50th anniversary of the Pink Panther score: eight things you should know about the Mancini classic

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One of the most exciting limited-edition LP releases for Record Store Day 2014 (the UK’s biggest yet!) had to be the 50th anniversary edition of Henry Mancini’s classic score to The Pink Panther – on glorious pink vinyl! It truly is a thing of beauty to behold and ‘a joy forever’, as the poet John Keats once said. So to celebrate the occasion, here are ten wonderfully interesting factoids facts concerning the record, interspersed with visuals. 

1. The anniversary edition of the Pink Panther score was released by Sony/Legacy Recordings and sold at independent record shops worldwide on 19 April 2014, each being individually numbered and making a nice change from the usual roster of releases by indie bands past and present, which this year included the Pixies, Oasis, Tame Impala, and, er, One Direction. The 30th anniversary edition of the Ghostbusters soundtrack was also up for grabs.

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2. The composer of the score, Henry Mancini, was born in the Little Italy neighbourbood of Cleveland in 1924 and died in June 1994. This year would have marked his 90th birthday, on 16 April, and so to accompany the RSD release, there is the launch of an official website dedicated to the great man: www.Henry.Mancini.com.

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3. Prior to composing the Pink Panther score, in the jazz idiom, Mancini provided the music for the American private-eye TV series ‘Peter Gunn’ in 1958. He is especially remembered for the ‘Peter Gunn Theme’, featuring one of the most distinctive guitar riffs ever, which has been covered by both Duane Eddy in 1960 and the Art of Noise (featuring Duane Eddy) in 1986. He also scored the soundtrack to the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, including the standard ‘Moon River’, both projects having been accomplished in collaboration with the director, Blake Edwards, who also oversaw The Pink Panther (in 1963).

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4. Peter Sellers, the ex-Goon who starred as bumbling idiot Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther (essentially, a comedy crime caper), wrote the liner notes for the album, which was originally released on the RCA Victor label.  The silly sod, however, wrote them in a comedic fashion, offering very little information of value concerning the music, aside from the fact that you can ‘sit and listen to Hank’s score without having to sit through the film’!

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5. The madly famous ‘Pink Panther Theme’ itself, the first track on the album, features the superb tenor saxophone playing of one Plas Johnson, a regular member of Mancini’s studio orchestra and later a player on many Motown hits by Marvin Gaye and the like. It was issued as a single in 1964 and reached the Top 10 on the American Billboard chart.

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6. The Pink Panther score won a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2001 and also came in at number 20 on the ‘AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores’ in 2005, a list spanning a century of film music. Top of the pile, in case you were wondering, was John Williams’ Star Wars score from 1977, with Max Steiner’s Gone With the Wind at number 2.

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7.  The Pink Panther cartoon character who appears on the cover of the album with a cigarette holder (to symbolise his sophistication, I think) was created by Warner Brothers businessman David DePatie and animator Friz Freleng. The character also appears in the opening credits to the film, animated in time to the tune, and went on to star in his own vehicle, The Pink Panther Show, between 1969 and 1979. But he obviously doesn’t appear in the film itself, where the significance of a pink panther is merely that the fictional diamond featured in it looks like a leaping pink panther. Or something.

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8. Mancini did NOT write the popular opening theme tune to The Pink Panther Show, the one that goes: ‘Have you ever seen a panther that is pink. Think. A panther that is positively pink’. No, sir, THAT was composed by a guy named Doug Goodwin.

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