EDDIE THE EAGLE – Matthew Margeson
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
The 1988 Winter Olympics are the first ones I remember consciously watching. Four years after Torvill and Dean stunned the world in Sarajevo, Calgary’s snowy spectacle gave us indelible memories of the Jamaican bobsled team, Katarina Witt and the Battle of the Brians on the skating rink, the all-conquering Alberto Tomba “La Bomba” on the ski slopes, and of course Eddie the Eagle. Michael “Eddie” Edwards was a fairly decent downhill skier, but it was his efforts in ski jumping that brought him to the attention of the world; despite a desperate lack of funds, terrible nearsightedness which forced him to wear thick bottle-bottom glasses when he jumped, and the disapproval of the sport’s governing body, Edwards took part anyway, competing as the only British ski jumper at the games. He finished dead last in his two events, a significant distance behind the athletes who finished second last – Bernat Sola of Spain, and Todd Gillman of Canada, for trivia fans – both of whom had more than double his score. In most other countries, Edwards would not have been a sports star, but the British love a plucky loser almost as much as they love a world champion winner, and so he was taken to their hearts, and for a brief time became a genuine celebrity, a true example of the Olympic ethos that it is not the winning, but the taking part, that counts.
Director Dexter Fletcher’s film Eddie the Eagle tells a highly sensationalized version of Edwards’s story, with Taron Edgerton playing Eddie, Hugh Jackman playing his fictional coach Bronson Peary (an ‘amalgamation of all his coaches’), and a supporting cast that includes Christopher Walken and Jim Broadbent. For the score, the producers turned to composer Matthew Margeson, who has worked with the Remote Control gang for many years, most notably with Henry Jackman on films such as X-Men: First Class, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Kingsman: The Secret Service.
When describing his score, Margeson says “We wanted to create a period score for Eddie. The film is set in the 80s and the goal was to create a throwback 80s score. I knew it was going to be a fun task from the get-go and it was.” To achieve the sound he wanted, Margeson says he “ended up going on Craigslist and eBay and getting a bunch of old digital synthesizers from the time period.” Margeson played all of the keyboards, and did the synth programming himself, and then augmented the sound with guitars, bass, a piano, and some live woodwinds for a few of the emotional moments. The resulting score is very much a nostalgia piece, recalling some of those triumphant 80s sports movie scores like Chariots of Fire, Hoosiers, and Days of Thunder.
The main theme, heard in its entirety in “Eddie the Eagle,” is an uplifting piece for synths, which bubble across numerous layers of sound. The repeated ostinato is pure Vangelis, and the bassy chords are classic early Zimmer, while the lead line of the melody has almost a hint of Mike Post about it, like an offshoot from the themes for TV shows like Doogie Howser or LA Law. It’s definitely music of the era, and is highly authentic-sounding, which may actually put some people off: the 1980s are so divisive in terms of music, loved and hated in equal measure, and those who hate it may consider Margeson’s theme to be ‘cheesy’, when in reality it’s doing exactly what it means to do with genuine authenticity. Personally, I have always had a soft spot for the classic sounds of Vangelis, Harold Faltermeyer, Brad Fiedel, and others, and Margeson’s complete success at capturing their vibe impressed me enormously.
Cues like “What Goes Up Must Come Down,” “Warren Sharp,” the slightly desolate-sounding “Up Back Forward Down,” “The Teaching Text,” and “Eddie’s Announcement” are more reflective and introspective, with softer electronic tones, lilting woodwind phrases, and a heartfelt but slightly downcast piano line that comes to represent the obstacles standing in the way of Eddie’s Olympic dreams, and his battles to be taken seriously. Meanwhile, the darker, more abstract and abrasive textures of “Eddie Attempts the 70m” and “Seniors Tournament” clearly go some way to illustrating the trepidation Eddie felt, and the genuine danger he was in, as the realization of what his new sport entails, physically, begins to becomes clearer. Their inclusion gives some weighty counterbalance to the score, and some dramatic depth, which is welcome and important.
Elsewhere, rock-inflected electric guitars and rapid, edgy beats give cues like “Matti at Garmisch,” “Eddie Gets a Taste,” “Fist of Glory,” and “Matti’s Gold Jump” a Van Halen-esque rock star edge – the Matti in question, Finland’s Matti Nykänen, was the undisputed world’s best ski jumper during that period, and was also one of the few jumpers to support Eddie’s dreams of competing in Calgary. When the rock music arrangements combine with rousing performances of Eddie’s theme, as they do in cues like “Oberstdorf” and “First Jump at Calgary,” one cannot help but smile at the way they convey the whirlwind of fame and accomplishment that followed Eddie around Canada. The final two cues, “Eddie Jumps the 90m” and “Now the Real Work Begins,” restate Eddie’s theme in all its glory, allowing the score to end on a real high, celebrating the triumph-against-all-the-odds story of one of Britain’s most unlikely Olympic heroes.
But here’s the thing; I grew up in the 1980s, I have a soft spot for 80s synth scores and 80s rock music, and I have personal memories of the events in question, having watched them actually occur as a teenager in 1988. If your overall response to music from that era is a negative one, then you will likely have a similar response to Eddie the Eagle. Matthew Margeson worked very hard to ensure that his score was authentic to the period, and reflective of that decade’s sports movie clichés, but no amount of appreciation for his craft will eliminate your gut feeling. With that said, I personally found Eddie the Eagle to be a breath of fresh air: an unpretentious celebration of sporting heroism and genre tropes, wrapped up in a fun musical throwback to a much-maligned time in film music history.
Buy the Eddie the Eagle soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Champion! (1:30)
- Eddie the Eagle (5:10)
- What Goes Up Must Come Down (2:17)
- I’m Going to the Olympics (1:35)
- Matti at Garmisch (1:07)
- Warren Sharp (1:51)
- Eddie Gets a Taste (1:14)
- Up Back Forward Down (2:50)
- Eddie Attempts the 70m (3:20)
- The Teaching Text (2:58)
- Fist of Glory (1:49)
- Seniors Tournament (1:57)
- Oberstdorf (5:23)
- A Sporting Chance (written and performed by Jason Soudah) (1:11)
- First Jump at Calgary (3:25)
- Press Montage (1:16)
- Eddie’s Announcement (3:07)
- Peary’s Return (2:50)
- Matti’s Gold Jump (2:18)
- Eddie Jumps the 90m (3:37)
- Now the Real Work Begins (5:04)
Running Time: 55 minutes 05 seconds
Varese Sarabande 302-067-413-8 (2016)
Music composed and performed by Matthew Margeson. Arranged by Matthew Margeson and Jason Soudah. Recorded and mixed by Al Clay. Edited by Jack Dolman. Album produced by Matthew Margeson.