Angelo Badalamenti - Blue Velvet Soundtrack

by Jeff Penczak Rating:7 Release Date:2017-09-08

It all began here – a beautiful relationship between Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch that ranks amongst the greatest collaborations in cinematic history, alongside Hitchcock & Herrmann, Morricone & Leone, and Williams and Spielberg/Lucas. Badalamenti’s compositions are as much of Lynch’s films as his cinematography and screenplays, often working hand in hand to create a character’s personality. Badalamenti doesn’t go for cheap thrills or “Gotcha” moments with his music – it often seems to be channeling a life of its own, and throughout his career he has created some of the most memorable screen cues in film (and TV) history: his Twin Peaks’ scores (we anxiously await the release of his score for The Return) contain some of the most beautiful music ever composed, from the legendary two-note bass “Theme” to the haunting, tearjerking “Laura Palmer’s Theme”.

For his first assignment for Lynch, Badalamenti was asked to create something “a bit dark and scary, a little Russian, a little Shostakovich”. Badalamenti succeeded by interpolating strains of Shostakovich’s “15th Symphony” throughout. (Lynch was listening to the “15th Symphony” a lot while writing his screenplay).

Although the film opens with the titular Bobby Vinton hit, Badalamenti’s soundtrack uses a sedate, haunting instrumental to set the stage for Lynch’s neo-noir fantasies, all swirling violins and punctuating brass. The version of ‘Blue Velvet’ is the one sung ion the film by Isabella Rossellini and Badalamenti and Lynch have fun crafting a catchy jingle to welcome visitors to ‘Lumberton U.S.A.’

“Sandy and Jeffrey” is soft and ominous, like a classic Hollywood 50’s romantic thriller. Dennis Hopper’s Frank is one of the vilest characters in the Lynch canon and Badalamenti’s theme, “Frank” captures his evil with scraping violins (a la Herrmann’s Psycho score) and gurgling, basso profundo cello that encapsulates hellfire and brimstone and his psychotic mental derailment.

The first of three versions of the melancholic-yet-beautiful ‘Mysteries of Love’ featuring a French Horn solo introduces us to Bafalamenti’s strong suit – his incredible gift for gorgeous melodies that linger long after you’ve left the cinema. A full instrumental version wallows in a classical embrace with sweeping strings, and ‘Frank’s Return’ is another Herrmannesque confab of drowning violins and frightening bursts of brass.

‘Akron Meets The Blues’ is another bass solo that may have been the inspiration for the dancing midget’s theme in Twin Peaks, a snappy, jazzy little fingersnapper that tickles the fancy. The soundtrack ends with a few pop tunes that feel out of place – like the Bang Bang Club performances at the end of The Return, but Bill Doggett’s ‘Honkey Tonk’ is fun and I will never hear Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” again without picturing Dean Stockwell’s brilliantly creepy lip syncing that’s one of the most frightening scenes in all of Lynch. Ending with the breathlessly breathless whisper of Julee Cruise’s ‘Mysteries of Love’ is a perfect way to end this trip down memory lane. Badalamenti’s scores would become more integral to Lynch’s images in the future, but this feeling out debut starts to introduce some of his more fascinating touches and embellishments to come.

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