Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Arrival of the Film Theme Singles 


Billboard reporter June Bundy called 1960 the year of “the film theme single.” That’s when record executives discovered that movie themes could sell a lot of as 45s, if the performers stayed true to the original. One of the biggest—a number-one record in February of 1960—was “The Theme from ‘A Summer Place,’” by Percy Faith and His Orchestra on Columbia Records. He remade the original song about the time the movie was released in late 1959. Actually, it was the film’s love theme, not its main title theme, but who’s quibbling over something that sold over a million copies? It broke a record by remaining at number one for nine consecutive weeks. By then I was just leaving elementary school. My friends and I all enjoyed the records lush sound and pleasing melody, but we never saw the “adult movie,” as we called ones like “Summer Place.” We never stopped to think that it was strange to hear Percy Faith on the same radio station that played records by Jan and Dean. Like his effort, many film singles were remake interpretations by artists not connected to the pictures; other singles were used in the original film soundtracks. The preferred choice among record people was the film theme remake. It could be promoted as something new by an already big act, and not just a one-shot movie theme. A pioneer in mining these kinds of discs, United Artists Records gave us Ferrante and Teicher’s “Theme from the Apartment” and “Exodus.” Both hit the top ten that year on the trades’ top 100 charts. Over the coming decade Ferrante and Teicher would give UA two more top ten film singles, “Tonight” (West Side Story) and “Midnight Cowboy.” The dual pianists also provided their label with several other nationally charted records during that decade. Another smaller but nonetheless recognizable UA single was composer John Barry’s “Goldfinger” in 1965. But for UA management, “Exodus” was the most satisfying of the film music 45s. They told Bundy that it was fastest-breaking single in the label’s history.

Excerpted from Randy McNutt's Spinning the Groove (HHP Books). Available on

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