By Charlie Brigden
Whatever you think of Gerry Anderson’s various projects, one thing that has always been consistent is the music, the majority of which were scored magnificently by the late Barry Gray. The adventures of Supercar, Stingray, and of course International Rescue were constantly enhanced by the flair and spirit of Gray’s music, but where he really excelled was Anderson’s answer to shows like Star Trek and Dr Who – Space: 1999. The soundtrack was originally released by RCA in 1976, and that LP has recently been reissued on its original format of vinyl.
I always found 1999‘s music interesting because it mirrored the show in having a more mature vibe than the shows Anderson was more famous for. Thunderbirds etc were great fun but with the puppets they always felt like they were directed towards more of a youthful audience, and the big and brassy adventurous music reflected that. 1999 had more of a realist tone, being very downbeat at times, and because of that it’s score is quite fascinating in places. And then there’s that theme, which melds the orchestral stylings of so much science fiction with the music of the time period, i.e. 70’s funk. Sorry, AMAZING 70’s funk. It’s such a great theme and just evokes images of exploding fuel pods, Eagle Transporters zooming through space, and Martin Landau turning to his right.
To be honest, Space: 1999 just seems like an odd choice for a soundtrack album because the score is so serious at times. However, it works, mixing the more somber stuff with some lovely melodic material and some library grooves. Both sides begin and end with the theme tune – understandable really, and you get slightly different versions at the beginning, although both Side A and B use the standard end credit theme. What’s interesting is the way the album is constructed using a eerie motif that appears all throughout the album to connect tracks, and it kind of works, although it’s just a bit weird to hear it continually pop up.
The choices of music from the show are well picked, with a mix of tense and serious material alongside more scene-setting melodic work. ‘Breakaway’ mixes great funk and keyboards with tense strings, while ‘Mission of the Darians’ has some pretty wild percussion and quiet plucked strings, with ‘Earth Sound’ having a similar mood using brass. ‘Collision Course’ has some more pleasing tones, with slightly melodramatic music moving to a wonderful woodwind solo and that kind of beautiful John Barry-esque string work, the same atmosphere being replicated in ‘A Matter of Life and Death’.
Inserted along the way are two random funk tracks that feel abruptly cut in. You’d be forgiven for questioning whether or not these are part of Gray’s score, and while there’s no credit on the record you’d be right. Both cuts – Side A’s ‘Death’s Other Domain’ and Side B’s ‘Black Sun’ – are library tracks by musicians Irving Martin and Brian Dee. While they stick out like a sore thumb they’re pretty cool, and I imagine to some people they might have more appeal than the actual score.
Space: 1999 has presumably been reissued by RCA, but this is where it gets confusing. Every inch of the record, from the sleeve to the labels themselves, has been recreated from the original LP, right down to the copyright notice and catalogue number. The only difference between the original LP and this reissue is that the 1976 record had a gatefold cover that opened up to show scenes from year one of the series. The sound quality is good, but not amazing, and there is some slight distortion in places that’s a tad offputting. The pressing is a standard weight record, and there is a little bit of surface noise.
Overall, as an album it’s a fun and quick listen. The mix of material has a good balance, and despite being a bit jarring the library funk tracks add nice variety. I’m still a bit unsure about who actually pressed it, and while the sound quality isn’t amazing, it’s still pretty good especially considering the fairly low price the LP goes for. But on the whole I’d recommend grabbing it, at least while it’s around.
Space: 1999 is out now on vinyl from… someone.