Less than 2 weeks to the GSPO Elmer Bernstein Tribute Concert and I’m immersing myself into that extraordinary 52 year career. What a swim! http://www.gspo.com/
When I was young this guy argued how Debussy was dated and Mahler was not. Recently a USC music student showed me how the reverse was true. I still lean toward the first but it taught one thing. One’s perception of what is dated….well….dates. What seems dated changes over time.
Psychedelic music lasted only briefly from the mid 60s until the mid 70s but it was a distinctive sound. Putting aside the totally psychedic scores like Strawberry Alarm Clock’s PSYCH-OUT, film composers tackled the sounds at the time in a variety of ways like Dave Grusin’s CANDY, Henry Mancini’s THE PARTY or Ken Thorne’s MAGIC CHRISTIAN. But my favorite was Elmer Bernstein’s take in I LOVE YOU ALICE B TOKLAS. You can tell when a composer invests himself in a film. I don’t know whether he could maybe identify with Harold Fine (Peter Sellers) a Jewish lawyer in LA who is looking for “something better” in his life or he was inspired by absolutely gorgeous Leigh Taylor Young, who Harold finds along the way. Or just the clash between traditional culture and the questioning hippie one or maybe all of the above but the score overflows with expression. Much of the film is of people driving around in their cars, a commentary on Los Angeles, but he makes all those shots have other meanings. Carousel-like with guru enhancements, you get a sense of what the whole film is like before even getting into the story. Here is part of that just in the titles:
As you hear the title song superficially belongs to those mediocre ones from the 60s based on the movie’s title like WAY WAY OUT and NOT WITH MY WIFE YOU DON’T. But this one flows and that bridge sounds like it out of the Beatles.
Parties are traditional opportunities for composers but look at all the things Elmer does in this one:
Comedy scores get no respect but this one is a tour de force in my opinion. This is one of those scores that if removed makes it almost some other kind of film. Again my choice for best psychedelic film score as exemplified by this key scene in the film:
Actually the soundtrack was released on a notorious soundtrack LP from "Cinema Records" recorded by "Hans Rossbach". It prompted Elmer Bernstein on his crusade against bootlegs, which is what it was. Cinema Records also released THE GYPSY MOTHS, THE LIBERATION OF L. B. JONES, A WALK IN THE SPRING RAIN and FROM THE TERRACE depriving Elmer of a lot of revenue because he was a big selling name at that time. Anyway you notice ALICE B TOKLAS is the only one that hasn't got a legit release yet. I'm hoping someone HAS rescued it and is working on it.