnificence. A brilliant subtheme of triumph highlights the "Let There Be Light" fanfare and introduces the opening of the building with one of the better statements of glistening brass by Williams. The lengthy film launches quickly into the action, not dabbling around in an excess of character development before the fire ignites. In fact, most of the significant character scenes are interspersed throughout the stressful trials of the ordeal, which is one of the greater points of the film. (Also of positive note is the fact that Allen isn't afraid of killing off major, sympathetic characters). Williams handles the mass of suspense and dramatic material in the middle of the film with creative percussive rhythms, highlighted by the very first ignition of the fire. A tapping effect is used to mimic the sound effect of a short circuit ignition, and in an age before synthesizers could accurately produce a "zapping" effect, this technique by Williams is as accomplished as it could be for the time.

Ratings Icon
Average: 3.83 Stars
***** 386 5 Stars
**** 265 4 Stars
*** 145 3 Stars
** 92 2 Stars
* 71 1 Stars
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"Planting the Charges"
Evan - April 4, 2006, at 5:05 p.m.
1 comment  (2672 views)
Download it
JMG - March 5, 2006, at 8:48 p.m.
1 comment  (3768 views)
Nice surprise
Paramaribo - October 24, 2005, at 1:31 p.m.
1 comment  (2543 views)
The movie
Rodrigo - December 6, 2003, at 3:35 p.m.
1 comment  (2735 views)
I missed it! It is sold out at FSM   Expand >>
Joseph - July 16, 2003, at 11:28 a.m.
2 comments  (3632 views)
Newest: August 26, 2006, at 3:12 p.m. by
Towering Inferno CD Soundtrack   Expand >>
David - June 28, 2003, at 9:14 p.m.
2 comments  (5818 views)
Newest: June 29, 2003, at 8:10 a.m. by

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
2001 Film Score Monthly Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 75:31
• 1. Main Title (5:01)
• 2. Something for Susan (2:42)
• 3. Lisolette and Harlee (2:35)
• 4. The Flame Ignites (1:01)
• 5. More for Susan (1:55)
• 6. Harlee Dressing (1:37)
• 7. Let There Be Light (0:37)
• 8. Alone at Last (0:51)
• 9. We May Never Love Like This Again (Film Version)*/** (2:04)
• 10. The First Victims (3:24)
• 11. Not a Cigarette (1:18)
• 12. Trapped Lovers (4:44)
• 13. Doug's Fall/Piggy Back Ride (2:18)
• 14. Lisolette's Descent (3:07)
• 15. Down the Pipes/The Door Opens (2:59)
• 16. Couples (3:38)
• 17. Short Goodbyes (2:26)
• 18. Helicopter Rescue (3:07)
• 19. Passing the Word (1:12)
• 20. Planting the Charges (9:04)
• 21. Finale (3:57)
• 22. An Architect's Dream (3:28)

Bonus Material:
• 23. We May Never Love Like This Again (Album Version)*/** (2:13)
• 24. The Morning After (Instrumental)* (2:07)
• 25. Susan and Doug (Album Track) (2:33)
• 26. Departmental Pride and the Cat (Damaged) (1:03)
• 27. Helicopter Explosion (Damaged) (2:34)
• 28. Waking Up (Damaged) (2:39)
* written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn
** performed by Maureen McGovern
2014 Rhino/Warner Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 36:18
2019 La-La Land Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 155:05

Notes Icon
The insert of the 2001 FSM album contains lengthy notes about the movie, score, and composer, as well as concept art and shots from the production. That album's track "Helicopter Explosion (Damaged)" is different from the LP track of a similar name; here, the track features the actual music for the helicopter explosion while the LP track was for other scenes. That LP music is not damaged and has been redistributed into the "Helicopter Rescue" and "The First Victims" tracks on FSM's album. The tracks "Trapped Lovers" and "Finale" on that product have more music than previously heard on the LP.

The 2014 Rhino/Warner digital album includes no official packaging. The 2019 La-La Land album contains this score in its own jewel case separate from the outer sleeve that also houses the other scores in the set. Its booklet contains extensive information about the score and film.
Copyright © 2001-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
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 The Towering Inferno are Copyright © 2001, 2014, 2019, Film Score Monthly, Rhino/Warner Brothers, La-La Land Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 4/28/01 and last updated 4/9/21.
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