Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2012 September 10 • Monday

Victor Young's music for Johnny Guitar—aptly described as a "haunting score" by Martin Scorsese—is the 234th Soundtrack of the Week.

This is such a great movie, probably Nicholas Ray's best, maybe even Joan Crawford's best. Mercedes McCambridge and Sterling Harden are both also excellent.

I'm not sure what's up with the CD I have of the soundtrack. There are no track names and it sounds a little rough. This didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the music.

Young's "Johnny Guitar" theme dominates the soundtrack and is introduced in the first track, a dramatic orchestral piece. The second track features the theme as sung by the great Peggy Lee, who also wrote the words. "Play the guitar / Play it again / My Johnny / Maybe you're cold / But you're so warm / Inside / I was always a fool / For my Johnny / For the man they call / Johnny Guitar."

The third track begins with a big ominous sound that would be appropriate for the appearance of Godzilla. It touches on the "Johnny Guitar" melody and then has some powerful music for drama, suspense and action, relaxing at the end.

The fourth track is a sprightly solo guitar piece that Johnny plays for his rival The Dancin' Kid. Track five begins light and ends heavy. Track six is mostly moody and pensive with sold orchestral textures and the "Johnny Guitar" theme at the end, this time with the guitar playing the riff.

Stirring, uplifting music begins the seventh track, which ends on a threatening note. The next track continues directly, with a cello solo and more variations on the "Johnny Guitar" theme. Track nine is tender and lyrical.

Tension begins to build with track ten, which has strong string playing. The next track continues to build in intensity and ends with the "Johnny Guitar" theme.

After this comes more danger music coming down like a hammer in track twelve. The horns play a two-note figure that sounds like somebody crying "Johnny! Johnny!". There's some plaintive music from cello and guitar before another explosion of sounds for danger.

Track thirteen is for one of Joan Crawford's big scenes, as she sits at the piano in her saloon, playing the "Johnny Guitar" theme. After this come several explosive tracks for the violent climax of the movie.

The record concludes with Peggy Lee reprising the song. "Whether you go / Whether you stay / I love you / What if you're cruel / You can be kind / I know / There was never a man / Like my Johnny / Like the one they call / Johnny Guitar."