Why was the original Transformer theme such a musical mess?

Originally published at: Why was the original Transformer theme such a musical mess? | Boing Boing


I’ve been fascinated with this tune’s bizarre syncopation my whole life and it’s extremely weird for someone to just pop up in 2022 and explain it, thoroughly.

Hypothesis as to the unexamined “why:”

  1. it was in the vein of contemporaneous TV tunes, which would “tour” a range of themes and emotions within a few seconds using popular musical motifs taken from prog rock, funk, etc.—among them unexpected rythym shifts. Here those things are compressed almost to point of parody because it’s a kids show.

and it goes over the cliff because:

  1. it was recorded normally, hacked down to fit the arbitrary time requirement presented by the TV cartoon, and then cleaned up by someone who knew what they were doing, resulting in the seemingly intentional but odd time signatures.

The era’s animated TV music got splurged on (relative to other things such as “animation”) because it was a fixed cost that played over and over. But it was treated as throwaway, too, as no-one imagined anyone would listen to it in the future. So there were odd undercurrents in the unhinged excellence this resulted in, such as He Man’s crazy ass Wagnerian regimentsgruß disco .

EDIT: Here’s an interview with the actual composer.


To my tone-deaf ear, this sounds like they’d written separate theme tunes for both Transformers and Autobots; and then just mashed them together.


I was hoping he actually knew the “why”, but it was really just a deconstruction of how it was such a mess. Like maybe a backstory on how they tried to incorporate the original music from the toy commercials but something else conflicted with that.


Isn’t the obvious answer because it was written by super advanced robots from the planet Cybertron?


This. He even mentions that it sounds like a recording that starts over. Maybe because it did. Ti my ear the beginning sounds like they hacked the OG recording together and then tried to hide it with laser and other sound effects.


the beginning sounds like they hacked the OG recording together and then tried to hide it with laser

Old and busted: More cowbell!

The new Autobotness: More laser!


Now it makes sense: this incoherent mess of a theme song inspired Michael Bay’s incoherent mess of a live-action movie.


My heart belongs to the G1 Season 2 theme with its chugging intro.

The brass they use to support the ♪ Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons ♪ in the Season 1 intro sounds to me like it got lifted from the theme of an Evening News broadcast and surgically transplanted into a kid’s show opening.


No mention of the weird 1960’s Batman-esque “BWEEEEeehhhh!” that ends everything? That always seemed super out of place to me.

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Yeah. It probably made more sense when the composer/MD delivered it, but then they cut out bars/beats/half-beats here and there as needed to fit into the allotted time. Not such a mystery, honestly. (Which is not to say that the end result isn’t a mess.)

Have you seen how many times the two credited composers have been at each in other in court? Bryant v. Kinder, 204 A.D.2d 377 | Casetext Search + Citator?

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Wow. That’s really something. She also has had legal goings-on with the corporate side over re-use of the music in modern reboots.

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Seems like the musical version of “never attribute to malice…”

This was the era when the GMC movie theater policy trailer (in the Midwest of the US) skipped partial beats as well. Sure, you could score it as on occasional measures of 13/16, but… I’m pretty sure it was just the work of a sound-oblivious video editor…

I don’t have the time/care to spend 18min to watch, so I’m going to go with the hypothesis I’ve had since the early 80’s: it’s just bad editing. To my little kid mind there was obviously supposed to be more verse before “Autobots wage…”, and it annoyed the crap out of me. When the movie came out my parents had to hear the “full song” waaaay too many times.

I would love to hear someone cover the Lion movie version with more of the prog feel of the original.

+1 on your hypothesis

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