André Previn – Rollerball OST – Executive Party
United Artists Records – UA 36 033 Releaesed 1975
Track A: Executive Party
Track B: Executive Party Dance
Jazz influenced classical music composer-conductor, Andre Previn was responsible for one of the most funkiest spaced out film tracks you will ever hear, called Executive Party, released for the Rollerball soundtrack in 1975. Although I had watched this movie numerous times, the first time I really gave this track some serious and well deserved attention, was when I purchased the The Mighty Mellow (A Folk – Funk Psychedelic Experience) compilation in 1997, from the infamous Sydney record store Good Groove, which was recommended by the owner Tom. The comps linear notes and information was vague, mixed up and song titles were incorrect. I was certain that Andre Previn was incorrectly credited until I discovered it was from his Rollerball soundtrack.
Previn was born in Berlin to a Jewish family, with three children of Charlotte and Jack Previn, a father who was a lawyer, judge, and music teacher. All three children received piano lessons but André was the one who enjoyed them from the start and displayed the most talent. At six, he enrolled at the Berlin Conservatory. In 1938, Previn’s father was told that his son was no longer welcome at the conservatory, despite André receiving a full scholarship in recognition of his abilities, on the grounds that he was Jewish.In 1938, the family left Berlin for Paris, and Previn’s father enrolled him into the Conservatoire de Paris where he learned music theory. In 1938 his family left Paris and sailed to New York City, then their journey continued to Los Angeles, and Previn learned English, his third language after German and French, through comic books, reading the dictionary, and watching films.
In 1946 he graduated from Beverly Hills High School, but had already started working for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a composer-conductor, and arranger, after their music department noticed his work for a local radio program and hired him. Previn recalled that MGM was “looking for somebody who was talented, fast and cheap and, because I was a kid, I was all three. So they hired me to do piecework and I evidently did it very well”. Previn focused his attention on film scores and jazz, and stayed at MGM for 16 years, but despite the secure job and good pay, he had come to feel increasingly confined, and consequently desired to pursue classical music outside of film scores. He resigned from MGM at 32, wanting “to gamble with whatever talent I might have had”.
Previn would branch out into classical music, theatre, easy listening music and contemporary classical music. His jazz recordings, as both leader and sideman, were primarily during two periods: from 1945 to 1967, and from 1989 to 2001, with just a handful of recordings in between or afterward. Previn was involved in creating the music for over 50 films and won four Academy Awards* for his work, and in 1966, Previn was the first person in the history of the Academy Awards to receive three nominations in one year. Some of his releases that I lean towards to, are two collaborations…Ravi Shankar & André Previn – London Symphony Orchestra Concerto For Sitar & Orchestra, from 1971, and the Valley Of The Dolls soundtrack, which was conducted by John Willams, and feature song composing by Previn and his then wife Dory, who was a poet, lyricist and singer song writer. I’m also a admirer of his Holst release of The Planets, Op. 32, in 1974.
Rollerball is a classic seventies sci-fi action film, with a large cult following and a very iconic look. It was directed by Norman Jewson, who had also directed The Cincinnati Kid (1965), In The Heat Of The Night (1967), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), amongst others. These all did well for him, and taking on this dark, futuristic, violent action film, must have been a challenging curve ball he was looking for.
The Storyline: In a futuristic society where corporations have replaced countries, the violent game of Rollerball is used to control the populace by demonstrating the futility of individuality. However, one player, Jonathan E., rises to the top, fights for his personal freedom, and threatens the corporate control (IMDB – Jeff Hansen). The film is based on a short story by William Harrison’s “Roller Ball Murder”, first released in Esquire magazine in 1973. Although Rollerball may first look like a science fiction sports movie, it’s actually a deep philosophical look into a dystopian future, and looks into government control versus free will. James Cann plays the hero Jonathan, the ultimate champion and hero of Rollerball, and is adored by masses of fans of the blood sport. But he is getting on, well for a demanding sport that is evolving by becoming increasingly more violent. However the head of the energy corporation who runs society, wants him to retire, but when Jonathan refuses, things get intensely dangerous, and the game becomes a fight for his life. The film demonstrates that the individual can triumph over insurmountable odds and cautions against corporate control of society.
Jewson was a big fan of A Clockwork Orange, and used the film as a reference point for defining a world of concrete and steel imagery. He also adopted the idea of using classical music for this fierce movie, because of Clockwork, and also 2001 A Space Odyssey, and believed the timeless score would less likely age the film in the future. Previn composers The London Symphony Orchestra to perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 movements to establish tone, mood, and atmosphere for certain scenes, and also cunningly uses Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz for action and drama. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor plays during the opening title sequence and again at the final scene, book-ending the film. Previn wrote the space jazz track Executive Party and it’s lounge accomplice Executive Party Dance, and as isolating as they may seem on the album, they sit well within the more laid back dining scenes in the movie. Unfortunately Executive Party, one of my most favourite soundtrack instrumentals of all time, clocks in at only 1. min 47sec. But there’s also something nice about that.
These two tracks may feel odd or misplaced on the LP, amongst Previn’s composed The London Symphony Orchestra works. And I’m sure many like myself, that knew this track, before finding a copy of the soundtrack, were expecting and hoping for more wigged out grooves, like these featured tracks. But it shows us the diversity and dexterity of Previn’s mind, and how he was an artist of all musical styles. After learning more about Previn and this soundtrack, I like how the tracks sit amongst the classical tracks on film and on vinyl. I do admit I wish there was more of this to be found in his extensive catalogue, but I’m ever so grateful that these tracks not just made their place onto the LP, but also were released as 7″ singles.
* Previn won four Academy Awards for Gigi (1958), Porgy And Bess (1959), Irma La douce (1963) My Fair Lady (1964) and was nominated 11 times.
Previn was married four times which included 9 years with Mia Farrow.
Newsom has been nominated for the Academy Award Best Director three times in three separate decades for In the Heat of the Night (1967), Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and Moonstruck (1987).
Japanese and French movie poster releases.
If you like this kinda stuff, check out some other soundtrack titles I’ve dug into….
Berto Pisano featuring Doris Troy – Kill! Them All!
Christy – Deep Down (Danger: Diabolik OST)