Early 80s, right? I must have been 7 or 8 years old. I wasn't allowed to see Conan the Barbarian in the theater, because it was rated R and I was too little.
To fully visualize the scene, you'll have to remember that back in 82 or 83 a lot of us didn't even have VHS players. TVs were CRT (cathode ray tube) back then, so no digital/flat screens. No one had cell phones, there were only a few channels on the TV, and "cable" (extra channels) was just then becoming popular. Movies, in other words, were a much more precious commodity, and if you missed a movie in the theater you probably wouldn't have the chance to see it again for a long while.
So there me and my brother were, sitting in the den at my grandfather's house, listening to the LP (long-player, or vinyl record) of Conan the Barbarian. Serious though. We owned the album. We sat there and listened while a narrator detailed the events of the movie, with sound effects and bits of dialogue from the film thrown in to enhance the experience. Layered over all of it was the music of Basil Poledouris, drums pounding and chorus chanting away.
As I would later learn, Poledouris had borrowed heavily from other composers when putting this soundtrack together. You can hear bits of Carmina Burana in it, as well as some of the Russian composers and borrowings from Poledouris' Greek heritage. It's definitely one of the best soundtracks of all time, and I don't think Poledouris ever equaled it.
My brother and I were also obsessed with the album. I have fond memories of pulling it from the cabinet where it resided, taking the vinyl from the cardboard sleeve, and losing myself in the sound of swords clashing and horses galloping across barren wastes. Looking back on it now, I can see that the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack was my introduction to not only sword and sorcery, but also to classical music.
I almost feel sorry for kids nowadays, given the ease of acquiring media and seeing all kinds of films. It must be a lot harder for them to get lost inside an audio recording the way my brother and I did, to concentrate so intently upon a story told in words, music and sound effects. I loved Conan the Barbarian so much that I was almost disappointed when I finally saw the movie, mostly because parts of it loomed so much larger in my imagination. Seeing it on screen diminished it in some ways, made it less epic.
Listening to it now, I can still appreciate what Poledouris was trying to do. He was conjuring up a world before recorded history, bits of which - through music - persisted up to the present day. I think that in the attempt he was largely successful, though of course now that I know more about classical music I can hear more of his influences in Conan the Barbarian.
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