Song #28: “Heaven & Hell, Movement 3” (aka the Theme to Cosmos) — Vangelis (1975)
Ah, the instrumental. Do you know how hard it was to track down an instrumental you heard in passing, even after the internet and iTunes arrived? Song ID software now makes it easy, but before that, with no lyrics to google, instrumentals were songs that could haunt you for years. I once overheard a photographer at the Herald-Sun complain it took him weeks to find out the name of that Booker T. and MG’s tune was “Green Onions,” and I spent even longer trying to find out the name of the song AND the band on a mix tape a college girlfriend made for me after I lost the playsheet. (It was “Someone up there likes you” by Simple Minds by the way.)
Of course, an instrumental could still haunt you, even if you knew exactly who did it. This was certainly the case with “At the Heart of it All” by Aphix Twin, done with Nine Inch Nails on their “Further Down the Spiral” album.
And who could forget the still-freaky-even-after-30-years of Herbie Hancock:
For me though, the winner has to be the first Vangelis I ever heard, Movement 3 to his Heaven & Hell album, or as it’s better know, the theme to “Cosmos.” The PBS show that made a household name of Carl Sagan in 1978 also showcased Vangelis’ elegant, grandiose, and occasionally bombastic electronica long before he would go on to win the Academy Award and American Top 40 for “Chariots of Fire” or do the soundtrack for “Blade Runner.”
It turned my brother and I into such fans, we even got his weirdly experimental stuff, which for Vangelis meant teaming up with Yes frontman John Anderson for the strange ode to film noir, “Friends of Mr. Cairo,” a favorite late-night staple of DJs on Starview 92 who used the 12-minute epic whenever they needed a bathroom break or to go get stoned.
None of which takes away from the angelic ambiance of “Movement 3,” which I once thought would make great music at my funeral. While I realized now that would probably be a mistake, it was certainly the perfect pick for Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos.”