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Peggy Sue Got Married
  • Composed by John Barry
  • Varèse Sarabande / 64m

Francis Ford Coppola’s lightest film to that point, the time-travel fantasy Peggy Sue Got Married saw Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage as a couple on the verge of marital breakdown when she is transported back to high school (when she first fell in love with him) – and she falls in love with him all over again. The film was quite successful at the time, though is rarely mentioned as anything more than a footnote in Coppola’s career these days.

John Barry had not only scored Coppola’s previous movie (The Cotton Club), he had written one of his most popular scores for a time travel fantasy romance (Somewhere in Time). His absolutely gorgeous score is typical of his 1980s romantic output, full of lovely melodies and charm. The original soundtrack release contained only four pieces of his score (admittedly, the highlights) alongside plenty of period songs (including the Buddy Holly classic the movie was named for); in 2014 it received an unexpected deluxe edition.

John Barry

The best cue is the main theme, “Peggy Sue’s Homecoming”, which includes a lilting waltz which is enough to melt any heart (it’s actually superficially similar to the famous finale music from Edward Scissorhands which has been so copied over the years). To say that Barry had a knack for such pieces would be an understatement – he was seemingly able to throw out these long-lined, swooning melodies at will – and it’s curious this one hasn’t become as famous as many of his others from the same period.

There are some great variants on the theme through the score, like the piano-based arrangement in “Grandmother Calls” and the gorgeous clarinet version in “Peggy Sue With Michael”. It’s such a calm, comforting theme – bathing the movie (and the album listener) in this warm, nostalgic glow.

The music associated with Cage’s character is generally far darker – hints of Bernard Herrmann in some of the more suspenseful moments, reaching its zenith in the tense “Did We Break Up?” with those trademark grand low-end piano chords playing against a simple phrase in the highest registers of the violins, such a simple yet effective way of creating the awkward atmosphere.

Eventually though Barry offers up the most sublime piece for the character, “Charlie’s Unplayed Guitar”, which features a lilting electric guitar solo which is very definitely not unplayed. Typically of the composer, he suddenly conjures up an exquisite three minutes of romantic bliss which would be a career highlight for most film composers, and then once those three minutes are over we don’t hear it again.

As we near the end of the score, we get perhaps its darkest cue (“The Ritual”) before the explosion of romance which comes in the final two pieces, first “Charlie’s Proposal” which starts with a hint of melancholy and then even some suspense before we come back to the rapturous main theme; and then the lengthy “Charlie, I Had the Strangest Experience” makes for a wistful, lilting, finale, as Turner’s character moves from tentative confusion to realising she is in love again – with the music following this emotional journey beat-for-beat.

The album features all of Barry’s score, plus a few alternative takes and all the songs from the original album. It’s in the classic Barry romantic style and is a fabulous way to pass some time. Jon Burlingame’s liner notes are typically incisive, but beware when you put the disc in – I’m not sure there’s another album in my whole collection that’s mastered as hot as this – you might not expect romantic John Barry music to blow the windows out of your house, but be warned – turn the volume down a few notches for this – and then sit back and be enveloped in one of the warmest, most romantic scores in the career of a composer known for doing such things unusually well.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Geoff (Reply) on Sunday 7 February, 2021 at 23:01

    Couldn’t agree more; a very underrated work, in my opinion.

  2. Sam (Reply) on Wednesday 13 December, 2023 at 12:15

    I have always loved the music from “Peggy Sue Got Married”, but somehow only found out this year that a deluxe edition of the soundtrack album was released in very small numbers. I’d love it if Varese Sarabande could do another release of this deluxe edition or at least make a digital version available for purchase online.