As we sprinted along the beach, Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou passed away, and even if you dont recognize that name. In the early 1980s, the Greek composer and instrumentalist revolutionized electronic music and movie soundtracks. Who among us hasnt heard this steady synthesizer pulse in our heads.
In the early 1960s, he and his new band, Aphrodites Child, rearranged to Paris, where they sang in English, and performed extremely well in Europe.
Check out Vangelis here with some very Whiter Shade of Pale-esque keyboards, showing them appearing scruffy even by 1969 standards.
While Vangelis was not the singer in Aphrodites Child, he was also the main songwriter. His first single-album, based on the Book of Revelation, combines psychedelia, jazz, experimental keyboard sounds, spoken word, and general far-out-ness, was released in 1972.
Alas, 666 marked the end of the group, and Vangelis went solo. After Rick Wakeman''s departure, Jon Anderson continued to provide his own work, including driving, genre-smashing, and he became instrumental in numerous European films and television projects. While Jon and Vangelis remained close to happening, however, Vangelis decided that touring rock n roll life would no longer be for him. That''s where Vangelis and Anderson were all able to play less elaborate rock and distinctive,
Vangelis was perfectly fit for this new musical genre. His mad-scientist-meets-Greek-prophet appearance implied that whatever this guy was laying down was certainly meaningful, but he also was a total gearhead. These were early days for synthesizers and computer technology, and the dreams of the future (a phone in your car?!?) were beginning to come true. For somethe people who were buying modems and obsessing about the Space Shuttlethese laser beam
Vangeliss work was moving in many directions, including composing well-known new classical symphonies, recording what might be described as world music (albums like China has its inspiration right on the title) and directing some higher-profile film and television projects. After some of his previous work was approved by Carl Sagan and PBS for the groundbreaking (or should we say spacebreaking?) series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Vangelis got the gig that changed everything.
Chariots of Fire is not the type of film you think would feature cutting-edge electronic music. It features a story about British athletes competing at the first Olympics in 1924, and the filmmaker himself was influenced. There is no doubt that the score is part of what made it pop. Somehow, the Vangeliss driving, dreamy, synth-led piano theme became a worldwide sensationan actual song you would hear on Top 40 radio, and it was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards. (I
The image of young men who came up for this fantastic musical became so popular it was even parodied by Hall and Oates on SCTV.
Vangelis was suddenly the most in-demand film composer around. He carefully chosen his projects. In 1982 he wrote for the Greek filmmaker Costa-Gavrass Missing, starring Jack Lemmon, about the CIA''s meddling in Latin America, before he went into the future for Ridley Scott and Blade Runner.
The Blade Runner score (the CD of which this writer would send to stereo shops when testing out high-end speakers) is a strange blend of genres. In particular, The Love Theme is a stunning blend of retro and futuristic, a world in eternal night, stunning, harrowing, lonely, and intimate. Its use of electronic devices beyond corny theremins transformed our whole perception of what science fiction should sound.
The Bounty, a Japanese survival drama, was once again anachronistic in 1983, but in 1984 it featured Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson (and Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson and Edward Fox, respectively) and Vangelis, which features a curiously unsettling half-electronic score from Vangelis, depicting the ocean waves and the sluggishness of the sounds of the movie. All from one guy who is dealing with some expensive gizmos
In 1992, Vangelis teamed up with Ridley Scott again for 1492: Conquest of Paradise, which isn''t a very good film, but Ive seen it many times, hoping that the next one will stick, but the score is incredible. (Vangelis was nominated for a Golden Globe.) He continued to make genre-defying music and working in theater until his last years.
By this point, Vangeliss'' legacy was as secure as for film scoring and for electronic music in general. NASA has received a public service medal, maybe because his trippy, exploratory instrumental albums served as background music during many late nights. He also worked with the European Space Agency and composed works to accompany the Rosetta mission.
Vangelis was unable to attend the Academy Awards because of a fear of flying. (He would smell something and then think, what sound is this?) He said, however, was keen to hire producers who believed one guy at a mixer would perform the task of a full orchestra. Hundreds of accidental film scores show that the situation was only the case when the credits read Music By Vangelis.