The Sounds of Death Wish II: Hotel Rats and Photostats

Laurence Fishburne as Cutter in Death Wish II. (Image: Annals of Americus)

Laurence Fishburne as Cutter in Death Wish II. (Image: Annals of Americus)

Flipping through a stack of discarded vinyl at a thrift store this weekend, I came across a soundtrack album from the film Death Wish II. What interested me first was the cover art, which depicts vigilante Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) unraveling the map of a city exploding with trouble. It’s standard B-movie fare, but if you like that sort of thing (as I do), it does the trick. But next I noticed that the soundtrack was written/performed by Jimmy Page.

It turns out the album is fairly impressive. There’s a good bit of blues riffing by Page, but it’s offset by his take on a sweeping, cinematic score. At times it reminds me of the brilliant jazz-rock of David Axelrod (at times a bit too much maybe). Looking into the album’s history, the timing of Page’s involvement is interesting, as it came on the heels of John Bonham’s death, when Page was in a deep depression. Death Wish director Michael Winner had this to say in an interview with Uncut magazine at the time:

I’d lived next door to Jimmy for many years. It was a very bad time for him – the drummer (John Bonham of Led Zeppelin) had died, and he was in a very inactive period. (Led Zeppelin manager) Peter Grant and I made arrangements for Jimmy to do the Death Wish II score, for which he wasn’t actually paid, because Grant wanted to restore Jimmy back to creativity. Jimmy rang the doorbell, and I thought if the wind blew he’d fall over. He saw the film, we spotted where the music was to go, and then he said to me “I’m going to my studio. I don’t want you any where near me, I’m going to do it all on my own.” My editing staff said this is bloody dangerous! Anyway, we gave him the film, we gave him the timings, and he did it all on his own. Everything hit the button totally! I’ve never seen a more professional score in my life.

Included below are samples of some tracks from the album.

“Who’s To Blame (Outtakes)” by Jimmy Page

“Prelude (instrumental)” by Jimmy Page

The Release” by Jimmy Page

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