Filmgoers who spent months trying to extricate the "Mission: Impossible" theme from their heads two summers ago
realize just how important a movie soundtrack can be. And the music industry recognizes it, too. Soundtracks are one of the few thriving categories in today’s sluggish music market, with eight film scores in Billboard’s Top 100, including “Titanic” at number one.
Lured by the prospect of steady sales, some record companies have decided that they don’t need current film hits when there’s a whole catalog of forgotten scores waiting to be repackaged. Rykodisc, for one, recently struck a deal with MGM to rerelease soundtracks from classic films. The label plans to put out 150 scores over the next few years; so far, it has released nine, including “Lenny,” “Octopussy” and “Carrie.”
While these older soundtracks may seem slightly obscure (you’re probably not humming the theme to the De Palma prom-gone-wrong flick as you read this), they were selected for reissue because of their heavy-hitting performers: Jimmy Buffett on 1975’s “Rancho Deluxe,” Mick Jagger on “Ned Kelly” (1970), Miles Davis on “Lenny” (1974) and Bobby Womack on “Across 110th Street” (1972). (The title track of “Across 110th Street” was featured in Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown.”) The CDs will contain bonus musical tracks, snippets of dialogue and film clips, including the original theater trailers.
Other labels are raiding their lost catalogs to find scores that need resettling. On January 27, MCA Records will reissue the soundtrack to the 1983 Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta film, “Two of a Kind.” (Though the movie flopped, the soundtrack went platinum, thanks to Newton-John’s top ten hit “Twist of Fate.”) MCA is hoping that nostalgia-frenzied fans who are lining up for March’s theatrical rerelease of “Grease” will snap up the “Two of a Kind” soundtrack.
It’s too soon to tell if these vintage soundtracks will catch on with today’s music buyers. “The ones that have hidden gems on them could do very well,” says Billboard columnist Cathy Appelfeld Olson. “But there are some that come out that leave me thinking, ‘Who’s buying this stuff?'”
Rykodisc, for its part, is optimistic that an audience will eventually find the label’s reissues. “It’s not like putting out a pop record, where in a month you know whether you’ve got a smash or a trash,” says Darcy Mayers, a Rykodisc spokesperson. Classic soundtracks attract a steady stream of customers who will keep coming over the years, she explains. Which means that in twenty years, your children will be trying to get the theme from “Mission: Impossible” out of their heads.