Soundtracks of Significance – “Silverado”
Sometimes I am introduced to movies in odd ways. I’ve already shared how the teaser poster to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is directly responsible for me becoming a Trekker, but this story is probably far less common than being swayed by a poster. For twenty years, my family owned and operated a consignment shop. Most of the items we took in and resold were clothes and household items, but every now and again a consignor would bring us entertainment. Sometime in the late 90s, we received the soundtrack album for Silverado on cassette. I think my mom priced it at $3.00. Eventually, curiosity overcame me and I bought it myself.
Mind you, I had never heard of Silverado at that point in my life. I didn’t even really like Westerns all that much. Nor did I recognize Bruce Broughton by name, though at the time I was already familiar with some of his work such as Tiny Toon Adventures. Why I even wanted to hear that soundtrack, I cannot say, but I did. I came home and played it and fell in love with it almost instantly.
The titles suggest the narrative of the story. I had no idea who Ezra was, but I knew he died because the third piece on the album was titled, “Ezra’s Death.” Another track, “Augie Is Taken,” is similarly self-evident. The ominous sound of that piece tells me that I’m supposed to be concerned for Augie (whoever he may be) but I was reassured by a later track titled, “Augie’s Rescue.” That piece is clearly triumphant in tone, so I know that everything turns out okay for Augie. Though I admit, I was concerned for Augie since I had to flip the cassette over to Side 2 for his rescue!
I can tell you that I found it very peculiar to construct notions of the narrative entirely through music and what little information could be gleaned from the cassette insert, which was mostly an image of the four main stars (Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner and Danny Glover) and the titles of the compositions. Any of those four could have been Ezra or Augie for all I knew.
Naturally, of course, once I had heard Bruce Broughton’s score (or at least, as much of it as was presented on that cassette) I had to see the film itself. Lawrence Kasdan directed the film from the screen story he co-wrote with his brother, Mark Kasdan. Silverado is steeped in Western film history, though not necessarily the history of the actual period. Fans of the genre respect and enjoy the homage paid to numerous predecessors, and recognize Silverado as a labor of real love. This is not a particularly gritty film; there’s violence, sure, but it’s stylized and sanitized enough that it shouldn’t raise too many parental eyebrows.
I found the film lived up to the grand, sweeping theme composed by Bruce Broughton. This score is one of open horizons, horseback chases and good guys carrying the day with their trusty six-shooters. There are bad guys, sure, but Broughton’s score had already told me they’d be taken care of by the end of the film and not to worry too much about them. Even if I hadn’t gotten hold of the soundtrack before seeing the film, it has an aesthetic that sort of declares, “Nothing too bad is going to happen in this movie.” Sometimes that kind of simplicity can be feeble in a film, but I find that the Western genre more than any other can make it work…particularly if there’s thrilling music playing behind the good guys.
Not counting the iconic movie themes of John Williams or title songs like Ghostbusters that entered pop culture consciousness on their own, have you ever seen a movie because you were first introduced to its music? If you have, did the film live up to the music?