Ever heard the original recording of the Archon theme?15 januari, 2014 av: Jimmy Wilhelmsson
In december 2013, I wrote about the music of Archon: The Light And The Dark (1983) by FreeFall Associates. It’s made by Tommy V. Dunbar and the article resulted in a discussion about what Dunbar does today – and if the same Dunbar co-founded American pop band, The Rubinoos.
To answer these questions, I contacted Dunbar himself – and ended up with the original recording of the Archon theme(!) – enjoy!
I admit, I had never heard of The Rubinoos before, but apparently the’ve released 8 albums since 1977 and gained some fame with songs like ”I Think We’re Alone Now” (which was a cover) and ”I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”. They also did the theme song for the movie Revenge of the Nerds in 1984, a movie I actually remember quite vividly.
Tommy Dunbar himself co-founded The Rubinoos in 1970 together with Jon Rubin for a school dance at Bay High School in Berkeley, California. A few years after that, he was contacted by Paul Reiche III from FreeFall Associates, whose sister Dunbar had dated for some time.
This is how a computer classic came to be.
I knew Paul Reiche through his sister; I remember getting a call from Paul asking me if I wanted to write a piece of music for a game he was working on. I think he just said it should be sort of ”action” music. I wrote the song on guitar and made a recording. Of course this was before the days of the internet, so I think I played it for him over the phone and sent him a cassette, along with the sheet music.
When I look at other scores you’ve done for computer games, I see Star Control 1 and 2 among others – which also involve Paul Reiche. Did you and Paul often work together?
I’m not sure if anything I did actually wound up on Star Control. I wrote a bunch of music for a game that Paul was working on called, Elmo (”The Adventures of Elmo in the 4th Dimension”). Paul lent me a computer, I think it was an Apple IIe or something. I had to program every note in as a frequency, an attack, a duration, and a few other parameters. It was kind of crazy.
It had only one voice to work with, but it could jump between 2 notes so quickly that it sounded like you were getting 2 notes; you set the second note by choosing a harmonic, so it would jump between the main note and its harmonic.
The only thing was, the higher you got in the harmonic overtone series, the more out of tune it was – and the tone was quite similar to a push button phone… It was a fun challenge, though.
I’m living in Sacramento, California. I’ve got a home studio where I write and record music, pretty much full time. I do a lot of advertising work, as well as recording tracks for songwriters, as well as my own music.
I’m lucky that I can do my dream job for a living!
Did you write the music directly into an Atari or did you compose it on paper with notes? Do you still have any fun material left from that time?
I just composed it on guitar and recorded it, then put it down on paper, I believe – for whoever had to program it in.
I’ve been trying to find a more modern version of Archon on the web, but can’t seem to find any. Do you know any, or have you even recorded one?
Ha! Okay, you just made me go looking through the tape vault. I found something that I believe is the only thing I could find recorded. I think this would have been recorded on a Teac 4 track in 1983 or so. This reminds me that Paul had a follow-up game to Archon, called Adept, that I also did the music for. It was supposed to be like the music for Archon, only inside out. Like instead of chromatic runs descending, you’ve got chromatic runs ascending.
Both Archon and Adept had something to do with Dark and Light, so the music is alternating between Major and Minor. On this recording, the first half is the music from Archon and the second half is music from Adept.
All to the sounds of a very cheesy drum machine, probably an Oberheim DX! Early days of midi!
Ok, this is great stuff! So finally…do you still have the music sheet for Archon in your possession?
And who owns the copyright to this music today?
I looked through some of my old papers and didn’t find a copy of the Archon music, but I did find this Adept (Son of Archon), so here’s a scan. It’s so ancient looking; of course these days if I was sending that to someone I’d do it in Finale or Sibelius notation programs. This was even before Notator, if anyone remembers that program (it later became Notator Logic, which became the current program Logic).
I still own the copyright to the underlying musical composition to the music. Whoever owns the game would own their sound recording of it, in other words the actual sounds that come out of the game.
Thanks for the memory jog!
No part of this recording may be used without his explicit consent.
And of course I cannot avoid presenting the finished result in the C64 version of the two games. Enjoy!
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Spelpappan ("gaming dad" in Swedish) is a Swedish retro blog run by Jimmy Wilhelmsson with experience in Commodore, computer games and role playing since the mid-eighties.
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