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Album running time

1: Main Title (3:10)
2: Beautiful, Isn't It? (4:25)
3: Thunderstorm (:39)
4: Seeing the Rainbow (1:09)
5: Projected Trip (1:43)
6: Sneaking Out (:35)
7: Val's First Drive (2:43)
8: Crimebuster (3:25)
9: Phil is Born (1:50)
10: In the Woods (2:00)
11: Come Phil! (:52)
12: It's a Camel (2:27)
13: The Love Scene (2:04)
14: Crimebuster Follows (2:24)
15: Crimebuster Breaks Up Party (1:05)
16: Domestic Spat (1:38)
17: The Junkyard (1:57)
18: Raccoon Chasing (:41)
19: Crimebuster's Shadow (:34)
20: To the Factory (1:49)
21: Val and Phil (4:22)
22: Catskill Rests (1:04)
23: Going to Sleep (3:30)
24: Domestic Bliss (1:18)
25: Crimebuster Always Gets his Man (1:56)
26: End Credits (4:12)

Performed by
conducted by


Engineered by
Edited by
Produced by

Released by
Serial number
VCL 1101 1001

Artwork copyright (c) 1981 Universal Studios; review copyright (c) 2002 James Southall

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There's a man on the scoring stage who swears he's John Williams

A quick look over John Williams's filmography reveals the first four movies he scored during the 1980s are The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Heartbeeps and ET. Classic family fare, loved by almost everyone who sees them. Well, three of them anyway. Heartbeeps is the sort of film that anyone who does look through his filmography probably do a quick double-take, wonder what it was, and then move on. A medical drama, perhaps? Closer inspection reveals it's actually about a pair of thinking, talking robots who get chased across a city by another robot. Well, Shakespeare it ain't. Williams has almost exclusively devoted his time to high-profile, high-quality films since he played such an integral rôle in the success of Jaws, the first summer blockbuster movie; Heartbeeps is one of the very few exceptions. He scored the movie as a favour to producer Michael Phillips, and I'd imagine that he went on to rather wish he hadn't, since it's about the most ignominious failure of his distinguished career.

The music is a real departure from the rich, dramatic work Williams was fashioning for those films surrounding this one. It features the fullest use of electronics in any of his scores, which ultimately make it all considerably more dated and silly-sounding. We should all be grateful that he's never really returned to electronics to this degree since, though it still might be worth taking out some kind of restraining order, just to be on the safe side.

There are some scores whose reputation seems to be wildly high in proportion to its actual quality, and Heartbeeps must be one of the prime examples. Frequently these scores are unreleased, frequently they are for obscure movies that very few people have actually seen, and again Heartbeeps obliges; none of the music has never been released in any form and I would guess more people will buy this album than actually saw the film. And I can't help but feel that the increasing fervour with which the music was demanded before ultimately being released on the Varèse Sarabande CD Club was fired out of curiosity more than anything else. Had an identical score been written by a composer of a lesser reputation than Williams, it is unlikely anyone would want to hear it or indeed be able to hear it, and I can't honestly say the world would be a considerably worse place for that.

Melodically it is not as strong as Williams scores usually are: there are two main themes, one a relatively pleasant but amazingly simplistic theme almost always performed by synths, the other a driving piece which is quite fun but outstandingly cheesy, rather ambitiously compared with the theme from Superman and The Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back in the liner notes. The latter theme dominates the score for its last two-thirds, receiving its fullest arrangement in "Crimebuster".

There are odd twinkles and strange noises from electronics that one is tempted to think sound so unbelievably awful just because they are dated, and they must have sounded OK at the time, but I can't honestly believe that was the case. Jerry Goldsmith put some strange noises in his scores around the same time, but the much-ridiculed electronic whooshes in Supergirl sound clever and sophisticated in comparison with these.

Being Williams, there are of course some moments to savour, exclusively when the electronics go away for a while: the composer does fashion some really lovely pieces for his orchestra, favouring slight woodwind solos with pizzicato strings; but these are too few and far between to really redeem the album. There was a bootleg of the score available beforehand which was so awful in all respects that I thought Heartbeeps was not only Williams's worst score it would be a clear contender if I had to name the most insipid and dreadful music I'd ever heard, but this official release does at least put those thoughts to bed; sound clarity reveals much more to the music than I had previously thought, and the handful of missing cues now available do add something. So in retrospect Heartbeeps is not all that bad, but it's the sort of music that would make me quite like to curl up and die if anybody caught me listening to it.