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Donna Summer and John Barry Go “Deep” On New Hot Shot Reissue

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The Deep OSTEverything about The Deep was big.  Jaws author Peter Benchley was guaranteed over half a million dollars by impresario Peter Guber for film rights to his unpublished follow-up in a deal which seemed justified when The Deep finally arrived and quickly became a bestseller.   For his big screen-ready underwater adventure, Guber had a big budget, big locations for shooting, and a big partner in Neil Bogart’s Casablanca Records.  Bogart wasn’t known for doing anything small, and as the inaugural production of Casablanca FilmWorks, The Deep didn’t disappoint.   The film starring Nick Nolte, Jacqueline Bisset, Eli Wallach and Jaws’ Robert Shaw also needed a big soundtrack.  Casablanca disco queen Donna Summer was tapped, as was one of the true deans of film scoring, multiple Academy Award winner John Barry.  Their collaboration was released on Casablanca Records in July 1977, and that original album has just been reissued for the first time as a standalone compact disc by Big Break Records’ Hot Shot imprint.

The Deep, directed by Peter Yates, centered on several people vying with one another to reclaim medical supplies from a sunken World War II ship as well as treasure from the remains of an eighteenth-century Spanish vessel.   Jaws’ John Williams was an early favorite to compose the score to this aquatic adventure, but the honors instead went to John Barry.  By 1977, three-time Academy Award winner Barry had proven his versatility over and over again.  Though still closely associated with the thrilling, swinging spy sound of the James Bond films – an oft-imitated, never-duplicated style largely of his own making – Barry was also a master at elegantly incorporating influences both classical and contemporary into his work.  His muse as a composer would eventually lead him to a sweeping, lush and grandly romantic style for such films as Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves, but his score to The Deep combines the excitement of the Bond films with the sprawling widescreen approach of those later pictures.  While Barry was occupied with The Deep, scoring duties for 1977’s Bond flick, The Spy Who Loved Me, went to another Oscar winner, Marvin Hamlisch.  It was only the second time Barry hadn’t wielded the baton for a 007 episode since taking over the series as composer with 1963’s From Russia with Love.  (Barry had, of course, been on the ground floor of the Bond series as arranger of Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme” for Dr. No.)

After the jump, go Deep with us!

For The Deep, Barry delivered a work of style, beauty and high adventure.  The first side of Casablanca’s original LP included a sidelong, 24-minute “ballet” preserving Barry’s cues as one 24-minute suite.  His central theme, which provided the melody of the song “Down Deep Inside,” expertly veered from fragility to suspense.  Barry melded brooding horns with tense strings, sparingly adding electronic flourishes to up the unsettling atmosphere.  Ornate and dramatic, the ballet “Return to the Sea 2033 A.D.” is truly a sonic representation of the film’s chills and thrills.  Barry’s hypnotic “Down Deep Inside” theme will doubtless lodge itself into your head and steadfastly refuse to escape after a listen to Hot Shot’s expanded edition of the soundtrack.

The second side of the original Casablanca LP, faithfully recreated here, consisted of just four tracks including three versions of “Down Deep Inside.”   Summer and Barry received a Golden Globe nomination for their song though the Academy Awards chose not to recognize it or Barry’s underscore for The Deep.  With her collaboration with Barry on “Down Deep Inside,” however, co-lyricist Summer joined an esteemed, select group of writers with whom he had written, including Don Black, Hal David, Paul Williams, Leslie Bricusse, and Alan Jay Lerner.

In Summer’s disco version of the haunting, slightly ominous theme, her ethereal, sensual and coolly detached vocal floats above Barry’s evocative orchestration and the pulsating club beat.  It’s followed by Barry’s instrumental version, which retains the thumping disco beat but allows a closer hearing of the numerous orchestral elements including trilling flutes, swooping strings, and dramatic piano.  The final rendition of “Down Deep Inside” is subtitled “A Love Song,” and casts the uptempo track in ballad mode.  It slows the tempo but still retains a beat.  Summer adapted her vocal delivery accordingly, and her vocal is particularly sultry.  The album was rounded out by “Disco Calypso” performed by the single-named artist Beckett.  Though “Calypso” blends well on the album and stands on its own merits as a fine Caribbean-disco fusion, it had little to do with The Deep as neither Summer nor Barry was involved.  Its inclusion was commercially motivated by the fact that Alston “Beckett” Cyrus’ Casablanca LP was being released concurrently with The Deep.  As such, it’s the least essential track here.

Peculiarly, the Summer/Barry uptempo version of “Down Deep Inside” wasn’t released on 45 in the U.S., with Casablanca opting instead to release Barry’s largely-instrumental rendition backed with a disco version of his theme to the 1977 television film Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years.  (The Summer version was released in the U.K., where it reached a No. 5 Pop peak.  In the U.S., the song reached a No. 3 Disco berth.)  This B-side, simply titled “The White House Years,” makes its worldwide CD debut here as one of two bonus tracks.  It’s Barry in boldly romantic mode, with a dash of baroque, and it melodically and orchestrally complements “Down Deep Inside.”  The other bonus track is the extended, 12-inch Disco Version of Summer’s “Down Deep Inside.”  This remix was released on CD previously as part of Barry’s Lounge Legends entry from Universal.

This Hot Shot release follows Intrada’s 2010 two-CD set dedicated to the music of The Deep.  That out-of-print volume featured the never-before-released complete, original film tracks on its first compact disc, with this soundtrack album on its second CD.  In addition to “The White House Years,” the Hot Shot reissue also adds fine new liner notes from Casablanca historian Christian John Wikane.  His notes compellingly weave the tales of Casablanca’s founding, the making of The Deep, and the unlikely yet fruitful alliance of John Barry and Donna Summer into one engrossing narrative.  The disc and booklet, attractively designed by Paul Bevoir, is housed in a Super Jewel Box.  Nick Robbins has newly remastered the album.

Despite the success of The Deep and its music, both the film and soundtrack have been relegated to footnotes in the careers of Donna Summer and John Barry.  With this reissue, its music has one more opportunity to garner the notice it so richly deserves.

Donna Summer and John Barry, Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: The Deep (Casablanca LP NBLP 7060, 1977 – reissued Hot Shot Records HSRX009, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Return to the Sea – 2033 A.D. – A Ballet Based on the Score from the Motion Picture “The Deep” – John Barry
  2. Theme from “The Deep” (Down Deep Inside) – Donna Summer
  3. John Barry – Theme from “The Deep” (Instrumental)
  4. Beckett – Disco Calypso
  5. Donna Summer – Theme from “The Deep” (Down Deep Inside) (A Love Song)
  6. John Barry – The White House Years (Casablanca single NB 887, 1977)
  7. Donna Summer – Theme from “The Deep” (Down Deep Inside) (12-Inch Disco Mix) (Casablanca 12-inch single NBD 20104, 1977)

Written by Joe Marchese

March 19, 2014 at 13:32

5 Responses

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  1. My vinyl copy of “The Deep” was on beautiful translucent blue vinyl. Anyway a welcome cd reissue.


    March 19, 2014 at 13:41

    • I have that blue vinyl still! Love it!


      March 20, 2014 at 09:13

  2. Waiting for this in the mail presently 🙂


    March 19, 2014 at 16:31

    • as a teen when this movie came out, what mattered most was Bisset’s wet tee-shirt. Who knew the movie even had a soundtrack?


      March 24, 2014 at 10:52

      • Beautiful music indeed. It was at that time that many movie themes “went disco” (cf. Barry’s 1979 Moonraker end title song as well), all considered a bit cheesy soon afterwards but now time is ripe again to fully savour this exciting and vivid music. Barry was truly one of the all-time greats!


        May 16, 2014 at 10:34

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