Posted by buzz_clik (6962 posts) -

SID-licious is a series of blogs where I post Commodore 64 SID tunes. They'll be available for download until the next entry goes up, when I'll be pulling the previous file(s) down. I'll probably have the mp3 floating around, though, so if there's some tune you're reading about in a past blog and want to grab a copy, shoot me a PM.

Okay, so I've been away from blogging for a while, but I'm gonna try and make this a regular thing again. And what better way to return than with my favourite C64 soundtrack of all time? Strap yourselves in, because I predict I'm going to have a fair bit to say.

Back in 1989, my mate Russell Strang and I (both C64 owners, although I was probably more proud of this fact) decided that we'd go halves in a game. There was one game we'd seen running on nice PCs that just looked brilliant. The animation, the concept and the execution of this particular title amazed us, and that there was a C64 conversion meant we simply had to have it. That game was... Battle Chess!

We pooled our savings, purchased Battle Chess and returned to my house, keen to chuck the 51⁄4" floppy into the drive along with a quick LOAD"*",8,1. The disk drive whirred to life. It then rattled, grunted disapprovingly and then fell silent again, as it flashed its little LED to signify there'd been a loading error. Repeated attempts to get the game working yielded the same sorrowful result. Russell took it with him to his house to see if it would work in his disk drive. No joy there either.

With leaden hearts, Russell and I soon returned the useless disk to the store. Of course, this meant we had to choose another game in its stead. While perusing the shelves, we saw the cover for something called Ghouls 'n' Ghosts. We both loved Ghosts 'n' Goblins on C64 - was this some sort of knock off?* I mean, the artwork on the cover was rubbish, so it couldn't have been a very good game, right?

I guess it's not Mega Man levels of bad, and I'm sure the high school student who made it must have been stoked.

Well, Russell and I decided to take a punt on it. This obviously turned out to be one of the best decisions we could have made.

Russell eventually got more interested in things outside of the Commodore 64 (girls, probably) and the game just came to live at my house full time. C64 Ghouls 'n' Ghosts is an excellent conversion, with slick graphics and bone-smooth playability. That said, I never managed to complete it without resorting to the cheat mode: Just enter WIGAN RLFC (with space) as your name when you get a high score, and then in-game you can press A to get your armour back and S to skip a level!

But of course we're not really here to talk about how the game played or looked, or even my brain's ability to remember useless shit like cheat codes that you, dear reader, will never use. Nope, it's all about the music, and the soundtrack for C64 Ghouls 'n' Ghosts is killer.

Tim Follin is my favourite C64 composer. He always manages to get the SID chip to do amazing things, from sound effects to emulating real world instruments, all draped in prog rock sensibilities. He also knows how to juggle and manipulate the SID chip's three channels to make some of the best layering, delay effects and harmonies the C64 has ever known. And all of his tricks are on show in the Ghouls 'n' Ghosts soundtrack, a collection of songs I loved right from the off and still listen to today when the mood takes me. I even hooked my C64 up to the stereo when I was a kid so I could have a recording of the title screen music on cassette.

[ Here's where the music was. I've probably still got the mp3 if you wanna PM me! ]

I've included a lot of tunes this time around because they're all great; they're all pitch perfect for a G'n'G title and in my mind they all come together to form part of a perfect whole, regardless of their origin. The funny thing is, I didn't realise how short each song really was – with the exception of the title tune, they're all under 3 minutes – until I started making the MP3 files for this blog. I guess it's a testament to Follin's talent that I never fully realised how repetitive the songs are at a mechanical level.

Because this is my favourite soundtrack (and because it's my blog, dammit) I'm going to be a little self-indulgent and give some quick track-by-track notes.

The title screen's not that flashy – imagine that text wiggling spookily – but man, DAT MUSIC.

Title Tune - This sets the tone straight out the gate. Rain and wind effects with a burbling, urgent undercurrent of a riff that builds to a tolling bell and a menacing harpsichord melody. Then, the sound of a screaming woman... or is it a wailing demon? More harpsichord (with some great harmony work) that gets bolstered by a great bass part joining in. And just as it all peters out, Follin quickly fades back in with some suitably spooky and mournful stuff. Notice that it's the opening riffs revisited? Great stuff. It finishes with just the moody bass over what sounds like someone (or something) banging on a large door, before a heartbeat and heavy breathing rise and cease.

Level 1 - The echoey opening isn't included at the loop, so you only ever hear it once, but I always feel it's such an essential and iconic part of the composition because it's the first thing you hear when you hit the fire button to start. The warm bass sound, the harmonies and the percussion are all top notch in this tune. Plus there's the usual Follin prog flair to it all.

Level 2 - The opening to this is very jolly (and, if memory serves, it's all very close to the original) but it's where Follin starts going all progressive at 1:45 that I really love. Oh, and that harmonica sound is brilliant. Actually, now I'm thinking about it, the whole thing reminds me of something out of a Zelda title.

Level 3 - Okay, this tune's just prog as all fuck. Follin gets all noodly Wakeman in this one, and I love it. Actually, I'm surprised I like this song so much, considering it's the level I used to routinely lose all my carefully garnered lives in. The bit where you've gotta run along the tongues AND shoot shit AND not fall off into the abyss below? Argh.

Our hero Arthur in a crystal cave, yesterday.

Level 4 - The shortest of the bunch, but also one of the best. The off-kilter chimes that evoke the crystalline forms of the level's landscape are great, and the brooding nature of this song's opening salvo is so well delivered. But it's when the song builds to a more rousing gallop (complete with flange effects) that it really impresses, especially when Follin drops out of it momentarily before coming back and hitting hard again.

Level 5 - As is befitting the final level, this song has a great sense of grandiose bombast. It includes a few different styles, but moves flawlessly from one to the other, and the way it staggers into the loop is just some canny-as-all-hell stuff from a composer on top of his game (no pun intended).

There are a bunch of other excellent incidental tunes in the game as well, but I've presented the important stuff here. Also, as a bonus, here's Binster's incredible remix of the Level 4 music.

*Hey, this was before the internet was a really real thing, and we were living in a country town that didn't exactly have ready access to more information.

Moderator
#1 Posted by buzz_clik (6962 posts) -

SID-licious is a series of blogs where I post Commodore 64 SID tunes. They'll be available for download until the next entry goes up, when I'll be pulling the previous file(s) down. I'll probably have the mp3 floating around, though, so if there's some tune you're reading about in a past blog and want to grab a copy, shoot me a PM.

Okay, so I've been away from blogging for a while, but I'm gonna try and make this a regular thing again. And what better way to return than with my favourite C64 soundtrack of all time? Strap yourselves in, because I predict I'm going to have a fair bit to say.

Back in 1989, my mate Russell Strang and I (both C64 owners, although I was probably more proud of this fact) decided that we'd go halves in a game. There was one game we'd seen running on nice PCs that just looked brilliant. The animation, the concept and the execution of this particular title amazed us, and that there was a C64 conversion meant we simply had to have it. That game was... Battle Chess!

We pooled our savings, purchased Battle Chess and returned to my house, keen to chuck the 51⁄4" floppy into the drive along with a quick LOAD"*",8,1. The disk drive whirred to life. It then rattled, grunted disapprovingly and then fell silent again, as it flashed its little LED to signify there'd been a loading error. Repeated attempts to get the game working yielded the same sorrowful result. Russell took it with him to his house to see if it would work in his disk drive. No joy there either.

With leaden hearts, Russell and I soon returned the useless disk to the store. Of course, this meant we had to choose another game in its stead. While perusing the shelves, we saw the cover for something called Ghouls 'n' Ghosts. We both loved Ghosts 'n' Goblins on C64 - was this some sort of knock off?* I mean, the artwork on the cover was rubbish, so it couldn't have been a very good game, right?

I guess it's not Mega Man levels of bad, and I'm sure the high school student who made it must have been stoked.

Well, Russell and I decided to take a punt on it. This obviously turned out to be one of the best decisions we could have made.

Russell eventually got more interested in things outside of the Commodore 64 (girls, probably) and the game just came to live at my house full time. C64 Ghouls 'n' Ghosts is an excellent conversion, with slick graphics and bone-smooth playability. That said, I never managed to complete it without resorting to the cheat mode: Just enter WIGAN RLFC (with space) as your name when you get a high score, and then in-game you can press A to get your armour back and S to skip a level!

But of course we're not really here to talk about how the game played or looked, or even my brain's ability to remember useless shit like cheat codes that you, dear reader, will never use. Nope, it's all about the music, and the soundtrack for C64 Ghouls 'n' Ghosts is killer.

Tim Follin is my favourite C64 composer. He always manages to get the SID chip to do amazing things, from sound effects to emulating real world instruments, all draped in prog rock sensibilities. He also knows how to juggle and manipulate the SID chip's three channels to make some of the best layering, delay effects and harmonies the C64 has ever known. And all of his tricks are on show in the Ghouls 'n' Ghosts soundtrack, a collection of songs I loved right from the off and still listen to today when the mood takes me. I even hooked my C64 up to the stereo when I was a kid so I could have a recording of the title screen music on cassette.

[ Here's where the music was. I've probably still got the mp3 if you wanna PM me! ]

I've included a lot of tunes this time around because they're all great; they're all pitch perfect for a G'n'G title and in my mind they all come together to form part of a perfect whole, regardless of their origin. The funny thing is, I didn't realise how short each song really was – with the exception of the title tune, they're all under 3 minutes – until I started making the MP3 files for this blog. I guess it's a testament to Follin's talent that I never fully realised how repetitive the songs are at a mechanical level.

Because this is my favourite soundtrack (and because it's my blog, dammit) I'm going to be a little self-indulgent and give some quick track-by-track notes.

The title screen's not that flashy – imagine that text wiggling spookily – but man, DAT MUSIC.

Title Tune - This sets the tone straight out the gate. Rain and wind effects with a burbling, urgent undercurrent of a riff that builds to a tolling bell and a menacing harpsichord melody. Then, the sound of a screaming woman... or is it a wailing demon? More harpsichord (with some great harmony work) that gets bolstered by a great bass part joining in. And just as it all peters out, Follin quickly fades back in with some suitably spooky and mournful stuff. Notice that it's the opening riffs revisited? Great stuff. It finishes with just the moody bass over what sounds like someone (or something) banging on a large door, before a heartbeat and heavy breathing rise and cease.

Level 1 - The echoey opening isn't included at the loop, so you only ever hear it once, but I always feel it's such an essential and iconic part of the composition because it's the first thing you hear when you hit the fire button to start. The warm bass sound, the harmonies and the percussion are all top notch in this tune. Plus there's the usual Follin prog flair to it all.

Level 2 - The opening to this is very jolly (and, if memory serves, it's all very close to the original) but it's where Follin starts going all progressive at 1:45 that I really love. Oh, and that harmonica sound is brilliant. Actually, now I'm thinking about it, the whole thing reminds me of something out of a Zelda title.

Level 3 - Okay, this tune's just prog as all fuck. Follin gets all noodly Wakeman in this one, and I love it. Actually, I'm surprised I like this song so much, considering it's the level I used to routinely lose all my carefully garnered lives in. The bit where you've gotta run along the tongues AND shoot shit AND not fall off into the abyss below? Argh.

Our hero Arthur in a crystal cave, yesterday.

Level 4 - The shortest of the bunch, but also one of the best. The off-kilter chimes that evoke the crystalline forms of the level's landscape are great, and the brooding nature of this song's opening salvo is so well delivered. But it's when the song builds to a more rousing gallop (complete with flange effects) that it really impresses, especially when Follin drops out of it momentarily before coming back and hitting hard again.

Level 5 - As is befitting the final level, this song has a great sense of grandiose bombast. It includes a few different styles, but moves flawlessly from one to the other, and the way it staggers into the loop is just some canny-as-all-hell stuff from a composer on top of his game (no pun intended).

There are a bunch of other excellent incidental tunes in the game as well, but I've presented the important stuff here. Also, as a bonus, here's Binster's incredible remix of the Level 4 music.

*Hey, this was before the internet was a really real thing, and we were living in a country town that didn't exactly have ready access to more information.

Moderator
#2 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@buzz_clik said:

I guess it's not Mega-Man levels of bad, and I'm sure the high school student who made it must have been stoked.

OK, guys, just to clarify, he's talking about the shitty PC port of Mega Man; not the actually-pretty-decent NES original.

#3 Posted by buzz_clik (6962 posts) -

@Video_Game_King: Yeah, totally.

...wait, what? NO! Not that at all!

Moderator
#4 Posted by TwoLines (2793 posts) -

This music is tasty. Keep 'em coming.

#5 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@buzz_clik said:

@Video_Game_King: Yeah, totally.

...wait, what? NO! Not that at all!

Oh. You were talking about the box art, right?

#6 Posted by Mento (2495 posts) -

Yay, SID-licious is back. I loved Follins' work on Equinox and Plok, which might be two games to cover if you ever run out of good C64 music. But that's probably a crazy thing to say. Why am I saying crazy things?

Moderator
#7 Posted by Hailinel (24284 posts) -
@Video_Game_King

@buzz_clik said:

@Video_Game_King: Yeah, totally.

...wait, what? NO! Not that at all!

Oh. You were talking about the box art, right?

It was pretty obvious.
#8 Posted by Fattony12000 (7268 posts) -
#9 Posted by HarlechQuinn (447 posts) -

Not to be nit-picky, but wasn't the "Ghouls n' Ghosts" soundtrack for the computer ports more of an arrangement work based on the arcade score by Tamayo Kawamoto than actual composing work by Follin himself?

Nevertheless the SID version is awesome and even better than the actual arcade score. A thing which is very common with SID soundtracks versus the arcade soundtrack, at least in my opinion...

But I remember that Follin considers the work on the "Ghouls n' Ghost" soundtrack as his best work on the C64, while he thinks that all of his other stuff on this platform sounds like nonsense to him now. An opinion which I won't share at all.

#10 Posted by Marino (4647 posts) -

@buzz_clik: Movin' on up...to the front page.

Staff
#11 Posted by buzz_clik (6962 posts) -

@HarlechQuinn: Well, yes and no. As I sort of alluded to in my description for Level 2's music, some are (what I presume to be) original tunes and some are Follin's take on the arcade's soundtrack. Levels 2 and 4 are based on the arcade songs.

Even with the cover versions, though, he did the usual Follin thing of taking the original song merely as a starting point. He'd then Follin the shit out of it, meaning it would wander wayyy off base into original composition and become its own thing. I love that about him, too: even when he's supposed to be doing a port job he can't help but inject his mad amazing talent into making it a cut above.

Moderator
#12 Posted by Jrinswand (1701 posts) -

Fuck yeah! I'm so glad you're still doing these! They're incredibly well-written and I've only just found out about them because I've only just started getting into SID music. The C64 is what you would call "before my time," but, damn, was the music on that thing awesome.
 
Also, good job, duder. This is some quality stuff.

#13 Posted by envane (1162 posts) -

:)

#14 Posted by geirr (2508 posts) -

Tim Follin was one of my favorites too and one I still listen to today from time to time.

I discovered him through the Bionic Commando soundtrack way back when which I carried with me for years on my walkman!

#15 Posted by buzz_clik (6962 posts) -

@geirr: I pretty sure some Bionic Commando tunes will be featured at some point. Man, I played that game to death, partly because the music was just so badass.

Moderator
#16 Posted by Absolute_Zero (242 posts) -

Praise the Sun, for SID-licious has returned! :) These are always a good read/listen, so thanks again for it.

BTW, you should post about the thought process for the other Nuke logos (didn't notice the Drësca one until just today). Who knew that graphic design could be such an interesting read too?

#17 Edited by geirr (2508 posts) -

@buzz_clik: That was the case for a lot of games on the C64. The game alone might've grown tiresome but the music just never did and just kept urging me to play over and over. One of the few games that's done this to me in modern times is Shatter. I couldn't really get into the game play but the music made me see it through to the end. Good times!