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The Return of the Living Dead (1985) Soundtrack

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The Return of the Living Dead (1985): Soundtrack
The Return of the Living Dead (1985): Soundtrack

The Return of the Living Dead‘ is a US horror film written and directed by Dan O’Bannon, and became a cult classic – it was also highly influential in raising the bar for what was possible for the comedy-horror genre, and in many ways, ‘The Return of the Living Dead‘ is probably the predecessor to ‘Shaun of the Dead‘.

The film centers around a toxic nerve gas which is accidentally released by an incompetent worker on his first day in the job at a medical supply warehouse (the gas is supposed to be the same gas that caused the outbreak in George A. Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead‘). A series of blunders sees the nerve gas eventually spread to a nearby graveyard where it reanimates the dead corpses. Fortunately for the bloodthirsty zombies there is a group of teenage punks drinking and partying in the graveyard…and things basically escalate from there.

The film is fast-paced, gory, and witty and it pays homage to the old zombie horror movies that came before it….before spinning off quickly and blazing its own gonzo trail for mayhem, death, and destruction.

This movie is pretty much solely responsible for introducing zombies addicted to finding brains to eat (“Braaaaains“), it has one of the best zombies ever committed to celluloid in ‘Tarman’, and it keeps its tongue firmly in its rotten cheek throughout.

The film was such a success it eventually spawned 4 sequels, unfortunately the sequels failed to match the knowing wit and originality of the first film, and they deteriorated in quality with each sequel.

The Return of the Living Dead soundtrack:

The soundtrack for ‘The Return of the Living Dead‘ is pretty distinctive, and despite having an original score it also had a number of tracks recorded for the film by a number of punk and rock bands like The Damned, The Cramps, SSQ, The Jet Black Berries, and The Flesheaters.

The soundtrack is an eclectic, high-octane mix of Psychobilly, Synth-pop, Hard Rock, Punk, Garage Rock, and Deathrock….how’s that for a list of niche keywords.

The film was originally slated to be directed by Tobe (‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘) Hooper, and when he dropped out the producer tried to change the terms of the deal giving them publishing rights to the tracks used in the soundtrack, and as a result of the changes it was deemed that the bands that contributed the tracks would not be able to perform them or re-record them.

Listen to ‘Surfin’ Dead‘ by The Cramps, from ‘The Return of the Living Dead‘:


Along with The Cramps, the other band with arguably the biggest name on the soundtrack is The Damned. The Damned contributed a track called ‘Dead Beat Dance’ which is a thrashy punk track that was included in the film’s original release, as well as the initial VHS release, but was replaced in the 1991 release by ‘Young, Fast Iranians’ by The Straw Dogs.

Listen to ‘Dead Beat Dance’ by the Damned below:


Aside from the punk rock soundtrack, the film also featured a recurring synth based track as a core part of the score. The track is called ‘Trixolin Theme’ (named after the nerve-gas in the film) and it was composed and performed by Francis Haines and is heard at various points throughout through the film. This is a fast paced synthesizer track that accompanies many crucial scenes in the film. Sadly this track has never been included on any of the commercial releases of the soundtrack and despite the punk rock soundtrack being a lot of fun, it is the ‘Trixolin’ theme that is the musical heartbeat of the score.

Listen to ‘Trioxin Theme’ from ‘The Return of the Living Dead’ (main title) soundtrack:

Releases:

The soundtrack for ‘The Return of the Living Dead‘ isn’t too hard to find (unless you want it on vinyl), as it has been released numerous times over the years – however, it is important to note that all the releases have basically focused on compiling the songs that are featured in the film, and do not include any tracks from the actual score, which is a shame as it means that the Francis Haines track ‘Trioxin Theme’ is not included on any of the releases. And given that it features prominently in the movie, the soundtrack feels incomplete without it.

That minor quibble aside, the various releases over the years of the soundtrack have been a lot of fun, and pretty much all releases have carried 10 tracks heard in the movie. The soundtrack was first released in 1985 in the US on Enigma Records. You can see the track list below:

Track Listing
1. The Cramps – Surfin’ Dead 4:11
2. 45 Grave – Partytime (Zombie Version) 2:48
3. T.S.O.L. – Nothing For You 2:24
4. The Flesh Eaters – Eyes Without A Face 3:12
5. Roky Erickson -Burn The Flames 6:00
6. The Damned – Dead Beat Dance 3:51
7. Tall Boys – Take A Walk 2:28
8. The Jet Black Berries – Love Under Will 2:56
9. SSQ – Tonight (We’ll Make Love Until We Die) 3:37
10. SSQ – Trash’s Theme 2:55

If you want to hear the entire soundtrack from ‘The Return of the Living Dead‘, then you can hear it being played on the vinyl release below:


This is brain eating mayhem and punk rock fun all the way.

Notable releases:

A list of the notable releases of the soundtrack for ‘The Return of the Living Dead‘:

  • The Return Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) ‎(LP, Album) Enigma Records US 1985
  • Le Retour Des Morts Vivants “The Return Of The Living Dead” ‎(LP, Pic, Comp) New Rose Records France 1985
  • Le Retour Des Morts Vivants (The Return Of The Living Dead) ‎(LP, Comp) New Rose Records France 1985
  • The Return Of The Living Dead OST ‎(Cass, Album) Big Beat Records UK 1985
  • The Return Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) ‎(CD, Album) Big Beat Records UK 1985
  • The Return Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) ‎(CD, Album, Comp) Metal Blade Records, Restless Records US 1985
  • The Return Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) ‎(Cass, Album) Enigma Records US 1985
  • The Return Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) ‎(LP, Album) Enigma Records New Zealand 1985
  • The Return Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) ‎(LP, Album) Big Beat Records UK 1985
  • The Return Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) ‎(LP, Comp) Big Beat Records UK 1985
  • The Return Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) ‎(LP, Comp, Pic) Enigma Records US 1985
  • The Return Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) ‎(LP, pic) Enigma Records US 1985
  • Battalion / The Return Of The Living Dead – Original Soundtrack ‎(LP, Album) Victor Japan 1986
  • The Return Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) ‎(LP, Album) Enigma Records Spain 1986
  • The Return Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) ‎(CD) Enigma Records US 1987

Useful Links

* Get the soundtrack from Amazon.com
* Get the soundtrack from Amazon.co.uk
* Find out more about the film at The Zombie Site
* Watch ‘More Brains‘ a full length documentary about the making of ‘The Return of the Living Dead’ with interviews from the cast and the crew

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