THE GOONIES – Dave Grusin
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
One of the most beloved children’s adventure films of the 1980s, The Goonies tells the story of seven friends – Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, and Ke Huy Quan – who are about to be separated forever when their homes in small-town Oregon are bought by a ruthless developer. In a last-ditch attempt to raise the money they need to buy back their property, the Goonies embark on a mission to locate the long-lost treasure belonging to the pirate One Eyed Willie, whose shipwreck is rumored to be just off the coast; however, as they search for the booty, the friends quickly find themselves embroiled in a much more dangerous situation when they accidentally stumble across the Fratelli gang (Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano), bank robbers who are hiding from the law nearby. The film, which was directed by Richard Donner, produced by Steven Spielberg, and written by Chris Columbus, caught the imagination of a generation, and has gone on to be a genre classic, with a multitude of quotable lines and memorable scenes: the cry of “hey, you guys!,” and the term ‘truffle shuffle’ have since gone on to be part of the Hollywood lexicon.
In an era when most major Spielberg films were scored by the likes of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and Bruce Broughton, it was somewhat surprising that The Goonies was scored by Dave Grusin, who in 1985 was 51 years old and was a well-respected multiple Oscar nominee, but was still much more well-known for his jazz scores than for his symphonic writing. His most high-profile scores to that point had been his four Academy Award nominees – Heaven Can Wait, The Champ, On Golden Pond, and Tootsie – plus popular and critically acclaimed works such as Three Days of the Condor, And Justice For All, and The Goodbye Girl, and so very little in his filmography indicated that he was capable of the large-scale adventure score a film like The Goonies required. Thankfully, Grusin delivered on all counts, writing what is inarguably the most popular score of his long career.
The score is anchored by a quintet of central themes. The first, and most famous, is not actually the theme for the Goonies themselves, but is instead the theme for the Fratelli family. An upbeat, infectious scherzo, the theme is an absolute delight – rhythmic, memorable, and with a delicious sense of fun and adventure. Grusin uses a full orchestra, augmented by a ticking synth percussion section and drum pads, and peppered with standout moments for flourishing brass, dancing woodwinds, and effervescent string runs which scamper up and down scales with consummate ease. It first appears in the opening title cue, “Fratelli Chase,” which accompanies a car chase around downtown Astoria as the bank robbers try to evade the authorities, and crops up again in later cues like “Plumbing,” where it is given a slapstick makeover via the unexpected addition of a harpsichord, and the rousing “They’re Here and Skull Cave Chase”.
The Goonies themselves have a warm, nostalgic theme for searching strings and brass, which first appears in the third cue, “The Goondocks,” and is intended to reflect their friendship, their closeness, and their longing to remain in their seaside home. Later recapitulations, in the tender “Mike’s Vision” and the conclusive “The Reunion and Fratellis on Beach,” remind the listener of why the kids are searching for the treasure in the first place. A quirky comedic march for the Data character – a Chinese-American genius with a penchant for inventing disastrously ill-conceived gadgets – crops up once or twice, notably at the end of the opening “Fratelli Chase,” and later in “The It, Fifty Dollar Bills and a Stiff,” “Triple Stones and a Ball,” “They’re Here and Skull Cave Chase,” and “Treasure, Data & Mouth, and Walk the Plank,” among others. He is the only Goonie to have his own theme.
Finally, the theme for One Eyed Willie and the concept of the long-lost pirate treasure permeates much of the score; conceived for twinkly chimes, subtle electronics, and a minor-key string wash, it captures the sense of mystery inherent in the story of the famed buccaneer, as well as lead character Mikey Walsh’s obsession with him. It first appears in “Map and Willie,” and features strongly in later cues like “Doubloon,” the lovely “Wishing Well and the Fratellis Find Coin” (which features a pretty oboe melody), “Triple Stones and a Ball,” and “The Inferno,” before finally coming to fruition in the unexpectedly moving “One Eyed Willie,” acknowledging that the spirit of Willie has been guiding Mikey on his quest throughout the movie. One Eyed Willie’s theme eventually gives way to a more traditional pirate theme specifically related to Willie’s galleon; after being hinted at once or twice earlier in the score, it finally emerges in all its glory in the second half of “Water Slide and Galleon”. Here, Grusin channels all the great pirate music from classic Hollywood – Alfred Newman and Erich Wolfgang Korngold – with all the stirring, swashbuckling flair that implies. The performance of the theme in the conclusive “No Firme and Pirate Ship” is one of the score’s high points.
Grusin’s action music, where the themes are not strongly present, is quite scattershot, jumping all over the place from style to style with a sort of Carl Stalling-esque sense of freedom and stream-of-consciousness. It’s not quite ‘mickey mousing’, but it is rather unfocused at times, and could come across as being chaotic to the ears of those more used to tighter, more rhythmically-driven action writing. It’s strongly orchestral in nature, and parts of cues like “Boulders, Bats and a Blender” are impressive enough, but action music has never been Grusin’s strong point, and it shows.
However, it is worth noting how often Grusin intelligently incorporates fragments of the thematic identities into cues where the main themes do not otherwise feature strongly. “Lighthouse” and “It All Starts Here,” for example, both take a small part of the descending woodwind/string motif from the Fratelli theme and blend it with the electronic chimes of the Goonies theme, while “Cellar and Sloth” takes the same Fratelli Chase fragment and twists it into something approaching horror music territory. Speaking of horror music, the conclusion of “The It, Fifty Dollar Bills and a Stiff” goes full-on Bernard Herrmann, while in “Playing the Bones” Grusin breaks out the eerie sounds of a pipe organ, and combines it with tribal percussion to excellent effect. Also worth noting is the boisterous rendition of Max Steiner’s theme from the 1948 film The Adventures of Don Juan, which combines with a flash of the Superman March in the iconic “Sloth & Chunk” sequence.
The score for The Goonies was not released at the time the film came out; a short suite of Grusin’s main themes was included on the commercial soundtrack album otherwise filled with songs by Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles, REO Speedwagon, Luther Vandross, and even John Williams’s son Joseph (who was in the band Toto at the time), but for years and years this was all that was available to collectors. Thankfully, in 2010, producers Robert Townson and Mike Matessino of Varese Sarabande rectified this terrible oversight when they released a lavish album to coincide with the film’s 25th anniversary, featuring over an hour of score, including alternates and bonus tracks.
While The Goonies is rightfully considered one of the classic 1980s adventure movies, Dave Grusin’s score is sometimes overlooked, probably by those who only know him as a jazz man, or who are generally unfamiliar with his work, considering that as of 2015 he hasn’t scored a major movie since the Harrison Ford vehicle Random Hearts in 1999. However, to do so would be to do his work here a disservice; beyond the famous Fratelli Chase theme, there is still a great deal of fun to be had, especially if you take the time to delve into what Grusin did in terms of the detailed thematic writing. Anyone with a nostalgic affection for the film itself will want to pick this up, but those on the fence are recommended to dive in too – there’s treasure to be found!
Buy the Goonies soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- 2010 VARESE SARABANDE RELEASE
- Fratelli Chase (2:49)
- Map and Willie (2:16)
- The Goondocks (Goonies Theme) (2:04)
- Doubloon (1:47)
- Lighthouse (1:19)
- Cellar and Sloth (1:41)
- Restaurant Trash (0:55)
- The It, Fifty Dollar Bills and a Stiff (4:36)
- It All Starts Here (1:30)
- Plumbing (1:25)
- Skull and Signature (3:25)
- Boulders, Bats and a Blender (2:33)
- Wishing Well and the Fratellis Find Coin (2:49)
- Mikey’s Vision (1:52)
- Oath and Bobby Traps (1:06)
- Triple Stones and a Ball (2:11)
- Pee Break and Kissing Tunnel (2:06)
- They’re Here and Skull Cave Chase (3:03)
- Playing the Bones (4:19)
- Water Slide and Galleon (1:38)
- Octopus (1:02)
- The Inferno (1:14)
- One Eyed Willie (3:05)
- Treasure, Data & Mouth, and Walk the Plank (3:18)
- Sloth & Chunk (1:58)
- Mama & Sloth (1:58)
- The Fighting Fratellis, Sloth’s Choice and Ultimate Booby Trap (3:24)
- The Reunion and Fratellis on Beach (3:39)
- No Firme and Pirate Ship (2:42)
- End Titles (Goonies Theme) (3:06)
- Fratelli Chase – Original Version (BONUS) (3:35)
- Triple Stones and a Ball – Original Version (BONUS) (1:54)
- They’re Here and Skull Cave Chase – Original Version (BONUS) (1:55)
- Octopus – Original Version (BONUS) (1:03)
- ORIGINAL LP RELEASE
- The Goonies R Good Enough (written by Cyndi Lauper, Stephen Brougton Lunt and Arthur Stead, performed by Cyndi Lauper (3:37)
- Eight Arms To Hold You (written by Arthur Baker, Robbie Kilgore and Jimmy Bralower, performed by Goon Squad) (4:21)
- Love Is Alive (written by Philip Bailey and Richard Marx, performed by Philip Bailey) (4:17)
- I Got Nothing (written by Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson and Jules Shear, performed by The Bangles) (3:09)
- 14K (written by Mary Brockert, performed by Teena Marie) (4:59)
- Wherever You’re Goin’ (It’s Alright) (written by Kevin Cronin, performed by REO Speedwagon) (5:00)
- She’s So Good To Me (written and performed by Luther Vandross) (5:40)
- What a Thrill (written by Cyndi Lauper and John Turi, performed by Cyndi Lauper) (3:17)
- Save the Night (written by Joseph Williams and Amy LaTelevision, performed by Joseph Williams) (3:50)
- Theme from The Goonies (3:01)
Running Time: 67 minutes 17 seconds (Varese Score Release)
Running Time: 41 minutes 11 seconds (Original LP Release)
Varese Sarabande CD Club VCL-0130-1104 (1985/2010)
Epic Records SE-40067 (1985)
Music composed and conducted by Dave Grusin. Recorded and mixed by Dan Wallin. Edited by Else Blangsted. Score produced by Dave Grusin. Album produced by Robert Townson and Mike Matessino.