Photo: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images
Jay Ferguson: A Filmography
Jay Ferguson (b. 1947) is a US film composer, songwriter, singer, keyboardist and producer. He was a member of the rock group Spirit during three different periods in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and also released several solo rock albums between 1976 and 1982.
After his ’82 album White Noise, he felt that he needed some new musical impulses. After noticing composers like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, and getting increasingly interested in how to use keyboards and synthesizers in movies, he decided that he wanted to try his hand at film composing. His manager Budd Carr was important in this, getting him his first assignments and working with him on several film projects. He wrote his first score in 1985, but it actually started as early as 1969:
Model Shop (1969)
Jay Ferguson’s band Spirit wrote the soundtrack for this romantic drama film directed by the legendary French filmmaker Jacques Demy. The soundtrack remained unreleased until 2005, when Sundazed Records put it out on CD and LP. The band also appeared in the film.
Blue Sunshine (1977)
Ferguson co-wrote two songs for this horror-thriller directed by Jeff Lieberman. The songs were in the disco genre and were performed by The Humane Society For The Preservation Of Good Music. The film’s score is by Charles Gross.
Alan Rudolph’s “musical comedy” Roadie starred none other than Meat Loaf and had a score by composer and blaster beam inventor Craig Huxley. Jay Ferguson contributed the song «A Man Needs A Woman» for the film and it was also included on the top-selling soundtrack album which got a double-vinyl release, but never saw the light of day on CD. Strangely, the song is not on YouTube.
Valley Girl (1983)
Successful Martha Coolidge romantic comedy starring Nicholas Cage and Deborah Foreman. Ferguson co-wrote the song «Time To Win» performed by Gary Myrick & The Figures.
The Terminator (1984)
Jay Ferguson’s involvement in this classic opened up all kinds of doors to the Hollywood film music scene in the years that followed. He wrote the song «Pictures Of You», performed together with 16MM, whoever that was. The song, which sounds like a mix of The Cars and Talking Heads, appeared on the original 1984 soundtrack album from the film, otherwise scored by Brad Fiedel.
Ferguson co-wrote the song «Does He Dance» performed by France Joli for this film. Or at least it appeared in the film. The song is not featured on the soundtrack album, but appears on France Joli’s album from the same year.
Deadly Passion (1985)
Ferguson’s first instrumental film score was for this Larry Larson crime/drama movie. He also wrote the song «Call It Anything But Love», performed by Pauline Wilson. Score mixer is Robby Weaver, who later worked with composers like Patrick Leonard, Joel Goldsmith and James Newton Howard.
The Patriot (1986)
Leslie Nielsen played one of his last serious roles in this B action movie, as a navy admiral. Jay Ferguson delivered a hard-hitting, exciting and quite melodic electronic score. It was still a way of feeling his way through, as this was only his second score.
Quiet Cool (1986)
Clay Borris directed this James Remar action movie. The highly fun and listenable electronic score was released on vinyl (totalling 24 tracks) on the Macola record label, but the record is extremely scarce and difficult to track down today. On Discogs, the record has gone for as much as 172 Euro. The title track is written by Ferguson and sung by Joe Lamont, while the saxophone parts of the music is performed by Timmy Cappello.
Crystal Heart (1986)
For this Gil Bettman drama starring Lee Curreri and Tawny Kitaen, Jay Ferguson contributed two self-performed rock songs called «Let Me Believe In You» and «Brave New World» for the film and soundtrack album. It has to be noted, though, that the most interesting parts of the album are composer Joel Goldsmith’s two brilliant tracks of electronic score.
Cameo by Night (1987)
Failed pilot directed by Paul Lynch and starring Sela Ward. It is not known to me how Jay Ferguson’s score to this sounds.
Oilspot and Lipstick (1987)
First CGI short film made by Disney animators. The score, in typical Ferguson 1980s style, plays through the whole 3-minute film, and is an important part of the action.
Best Seller (1987)
This was the first in a long line of quite big and popular late 80s studio films that Ferguson scored. His “golden years”, so to speak. John Flynn directed this action-thriller starring James Woods and Brian Dennehy. The score is very Tangerine Dream-ish in places and among the composer’s own favourites. Two tracks from the score appeared on the 1991 compilation album The Best Of Hemdale, namely the «Main Title» and «Roberta’s Visitor». Other than that, the score remains unreleased.
Stylish horror/sci-fi movie loosely inspired by Poltergeist and directed by Paul Golding. Another exciting, ambient and almost industrial Ferguson score, where he even got to score a full end credits with a vibrant and spooky, sequencer-based theme. Ferguson himself has stated that this was a great lesson on how one can create an unsettling atmosphere by removing all the usual musical points of reference. Another score that is sadly unreleased to this day.
Johnny Be Good (1988)
Film editor Bud Smith’s only credit as director, this sports comedy starring Andrew Michael Hall, Robert Downey Jr. and Uma Thurman included a soundtrack album with no trace of Jay Ferguson’s score. He wrote around 30 minutes of music for the film, in an energetic and melodic, rock-based style. A bit more guitars and drums than electronics this time around from the composer.
Licence to Drive (1988)
History repeated itself for Jay Ferguson, as this film also featured a soundtrack album with no selections from his score. Director Greg Beeman was only 26 when he helmed this Corey Haim/Corey Feldman comedy. Ferguson’s score is limited to vignettes and some guitar-based chase sequences, but zero points to commercial record label MCA for not including at least one track of score on the album.
Bad Dreams (1988)
Andrew Fleming was 22(!) when he directed this horror/thriller movie starring Jennifer Rubin. Jay Ferguson’s chilly score got a vinyl release on Varese Sarabande in ’88, and the same label put it out on CD in 2016. Ferguson stated that this score was done with more “shades of grey” than others up to that stage, and that he wanted to continue in an ambient/atmospheric mode plus trying to avoid horror film music conventions.
Gleaming the Cube (1989)
This Christian Slater skateboard movie was a big hit in the late 80s, and continues to be a reference point to this day. Ferguson’s score was an important part of the film. He probably wrote around 45 minutes of music for it, plus the song «Right Now» performed by Johnny Rad. Part of the score is somehow reminiscent of Paul Hertzog’s scores from films like Bloodsport and Kickboxer, possibly because the same types of synths were used. Sadly, there was never a soundtrack from this film, so here is the whole movie instead:
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
The final major assignment in the busy late 80s period for Jay Ferguson was this 5th instalment in the classic horror series (following composers Charles Bernstein, Christopher Young, Angelo Badalamenti and Craig Safan), directed by Stephen Hopkins. Once more, Varese Sarabande released the score, this time on CD, LP and cassette. There was also a song album released. The score album features no less than 31 tracks totalling 45 minutes of electronic horror music, making it a somewhat exhausting listening experience.
Race for Glory (1989)
Action movie about motorcycle racers. Jay wrote a rocky and exciting cue for the opening credits, but all in all, this is not among his strongest efforts. The film was not a success and a soundtrack album did not materialize.
Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996)
Jay Ferguson scored 14 episodes of this cult series between ’89 and ’96. No other composer scored more than him, the two next on the list are Nicholas Pike with 10 and Alan Silvestri with 7 episodes. Ferguson scored shows directed by Tom Hanks and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others. Sadly, none of his music was featured on the 1992 score album from the show.
Parker Kane (1990)
The 90s started with this TV action movie starring Jeff Fahey and Marisa Tomei, and with renowned filmmakers like Joel Silver and Jan de Bont in the crew. Jay Ferguson wrote music in a more jazzy and bluesy vein this time, and he even got Patti LaBelle (who also starred in the film) to sing on the opening credits. Of particular interest is a “love theme” that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Sinead O’Connor song «Nothing Compares 2 U», and a great deal of really strong saxophone perormances.
Wrestling With God (1990)
Tom Ferguson (Jay’s brother) scored this biographical drama directed by Jerry L. Jackson. His score is quite beautiful, melodic and mesmerizing. Jay Ferguson composed additional music for the film, according to the end credits.
1-hour TV pilot to a series that never happened. Directed by Paul Krasny, this starred wrestlers Jesse Ventura and Roddy Piper and featured a rocking score by Jay Ferguson. The short end title reveals a score with some electric guitar colourings incorporated.
Gary Chang scored this 1-season drama series about a TV station. It starred John Shea, Helen Shaver and Harris Yulin. For some reason, Jay Ferguson was (according to IMDB) brought in to score one episode in the middle of the season.
Eerie, Indiana (1991)
Another series where Ferguson scored a single episode. This was an Amazing Stories-style adventure/science fiction series aimed at older kids, which ran for one season, and with a host of different composers attached, among them J. Peter Robinson, Paul Buckmaster, Gary Chang and Michael Hoenig.
Nervous Ticks (1992)
The director of Race for Glory, Rocky Lang, continued working with Jay Ferguson on his next film Nervous Ticks. This was a Bill Pullman comedy that disappeared without a trace after its release. I have not heard Ferguson’s score to this film.
Melrose Place (1992)
Director Howard Deutch had worked with Jay Ferguson on two episodes of Tales from the Crypt when he asked him to score the Melrose Place pilot. Ferguson scored the pilot, but declined working on the episodes of the subsequent hit show, as he had just been offered the Going to Extremes series. A wise decision? We will never know.
Going to Extremes (1992)
This was a 1-season dramatic comedy series about American medical students undergoing their training on a tropical island. It was the follow-up series by the creators of Northern Exposure. Jay Ferguson scored all episodes of the series. The theme song lasted for 60 seconds and had a lot of vocals.
Sewer Shark (1992)
The only video game Jay (and brother Tom) Ferguson scored in his career was this action/sci-fi game from Sega. The end credits reveal a funky and energetic score by the Fergusons. For some reason, composer Mark Mothersbaugh is credited with the “tunnel music” in the game.
Viper (1994 – 1999)
Action/adventure series which ran for five seasons. Eddie Jobson is credited as main composer, while also Shirley Walker and Jay Ferguson scored episodes, according to IMDB. It is not known how many episodes Ferguson scored of this, but it is known that he worked on this series when he got the sad news that his mate Randy California from Spirit had disappeared after a swim in early January 1997.
Double Dragon (1994)
Music video director James Yukich made this film based on the video game of the same name. Jay Ferguson scored the film, and for the first time since 1989, a soundtrack album with score material by Ferguson was released. The album from Milan Records was a score/songs combo, with the score selections totalling 7 tracks and running for 17 minutes. The score is trademark Ferguson with rocking drum machines and some neat far eastern motifs.
The Sadness of Sex (1995)
Comprised of fifteen vignettes of varying lengths, The Sadness of Sex is about love, but more specifically about the phases of courtship that lead to the inevitable break-up. According to IMDB, Jay Ferguson, Anne Dudley and Nicholas Pike scored different parts of the film.
Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996)
The follow-up to the highly successful Tremors from 1990. Jay Ferguson took over scoring from Ernest Troost and Robert Folk, and wrote a fun score with elements of country/roots and Mexican music. One of Jay’s scores that has received the most number of requests from the fans for a soundtrack release.
A film about the subculture of taxi drivers. A lot of the key score moments were not about what was physically happening in their world, but what was going on in their heads. Director Michael Shoob did not want the score to make any easy or obvious choices. A challenging project for Ferguson, but he stated in 2004 that it was probably his best score. A pity then, that the film is hard to find and that the soundtrack is unreleased.
The first of four collaborations between Jay Ferguson and director Lorraine Senna, this was a TV movie about the late 60s rock band Sweetwater. Even though Ferguson had been a rock artist himself in the past, what convinced the director to hire him was, ironically, his more quiet and introspective pieces. Again, this was a director who did not want to go with just the obvious choices.
The Magicians (2000)
The composer continued working with Lorraine Senna on this action/fantasy film for TV where a magician searches for his successor to fight evil. Music editor was Steve McCroskey, who worked on several films scored by Jay Ferguson up through the years.
When Andrew Came Home (2000)
Drama movie for TV directed by Artie Mandelberg, also known as Taming Andrew. Ferguson’s score for the opening title is on the more acoustic side of his music, almost like he had assembled his old band again. IMDB also lists orchestrator Robert Irving, so it seems like the score may have had some strings added to certain scenes of emotional importance.
IMDB is calling this a “video”, whatever that means. It is directed by Richard Benjamin who was one of the producers on Viper, so it is possible Ferguson met him there. Much more than that is not easy to find out.
Iron Chef USA: Showdown in Las Vegas (2001)
The assignments got weirder for Jay Ferguson in the noughties. This reality TV food programme is based on the Japanese cult sensation. One of the directors was Double Dragon’s James Yukich, so there is probably the link to Ferguson.
Iron Chef USA: Holiday Showdown (2001)
The Iron Chef adventures continued with this offering for Christmas 2001. None other than William Shatner is the chairman for this show. I have not heard Jay Ferguson’s music for this.
Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story (2001)
Not many composers can brag about having scored the life story of hip hop sensation MC Hammer. Jay Ferguson can. Director of When Andrew Came Home, Artie Mandelberg, directed this TV movie and Ferguson delivered the score in addition to writing a couple of songs for the film. Surely a different project for the composer.
1-season TV series based on the films of the same name. Jay Ferguson apparently scored two episodes of this season, the first and last ones. Most of the other episodes were scored by Steve Dorff.
Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004)
But Jay was not done with Tremors. This was a prequel to the 1990 original, and Ferguson called this score a mix of Elmer Bernstein and Ry Cooder, no less. The score mixes old-school big sky western elements with Tremors-style horror, a kind of genre-bending that the composer enjoys.
NTSB: The Crash of Flight 323 (2004)
Veteran director Jeff Bleckner helmed this Mandy Patinkin drama film. For the 6th and last time, Steve McCroskey was music editor on a movie project scored by Jay Ferguson. I have not heard this score.
The Office (2005 – 2013)
Jay Ferguson’s theme for the US version of The Office is probably his most famous contribution to the world of film and TV music. Ferguson himself said that the theme (performed by The Scrantones) goes against type and that it has a vulnerability and a yearning that soon explodes into overdone optimism which then gets crushed. Much of what the show is about, then. The filmmakers originally wanted a song with vocals as the main theme, but ended up using this Jay Ferguson instrumental instead.
Paradise, Texas (2006)
Another Lorraine Senna movie. The premise of the film is about an actor who was hot in the 80s but who must now work like crazy to stay in the game. Perhaps the composer could relate? Ferguson recorded a CD that he spread around to friends and contacts, running for 62 minutes and totalling a staggering 57 tracks, so it must surely be the complete score. The music is quite acoustic and kind of based on country and blues, genres he seldom visited in his film works.
Americanizing Shelley (2007)
Fourth and final collaboration with director Lorraine Senna, this film is about a wannabe Hollywood player (Beau Bridges) who sets out to Americanize an Indian girl from the Himalayas. I have not seen the film or heard the music. Trivia: Jay Ferguson has a role in the film. Name: Ben Dover.
Women’s Murder Club (2007)
Quite successful crime/drama series. Jay Ferguson scored the first 9 episodes of this, before Jason Derlatka and Jon Ehrlich took over on the last 4. But something had changed since the 80s and 90s: Now the opening theme for a TV series like this lasted a mere 8 seconds. No chance for a composer to put his mark on a show.
On the Road in America (2007)
Ferguson is credited with additional music for one episode of this reality TV series about four muslim Arabs’ trek across the USA in an RV with a new take on culture clash.
Reservation Road (2007)
On this well-known film, Jay Ferguson is credited as producer of the traditional melody «Red River Valley», performed by David Tolegian and Heather Levin. The score is by Mark Isham.
Endless Bummer (2009)
This is so far the last fiction feature film that Jay Ferguson has scored. Director Sam Pillsbury had worked with the composer on an Eerie, Indiana episode back in 1991 and hired him again on this comedy from National Lampoon almost 20 years later. There was a soundtrack album released on Blackheart Records which included one track by Jay (Ferguson) & J.D. feat. Chris Byrd called «Pierpont (A Beautiful Day)». Ferguson also produced five more tracks on the album, all of them more or less in the punk rock genre, like this:
1 a Minute (2010)
The main actress from Americanizing Shelley, Namrata Singh Gujral, directed this documentary-drama about a breast cancer survivor. Tina Guo (now known for working extensively with Hans Zimmer) performs on the cello, while music editor and music producer is Michael Mason, who has lots of credits on big Hollywood movies.
NCIS: Los Angeles (2010 – 2021)
According to IMDB, Jay Ferguson has scored 267 – two hundred and sixty seven – episodes of this series over an 11-year period. James S. Levine scored the first season, and it is still his theme that is featured in the series. Since 2017, composer Craig Dobbin has worked alongside Ferguson on the music for the show. In 2013, a soundtrack album including songs (no score) was released, and there is still zero score material for this series available on CD or download. Clearly a job for a label like La La Land Records to redeem that error.
Internal Visions of Art 365 (2013)
30-minute documentary directed by Erik Hudson. Several composers, including Jay Ferguson, are credited with music. The film can be watched on Vimeo:
You Can Thrive! (2015)
A four-week guide to cancer survival, directed by the aforementioned Namrata Singh Gujral from Americanizing Shelley and 1 a Minute.
Thrive With Namrata (2015)
This is a health- and cancer-related talk show that features 12 short episodes. It is unclear how much music Jay Ferguson wrote for the show.
5 Weddings (2018)
Jay Ferguson wrote additional music to this film directed by his friend Namrata Singh Gujral. The movie is a North American/Indian co-production.
Threat Level Midnight: The Movie (2019)
25-minute “movie-within-movie”, as directed by the Michael Scott character in The Office. Jay Ferguson is credited as composer of main title theme.
I scored the theme to Melrose Place.
The music here never aired.
But did you compose the theme I linked to?