Night of the Living Dead is arguably the horror film that redefined the zombie genre and created what we know today as zombie films. Prior to Night of the Living Dead most zombie films had focused on voodoo and Haitain curses and mind-control as devices to control other humans, but George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead brought the dead crawling and groaning from their graves.
George A. Romero made Night of the Living Dead on a low-budget ($114,000) and wasn’t in a position to use much of it to get a unique soundtrack composed. Instead, he turned to music libraries in order to procure sound-effects and musical pieces to make up the score for the movie.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s it wasn’t uncommon for film directors and producers to buy sound-effects and compositions from the many music libraries that existed at the time – with many musical pieces being used in many different films.
Romero spent $1500 on effects and cues from the Capitol Production Music library, which was the production music library of Capitol Records. Producer, Karl Hardman, said in an interview, “that the music came from the extensive film music library of WRS Studio. Much of what was used in the film was purchased from the library of Capitol Records“.
According to WRS, “We chose a selection of music for each of the various scenes and then George made the final selections. We then took those selections and augmented them electronically”.
The stock music that was taken from the libraries and used in the film included tracks and compositions by the likes of Richard Lococo, Philip Green, Geordie Hormel, William Loose, Jack Meakin and Spencer Moore – many of the tracks used in Night of the Living Dead were composed a decade before they were chosen for selection for use in the film.
The soundtrack for Night of the Living Dead has been the subject of a few releases. The first release came in 1982 and an album collecting the various music and dialogue cues was released by Varèse Sarabande Records, which is a US record label who specialize in film scores and soundtracks, with distribution by Universal Music Group.
You can see the see artwork for this release by Varèse Sarabande Records at the top of this page, and the track listing for the release can be see below:
A1 Driveway To The Cemetary (Main Title) – Spencer Moore
A2 At The Gravesite/Flight/Refuge – William Loose / Seely
A3 Farmhouse/First Approach – George Hormel
A4 Ghoulash (J.R.’s Demise) – Ib Glindemann
A5 Boarding Up – George Hormel / William Loose / Seely* / Ib Glindemann
A6 First Radio Report/Torch On The Porch – Philip Green / George Hormel
A7 Boarding Up 2/Discovery: Gun N’ Ammo – George Hormel
A8 Cleaning House – Spencer Moore
B1 First Advance – Ib Glindemann
B2 Discovery Of TV/Preparing To Escape/Tom & Judy – George Hormel / Jack Meakin
B3 Attempted Escape – George Hormel
B4 Truck On Fire/Ben Attacks Harry/Leg Of Leg – George Hormel
B5 Beat ‘Em Or Burn ‘Em/Final Advance – George Hormel
B6 Helen’s Death/Dawn/Posse In The Fields/Ben Awakes – Spencer Moore
B7 O.K. Vince/Funeral Pyre (End Title) – Spencer Moore
This 1982 release of the soundtrack by Varèse Sarabande Records also included a great letter written by George A. Romero that was featured on the back of the album sleeve, which you can see below (we have also pasted the actual text under the image as it is hard to read from the photo).
George A. Romero’s letter about the soundtrack for Night of the Living Dead:
A Note From The Director
All of us who were involved in the production of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD thought of ourselves, then and now, as total filmmakers. We all took turns loading magazines, gaffing, gathering and making props, shooting, recording, editing. We were all involved in the total process. Frustrating for us all was that none among us could write or play music, not that our budget would have allowed for a recording session, but I’m sure we would have tried had any of us the talents to make the try worthwhile.
So, Karl Hardman and the Capitol Hi-Q Library to the rescue. Karl’s production company had the library discs in house and he began to make preliminary picks. We listened and were delighted with the music. This was the real article. The scoring heard in nightmares conjured by yesterday’s matinees. If the boogie man had a ghetto-blaster, this was the stuff he’d boogie to.
Karl gets the credit for picking the takes and I got the fun of gluing them onto the film. And for a non-musician, the closest thing to composing a score is working a good set of library tracks into your picture.
I have a real fondness for the music in NIGHT, and I’m flattered and grateful that the music has come to be so identified with the film. My thanks go out to the people at Varese Sarabande, and especially to Scot Holton, whose energy and endurance made the research and compilation of the tracks possible.
Look Ma, a sound-track album! And ain’t none of us musicians!
George A. Romero
Night of the Living Dead got another soundtrack release in 2010. A small record label called Zero Day Releasing produced a CD of the soundtrack that was called ‘They Won’t Stay Dead!: Music from the soundtrack of Night of the Living Dead‘, that presented new and digitally restored music tracks and sound cues from the original music library LPs and reels. You can see the album art below for the release.
Jim Cirronella is the producer and the guy behind the remastering of this release, and he has performed a heroic job of tracking down all the music and presenting the 40 tracks featured here on one great compilation. You can see the track listing below:
1 Eerie Heavy Echo (L-1204) – Spencer Moore 2:15
2 Night Suspense (JB-33) – William Loose & Jack Cookerly 0:51
3 Heavy Agitato (TC-416) – William Loose, John Seely 1:46
4 Light Suspense (JB-37) – William Loose, Jack Cookerly 1:00
5 Fateful Fire (TC-151) – William Loose – John Seely 0:18
6 Dreary Danger (TC-157) – William Loose – John Seely 0:26
7 Weird Eerie (ZR-87C) – George Hormel 1:15
8 Small Disaster (TC-130) – William Loose – John Seely 0:16
9 Reserved Disaster (TC-127) – William Loose – John Seely 0:21
10 Space Drama – Ib Glindemann 3:24
11 Black Night (TC-155) – William Loose, John Seely 0:24
12 Shock Suspense – Ib Glindemann 0:28
13 Dream – Ib Glindemann 0:32
14 The Music Box – Unknown Artist 0:16
15 Mystery Hour – Ib Glindemann 2:18
16 Curious Danger (TC-158) – Ib Glindemann 0:25
17 Dramatic Eerie (PG-190) – Phil Green 1:07
18 Mysterioso (ZR-8) – George Hormel 0:54
19 Danger In The Night, Take 9 – Stan Livingston 0:21
20 Mysterioso (ZR-68) – George Hormel 2:01
21 Emotional Bridge – Ib Glindemann 0:16
22 Somber Emotional (L-33) – Spencer Moore 1:32
23 Punch Disaster (TC-132) – William Loose – John Seely 0:13
Attack At The Window (Medley) 1:09
24a Acoustic Space Station, Take 11 – Stan Livingston
24b Shock/Stormy – Ib Glindemann
24c Dramatic Swirl To Sting (PG-261) – Phil Green
25 Shock/Stormy – Ib Glindemann 2:57
26 Acoustic Space Station, Take 8 – Stan Livingston 0:27
27 Weird Suspense – Ib Glindemann 0:38
28 Mysterioso (ZR-65) – George Hormel 1:27
29 Mysterioso (ZR-9) – George Hormel 0:51
30 Serene Heart (TC-306) –William Loose, John Seely 2:31
31 Tension (TC-402) –William Loose,John Seely 1:32
32 Sting 44 (TC-344) / Sting 29 (TC-329) – William Loose, John Seely 0:30
33 Fire (JB-28) – William Loose – Jack Cookerly 0:50
34 Chase (ZR-62) –George Hormel 1:00
35 Heavy Dramatic (CB-16B) – Harry Bluestone, Emil Cadkin 2:35
36 Heavy Dramatic (CB-54) – Harry Bluestone, Emil Cadkin 1:50
37 Heavy Dramatic (CB-15A) – Harry Bluestone, Emil Cadkin 1:45
38 Heavy Dramatic (CB-15B) – Harry Bluestone, Emil Cadkin 2:14
39 Eerie Heavy Echo (L-1216) –Spencer Moore 2:21
40 Heavy Echo (L-1214) –Spencer Moore Eerie 0:56
41 Bonus Track: Original Trailer –Harry Bluestone, Emil Cadkin 0:58
You can still manage to find this CD on Amazon.com, although it is getting harder to get hold of.
Listen to the Soundtrack
Tracks from the soundtrack to ‘Night of the Living Dead‘ can be found below as a streamable playlist:
Your best bet for finding the soundtrack, and the various iterations of it is on Amazon. It’s not widely available, but you can find CD copies of the releases mentioned in this post, as well as some digital downloads.
Other notable releases
This album took samples from the original soundtrack and created a full length ambient album from the music. They altered and mixed the samples together to create an entirely new piece of work, but one that remains creepy and eerie, and steeped in the atmosphere of the film.
This remix project took over a year to make, and ‘Tonight of the Living Dead’ is a basically collage of restructured audio from the original movie that is a work of art in its own right and not merely a tribute to the original film.
This album has moments of real beauty, despite remaining familiar and unnerving due to the source material. Listening to this is like having a free pass to the world the Romero created when he first conceived of ‘Night of the Living Dead‘.
Well worth checking out for fans of ‘Night of the Living Dead‘.
You can listen to it below: