The score to the 1989 movie Batman is iconic. The moment you hear the opening strains, the Danny Elfman-crafted music is instantly identifiable and over the years has been incorporated into other DC themes and even plays in the line for Batman the Ride at some Six Flags theme parks. But the inspiration for the iconic score hit Elfman at a curious time with the composer recently opening up that he began composing the Batman score while on a flight from London to Los Angeles and his attempts to record what he was coming up with freaked out the flight attendants.
“That hit me at the worst possible time,” Elfman told WTF with Marc Maron (via The Hollywood Reporter). “On the way home, the thing f*cking hits me. And it was like, what do I do? I’m on a 747. How do I do this? I am going to forget this all. I’m going to land and they’re going to play some f*cking Beatles song, and I’m going to forget everything.”
“I start running in the bathroom [and hum phrases] and I go back to my seat, and I’m thinking, I’m thinking. Ten minutes later, back in the bathroom,” Elfman said. “And then back to my seat and then back to the bathroom, because I couldn’t do this with the guy sitting next to me.”
Elfman went on to say that he was going back and forth so much that he got the attention of the flight attendants who he says didn’t seem convinced that he really wasn’t up to anything strange in the airplane’s lavatory even though he kept going back and forth from it to his seat.
“Ten minutes later, I am back in the bathroom, And I open the door and this time there are three flight attendants,” he said. “And they were probably going, ‘What the f*ck he is doing so frequently? You can’t do that much blow. You can’t shoot up that often. What is he doing in there?!’ And I piece by piece was working out the Batman score in my head.”
While Elfman has quite the story about how the 1989 Batman score came to be, the composer recently revealed that he was less than thrilled with how it actually turned out and was used in the film.
“I was terribly unhappy with the dub in Batman,” Elfman shared with Premier Guitar. “They did it in the old-school way where you do the score and turn it into the ‘professionals’ who turn the nobs and dub it in. And dubbing had gotten really wonky in those years. We recorded [multi-channel recording on] three channels — right, center, left — and basically, they took the center channel out of the music completely.”
“It didn’t have any care put into it,” he added. “I’ve had many scores play in big action scenes that really propelled the scene. And in the end of the [Batman] dub, I realized I could have had the orchestra play anything. I could have scored the film with some percussion, a harmonica, and a banjo because all you hear are some percussion hits in big moments, but you can’t really hear what the orchestra is doing.”
“That was my first lesson in how so-called professionals can take a score and the soundtrack to a movie and just do their thing in a very noncommittal way that is easiest for them; plunk it off to the side and just get the dialogue,” Elfman explained.
What do you think about Elfman’s story of composing the Batman score mid-flight? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.