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Album running time

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 (:37)
8: Alone at Last (:51)
9: We May Never Love Like This Again Maureen McGovern (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)
23: We May Never Love Like This Again Maureen McGovern (2:13)
24: The Morning After (2:07)
25: Susan and Doug (2:33)
26: Departmental Pride and the Cat (1:03)
27: Helicopter Explosion (2:34)
28: Waking Up (2:39)

Performed by
conducted by


Produced by

Released by
Serial number
FSM Vol 4 No 3

Artwork copyright (c) 1974 Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2002 James Southall

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Once upon a time, there was a composer in Hollywood with a sinister beard. His name was Johnny. He wrote awful scores for comedies in the late 1960s and variably poor-to-mediocre ones for disaster movies in the early 1970s. Then one day a magician called Steven met him, found a button on his neck, pushed it out of curiosity, and he suddenly became the world's favourite composer and his dubious route to Jaws was forgotten. Oversimplistic, perhaps; not by much though.

Many of John Williams's pre-Jaws music is insanely popular but I can't help but think that if he'd had toothache or something and someone else had ended up scoring Jaws and so Williams's career hadn't exploded then scores like The Towering Inferno would lie on a shelf somewhere, ignored or forgotten. Next time you're running short of cheese you could do worse than put on one of Williams's scores for disaster movies, because they're about the cheesiest things ever heard.

The Towering Inferno was Williams's final project with Irwin Allen; a cast as stellar as has ever been assembled and a publicity drive to match saw the film become enormously popular and even pick up a number of Oscar nominations. After The Poseidon Adventure (arguably Williams's worst score) the composer was back for some more, and delved deep into his bag of cheese before settling on the cheesiest type in there. It's no wonder this CD became the first FSM release to sell out: elevator manufacturers all over the world must have been clamouring to get copies to play in their products. Some of the romantic material and all of the source music is so stuck in 1974 it's positively cringe-worthy.

Fortunately there are a few tracks of decent dramatic underscore to go with it. The best is "Trapped Lovers", an outstandingly desperate piece of action/suspense music. Also impressive is the dissonant "Down the Pipes / The Door Opens" and nine-minute finale "Planting the Charges". But really, it's surrounded by music that is so dated and frankly muzak-like that this score's popularity staggers me more than any other's. There are many very popular scores I don't like, but I think in every case I can understand why so many people do like them; but honestly there's nothing about The Towering Inferno that helps me understand why it's quite so popular. I'm clearly missing something here because - while it's a million miles better than The Poseidon Adventure - this strikes me as being one of Williams's weakest albums - yet it's clearly one of his most popular. Perhaps I just need to see a doctor.