My 8-year-old son Charlie and I don't see eye to eye on much when it comes to music. He likes mainstream pop, I like classical. He listens to drive-time, I'd rather put my head in a flux capacitor. But what we do agree on is that the theme to Back to the Future is the best movie tune ever written. Timeless.
So, when we saw that Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra was playing the Back to the Future score live to the film on November 21 we knew we had an excellent adventure ahead of us.
It's fitting that Back to the Future is the movie and concert that brings Kiwis together in big numbers after more than six months of social distancing and anxiety over Covid-19.
Back to the Future - or BTTF as it's known to fans - is arguably the world's most loved movie from a period littered with gems. It has a catchy title, a super sharp concept - hip teen goes back in time in a DeLorean and hangs out with his dorky parents at high school - and fantastic comic performances from Michael J Fox as Marty and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown.
Back in July before I knew the concert was coming to Auckland, Charlie asked me out of the blue if he could watch Back to the Future. His friends at school had been talking about a cartoon called Rick and Morty, whose characters are roughly based on Doc and Marty.
Although I wasn't prepared to let him watch Rick and Morty - too adult - I would let him watch Back to the Future, even though it was slightly more sophisticated in its themes and humour than he usually watches.
I honestly half expected him to give up after 10 minutes but he was on the edge of his seat. He even got the time travel aspect. "I like that Doc's crazy and invents a lot of weird stuff that doesn't always work. I want to go back in time!" he told me after we watched it together.
I first saw Back to the Future at the movies when I was 10. It instantly became my favourite movie of all time. Better than Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET and Ghostbusters. The jokes were risque, there was some bad language - but not Quentin Tarantino bad language - and story rewarded repeated viewings.
It's also about the birth of Rock 'n' Roll, with Michael J Fox introducing the straight-laced teens of the 1950s to Johnny B Goode. And the song that opens the film, The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News, ain't all that bad for an 80s power ballad.
But it's the music written by Oscar-nominated composer Alan Silvestri that keeps the film moving. His foot is on the accelerator when it counts. His main theme is instantly recognisable, a feat that's harder to pull off than you'd think. Hum a few bars to strangers on the street and it's a good bet they'll sing the rest and name the film. Not many films themes outside of Jaws, Star Wars and Indiana Jones have that power.
When this orchestra reaches 88mph you're going to see some serious s***!
Vincent Hardaker, who is making his debut conducting live to picture with the Auckland Philharmonic, says the concert will be a fun one but, for him and the players at least, a challenging one too.
"There will be an interval but that's mostly for the musicians because they have some really fast stuff to play. As a conductor, you're just glued to the screen. It's kind of like Guitar Hero for conductors."
Hardaker, one of New Zealand's most promising up-and-coming conductors, got the gig by accident.
"The companies that lend out these movies are very cautious about who they let conduct the scores. I probably I wouldn't have been asked to do this if Covid hadn't happened. As long as I do a good job, then maybe I can do another one next year.
"In some ways, it feels a little bit like a rite of passage. I think it would be tough to be a conductor and not have done something like this because it is an important skill. And more and more these film projects are happening."
Although the score is short by today's standards, when it does kick in, it's full on and quite technical. The music for the movie's climax is intense; it has to match the action onscreen, accelerating as Marty pushes the DeLorean to 88mph and Doc frantically tries to capture the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity from the bolt of lightning that will send Marty back to the future.
Hardaker says: "It's tricky, because the music doesn't really let up. And you really have to make sure that everything is right there at the time that it needs to be. Every time you are with Marty and the DeLorean then the music is one type.
"And the moment you go back to the Doc and the clock tower, and it's a different kind of music. And there are passages where the orchestra is playing something in a different time signature to what I'm conducting. It's going to be a challenge for sure."
Hardaker had only seen bits of the movie before signing on but he's glad it's one that rewards repeat viewings.
"I'd definitely seen parts before taking the job and I am really enjoying getting to know the movie deeply. I'm sure there would be other movies that I would be sick of at this point.
"When you go back and watch it again, from the start, you start noticing all these things that have significance later in the movie. Movies like this really are supposed to be watched more than once, which is good for the audience and for me."
He says the music Silvestri wrote for the film is sophisticated and a cut above most movie music.
"There are a lot of repeated themes, but the fact that it's good music means that the repetition is really powerful. And it's repeated in different keys and all of that. There is some variety, even if you don't fully comprehend that it's in a different key. There is some part of you that then recognises it.
"There are some of those passages that seem completely wild, where the instruments are doing crazy stuff. It's kind of an organised mess - in a really good way. The composer has used some jazz elements and some fairly advanced classical harmonies. The scene with Lorraine telling Marty about her first meeting with George, that music is just so innocent and sweet.
"I think music is really unifying in a special way. A concert like this … people love the film and see it with an orchestra in full force, it'll be a great experience."
That this score is great one is surprising when you consider the premise of the film; even more so when you consider the fact that this was Silvestri's first real blockbuster, and that the film's producer – Steven Spielberg – didn't really think he was up to the task.
Australian conductor and film music fan Nicholas Buc, who has made his name conducting live to picture concerts around the world, says: "Spielberg wasn't totally sold on him as a choice of composer, but director Robert Zemeckis was. They had both done Romancing the Stone together and Zemeckis wanted him for Back to the Future even though he hadn't really written anything in this kind of grand style. So, it was a great moment of fear, but he was quite keen to show what he could do and give it a go.
"The thing that convinced Spielberg in the end was the fact that they shot and scored the whole clocktower sequence at the end of the film first and then did little test screening for Spielberg.
"Zemeckis didn't tell Spielberg that the score was the finished work – and maybe he assumed it was some kind of temp track. After the screening, Spielberg turned to Zemeckis and said, 'Now that's the kind of music you should have in your film.' And they said that was the music; that was what Alan had written. He said, 'Oh, wow! That's amazing. Let's keep going.'
"That was Alan's big audition for Hollywood. Sometimes that's all you need - a great hit and you're on to success."
- Back to the Future Live in Concert is at the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre on November 21.