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Steelyard Blues was an OK comedy caper movie, but had a great soundtrack of original music written and recorded by Mike Bloomfield, Nick Gravenites and Paul Butterfield. Now, I collect soundtrack albums - of course I do, would you expect anything less? But when I say soundtrack albums I don’t mean records like The Bodyguard - the best selling soundtrack of all time - which are just a collection of pre-existing songs featured in the movie. I mean soundtracks that were written for the movie and later released on record.
This is actually less common than you might imagine. I mean, Dennis Hopper picked the songs for Easy Rider from what he was hearing on the radio, no-one actually recorded any original music for it.
So here’s five of my favourite original soundtrack albums.
Shaft - Isaac Hayes
Released in 1971 this was unusually - perhaps uniquely, a double album of music written by Hayes for the original version of the classic blaxploitation movie. Apart from the theme song, which was a #1 hit single, it is mostly instrumental. In 2014, the album was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It’s also very good indeed and got to #1 on Billboard 200. Who played that wonderful wah-wah guitar? Charles "Skip" Pitts is the man. One of Stax session dudes who can be heard on hundreds of records.
A soundtrack to a Haight Ashbury, SF, hippie movie made in 1968 about a girl called Today Malone who ''illegally changed her name from Louise to Today.' Wowzers. That’s about as good as the whole thing gets, but the soundtrack is excellent with three songs by Mother Earth and the Steve Miller Band and two by Quicksilver Messenger Service. None of the music is available on any of the bands’ albums, though Steve Miller did re-record Mercury Blues for Fly Like An Eagle (and it’s not as punchy as the 1968 version) and Welsh band Man included both Codine and Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You on their Maximum Darkness live album, which was recorded with QMS’s John Cippolina.
Purple Rain - Prince
The movie is all fairly predictable stuff. Rolling Stone called it “an epic celebration of everything rock & roll, which means sex and religion and eyeliner and motorcycles and guitars and Lake Minnetonka.” But the album Prince wrote for it is a stone cold classic. Let’s Go Crazy is still as wild as ever. When Doves Cry still slightly bonkers and the 8 minute 45 seconds long title track with its amazing guitar solo wrenches every last drop of emotion out of the listener. All this and frilly shirts too.
More - Pink Floyd
A rather far out movie about a woman hitching around Ibiza (back when it was a hippie destination and not a place to drink lager) and taking heroin. The soundtrack has two of my favourite Floys songs, the floaty spaced out Cirrus Minor and The Mile Song - the heaviest number they ever recorded. Those apart, it is a beautifully ambient record. Nick Mason later said the film was "ideally suited to some of the rumblings, squeaks and sound textures we produced on a regular basis"
Slade In Flame
Their dark movie about the exploitative music business was far better than anyone might have expected with the boys essentially playing themselves with enough wit and grit to carry the plot. But the soundtrack they wrote is full of wonderful music. Opening song How Does It Feel built around a lovely Jimmy Lea piano figure, is easily the best thing they ever produced and in some ways felt elegiac for their own career which by late 1974 was quickly falling from its peak. Far Far Away was another cracking hit single lifted from this.