March Master

As the faithful readers of this blog (all half dozen of them) are well aware, I’m not very timely with my posts. Heck, if that was the case, I’d be posting every other day. And I had every intention of this post being on time, but well, it didn’t work out…But anyway…

Maestro Ifukube at work

May 31st is the birth date of the legendary Japanese composer Akira Ifukube (1914-2006). Maestro Ifukube is best known — with good reason — for his Godzilla film scores. Beginning with 1954’s Gojira, Ifukube composed a slew of memorable kaiju scores among his more than 250 film credits. He also created the legendary Godzilla roar, it’s said by rubbing a leather glove along a double bass with loose strings, and the Big G’s footsteps by slamming an amplifier box. So it’s easy to see why, even though he was an award-winning composer in his 20s, created numerous orchestral, vocal and other classical works, and taught for many years at the Tokyo College of Music, Ifukube is most synonymous with Godzilla.

The Maestro and his muse (a shorter version)

And why not? Honestly, I would put his military marches for the G movies up there with anything in film, including the tandem of Kenneth Alford’s “Colonel Bogey March” & Malcolm Arnold’s “The River Kwai March” (from The Bridge on the River Kwai, natch) and even Elmer Bernstein’s iconic theme song from my beloved The Great Escape. And a big part of the reason for this is my daughter.

Best of Godzilla 1954-1975
Best of Godzilla 1984-1995

Well, OK, I’ve been listening to this music since I’m a little kid, but it wasn’t until I was older that I purchased a couple of terrific CDs, “The Best of Godzilla”, which I keep in the car for easy listening when the mood strikes, or when the child wants to listen to them on the way to school. Heck, sometimes I listen to them myself! But my daughter takes it to the next level, since she knows all the words (and arm movements) to the Mothra theme. She also sings the Japanese lyrics to some non-Ifukube songs, but that’s for another discussion.

My favorite is the score for Destroy All Monsters, and the main title theme my daughter and I call “Monster’s March”.

And you can’t beat the entrance music for the Big G, or the unforgettable fight music with bold, brassy horns, lyrical strings and booming percussion. The Maestro’s last G score was for director Ishiro Honda’s last G movie, Terror of Mechagodzilla…until…he came back for 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. And thankfully he did, because some of his scores for the 90s G movies are among his best in my opinion. Especially the bombastic main title theme to 1993’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.

Or even better, next to the incomparable Ennio Morricone’s theme for Once Upon A Time In The West, one of the most beautiful pieces of film music I’ve ever heard is “Requiem” for Godzilla vs. Destroyah, Ifukube’s final film score.

But he ended his Godzilla career on a solid note, with one of the best end credits themes ever, and my second favorite next to the end credits for West Side Story. It’s a freakin shame that the DVD cuts off the credits before not only the entire music could be heard, a mix of some of Ifukube’s best moments from early G scores, but also clips of the King of the Monsters from throughout his resume. A fitting end to a stellar career for both. (Until they brought Godzilla back again…)


7 Replies to “March Master”

  1. With you all the way on DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, which has stirred my blood since I was a kid. And that ’54-’75 album is outtasite. Alas, your post only underscores (haha) the fact that by repeatedly killing off and bringing back Godzilla, Toho has robbed such milestones of their significance. Nice job, Turafish–worthy of “the other maestro.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: