“Listen carefully, and you’ll hear my dream.”
Charity Trask dreams of sexy scoundrel Quentin Collins, just like everybody else in the summer of ’69. “I’ve been waiting for you,” he says. She replies, “I feel so lonely when you’re not here.” This isn’t the part of the dream where he closes his eyes while she gets murdered by a werewolf. This is the other part.
Charity’s father has suddenly decided that she should marry Quentin, for reasons that are mostly product placement-related. The Dark Shadows soundtrack album dropped on Friday, and today’s episode serves up a full-length music video of the feature single, “Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme)”. By music video, I mean that they play the whole song while Quentin and Charity pose and make thoughtful facial expressions. It’s 1969; they haven’t figured out how music videos work yet.
The album is called The Original Music From Dark Shadows with The Robert Cobert Orchestra Featuring Jonathan (Barnabas) Frid and David (Quentin) Selby, and it’s the first soundtrack album ever released for a daytime soap opera, as far as I can figure. It might not be the first. Who even cares. It’s weird and it’s important and it’s phenomenal.
The album has 16 tracks, all of them legit Bob Cobert music cues from the show. There’s no weird theremin remake of the theme song, and they resisted the urge to include The Charles Randolph Grean Sounde cover of “Quentin’s Theme”, which shows remarkable restraint, considering a) it was currently charting on the Billboard Hot 100, and b) Charles Randolph Grean produced the album.
But The Original Music is for real. It’s got the theme song, Josette’s music box, some spooky Angelique music, some exciting werewolf-type music, three Blue Whale jukebox jams, the whole deal. Plus — at no extra cost to you — it’s got Jonathan (Barnabas) Frid doing poetry readings on six of the tracks, and David (Quentin) Selby speak-singing the lyrics to “Shadows of the Night”, which by the way it has lyrics now. This is pure Dark Shadows and it is your favorite record album.
1. Opening Themes: Dark Shadows / Collinwood (2:43)
The record starts with the opening theme, and then segues straight into the show’s sub-theme, which is the music that plays during the opening narration. Obviously, this is the perfect way to start the album, although technically they should be in the reverse order, so already there’s a blooper.
2. I’ll Be With You, Always (2:23)
And then we go straight to the Blue Whale jukebox, for a slow dance with Jonathan Frid. They don’t play a lot of Blue Whale songs on the show anymore, because it stopped being the kind of show where you watch Burke and Vicki go out on dates.
But it makes sense to use this as the second track, because it allows them to jump right into the album’s fundamental message, which is that Barnabas Collins is super mega romantic. This album is made for a nation of teenagers and housewives who have collectively decided, for reasons of their own, that Barnabas Collins is a sex symbol, and it serves up as much fanservice as it can muster.
This track takes the music cue formerly known as “75: Slow Blue Whale” and gives it some vampire-love lyrics, courtesy of Mr. C. Randolph Grean.
I’ll be with you, always
I’ll always be near you
Though far away
With my love beside you
You won’t be lonely
We’ll meet again, dear
Some distant day
They’re not award-winning lyrics, we’re going to just get that out of the way. But Frid is giving this everything he’s got, which is considerable. He may not be able to memorize twelve pages of dialogue a day, but the man has a rich, deep voice with a lot of undertone, and he sounds great.
This isn’t Grean’s first time with a TV actor talking over an instrumental track; he’s been producing albums with Leonard Nimoy from Star Trek since 1967. The first album, Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space, is mostly Nimoy singing, but there are also a few tracks in character as Mr. Spock, including Track 2, “Alien”:
Am I the you before?
The you you were when your world was new?
Or am I the you that you will be tomorrow?
Through me, you see your future or your past
I know not which.
For I come from that spark of light so far in space,
Your mind the distance could not comprehend.
And then it goes on like that for two minutes, free associating about emotions and evolution and galaxies of boundless time. It’s not an easy listen.
Compared to that, Frid’s Blue Whale tune is right on the nose. Grean has a clear view of who the audience is for this album, and he understands what they want: vows of eternal love, whispered into the teenage ear.
3. Josette’s Theme (1:18)
Track 3 extends the Barnabas hypnotism fantasy with the song from Josette’s music box. We go through two iterations of the tune, with an electric harpsichord music break in the middle because you can’t listen to the music box for a minute and 18 seconds without losing your mind. (This guideline does not apply to governesses.)
The interesting thing about Josette’s music box is that it doesn’t actually play much of a role in the Barnabas/Josette relationship, as we see it in the 1795 storyline. He gives the music box to her just before he dies, and she only listens to it once she’s been vampire-bitten. On the show, the music box is almost exclusively used as a brainwashing tool. As of track 3, you can consider yourself mind-controlled by Barnabas, which if you’re listening to this album you basically already are.
4. A Darkness at Collinwood (3:23)
We finally get some real Dark Shadows background music with track 4, which is the one you should play whenever you’re sneaking around in somebody else’s house, looking for coffins.
So here’s what I know about Dark Shadows music cues, based on the 8-CD Complete Dark Shadows Soundtrack Music Collection. The set has every music cue with the titles that they used on the sound carts, like — 54: Good Spooky Tension – Very Useable — 78: High Pitched Eerie Theremin — 146a: Clock Watching, Waiting Piece — and so on. I don’t get much of a chance to discuss this in the normal course of my day, so you’re going to hear about it now.
The Dark Shadows music cues fall into four rough buckets:
#1) Curtains and bridges, which close a scene; they last around 10 to 20 seconds.
#2) Spooks, which interrupt a scene — the start of a dream sequence, Angelique casting a spell. They’re around 30-40 seconds long.
#3) Wall to wall, which is the music bed for a whole scene; these are usually 90 seconds or so.
#4) Blue Whale jukebox tunes.
So if you’re going to construct a 3:23 track, you need to combine a bunch of different cues. I wish I could list off all the numbers and titles for the cues on these tracks because I am a super nerd, but life is too short.
This track mixes three spooky wall to walls. The one in the middle, which starts at 1:10, is a favorite in my house because the horns have a little rat-a-tat-a-tat rhythm that my husband and I decided sounds like they’re saying “complicated plot”. The strings, piano, woodwinds and kettle drums are all strumming away, and then the horns keep butting in and making smart remarks. “Complicated plot!” By 1:35, they’re just being dicks about it.
5. Meditations (2:28)
This is another J. Frid Sings the Hits track, this time reading a poem by Charles Randolph Grean’s teenage daughter Loren. The poem is a perfect example of overwrought high school poetry, where feelings are more important than meter or imagery.
The sound of wings!
Out of nowhere they appear,
And into infinity they fly!
I wonder if those who are sleeping in the ground
are disturbed by the throbbing sound
of a one-way path to eternity.
Enclosed in my room, I speak to the quietness
breaking the silence.
Enclosed in my room, I speak to the quietness
but no one replies.
A single tear falls.
A sad remembrance of the night
when she was told.
Imagine Frid at the recording studio, being handed this on a piece of paper and saying what is this exactly? And then they say Grean’s daughter wrote it and he says oh.
6. Night of the Pentagram (2:42)
So here’s the Young Danny story: when I was in high school, I bought this album at a used record store. I must have been about 14. It wasn’t 1969 anymore, so it was very exciting when I found any Dark Shadows item, and this was a real prize. By the way, there used to be such a thing as a used record store.
“Night of the Pentagram” was my favorite track. It starts with exciting werewolf attack music, and then segues into dream sequence nightmare music, and it ends with a big dramatic sting. Plus, Barnabas isn’t talking over it.
7. When I Am Dead (1:42)
So after a while they just give Frid some Christina Rosetti poems, and he recites it over boring 1966 Vicki music.
When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
But I get it; compiling dramatic stings from your weird vampire show is not a prestige project.
So they do several things to make the enterprise a bit more upscale. Calling out “The Robert Cobert Orchestra” on the cover sets the proper tone, and the liner notes expand on that theme considerably.
The suspenseful background music, which has become as familiar to the viewers as some of the most popular songs of today, was composed, conducted and arranged by Robert Cobert, a Juilliard graduate, who has scored more television shows than any other composer.
That’s right, they break out the Juilliard degree. Take that, Nimoy!
His music encompasses the widest range of styles and sounds: electronic, rock, weird, dramatic, popular and classical. In the background music of Dark Shadows, Cobert masterfully utilizes varied combinations of from two musicians to a full symphony orchestra in creating the many moods of the action at Collinwood.
They try to class up the cast members, too:
Barnabas is played by the noted Shakespearean actor, Jonathan Frid, and Quentin is played by the young actor from West Virginia, David Selby.
I love “the young actor from West Virginia”. It doesn’t mean anything in particular, but not everything does.
8. No. 1 at the Blue Whale (2:23)
Closing out Side 1, they line up “72: Slow Juke Box – Blue Whale”, and then they just let it run. So I want to take a second to acknowledge the influence of 16, the terrifying teen magazine that taught a generation to obsess over David Selby’s affection for Sara Lee banana cake.
16 ran a feature on the Dark Shadows recording sessions that made it sound like the record was a co-production with the magazine, which in some ways it kind of was. “Jonathan (Barnabas) Frid and David (Quentin) Selby” is a very 16 turn of phrase, and the album included a double-sided fold-out poster with pictures of the stars.
The liner notes say that the cover photos are courtesy ABC-TV and Gloria Stavers, who was the terrifying editor-in-chief of 16. The Barnabas pic is a standard ABC headshot, which means Gloria was responsible for the godawful picture of Quentin.
This was the other thing that offended Young Danny. I was having a devastating love affair with Quentin Collins in my head at the time, which continues uninterrupted to this day, but in the world before the internet, the only pictures of him that I had access to were the covers of the Paperback Library books, and the pictures on the record album.
And Gloria Stavers was responsible for that terrible Quentin picture. In 1969, it was basically impossible to take a bad picture of David Selby, but Gloria Stavers managed it, and they put it on the front cover of the album because everybody was afraid of her. Then the Selby pic on the back cover was Quentin during his zombie phase, which was also not as sexy as I would have liked. I’ve gotten over it by now, of course. Well, mostly.
9. Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme) (2:04)
And here’s the dream date himself, Quentin Collins, kicking off Side 2 with a speak-singing version of his theme song. This is the song formerly known as “295: Old Phono #1 – Quentin’s theme”, which was released as a single by the Charles Randolph Grean Sounde.
For the soundtrack album, Grean wrote some lyrics and gave it a title, and it is known forevermore as “Shadows of the Night”.
Shadows of the night
Echo of the past
Calling you to me
Veiled in misty glow
Playing soft, and low
In this world that we know now
Life is here, then gone
But somewhere in the afterglow
Love lives on, and on
This is Selby’s one contribution to The Original Music, and he puts everything he can into it. Every line is delivered like he’s whispering in your ear, telling you that you’re more than a put-upon housewife with three children in elementary school and a half-bottle of Valium in your dresser drawer. You are a woman, and you deserve to be loved.
Meanwhile, just after this album was released, Andy Williams recorded a version of “Quentin’s Theme (Shadows of the Night)” where he actually sings the song. It was released in October 1969 on his album Get Together with Andy Williams, and I don’t personally care for it.
10. The Secret Room (2:28)
With apologies to “Night of the Pentagram”, which was my favorite as a kid, “The Secret Room” is the best track on the album. It combines two music cues that are basically just flutes and vibes, with all kinds of different rattly percussion sounds skittering by. If you listen with headphones, it’s fantastic. You’d never notice all that stuff when you’re watching the show, because characters are skulking around with murder weapons in both pockets, so this is pretty much the exact purpose of having a soundtrack album.
I like this track so much that I looked up what the cues are called, because I am a huge nerd and that is what I do. This is “253a: Ghost Love Song with Percussion” and “248a: Small Sting Start – Vibes, Soop, Suspense – Same with Percussion”. Yes, it says “Soop”.
11. Epitaph (1:56)
Hey, it’s another chart-topping Christina Rosetti dance mix, with Jonathan reciting “Rest” over some Dark Shadows music.
Until the morning of Eternity
Her rest shall not begin nor end, but be;
And when she wakes, she will not think it long.
Christina meant the Rapture, of course, but in this context it sounds like she was writing about vampire brides, which I for one think is amusing.
12. Séance (1:16)
This is two spook tracks together, and the back half is easily identifiable as Angelique’s spell-casting music. It closes with a dramatic sting, too. This was another Young Danny favorite.
13. I, Barnabas (2:12)
Hooray, pandering at last! This is another Frid track, with words by Charles Randolph Grean, and it’s the one that actually engages with the show content.
Midnight… a hush falls through the melancholy halls of Collinwood. A solemn moon casts dark shadows over the placid stillness of the old mansion.
Yes, it’s Barnabas saying “dark shadows,” which is thrilling in a way that would be difficult to explain to normal people, if I knew any.
I, Barnabas, lie in deep sleep on my bed of purple velvet. Asleep… but awake to your thoughts, your feelings, your desires.
Whoa, okay. That just got weird in a hurry.
Alone, but cradled by the presence of your mind. I hear your call… I feel your yearning… I know that you want me. I know that you need me.
So the strange thing that’s happening on this strange track is that it’s actively casting the listener as the vampire victim, but then it reverses the power dynamic. All of a sudden we’re calling him, not the other way around.
The oppressing weight of long-lost time lies heavily upon me. The deepening gloom that covers me binds me in my sepulcher. I hear your call… I feel your yearning… I must go to you.
So the sexual predator becomes the helpless object of our desire, because obviously we want to be preyed upon, which is so rape culture I can’t really deal with it.
I struggle to free the invisible chains that bind me. I search in the embalmed darkness for a nebulous light that will lead me to you.
This, I have to say, is kind of a lame excuse. If a guy texts you, “I struggle to free the invisible chains that bind me,” then I wouldn’t hold my breath for a second date.
I hear your call… I feel your yearning… I am with you.
This must have been the money track for the put-upon housewives, I bet they played it so much they wore out the record. Every once in a while, a turntable would just burst into flames, and nobody would be able to explain it.
14. Back at the Blue Whale (2:09)
And then it’s dance time for Vicki and the teens. This is “74: Fast Blue Whale”, if anyone cares.
15. The Old House (2:20)
In 1986, Bob Cobert released Original Music from Dark Shadows: Volume 2, on his own label, Media Sound Records. Volume 3 followed in 1987, and Volume 4 in 1988. These albums were just pure soundtrack with no Christina Rosetti poems, and I loved them to pieces.
Volume 3 actually had all the Frid/Selby tracks from the first album without the narration, but using the same titles: I’ll Be With You Always, Meditations, Epitaph. This was clearly done by popular demand, and I was probably one of the people who demanded it.
And then in 1996, they put out Dark Shadows: The 30th Anniversary Collection, which included two tracks called “Dark Shadows Music Cue Medley, I and II”. These are basically just one dramatic sting after another for five minutes straight. I love them beyond words.
16. Epilogue / Dark Shadows (1:57)
“Our revels now are ended!” Agreed. Everybody, please take your seats, and let the noted Shakespearean actor, Jonathan Frid, do his goddamn job.
Tomorrow: The Dog Pound.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the reprise and act 1, the Old House doors are open, for no particular reason.
When the Hand starts to move over Quentin’s body, there’s a light blue outline around it — an artifact of the Chromakey process that happens when they don’t get the lighting quite right.
When Magda tells Trask that she sold Tim the nightshade, there’s a cut to a camera that should be showing Trask’s reaction, but all you can see is the back of Magda’s head.
At the end of act 1, as the wolf prepares to pounce on Charity, you can see one of the studio lights.
When Trask picks up the telephone in act 2, he drops the receiver and has to retrieve it again.
During Charity’s dream, as she approaches Quentin, the camera cuts to him just as he’s licking his lips.
In the dream, Quentin says, “Our destinies are guided by a strange wheel of fortune. Don’t you remember Magda telling you that?” Charity says she does, but Magda didn’t say that in the tarot reading scene.
And one last blooper from The Original Music: At the beginning of “I, Barnabas,” he says that it’s midnight. But then he says, “I, Barnabas, lie in deep sleep on my bed of purple velvet.” If it’s midnight, why isn’t he up yet? He’s wasted half the night.
Behind the Scenes:
Amusingly, the guy playing the policeman is named John Miranda. This is his only appearance on Dark Shadows. In 1970, Miranda played the lead in Bloodthirsty Butchers, a sadomasochistic/erotic modern version of the Sweeney Todd story. Seriously. The movie poster is amazing. After that, he settled down into a thirty-year career of TV guest spots, with one-shot roles on Eight Is Enough, Three’s Company, Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, Murder She Wrote, ALF, that kind of stuff. He also had tiny roles in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Innerspace. The policeman in tomorrow’s episode is played by someone else.
Tomorrow: The Dog Pound.
— Danny Horn