Monday, May 29, 2017

There are soundtracks and then there are soundtracks.

After you've been collecting Sherlock Holmes memorabilia for about forty years, there are times when it's almost like walking through an antique store in a distant city. Unless you've had reason to revisit every item time and again, there are things that turn up that need to be experienced or researched to recall just what it is you have.

Last night's re-org work brought me into a stack of record albums I don't think I'd flipped through for well over a decade. Since I don't keep my Sherlock Holmes records with the other old records that do occasionally get some play, this particular stack was always moved en masse, without really considering what lay in the middle.

The stack has its more unusual records, like the music to A Study in Terror or an audio comic book where Batman meets Sherlock, but the thing that caught my eye was the three-record box containing "ORIGINAL MOVIE SOUNDTRACK -- SHERLOCK HOLMES -- THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES & THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES" from Murray Hill records.

I didn't remember having records of the music from those first Rathbone movies, so I took them down to the stereo to give the "Adventures" a listen. And I found that I don't have records of the music from those films.

The soundtrack records that Murray Hill put out are actual recordings of someone running the original Fox films and just picking up all the audio. Think of what the sound from an old-school, projected-from-film movie sounds like and add all the minute pops and crackles of playing that from a vinyl record -- there's an audio quality level you just don't hear any more!

But back in the day, it served its purpose. I knew I wasn't going to get through this blog without using "back in the day" or "in those times" or some other Sherlockian grandpappy lingo. ("Lingo" is definitely a Sherlockian grandpappy word.) And what purpose did it serve?

The same as our cassette recordings of our favorite TV shows (or just the theme music -- I loved recording TV themes on my cassette player) . . . before streaming, before DVDs, before video cassettes, this was the way those of us not lucky enough to have a projector and copies of the film itself got to replay the movies.

And Sherlock Holmes movies do pretty well in audio-only mode, if you've seen the actual thing once or twice. Moriarty getting cleared of charges at his trial in a scene that inspired Moffat and Gatiss starts The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, followed by Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty sharing a cab back to Baker Street, which is still weird to this day. That spooky flute music by the mysterious figure who only knows one tune is quick to pop up on the soundtrack, creeping out even Moriarty's henchmen. And Nigel Bruce is still Nigel Bruce, even when you take his image away, something that made him perfect for radio.

It made me consider putting on DVDs of BBC Sherlock, just to play the audio, and one day I might. But I would definitely have to turn the screen off, cover it up, or something . . . because it that video is accompanying the audio, I know it will be just too tempting to watch. But you know . . .

Pitting our TV and movie Sherlocks against one another in audio-only competition might be an interesting experiment in itself. Which suffer most when dialogue is all that's carrying them? Which have the most interesting non-dialogue, non-music audio bits? And always . . . always . . . who has the best composers aiding their efforts? All of those factors would weigh in.

Rathbone's first films hold up pretty well, well enough that Murray Hill could once sell records of their audio tracks. I'd be curious to see who else can measure up to that challenge.

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