During the '70s and '80s, many European composers and musicians found lucrative side work writing and recording instrumentals for collections of what's called "library," "background" or "production" music -- the tunes that filled the void in budget-minded TV and film projects. Because of the nature of the recordings, many artists used clever aliases to hide their true identities. It's not a surprise then that a great deal of the work went largely unheralded, despite the presence of some big names. "Cinemaphonic 2: Soul Punch" -- the second installment of an ongoing series (www.cinemaphonic.com) -- unearths fine examples of British library music from 1970 through 1976 and reveals, after exhaustive research, who really was behind the music.
But don't let the concept fool you: Just because it is called "library" doesn't mean it is quiet, peaceful stuff to be enjoyed only by those who have mastered the Dewey Decimal system. The uptempo music is fantastic stuff, easily on a par with modern jazz-funk masterpieces by Fatboy Slim and Medeski, Martin & Wood. In Europe, clubs have been hosting library-music parties for years. And, as the ultimate stamp of approval, hip-hop producers have been secretly sampling these recordings since the invention of the head spin.
Perhaps it is fitting then that the original "Cinemaphonic: Electro Soul" (2000) and the recent follow-up were conceived, compiled and produced by David Hollander. If you watched any TV during the late '70s and early '80s, you've seen his face. During the golden age of TV, Hollander was a child actor, landing such pivotal TV roles as David on "The McLean Stevenson Show" and Little Earl on "What's Happening!!" This was in addition to his important film work, which included playing Tommy "Wheelchair" McVee in the underwhelming sequel "Meatballs Part II" and Young Boy With Coffee in the hit comedy "Airplane!" You know, the kind of low-budget productions that would use canned music.
Although the 32-year-old gave up aggressively pursuing acting roles more than a decade ago, Hollander continues to find success in the entertainment industry, dedicating his efforts toward archiving music and developing multimedia projects. (It's been a successful crossover considering the post-childhood crime sprees undertaken by Hollander's overacting peers: Dana Plato, Todd Bridges and Danny Bonaduce.)
"I've been into this music for a long time; I've been a lifelong record collector," says Hollander, calling from his hometown of Los Angeles. During his flea-market searches, Hollander has come across volumes of library music, which has only strengthened his passion to recycle. In fact, most of the tracks on "Soul Punch" came from one "bizarre record buy" in San Francisco. It started with a bulletin-board ad that read: "1,000s of library records for sale; make offer."
"It spoke to me," says Hollander, who ended up picking through the valuable vinyl in haphazard piles on the sidewalk in front of a house. Hollander takes in stride the lack of respect for the relatively obscure genre of music.
"That's sort of par for the course with library music," he says, pointing out that much of it has been destroyed by the original purchasers (movie and TV production companies) who considered the dusty LPs mere junk taking up space. In many instances, even the master tapes have been long lost -- further emphasizing the need for active archival preservation.
"It becomes this huge repository of amazing music that no one has heard and no one will get to hear unless the work is done," says Hollander, beaming like a proud papa showing off baby pictures. "And I'm doing the work."
And in such a big way. While "Soul Punch" is just now hitting the market, Hollander presses on in the studio, putting together the next volumes in the series. "Cinemaphonic 3: Heavy" highlights German library music from 1976 through 1980. The sounds are unique, falling somewhere between electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and the progressive rock of Can, occasionally touching on breakbeat funk.
"Heavy," due out in late summer, will be followed by separate compilations highlighting library tunes from France and Italy. Then Hollander returns to the British vaults to further tap into that country's mother lode of material.
Hollander notes that much of the music from other countries was actually recorded by British composers and players creatively working around prohibitive union rules. Consequently, pseudonyms were often used to hide the true identities of the rule-bending bunch. Hollander had to dig hard to find the reluctant souls who recorded under such names as John Kingpop and Tony Tape.
"A lot of these pseudonyms are for well-known British-rock session musicians," says Hollander. "They were kind of slumming in doing the music to begin with."
Name talents such as Alan Hankshaw of British funk legends The Mowhawks, Cliff Richard's former writing partner Brian Bennett and jazz legend Dick Hyman have "discovered" tracks on "Soul Punch." One of the best examples of the reluctance to participate rests in the story of renowned harpist David Snell, author of "Crab Apple Jam" on "Soul Punch." Hollander found out that, back in the day, it took a great deal of arm twisting to convince Snell -- who is as serious of a musician as they come -- to cut the track, considered by Hollander to be one of the greatest harp compositions that he has ever heard.
Because the material is so good, and because Hollander has access to a healthy supply, folks are constantly asking him if they can sample the music or use it in their films. Hollander points out that the tracks are "not royalty-free by any means," but since the music was created to be licensed, the right to utilize it can be had at a very reasonable price. Very reasonable.
The mountains of heretofore unheard of recordings convinced Hollander to expand his compact-disc dynasty by following up the "Cinemaphonic" series with collected works of individual composers, such as Snell. He's also finishing up a funk-soul compilation that'll bring together rare tracks that celebrate the underworld of pimps and whores.
Even though he has officially given up acting -- his last role was a brief part in the 2001 film "The Southlander," which also featured Beck -- Hollander still finds his way onto the screen, even if it is only in the credits. He's taking DVD format to new heights, fusing fresh soundtracks to old-school science-fiction fare.
The dedicated audiophile's aspirations spin further than the turntable, however, with his eyes on the big screen. Hollander has purchased the rights to do a tripped-out animated feature-film version of "Gamma World," the post-apocalyptic sequel to the "Dungeons & Dragons" role-playing game. Naturally, though, the soundtrack will draw from Hollander's own personal library collection.