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CD: Dawn of the Dead - The Unreleased Incidental Music (pre-1978)
Review Rating:   Very Good
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Trunk Records (U.K.)
Catalog #:
JBH 0011CD
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May 19, 2004

Tracks / Album Length:

14 tracks / (38:44)


Composers: Herbert Chappell, Paul Lemel, Eric Towren, Pretty Things, Simon Park, Jack Trombey, Derek Scott, Reg Tilsley, Barry Stiller, Pierre Arvay, Simon Park.

Special Notes:

Colour booklet / Limited to 1000 copies
Comments :    

For Dawn of the Dead (1978), the sequel to Night of the Living Dead (1968), George Romero went back to a stock music library – opting this time for the DeWolfe catalogue instead of the Capitol Hi-Q – and reportedly selected 60+ number cues that would fit alongside the original score composed by the prog-rock band Goblin.

Most of Goblin’s score was used in the European edit of Dawn (released as Zombi: Dawn of the Dead), whereas the U.S. soundtrack mix tended to favour the stock cues. At times the shift between vintage orchestral spooky music and the disco/pop-tinged Goblin cues was a bit jarring, but the eclectic music mélange actually heightened Romero’s depiction of the absurd, and jabs at consumerism.

It’s likely most of the stock cues would’ve been forgotten and laid dormant in the DeWolfe archives had they not been used with such dramatic and satiric precision in Dawn. Fans have been clamoring for years to hear and own as much of the stock cues as possible, and Trunk’s CD offers up 14 tracks of uncut material used in the film.

The CD begins with the score’s most beloved cue, Herbert Chappell’s 1965 composition “The Gonk” (mono) the carnivalesque ditty with farting trumpets set to a cartoon march, and bawdy trombones accentuating the ridiculousness of zombies wandering the environs of a giant mall simply because the only memory left in their rotted brain matter is the experience of shopping. One suspects the first time the cue was played back over the end credits sequence, Romero & Co. must have fallen out of their chairs laughing, and that one sequence was replayed for days because it brought such giddy joy to the editorial team during a tight production schedule.

Other surreal material is found in the suite entitled “Mall Montage Scene” (mono) with a march by Peter Tilsley (“We are the Champions”), the flapper ragtime “Ragtime Razzamatazz” by Herbert Chappel, Barry Stoller’s synthetic short “Tango Tango,” and Derek Scott’s “Fugarock,” with synth organ playing a classical fugue while a drum kit adds a modern rock beat.

Paul Lemel’s “Cosmogony” (mono) is the first cue heard in the film, playing over the main credits. Lemel’s cut is made up of eerie tones and dissonant strings, and the somewhat spacey mood is enhanced by metallic rippling and reverb. Eric Towren’s “Sinestre” (mono) is appropriately a sinister blend of clashes and pensive strings, and it was designed to evoke a sense of skulking in the dark, seeing the big monster, discovering a gory clue, and hurrying to a realm of greater safety.

Lemel’s other cue is “Dramaturgy” (also mono), which again infers a not too distant danger through pinched tones, percussion, and weird droning effects and gliding, vibrato-heavy strings.

The CD includes the lone vocal tune “’Cause I’m a Man” (mono) by Pretty Things, a mid- to late sixties ditty that’s part country/British pop, with a busy tambourine, warm electric bass, and bawdy trumpets.

Simon Park’s synth cue “Figment” (stereo) is better-known today for being present in Edgar Wright's 2004 Britcom shocker Shaun of the Dead (right at the film’s beginning), and still holds an edge with its liquid synth chords that ripple and fragment while light percussion hits add a bit of drama to what’s ostensibly a two-note drone. Park’s other cue is “Sun High” (stereo) a soft little gem that also contains the same synth drone, but is dominated by prog-rock keyboards and a heartbeat pulse that’s later pulled away for a closing set of solo keyboard improvisations.

Electronica also dominates Derek Scott’s “Scary 1 and 2,” a pair of mono cues where part 1 has coarse drones, and part 2 is built around a repeated figure performed by a bass clarinet emulation, and variable use of peripheral drum and wooden hits.

Pierre Arvay’s “Desert De Glace” (stereo) combines synthesized percussion, guitar plucks and chimes to evoke chilly water droplets in a dark, expansive cavern. There’s some ornamentation with brushes and sticks caressing and lightly hitting cymbals, but “Desert” is a quiet cue meant to cover moments of contemplation, with no dramatic resolution at the end.

Jack Trombey’s “Mask of Death” (stereo) feels like a cue written for a British thriller from the seventies, using orchestra, marimba and jazzy trumpet figures for the prelude, and a Shaft-rhythm and harpsichord to create a tense yet weirdly regal cue suited for a valiant chase scene. The composer’s other cues include “Barrage” (mono), somewhat Rozsa-esque, with mini fugues and thickening instrumentation for a finale that ends with a big stab; and “Dark Earth,” based around a repeated bass clarinet figure, echoey taps, timpani strikes, and sustained notes on keyboard.

The nature of stock cues is a construction that’s slightly vague – giving filmmakers plenty of room to use a cue within any genre – and brevity, so few of the CD’s tracks are longer than 2 mins. On the one side, it’s great to hear the missing cues that were also used in films like Shaun of the Dead, but the less familiar pieces certainly make one curious of the other vintage material produced for the DeWolfe library and remain unavailable, and generally unused.

Trunk issued the 14 tracks on CD as well as LP, and the album was limited to 500 copies. The cover art of a snarling zombie with its eyeball falling out a socket was reportedly taken from an early Belgian promo design for Dawn.


© 2010 Mark R. Hasan

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