Goonies never say die! It’s been 35 years since the cult classic adventure flick was released and quickly became a pop culture institution. The Dave Grusin-composed score matches the film’s intrepid spirit and breakneck pace, and has itself been enshrined as a decade-defining fan favorite.
For those who have long loved the film, it’s impossible to imagine it without Grusin’s wonderfully playful, intensity-racheting score, but he actually wasn’t a natural choice for the gig. He was known for jazzy scores for adult-geared films like On Golden Pond, The Graduate and Tootsie. This Spielberg-produced blockbuster represented a larger scale and more lighthearted fare than Grusin had ever worked on before. He rose to the challenge and created a score that–like the film itself–was exhilarating, warm and intricate, never underestimating the intelligence of its youthful audience.
Mainly orchestral, the score stands out as one of Dave Grusin's longest and most thematic, with many recurring motifs that tonally underscore the onscreen action. He combined lush, harmonic orchestral backdrops and electronic synths to create a sound that was simultaneously classic and contemporary (“Map and Willie” is one standout expression of this interchange). From shimmering lullabies (“The Goondocks”) to swashbuckling marches (“Sloth and Chunk”) to eerie, dissonant string atmospheres (“Boulders, Bats and a Blender”), Grusin’s music gives the fantasy flick richness, texture and substance that has helped it remain captivating and meaningful for decades beyond its initial run.
RECOMMENDED READING & LISTENING
A soundtrack lover who grew up in the ‘80s waxes nostalgic about one of the most universally beloved adventure films and scores of his childhood.
An in-depth longform conversation for true soundtrack geeks. Points out loads of fun Easter eggs that even superfans may have missed.
An article about the biopic Dave Grusin: Not Enough Time that provides fascinating insight into Grusin’s background, influences and composing philosophy.
35 years later, Goonies cast members Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Martha Plimpton, Josh Brolin and the rest of the gang joined Cyndi Lauper (who sang “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough”), screenwriter Chris Columbus, director Richard Donner and executive producer Steven Spielberg for this epic reunion.
“Fratelli’s Chase” – The score opener is an exuberant action track heard when the villainous Fratelli family break out of prison and make their getaway. It appears again in the cue “Plumbing” and as a threatening motif whenever the Fratellis appear on the screen. This standout track was later used in the trailers of other 80’s comedies, most notably 1987’s Innerspace (also executive produced by Spielberg.)
"The Goondocks (Goonies Theme)” – This lush, melancholy theme focuses on the emotional underpinning of the kids’ adventure: Their neighborhood is being razed to make way for an elite country club, and they’ll be forced to move away as a result. Harmonically, it feels like a late-20th century pop ballad. You feel Grusin’s signature romantic style really come through here.
“Sloth & Chunk” – Sloth is granted triumphal, almost militaristic fanfare as–spoiler alert!–he appears just in the nick of time to turn on his evil brothers and rescue the Goonies. This part of the cue is Grusin’s take on Max Steiner’s The Adventures of Don Juan score, which–fun fact–also appears earlier as diegetic sound during a scene of Sloth watching TV. Mama Fratelli tries to intervene and placate Sloth, and the music shifts into a soothing, sentimental lullaby with chimes and flute. Mama fails to persuade Sloth, though, and pirate music underscores his decision to side with the kids as he tosses his mother into the lagoon. Finally, the music builds to a clever recapitulation of John Williams’ Superman theme, just at the moment when the heroic Sloth reveals his Superman t-shirt. This cue is a real emotional journey, and it’s a fantastic ride from start to finish.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Before his music career took off, Grusin wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. Even at age 85, he spends part of his time on a Montana ranch indulging his love of animals and nature.
- Grusin credits Gerry Mulligan as his biggest influence, particularly when his pianoless quartet was in its heyday with Chet Baker: “Certainly Miles, Dizzy and Coltrane were all heroes and critically important, but the clarity of writing when Gerry had Chet and, later on, Bob Brookmeyer, was a great lesson for me.”
- Grusin has earned an astounding 38 Grammy nominations to accompany a combined 13 nominations across the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Emmys. The record label he co-founded, GRP Records, earned another 80 nominations with his signed artists.
Listen to The Goonies: Original Motion Picture Score in its entirety on your preferred streaming platform or purchase on fresh wax below.