Steamboat Bill Jr.

Steamboat Bill Jr. was released in 2018 after a long genesis.

The effete son of a cantankerous riverboat captain comes to join his father’s crew.

Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) will always occupy a special place in my heart as my first-ever score. It lived a lot of lives before it finally reached the form you can hear today.

The first version of the score was composed at the end of 2015, to be played in early February 2016. I was involved with the Warwick Student Cinema, and we hoped to play a silent film with live accompaniment. I really wanted to try and compose the score and, after three months, we had something.

It went well on the night, but the score definitely had issues – a lot of it was hugely repetitive, for one, and parts were painfully simplistic. But there were good elements too – I was always a theme-oriented composer, and I had four good themes for the main characters. Still, as far as I was concerned, the score was done with – it was left to sit in a drawer, somewhat awkwardly.

In early 2018, I was studying a module on silent cinema, and Steamboat Bill Jr. was on the syllabus. I was asked if I would provide a version of the film with my score – I said ‘yes’, and then had to revisit the work.

I saw a lot that I wanted to tweak – I think I must have re-written at least 60% of the score completely for this class, and altered the rest. The themes remained as a skeleton, but a lot of the framework was new.

Having done all this work, I thought I should release the score – again, there were alterations, but I finally produced something. I’ve never re-listened, though – I always find something else I want to change. I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully happy with this score, but it is an important one for me, and I’m glad I did it.


  1. Steamboat Credits (0:37)
  2. King and Bill (3:11)
  3. The Telegram (1:44)
  4. The Train Station (1:43)
  5. Meet Bill Jr. (5:05)
  6. A Quick Cut (2:32)
  7. Hat’ll Be That (3:48)
  8. New Clothes (1:11)
  9. Learning the Ropes (3:07)
  10. Boat-hopping (3:03)
  11. Inside the Jackson (3:00)
  12. Bill Jr. Sneaks Out (9:03)
  13. The Stonewall Jackson Is Condemned (5:32)
  14. Prison Break, Pt. 1 (2:33)
  15. The Prisoner’s Song (1:19)
  16. Prison Break, Pt. 2 (7:51)
  17. The Storm (8:01)
  18. Bill Jr. Becomes a Hero (6:14)

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