David Byrne - The Last Emperor

David Byrne - The Last Emperor

Released: 1987
Role: Engineer
Label: Virgin

I spent a year of my life working on this soundtrack. I recorded the demos with David Byrne in a couple of days at a little studio in London called Snake Ranch.

I’ll never forget the first session. David arrived the day after finishing a Talking Heads album in Paris. I had everything set up. The movie (7 hours long at this time) and an emulator keyboard. I’m pretty sure David hadn’t rehearsed his ideas (as he had no time!), but I hit record and played the film. He knew which scenes he had to find music for and he did it live 1 take without me having to hit stop once!

Then spent forever re-recording with the real instruments & finally mixing to the picture.

The tracks David Byrne composed are “Main Title Theme (The Last Emperor)”, “Picking a Bride”, “Bed”, “Wind, Rain, and Water” and “Paper Emperor”  (tracks 10 to 14 on the album).


The Last Emperor soundtrack won "Best Original Score" award at the 60th Academy Awards in 1998.


  1. First Coronation
  2. Open the Door
  3. Where Is Armo?
  4. Picking Up Brides
  5. The Last Emperor – Theme Variation 1
  6. Rain (I Want a Divorce)
  7. The Baby (Was Born Dead)
  8. The Last Emperor – Theme Variation 2
  9. The Last Emperor – Theme
  10. Main Title Theme (The Last Emperor)
  11. Picking a Bride
  12. Bed
  13. Wind, Rain, and Water
  14. Paper Emperor
  15. Lunch
  16. Red Guard (Performed by the Red Guard Accordion Band)
  17. The Emperor's Waltz (Performed by the Ball Orchestra of Vienna)
  18. The Red Guard Dance (The Girls Red Guard Dancers)