WWE – Signature Sounds – The Music Of WWE (Cert PG)
1 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 52 minutes approx.
Well, this is an interesting release. While many of the names featured on this budget priced disc will be familiar to everyone, the man at the centre of the discussion probably won’t be, at least to the fair weather fan, yet he has been a mainstay of the WWE for thirty years.
Jim Johnston is a multi-instrumentalist, song writer and producer and is responsible for almost all of the WWF/WWE’s musical output from wrestler entrance songs, to TV and PPV themes and even the musical soundtracks for WWE made films. Over the years Johnston has composed numerous entrances themes for the wrestlers, either as an instrumental piece or a full blown rock song in collaboration with mainstream music acts such as Motorhead, Lil Kim, Rev Theory and Saliva.
In this brisk presentation the quiet but passionate Johnston discusses the evolution of some of the most recognisable wrestle entrance themes, how the wrestler inspires the style of the track and a look at some of the aforementioned collaborations. The wrestlers themselves pop up in archive interview form to add a comment or two, usually full of high praise for their particular given track.
To keep things moving the format is in the shape of the top 25 theme tunes as voted for by a mystery panel based on an undisclosed criteria. The perfunctory 52 minute run time means each entry gets roughly 90 seconds to justify its spot in the countdown which feels quite short for some, and paradoxically too long for others.
Whilst I won’t reveal who is where on the list there are some surprises entries (Brodus Clay, Prime Time Players, Shane McMahon) alongside the usual suspects (Cena, Orton, Triple H, Austin, The Rock) but as lists have a habit of doing, the viewer will no doubt be shouting at their TV screens at the various placements of their personal favourite tracks.
In the instance of Dusty Rhodes’s track, Jimmy Hart gets a mention for his contribution to the song (for those who don’t know hart is a musician himself, having scored a US No 1 hit with Keep on Dancing in 1965 as a member of The Gentrys), which is just one of many theme songs he wrote for WWF and later WCW.
The oldest track on the countdown belongs to the Ultimate Warrior, while the most recent is Fandango’s original theme, which was big hit on the UK Indie iTunes chart after British and European fans went made for it after the infamous post-Wrestlemania 29 RAW where the fans kept signing the track throughout the entire show!
Johnston gives us a brief but interesting insight into his composing methods, his interpretation and envisioning of how the wrestler fits the theme and how he knows what sort of artists would work in singing his songs. One particular anecdote reveals how Randy Orton’s Voices started life as an acoustic track – a far cry from the screaming rock song we are all familiar with.
It is also rather fascinating how many well known themes were actually songs Johnston had written long before the wrestler is brought in. Johnston explains that a rock/rap song he wrote after watching the classic comedy It Happened One Night and the “wall of Jericho” scene would later come in handy when a certain Y2J debuted in 1999!
Switching between acoustic and electric guitars, and the piano which he plays in a number of styles, it is evident Johnston is a hugely talented musician and his thirty year catalogue for the WWE alone is a testament to that. It is fair to say he is the WWE’s secret weapon, although in 2014, Johnston stepped aside to allow the duo known as CFO$ handle the entrance themes, while Johnston concentrates on movie soundtracks.
To demonstrate that Johnston himself had no evident influence over this list, many of his own personal favourite tracks didn’t make the Top 25, but are featured in the DVD extras, including long forgotten themes for Maria Kanellis and Hakushi along with the sleazy prurience of Val Venis.
In case you are wondering about Hulk Hogan’s Real American theme (which was originally written for the US Express tag team), it is not included here, presumably as it was performed by Rick Derringer of The McCoys/Edgar Winter Band fame. Derringer also recorded my personal favourite WWF theme for Demolition which always seems to be overlooked when discussing wrestler’s theme songs.
Signature Sounds is not really an essential release but it does offer us something different to watch when stood alongside the exhausting retrospective documentary sets. Johnston is long overdue recognition and appraisal for his works and contribution to the WWE product and while this is too cursory to be substantial it is a suitably entertaining if briefly diverting watch.
And as a budget price release it won’t break the bank either – that’s something to sing about!
Shawn Michaels – Tell Me A Lie
Val Venis – Hello Ladies
Hakushi – Angel
Billy Gunn – Ass Man
Maria – Legs Like That
William Regal – He’s A Man
The Making Of “Goldlust”
The Music Of WWE Studios
Rating – ***
Man In Black