conrad hall

Electra Glide In Blue – Soundtrack

Electra_Cover A western with motorcycles in lieu of horses.  A right wing response to Easy Rider. The most beautiful b-movie ever shot.  Electra Glide In Blue can be called a number of things, but it can’t be called boring.

In his one and only turn as a film director, music producer James William Guercio allegedly took a one dollar salary for his director rate so that he could afford to hire legendary cinematographer Conrad Hall.  The film is absolutely gorgeous.


The movie succeeds in delivering a compelling character study of John Wintergreen (Robert Blake) as an Arizona motorcycle cop aspiring to be detective, but is not as successful in hammering down on a consistent tone. Guercio unintentionally creates a genre exercise that is part John Ford film, part melodrama, and part 70’s exploitation film.

The soundtrack does nothing to taper those flights of fancy.  At the time Guercio was best known as the producer for the band Chicago (thus explaining the cameos by Peter Cetera and co.) and he seemingly couldn’t help himself from throwing the kitchen sink at the soundtrack, which he helped score. There are Byrds inspired country-folk ballads courtesy of Mark Spoelstra, a few Shaft-influenced cuts that could fit into the Blue Note Rare Groove Series, and a good amount of dialogue from the film. Nonetheless, like the movie, it’s a pretty fun ride.

“Overture,” written and produced by Guercio, opens like a Sergio Leone spaghetti western that eventually just builds into what sounds like the open to every network TV action show in the 70s.

“Tell Me,” also written by Guercio, but sung by Chicago guitarist Terry Kath, is an over the top ballad that acts as the exclamation to the dramatic final scene of the movie. Kath channeling Ray Charles croons about America and mankind in what is either sincerely earnest or very jingoist attempt to drive a point home.

Overture – James Williams Guercio

Tell Me – Terry Kath


Kris Kristofferson – Help Me Make It Through The Night (Fat City 1970)

FatCity_kris-kristofferson1The opening sequence of John Huston’s Fat City is a perfect storm of music supervision, cinematography, editing, and casting.We open on the desolate outskirts of Stockton, California in 1970. Famed cinematographer Conrad Hall weaves images of razed buildings, migrant workers, bums and drunks into a skid row tapestry as compelling as any Hopper or Rockwell around.  As the camera pushes into a seedy transient hotel, we find Stacy Keach’s Billy Tully laying in bed, staring listlessly at the ceiling, and reaching past the half empty bottle of whiskey on his nightstand for his first cigarette of the day.


The inclusion of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night” nails it here. The tune could not only be the mantra of Keach’s maudlin amateur boxer, as he stumbles through another week of sparring, drinking, and working as a day laborer picking fruit, but could also work for Susan Tyrell’s fantastic co-dependent wino, or fresh faced boxing newbie played by Jeff Bridges, or any of the sad sacks we see in the periphery of this film.This whiskey soaked and more down tempo version seems almost custom tailored to our protagonist, more fitting than any of the versions that seem to be included on Kristofferson’s studio albums and compilations.  I’m guessing this was recorded specifically for the movie, as it is also accompanied by a melancholic guitar and keyboard laden instrumental bed that precedes Kristofferson’s recording. Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down indeed.
Help Me Make It Through The Night – Kris Kristofferson