Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2009 December 14 • Monday

At last! I finally have the original soundtrack recording of Barry Gray's music for UFO on CD! Fanderson (the official Gerry Anderson fan club) released it last month and my copy arrived last week. It's the ninety-first Soundtrack of the Week.

My brother and I were both big fans of Space: 1999 when we were kids, but I don't think either of us knew about its predecessor, UFO. It was about a secret agency defending Earth from alien invaders.

I first saw the show sometime in the 1990s on the Sci-Fi Channel and was very impressed by the music, by turns jazzy, groovy, eerie, ethereal, rocking or just plain weird. You never knew what might happen. While the organ is the main voice of the show, you hear other weird keyboards, great drumming, lots of nice clarinet playing.

I used to tape the shows and then connect the VCR to a tape recorder to extract music that I wanted. In 2003, Fanderson released a two-CD set of the music for UFO. Like all of their releases, only members of Fanderson could purchase it.

Fanderson wasn't on my radar and the UFO CD sold out before I ever learned of its existence.

In 2004 Alice and I were in Japan, and I found a Japanese two-CD set of music from UFO in, I think, the Tower Records in Shibuya (an area of Tokyo). It looked like this:

I was thrilled, until I got it home and listened to it. I'm not sure what the words "Original Soundtrack" on the cover are supposed to mean, but the CD does not contain the original soundtrack recordings. These are re-recordings with almost all of the parts done by synthesizers. It's not good.

Remember the joke Woody Allen tells in the beginning of Annie Hall—the food is terrible, and such small portions? Well this Japanese UFO release has a total of only 75 minutes—on two CDs! Why two? Were they trying to trick people into thinking this was the Fanderson double CD?

But I still didn't know about the Fanderson release. Then one day, while visiting The Million Year Picnic (as I always do when in the Boston area), I heard the real UFO soundtrack playing on the store's stereo. "Hey, that's UFO!" I said to the guy behind the cash register.

He told me about Fanderson, how they only sell the CDs to members, how they put out the UFO double CD in 2003, how it sold out really quickly and how he bought one on eBay for $150 or $300 or something like that. (It was still sealed, he explained.)

For a moment I considered badgering him for a CD-R copy but only congratulated him on his excellent taste and left the store.

When I got home I joined Fanderson. Their release that year was a two-CD set of Barry Gray's music from Stingray, no doubt destined to be a Soundtrack of the Week someday. I also bought all the previous releases that were still available. Better safe than sorry.

A year went by. Should I renew my membership? What was left for them to release? I decided to renew for at least one more year partly because the Fanderson newsletter is one of the most beautifully produced magazines I've ever seen. This is what an appreciation society should look like.

And then, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of UFO, they released the music again—with additional, newly discovered music that hadn't been on the previous release! (Though it seems that the first release included music—cues that weren't used in the show—that isn't on the new CD. You can't win 'em all.)

I've listened to the 40th Anniversary Edition a few times now and it's fantastic. Highlights include the main theme, of course, but also the lounge/swing "Yellow Alert" and the driving "Red Alert", both from the episode "Identified".

"The Leisure Sphere" from "Survival" sounds like something that could have been used in The Prisoner and "Traveling Home", a beautiful and lilting melody from the episode "Ordeal", would be devastating in the hands of the right surf band.

The beginning of "Girl in a Sports Car" from "The Psychobombs" sounds a bit like the reverbed-out big-band Space Patrol music of German composer Peter Thomas while several cues suggest John Barry's James Bond music or Gray's own music for Stingray. March rhythms are also frequent, in keeping with the story, which is about a military organization fighting a war.

It's really great. I'll have to watch the show again one of these days. I don't think I've even seen all the episodes.