| Nearly every step
of the translation of Gatchaman was a major undertaking and
dealing with the music was no exception. Something that could have
been so simple turned into one of the most involved portions of the
entire production, eventually requiring the recording
of a significant amount of brand-new material.
When Sandy Frank
made the deal to purchase Gatchaman in late 1977, he received
delivery of a large amount of material including films, audio
tapes, photos, translations and other items that would assist
in its production and promotion.
For the music, there were two types
of Gatchaman tape reels delivered from Japan. The first
were mono audio tapes of the compiled episodic music and effects (M&E)
tracks. These tapes contained no dialogue, just the score and
any sound effects that were present in the episode. There was
one reel of M&E for every Gatchaman episode.
The M&E tracks were on quarter-inch tape separate from the films.
The films themselves included mono optical soundtracks with music,
effects and Japanese dialogue mixed together and were therefore unusable for the American production. The other music delivered from Japan was a single quarter-inch
tape of clean score pieces. Unfortunately, the selections on that
tape were limited, amounting to about twelve total minutes of material.
This wasn't a problem
when the initial pilot was done 1,
since it merely used the original Japanese score music with a
new American theme added on. It was clear from the very beginning that a new theme was going to be needed. After looking at the first film, Jameson Brewer made this note on the script, "Opening action shots, title song backing - This runs approximately 1:30 minutes and may be performed by an individual soloist in rock style or by a trio in semi-rock. Musically it will adhere faithfully to the Japanese original but will be scored to give it more of the rock drive rather than the oriental Japanese kabuki drive, utilizing synthesizer and other contemporary American instrumentation. The intent is to avoid the militaristic, samurai war chant effect and make it simply heroic, exciting."
Once again, Brewer and Alan Dinehart's long history at
Hanna-Barbera was able to pay off. As their connections helped find a seasoned voice cast, they also helped in finding accomplished musical
talent. Dinehart contacted his friend
Hoyt Curtin, the gentleman who had been writing themes and incidental
music for Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera for over twenty years
at that point. His long list of credits included the themes for The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Jonny Quest, Top Cat and countless others. For more information on Hoyt
Curtin, please check here.
Curtin agreed to
create a new theme as a one time project. Sadly, the dates and exact
times for the recording of the theme are unknown. No documents
are known to exist that detail its creation. However, it had
to have been done sometime in very late 1977 or very early 1978 as Sandy Frank had the pilot, complete with the show's familiar
theme song, ready to present at the March, 1978 MIPCOM television conference.
When the series was
sold and it came time to translate the rest of the episodes, it
was hoped that the M&E tracks together with the extra tape
of clean score would suffice for the production of the English
language version. However, early experiments using the Japanese music 36,
exclusive score proved to be less than adequate to the producers. The editing the series was found to require meant
that much of the music on the M&E tracks would get cut at
inopportune places, leaving harsh sounding transitions. The scant amount of clean score the producers were provided
was simply inadequate for bridging the gaps over the
course of an entire series.
a few short pieces of music over and over again to cover the edits would not do,
the producers decided a new musical library
was necessary. This new library would act to supplement the existing
score, since despite the edits that would be required, the producers hoped to leave as much of the original
Japanese music intact as possible. The reason for that was simple;
it would mean far less work if they didn't have to replace every
bit of music. So the new American pieces would be used to add atmosphere to silent areas on the original soundtrack, to mask edits and in newly animated sequences.
When the request
for new music was made, Sandy Frank gave the go-ahead and left
the details up to the producers. Alan Dinehart went back to Hoyt
Curtin, who was thrilled at the chance to write music for a dramatic
cartoon. He had to request special permission from Hanna-Barbera
though, since he was still under contract to them. Luckily there
were no problems obtaining the approval to work on this major outside
project and he was able to jump into Battle of the Planets
with his full attention.
Curtin had earlier
opportunities to write dramatic cartoon music for the moody
and mysterious Jonny Quest and the adventurous and heroic
Super-Friends projects, but Battle of the Planets
was going to provide an even more ambitious challenge than both of
these. Since it was set in the future, it would give Curtin a
chance to explore a little, to give things a different sound from
anything he'd worked on before.
He was shown some
episodes of Gatchaman so he could get a general feel for
the show. After that, he came up with what he called "hero
rock" for Battle of the Planets, which called back to the initial thoughts on the theme from Jameson Brewer. "I felt that
these were heroic people out in space." Curtin said, "I
was looking for something that sounded a little avant-garde. Something
'spacey' (that) still had the heroic feel. (We) put the rock with
it, so we called it 'hero rock,' which seemed to be what it needed."
Once he started the
assignment, Curtin remembered, "...the compositions didn't take
long. Ten days probably to get it all put together to record. When I compose, I write what's called a 'sketch.'
The sketch has what the instruments in the orchestra are going
to be and who's going to play what. I write out a few bars so
my arranger can see what kind of sound I'm looking for."
Once his compositions were completed, he handed them off to one
of his longtime friends named Jack Stern to do all of the arrangements
of the pieces. Stern would make sure the sounds Curtin was looking
for could be easily read and duplicated by the musicians.
"You would pick
a key where the musicians could comfortably play and that won't
ruin their chops." Curtin continued about his compositions,
"That's usually what you do. You set the keys where the band
can play long, extended periods of time without ruining them....
although I never really worried about that (laugh)! But I did
try to take it easy on them, and the tempos were pretty well dictated
by the scenes, what was happening in the picture."
The hiring of the
band was simple for Curtin. He remembered, "I used a band
that I knew could do the heroic, I needed synthesizers for the
eerie stuff and the rock percussion and group to give the tempo.
So that pretty much spelled out what you were going to use for
a band." He continued, remembering
that there were probably "twenty-one or twenty-two"
members in the band. "We had some fiddles, usually nine brass,
three trumpets, three trombones, three french horns. Then a percussion
group of at least five guys and two or three synthesizer players."
With all of the compositions
and arrangements completed and the band hired, the next step was to assemble everyone to begin the actual sessions. Curtin chose
some of the best studios in existence at the time and got down
And now, on to the recording....