After watching the T. Rex scene from Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic Jurassic Park for the first time, I didn’t use public toilets for a week. I just couldn’t shake the image of Martin Ferrero being picked off his porcelain perch and eaten by a pre-historic creature. I eventually overcame my irrational fear of public restrooms, but that scene stuck with me; how could it not? It’s one of the most legendary sequences in cinema for a reason. It was only recently, however, that I learned of Earth Wind & Fire’s role in its creation.
For those of you in need of a reminder, the scene goes like this: siblings Tim and Lex Murphy are hiding in their jeep while a storm rages outside. The slimy Donald Gennaro is snoozing comfortably, but Tim is fixated on the two glasses of water sitting on the dashboard, which shake with each distant thud of the T. Rex’s clawed feet. Losing his nerve, Gennaro makes the foolish error of running to a nearby lavatory for cover. His movements are quickly detected by the creature, and he’s gobbled up in a flash.
Spielberg knew that the spectral threat of an unseen monster was far scarier than the monster itself, so used the two glasses to heighten the tension of the scene. According to the director, the idea came to him during a long car journey. He was playing Earth Wind & Fire at full volume with the windows down and noticed that his rearview mirror was shaking in time. He promptly pulled over, called up his effects designer, and told them that he wanted the T. Rex’s approach to be marked, not by pointed fingers, but by a simple glass of water.
If you’re wondering which song it was that Spielberg was listening to, it was, of course, ‘September’. Released in 1978, the classic track remains a bonafide floor-filler. It was written by newcomer Allee Willis, with help from Maurice White and Al McKay, and was intended to bring joy back to soul music. As Willis told Songfacts, the experience of writing the track was a euphoric experience from start to finish. “‘September’ was fantastic and thrilling, and they had started the intro of it by the time I had walked into the studio to meet everyone,” she began. “Just as I opened the door and I heard that little guitar intro, I thought, Oh God, please let this be what they want to work with me on. Because it was so obviously a hit.”
You can revisit the iconic T. Rex scene from the original Jurassic Park below. Be warned: it may put you off public bathrooms for life.