Soundtracks on Vinyl: Jaws

Second to his original score for George Lucas’ Star Wars, film music composer John Williams’ Academy Award winning contribution to Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbusting adventure-horror classic Jaws could well be the most instantly recognizable musical theme in cinema history.  Opening ominously (and infamously) with two subtle alternating notes of stark dread, Jaws and arguably John Carpenter’s The Thing represent the most striking examples of minimalist musical cues to evoke pure unadulterated dread.  You don’t have to be a staunch cinephile to point out the theme to Jaws anytime those two alternating notes are played.
So popular and well known is Williams’ score for Jaws that the theme song forecasting a deadly Great White shark attack has gone through every stage of parody, tribute and of course repurposing in the inevitable sequels to Spielberg’s iconic thriller.  Even Spielberg and Williams themselves found room for parody in their second feature together, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with the musical exchange between alien mothership and human scientists culminating in the Jaws theme playing for a few seconds.  Needless to say, the success of Jaws jumpstarted the careers of both respective artists and formed a lifelong director-composer collaboration.

Naturally the soundtrack album was released in 1975 by MCA Records and became an instant success, garnering a Grammy award followed by two further reissues of the album in the year 2000 by Varese Sarabande.  All of which begs the question: why do a limited Mondo vinyl when there already is a soundtrack album readily available?  Well, let me explain.  Though you may have bought that soundtrack album on vinyl or compact disc, it turns out that the 1975 album was in fact a re-recording specifically for that release and not the original performance recorded and used in the film itself.  This isn’t the first time a re-recording of a film soundtrack was issued as the official soundtrack album, with James Horner’s score for Brainstorm by Varese Sarabande being a complete re-recording.  In other words, for over thirty years, your soundtrack album to Jaws is different from what was used in the actual film!

Circa 2017, Mondotees and the album co-producer Mike Matessino working with the supervision and approval of John Williams have compiled together and restored, edited and mixed the original sound elements for the film’s soundtrack as heard in the film itself, resulting in what can be officially declared the very, very first time the complete original score for Jaws has been commercially released on vinyl!  Housed on two limited “Ocean Blue” colored 180 gram platters at the exceptionally rare playback rate of 45rpm (33rpm being the standard practice) for the finest possible audio fidelity and accompanied by an extensive collectible booklet documenting the film’s production and the evolution of the score with newly commissioned original sleeve artwork, this is without question the definitive release of the Jaws soundtrack album!

Although some collectors, myself included, will balk at having to flip sides four times when the album could have been pressed at 33rpm on one platter flipped only twice, Mondotees have assembled second to their limited boxed set for Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien score a magnificent vinyl set which is absolutely essential to any film aficionado’s soundtrack collection!  Having heard the film itself in it’s native mono mix and in the newly created 5.1 surround mix for the film’s anniversary, it was a revelation hearing Williams’ music as heard in the film in such clarity with sonic depth, warm bass tones and widespread use of the stereo channels.  Though sadly sold out on Mondo’s website and though owners of the 1975 album won’t be keen on upgrading their sets, having never owned the album before there isn’t a better way to enjoy John Williams’ towering achievement in film music than what the good folks at Mondo have put together here!

- Andrew Kotwicki