The Evolution of Tommy Tallarico

One of the fun parts of watching the technology scene is watching the same names come around through different generations. One massive surprise, at the same time Atari is trying to drag its hardware corpse back from the dead, is Intellivision having another go at arcade fame.

The project is led by Tommy Tallarico, a name that should ring a bell for any 16-bit gaming fan. He’s the audio brains behind Earthworm Jim 2, NFL Blitz, Batman: Revenge of the Joker and many more.

The recent news that he has acquired the rights to the Intellivision brand and plans to relaunch it shows how much love people have for even the oldest technology. Intellivision was famous for its numeric keypad and the $299 console sold millions in its early years.

Expect more news on this in October, when the project goes live. You can sign up to the website for more details.

When he’s not composing or launching new businesses, Tallarico is famous as the leader of the Video Games Live concerts. Perhaps the best way to see games music live, Tallarico will often take to the stage to play his hits from Earthworm Jim and others while the games play on giant screens in the background as a full orchestra belts out the tunes.

Not a bad encore for a guy who mostly has “sound designer” on his resume. Check out a full rendition of Video Games Live here.

Diving back into his personal archive, Tallarico has over 300 games to his credit as composer or sound designer.

At Virgin Games, his first job was on the Game Boy Version of Prince of Persia, bringing the sound of the orient to Nintendo’s curious mix of a pair of pulse wave generators, and a PCM 4-bit wave sample plus noise generator. It’s not the most thrilling of soundtracks, but helped get Tallarico out of his game tester role at the company and into the music side of the business, where he promptly formed his own company.

Things hit the big time with the Cool Spot soundtrack, a game tying into the 7-Up brand. Opening up with a version of the Beach Boys’ Wipeout, this was always going to be a hit game and the antics of the red blob hero made the game a big seller.

Moving things up a big notch, as new systems came to market, came the chance to work on the Terminator Games for the Sega CD with its full-strength audio capabilities.

Tallarico’s orchestrating capabilities came to the fore with epic renditions set around the cyborg anti-hero’s arcade shooter. These helped highlight his prowess with the guitar and synth.

With more freedom to choose projects. Tallarico’s studio won plaudits for MDK an all original title that packed in an hour’s worth of creepy, spacy sci-fi tunes with a hectic pace to keep up with the shooting action.

The great work continued with a BAFTA Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design nomination for Nintendo’s Metroid Prime in 2002.

His work continues in the modern era with Advent Rising on Xbox given a full orchestral soundtrack with vocal contributions from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The game’s sales may have failed to live up to the epic soundtrack, but truly demonstrated the class of the composer, and likely led to the ideas for Video Games Live which also started touring in 2005.

Tallarico also started releasing albums of his gaming work. Starting with Virgin Games Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 in 1994, helping create the market for game music in the west.  Albums covered MDK, Bond game Tomorrow Never Dies and an Earthworm Jim Anthology.

For more, check out a recent interview with the man, always good for name-dropping his cousin Steven Tyler!

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