Day 51: Making ‘The Godfather’

Making ‘The Godfather’

Spent the last 48 hours writing my essay on The Godfather (1972) to publish on this website.

This day, 37 years ago, 20 August 1980, was the day I met Simon Walker. It was an extraordinary day that changed my life, forever. Probably not his so much, but mine, particularly.

It was a recording session for a Film Australia documentary called Drawing the Line (1980). I was currently in my last year of High School, with just three months to go before doing my final exams and this was exciting and extraordinary because:

  • I’d never been to a recording session before
  • I’d never met a professional composer before
  • This composer was no more than a kid himself. I was 17 and he was 18.
  • There was only one thing I wanted to do in life, and that was be a composer.
  • The Film Australia music producer knew that Simon and I were both fanatical about the American film composer, Jerry Goldsmith, so he wanted us to meet.
  • He and I would become best friends, and our friendship survived some rocky times to be still intact in 2007, twenty-seven years later, although at this point in time, since 2000 when he moved to Queensland, we only spoke occasionally on the telephone, often if one of us had just finished watching a Goldsmith film. And once started we would talk on and on, for hours and hours.

I think it was his third professional engagement. The music was very interesting, more rhythmically based – as I remember it – rather than with a strong attractive melody in the traditional sense. I’m can’t remember if I had the guts to tell him that some of it was reminiscent of Capricorn One (1978), a score I knew very well, and loved. I can’t imagine I would have been so insensitive on a first meeting.

I think there are significant days like this in any life, most often to do with the day you met the person who helped you mix chromosomes. Even if you hate them 9 months later, or 9 years later, if you have created a being, then chances are that that meeting is significant. Sometimes there are days where a chance meeting led to something significant happening which changed the course of your life. Sometimes there are the ‘sliding doors’ moments, where you chose to not get on a bus that crashed, or were sent to the wrong place, and something significant grew out of that chance, or that piece of luck, or that accident.

That meeting, on that day, thirty-seven years ago, led to me having and sustaining a career in music and film that began professionally in 1981 and is still going in 2017.

And along the way Simon and I created little slices of Australian history together. Little pieces of musical history that will forever be recorded in Australia, as physical creations, that live on beyond the time of their conception and release.

Simon went on to write music for a dozen documentaries, many feature films and telemovies, and I was there for the recording of almost all of them.

In particular, Simon wrote two important scores for two high profile films, For the Term of His Natural Life (1983) and The Wild Duck (1984) when he was 20 and 21. He didn’t permit me to go to those sessions and as they were early on in the relationship, which wasn’t what I considered a legitimate friendship at that time, it wasn’t something I felt I should have been allowed to attend.

What resulted, however, after I became a fully-fledged professional in 1984, were soundtracks releases I produced in 1987 for The Wild Duck and in 1988 for For the Term of His Natural Life, the first and second releases of his career, on compact disc.

Strangely I never got a professional or personal reaction or response from him about those releases. He never – overtly – seemed particularly happy or pleased they were released. I never asked for information like that. It either came or it didn’t.

The lines between friend and professional colleague were completely blurred for most of our lives. We didn’t keep score, and we didn’t ever charge each other for the things we did on each other’s professional work and there were lots of them. Professional and personal lives coexisted happily without any feeling there was ever a quid pro quo. If we could help each other out, we just did it, and we didn’t remind each other – ever – we just did it. And it went both ways. I’m guessing it was about fifty-fifty although I think he probably helped me out on projects – for nothing – than vice versa. But that’s the point, we never kept count and I’d have to add it all up to find out if I’m right or wrong. As we never kept count, I’m not about to start now.

In late 2007 and then in 2008 I emailed him but didn’t hear back. I’d written to him, “Hi Si. I met a girl. We’re going to get married.”

The next year 20 August 2009 passed and I didn’t hear from him. That year for the first time on 20 August, I didn’t try to contact him. The following year, my first child was born and seven days later I telephoned my old friend on the one and only mobile telephone number he ever had – to tell him I had a daughter – and it was answered by someone else. She’d had that number for a while she told me. And she’d never heard of Simon Walker.

I was worried because there had now been no replies to several emails over a period of three years and he’d apparently not paid his phone bill and lost his number to someone else. I rang around and spoke with two friends of his who were amongst the last closest friends I knew but they’d lost touch with him.

Towards the end of 2010 I searched the internet using Google, looking for any newspaper reference to a funeral service. Nothing. But, I stumbled on to something else, which made my blood run cold. A single line entry on his Wikipedia page which read, “Simon died in June 2010.”

I felt like I’d be punched in the stomach and all the wind had been knocked out of me. I remembered that his ex-wife had remarried and I started ringing telephone numbers around Australia that had the new surname and the first letter of any of his children.

I did it week after week for a couple of months until one day I asked the usually fruitless question, “Does the name Simon Walker mean anything to you?”

There was a hesitation, then, “Yeah, he was my dad.”

It was true, Simon had passed away, in June 2010, aged 48.

I lift a glass to you, my friend, so dear, and so long gone. I miss you. Bye Si.