The Napolean of Rhyme

“Before a lifetime of adventure, they lived the adventure of a lifetime.”

Well I never thought I’d hear the name “Bruce Broughton” again in this lifetime, but you know as Jane Siberry says, “What in the world, will the world bring today?” and today the world brought me Bruce Broughton.

Who’s Bruce Broughton, you might ask yourself? Well, I’ll tell you he is in the news today because he had his original song YANKED from the Oscars this year.

The AV Club broke the news in typical AV Club fashion:


The “crappy song” is called Alone Yet Not Alone and I guess so is the movie that none of us have ever heard of. Apparently its composer, Bruce Broughton, is currently a member of  the Executive Committe of the Academy’s Music Branch (and also a former Academy Governor), and he emailed voters during the nomination process, making sure they knew his song was in contention. This does seem kind of “conflict of interesty” doesn’t it? But you know, I’m sure it pales to the kind of strong-arm tactics used by some Hollywood types, *cough* Weinsteins *cough* use to get their films in the hearts and minds of academy voters. Having said that, this guy should have known there was a right and a wrong way to promote his song and he’s now paying the price.

Which is all very well and good. I mean, who doesn’t like a little Oscar scandal, right? But the reason that this story caught my attention was that I had not heard of Bruce Broughton’s name in almost 30 years, and I had to check to see if it was, in fact, the same guy.

Reader, it was.

Bruce Broughton wrote the soundtrack to Young Sherlock Holmes.

You know when you’re a certain age and there are handful of movies that you see that you just connect with and you watch over and over again and they just become an extenstion of your own self? (or at least it seems that way at the time). Well, Young Sherlock Holmes was one of those movies for me. I know I’ve talked about Sherlock Holmes in general and Young Sherlock Holmes specifically here on the blog before, so I don’t need to re-tell the story of being in grade six and seeing it with my Dad and my brother, and promising my Dad that we wouldn’t get nightmares if he let us stay after the first frightening scene (I knew my Dad well enough that he was seriously planning on walking out of the movie with us because it was too scary), and to his credit he let us stay and see it to the end, even the very end and the end of the credits where [SPOILER!] Professor Moriarty is revealed.

So I couldn’t stop talking about this movie, and it didn’t take long before I found the soundtrack (on cassette, obs) and played the hell out of it. This was that small window of time before I discovered U2 and for what seemed like forever (but was probably only a year or so) I only listened to soundtracks. I specificially remember the soundtracks to Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark (on frickin’ vinyl, people!) and of course Young Sherlock Holmes.

It was all orchestral music, of course, but I loved the romance and the adventure of it. I would play it in my walkman on my way to school, and I would play it at home all the time. I was so disconnected from what was “cool” or “hip” (not much has changed in 30 years, I can hear the fanbase mutter), that I would go to school dances and ask the DJ if he had any “Bruce Broughton”, which of course was met with something on the spectrum between confusion and hostility.

I loved the opening main title theme, and due to the miracle of youtube, I can share it with you here.

I think the piece of music that got under my skin the furthest was the sweetly soft love theme between Holmes and Elizabeth, called various things throughout the movie (notably at one point: library love) but you can hear the theme in full swing starting at about 1:20 in the clip below. It still gets to me, listening to it today so many years later, even though I could understand if it is seen as overly sentimental (and shamelessly borrowing from Mahler’s Adagietto) but what do you expect? I was twelve, and this was all I knew of romantic love.

And further on in the movie, at the climax, there is this piece of music, curiously titled “Waxing Elizabeth” sung by a murderous Egyptian Cult (Jesus! SPOILERS again!) that bears more than a passing resemblance to Carmina Burana. Have a listen and let me know if you don’t agree. In fact, years later when I heard Carmina Burana for the first time, I thought Carl Orff was ripping off my musical hero Bruce Broughton, until of course I realized that Carl Orff composed his piece in 1936! So, um I guess the best you could say was that Broughton was “inspired” by Carol Orff. Let’s call it “inspired” and smile sweetly at the lawyers as we back out of the office. Ol’ “Hot” Carl Orff doesn’t need the cash these days, anyway, right? So between borrowing from Mahler and now Orff, I’m starting to wonder about this guy.

Here’s Waxing Elizabeth:

Well, the soundtrack wasn’t nominated for an Oscar that year, and I imagine Bruce Broughton quietly plotting his revenge over all these years, like the murderous Eh Tar in Young Sherlock Holmes. This was the year. He chose some random weird Hallmark Christian historical drama as his vessel, and into it he poured the hot gooey wax of his theme song, sung by Christian evangelist superstar, Joni Eareckson Tada, no less. His plan to gain an Oscar nomination, win and eventual domination of the world was set into motion. He was the puppet master, the “Napoleon of Rhyme” if you will. Nothing could stop him!

Except, I guess, you know, people’s inboxes.

If it’s any consolation to Mr. Broughton, he would have had his ass handed to him by U2’s “Ordinary Love” anyway in that category, so there’s that, Bruce.

But say what you want about his little nefarious plan gone wrong, you will never be able to take his Young Sherlock Holmes soundtrack from me. That’s for ever. Even evil masterminds have moments of brilliance in them.

Let me just leave you with the “End Credits” which takes all of the themes from the movie and puts them together into a lovely suite, THE WAY END TITLES SHOULD SOUND, OKAY?

I can’t listen to this music and not think of that snowy afternoon at the Northstar Theatre when I saw this movie for the first time, and hearing Watson’s narration at the beginning: “It was a cold, snowy day at the beginning of December. Lack of funds had caused my old school to close, and I was being transferred to a new on in the middle of term…”

p.s. Fun Fact: Young Sherlock Holmes was nominated for an Oscar (Visual Effects) but lost out to Cocoon. YSH DOES  hold the distinction of being the first movie to use CGI and live action in the same scene, and also is the first movie that a fledging company that no one has ever heard of, Pixar, ever worked on.


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