Let’s get some background facts out of the way first, you probably know all this, but if not: ‘Dawn of the Dead‘ was released in 1978 and was written and directed by George A. Romero as a follow up to his groundbreaking and genre defining ‘Night of the Living Dead‘ from 1968. The film is more of a companion piece, as it contains no storyline or characters from ‘Night of the Living Dead‘.
‘Dawn of the Dead‘ enjoyed an worldwide audience, and it was released under the title ‘Zombi‘ in some international territories.
The film became a cult classic and took the zombie genre further into the realm of social-commentary by depicting a small band of survivors hiding out in a shopping mall, whilst brainless zombies shuffle around the mall like mindless shoppers.
The film was made on a budget of around $650K, and it went on to be a box-office success and has influenced countless other films over the years and has become a cultural icon.
The soundtrack for ‘Dawn of the Dead‘ is a story of two releases.
The original soundtrack for the film was composed by Goblin – the Italian progressive-rock band who became renowned for their soundtrack work, especially for Italian horror-maestro Dario Argento. Goblin’s soundtracks for Argento’s films Profondo Rosso (1975) (Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk) and Suspiria (1977) (Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk) are widely held up as setting the benchmark for horror-soundtracks in the 1970s.
Later on, another soundtrack was released the collected together the musical cues and library music used in he film.
Let’s look at each one in turn, starting with the soundtrack by Goblin.
Zombi (Dawn of the Dead) by Goblin:
Dario Argento was on the production team for ‘Dawn of the Dead‘, and as a result, it was Argento that brought Goblin on board to compose the soundtrack. As previously mentioned, Goblin had a long history with Argento and had scored many of his classic horror films for the 1970s.
The soundtrack that Goblin wrote for the film was first released on the Cinevox label in Italy in 1978, and also on Polydor Records in other countries. It has had numerous re-releases over the year, including a 20th Anniversary edition, that has taken the track-listing from 10 to 17 tracks.
Goblin’s soundtrack was featured more prominently in the European releases of ‘Dawn of the Dead’, while the US version featured more of the library music.
This is the original album sleeve artwork from the original release:
1. “L’alba Dei Morti Viventi”
4. “Torte In Faccia”
5. “Ai Margini Della Follia”
7. “La Caccia”
11. “L’alba Dei Morti Viventi (Alternate Take)” [CD Bonus Track]
12. “Ai Margini Della Follia (Alternate Take)” [CD Bonus Track]
13. “Zombi (Sexy)” [CD Bonus Track]
14. “Ai Margini Della Follia (Alternate Take)” [CD Bonus Track]
15. “Zombi (Supermarket)” [CD Bonus Track]
16. “L’alba Dei Morti Viventi (Intro — Alternate Take)” [CD Bonus Track]
17. “Zombi (The Living Dead’s Voices!)” [CD Bonus Track]
The Goblin soundtrack features the wonderfully evocative and atmospheric opening track called “L’alba Dei Morti Viventi”, which features a sinister pulsing bass line, which slowly builds up to feature spiraling keyboards and synthesized wordless vocals that add to the gravitas of the track. In the US release of the film, this is this track that can be heard at the very start of the opening credits, just as everyone is preparing to evacuate the TV News studio.
Listening to whole album presents a bizarre contrast of styles – the are tracks at the rock end of the musical spectrum, all power chords and electric guitars (like “Zaratozom”), and then there are tracks like “Torte In Faccia”, that sound like a theme tune to a TV comedy show.
The soundtrack’s wide blend of styles meant that the score was alienated somewhat from Goblin’s fan-base of prog-rock enthusiasts. It also means that as a single score, the soundtrack doesn’t really hang together as well as some of the previous work that Goblin did for Argento.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s not bad – it is well produced and contains some real moments of dark and brooding music, but when it slides into country, funk, and more conventional rock style,s it kind of breaks the atmosphere and feels like music for an altogether different film.
Romeo used small portions of the Goblin soundtrack in the US release of the film, which featured far more library music and sound effects.
Listen to “L’alba Dei Morti Viventi” from the soundtrack:
Dawn of the Dead: The Unreleased Incidental Music:
Now let’s look at the other release for the soundtrack.
Even though the Goblin soundtrack has been widely available since the late 1970s, it wasn’t until 2004 that a release was made collecting together some of the library and incidental music that was used in the film.
The music was pulled from the De Wolfe Music Library, which was a popular music library at the time for TV shows and movies.
The collection of tracks taken from the library range form creepy synth pieces like ‘Figment’, to country themes, and various pieces of suspense filled tracks.
Probably the most famous piece, that has now become synonymous with ‘Dawn of the Dead‘ (more so than Goblin’s soundtrack even), is Herbert Chappell’s ‘The Gonk’. The track is played during the end credits of the movie, and the upbeat and humorous track is offset nicely by the images of the zombies shuffling around and groaning in the shopping mall.
The distinctive and creepy, pulsating electronic track called ‘Figment’ by Simon Park can also be heard on ‘Shaun of the Dead’ – the track is used at the start of the movie.
The album was released with some unique art – check out the sleeve and track listing below:
1. The Gonk – H Chappell
2. Cosmogony Part 1 – P Lemel
3. Sinestre – E Towren
4. Cause I’m A Man – P Reno
5. Figment – S Park
6. Mask Of Death – J Trombey
7. Scarey 1 – D Scott
8. Scarey 2 – D Scott
9. Dark Earth – J Trombey
10. Mall Montage Scene (We Are The Champions – R Tilsley, Ragtime Razzamatazz – H Chappell, Tango Tango – B Stoller, Fugarock – D Scott)
11. Barrage – J Trombey
12. Desert De Glace – P Arvay
13. Sun High – S Park
14. Dramaturgy – P Lemel
This is a good selection of the music from the film – it is by no means everything, but there is enough key pieces that are synonymous with the film to keep fans happy. Some of the pieces that fans of ‘Dawn of the Dead‘ will recognize are:
- The Gonk – Played on the closing credits with packs of zombies wandering the shopping mall. Also heard during the closing credits of Shaun of the Dead)
- Cosmogony Part 1 – Plays over the opening credits
- Sinestre – Heard during the gun battle in the tenement building
- Figment – The music at the abandoned airport. Also used in opening of Shaun of the Dead
- Barrage – The biker gang led by Tom Savini storm the mall
- Scarey 1 – Heard when Stephen enters the boiler room
- Scarey 2 – Heard when Stephen does battle with the zombie in the boiler room.
Listen to ‘The Gonk’ by Herbert Chappell:
Listen to ‘Figment’ by Simon Parks: