December 31, 2017

20,000 Vinyl LPs 121: Gil Mellé ‎– The Andromeda Strain (original electronic soundtrack)

Gil Melle ~ The Andromeda Strain soundtrack
vinyl LP album cover with shutters closed
photo by Styrous®

Gil Mellé (Gilbert John Mellé) was born on this date, December 31, in 1931, in New York, New York. He was a jazz saxophonist and respected visual artist, best known as a cutting-edge creator of electronically generated music.    
His 1970 theme for Night Gallery was the first all-electronic main title for a TV series, and his music for the 1971 sci-fi thriller, The Andromeda Strain, became the first all-synthesizer score for a feature film.

The album cover for the Andromeda soundtrack is the usual 12" square but the housing attached to the front of the cover (image above) holds the 10" hexagon-shaped vinyl LP record (image below) and is designed like the shutter of a camera. I don't know of another album with this configuration.    

photo by Styrous®

The jacket cover is by graphic designer, Virginia Clark, with assistance by sculptor, Joel Shapiro. Clark designed the album cover for Black Mass by Lucifer (Mort Garson) as well as Big Black, Cher, Neil Diamond, Yvonne Elliman, Rick Nelson, Saddhu Brand, Sony & Cher, Roger Williams and many others (link below). The collage photography is by Ruth Corbett. The jacket cover was printed by Bert-Co Enterprises.    

Gil Melle ~ 
The Andromeda Strain soundtrack
vinyl LP album cover with shutters open
photo by Styrous®

In the 1970s and '80s, Melle composed traditional orchestral music for TV. He scored the TV movies My Sweet Charlie, That Certain Summer, four early episodes of Columbo and the first four episodes of the cult series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.        

detail photo by Styrous®

photo by Styrous®

The music he composed lent itself to sci-fi and horror projects, including orchestral scores for the pilot of The Six Million Dollar Man and the four-hour Frankenstein: The True Story (1973), which he recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. Melle created landmark electronic scores for sci-fii TV movies including A Cold Night's Death and the four-hour World War III. He wrote and performed music for several telefilms dealing with sensational murders, including Fatal Vision, Ted Bundy story The Deliberate Stranger and The Case of the Hillside Strangler.      

I love the hexagon shape of the 10" record. The plastic record sleeve has a label with a warning to the owner to beware of damage to the needle if not played properly.          

photo by Styrous®

detail photo by Styrous®

Mellé was born in 1931 in Jersey City, New Jersey, and signed with Blue Note Records as a jazz performer at age 19. His artistic abilities also led to album-cover paintings (link below) for Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins, as well as art-gallery showings in New York. Melle and his group, the Electronauts, debuted electronic jazz at the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival. The following year, Verve Records released his Tome VI, the first all-electronic jazz album (YouTube link below).

When he was young he listened avidly to Lester Young, Stan Getz and Charlie Parker. As he did with so many other musicians, Duke Ellington caught Mellé’s ear. The saxophonist would spend nearly every spare quarter on Ellington 78s, with exceptions made for Stan Kenton and Thelonious Monk, with whom he eventually performed. Before long, Mellé was playing the tenor sax, transcribing music and doing a little composing.   

Mellé's paintings and sculptures were shown in New York City galleries in the 1950s and he created the cover art for albums by Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins. He played tenor and baritone saxophone with George Wallington, Max Roach, Tal Farlow, Oscar Pettiford, Ed Thigpen, Kenny Dorham and Zoot Sims. He led a number of sessions recorded for the Blue Note and Prestige labels between 1953 and 1957.          

Blue Note founder, Alfred Lion, personally signed Mellé when he was 18 years old. Lion encouraged Mellé to explore his musical and artistic gifts, commissioning him to create dozens of album covers for label mates (see above).      
Gil Melle ~ The Andromeda Strain soundtrack
vinyl LP front cover shutter detail
detail photo by Styrous®
Mellé invented and built all the instruments he needed for his performances, including drum machines and electronic saxophones. He and his group "Gil Mellé's Electronauts" performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival and throughout the country in the late 1960s.         

Gil Melle ~ The Andromeda Strain soundtrack
vinyl LP front cover shutter detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Mellé introduced recording engineer, Rudy Van Gelder, to Alfred Lion, Blue Note Records founder, in 1952. Lion had been impressed with the sound of Mellé's recordings, which were engineered by Van Gelder. Van Gelder was responsible for hundreds of recordings on Blue Note from 1953 to 1967.          

Gil Melle ~ The Andromeda Strain soundtrack
vinyl LP front cover shutter detail
detail photo by Styrous®

As a film and TV composer, Mellé was one of the first to use self-built electronic instruments, either alone or as an added voice among the string, wind, brass, and percussion sections of the orchestra. He was the first to compose a main theme for an American television series arranged entirely for electronic instruments, the Night Gallery, produced by Rod Serling. Any project under the auspices of Serling was guarnteed to raise goosebumps and start you thinking. The wonderful thing about his work, like Hitchcock, most of the terror was left up to your imagination; he was the master of innuendo.   

Gil Melle ~ The Andromeda Strain soundtrack
vinyl LP front cover shutter detail
detail photo by Styrous®

His credits spanned over 100 film works including The Andromeda Strain (1971), The Organization (1971), Bone (1972), You'll Like My Mother (1972), The Savage is Loose (1974), The Ultimate Warrior (1975), Embryo (1976), The Sentinel (1977), Starship Invasions (1977), Borderline (1980), Blood Beach (1981) and The Last Chase (1981). His scores include TV movies such as My Sweet Charlie (1970), That Certain Summer (1972), The Judge and Jake Wyler (1972), A Cold Night's Death (1973), The President's Plane Is Missing (1973), Frankenstein: The True Story (1973), The Questor Tapes (1974), Killdozer! (1974), Death Scream (1975), A Vacation in Hell (1979), The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (1980) and World War III (1982). Memorables his credits for the NBC's TV series Columbo for which he wrote the themes for four episodes of the first season: Death Lends a Hand (1971), Dead Weight (1971), Short Fuse (1972) and Blueprint for Murder (1972).        

Gil Melle ~ The Andromeda Strain soundtrack
vinyl LP front cover shutter detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Mellé died of a heart attack at his home in Malibu, California on Thursday, October 28, 2004. He was not ill and friends say he remained youthful to the end. A Malibu resident since 1974, he enjoyed a vigorous and varied life. For the last ten years of his life, he was painting and working on a new jazz project, developed with Blue Note Records, the creation of electronic paintings, a style he termed "Cybercloissonism." His work was presented as large-format transparencies mounted in light boxes. These digital paintings created on custom-built computers were exhibited in Beverly Hills, New York City and London, and are part of significant collections worldwide. Mellé produced a commissioned DVD combining his digital art and digital music, and was working on similar projects when he died; he was 72 years old.

Gil Melle ~ The Andromeda Strain soundtrack
vinyl LP front cover shutter detail
detail photo by Styrous®

The Andromeda Strain is a 1971 American science fiction film produced and directed by Robert Wise and shot in Shafter, Texas. Based on the Michael Crichton 1969 novel and adapted by Nelson Gidding, the film stars Arthur Hill, James Olson, Kate Reid, and David Wayne as a team of scientists who investigate a deadly organism of extraterrestrial origin.      

The Andromeda Strain  movie poster 

There is an excellent cover of the The Andromeda Strain soundtrack by German electronic music composer, Klaus Schulze (YouTube link below).             
The Andromeda Strain was a moderate box office success. Produced on a budget of $6.5 million, the film grossed $12,376,563 in North America, earning $8.2 million in US theatrical rentals. It was the 16th highest-grossing film of 1971.

The opinion of critics is mixed, with some critics enjoying the film for its dedication to the original novel and with others disliking it for its drawn-out plot. Overall, the film has earned a 67% "Fresh" rating from the film review site Rotten Tomatoes.       

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards:    

photo by Styrous®

photo by Styrous®


photo by Styrous®


Side 1:

A1 - Wildfire - 2:41
A2 - Hex - 3:57
A3 - Andromeda    - 2:33
A4 - Desert Strip - 4:14
Side 2:

B1 - The Piedmont Elegy - 2:22
B2 - Op - 2:43
B3 - Xenogenesis - 2:40
B4 - Strobe Crystal Green - 4:45


    Engineer – Alan Sohl, Gordon Clark, Terry Brown
    Producer, Composed By, Arranged By – Gil Mellé


LP is hexagon -shaped and comes housed in an elaborate folded pod-shaped sleeve. 

Gil Mellé ‎– The Andromeda Strain (Original Electronic Soundtrack)
Label: Kapp Records ‎– KRS-5513
Format: Vinyl, 10", LP, Album, Shape, Hexagonal
Country: US
Released: 1971
Genre: Electronic, Stage & Screen
Style: Experimental, Soundtrack

Viewfinder links:        
Big Black         
Miles Davis       
Neil Diamond       
Kenny Dorham         
Yvonne Elliman
Duke Ellington        
Tal Farlow     
Norman Granz & Verve Records          
Stan Getz        
Arthur Hill     
Thelonious Monk        
Ricky Nelson     
Max Roach     
Sonny Rollins         
Klaus Schulze (aka Richard Wahnfried)        
Rod Serling         
John Haley "Zoot" Sims       
David Wayne     
Robert Wise        
Lester Young          
Net links:        
Gil Mellé album covers
Jazz Times ~ Gil Mellé: Instrumental Inventions         
The Malibu Times ~ Old vanguard ventures into cyber art      
The Malibu Times ~ obit           
It's So Last Century ~ obit          
Sax on the Web ~ obit
Virginia Clark Discography     
Lucifer (Mort Garson) Discography      
Robert Wise Filmography      
YouTube links:        
Gil Mellé - 
       The Andromeda Strain (1971) (Full Album - 26 min, 10 sec)      
       The Andromeda Strain ~            
           Tracks 1-4     
       Tome V  (Full Album - 38 min, 14 sec)
       Rare Gil Melle Percussotron Footage        
Klaus Schulze - The Andromeda Strain (Concert 1976 - 41 min, 51 sec)  

The Andromeda Strain seemed the perfect way 
to end a year that has been totally
Styrous® ~  Sunday, December 31, 2017


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