Summer 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings/ Summer/

The Subterraneans  
Music composed by André Previn
  Available at Film Score Monthly, FSM Vol. 7, No. 19
Running Time: 79:56

Of the film Halliwell comments: ‘A boring oddity with lashings of eccentric behaviour and sexual hang-ups; M-G-M venturing very timidly outside its field.’ 

And the notes, by Lukas Kendall and Jeff Eldridge to this album, that will be welcomed by jazz enthusiasts, explain just why it was so, for this film is based on a novel by Jack Kerouac, about Bohemian dropouts (or beatniks) inSan Franciscoand their colourful and controversial lifestyles. The film’s theme and treatment was very dicey for the time and unsurprisingly it went through the M-G-M executive mangle during post production – it “was slashed to pieces and made utterly incomprehensible. Although there were no problems with the censors, Margaret Booth (M-G-M’s senior editor and matriarch) proceeded to mutilate the film beyond recognition. Gutted to satisfy an utterly incompatible ideology, the final cut pleased no one: it was ‘too broad for reality, but not broad enough for satire’, noted The Hollywood Reporter”   [Another M-G-M production that fell foul of studio executive interference in post-production, Two Weeks in Another Town, and with another score, by David Raksin, that mixed traditional screen romantic orchestral music with jazz, , is also reviewed this month as another FSM release.]

But, as was so frequently the case, The Subterranean’s saving grace was its music: an original score by André Previn with jazz standards as source music.  The source music first: this includes the jazz song ‘Coffee Time’ sung invitingly huskily by Carmen McRae supported by the André Previn Trio (Red Mitchell, bass; Shelley Manne, drums and André at the piano). Other jazz pieces are also featured as source music; they include: a lively, swinging Latin-type piece called ‘Guido’s Blackhawk’ played by the André Previn Trio; an upbeat edition of the old the familiar standard ‘Should I’ and the bouncy ‘Balloon’ again by the Trio. Other source pieces include jazz music by Gerry Mulligan and his Group (featuring Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax; Art Pepper, alto sax, and Jack Sheldon, trumpet with Dave Bailey, drums; Russ Freeman, piano; Art Pepper, alto sax; and Art Farmer, trumpet) playing ‘Bread and Wine’, ‘Things Are Looking Down’ and the breezy, fast number, ‘Alarm Clock’. 

From André Previn the performer to André Previn the composer  His The Subterraneans music is scored for a largish studio orchestra biased towards the upper strings to provide a lush, typically Hollywood’ romantic sound but threaded with blues jazz material as in ‘Main Title’; or strings melancholic and jazz singing the blues again in ‘A Rose and the End’ or the score prickly and angst-ridden in such cues as ‘Look Ma! No clothes!’ and ‘Analyst’ (with some trenchant string writing) to underscore the madness of the disturbed Mardou Fox (Leslie Caron).

The bonus programme has as many tracks as the score and kicks off with the lovely smoochy ‘Leo and Mardou’ the film’s loves theme transcribed very much in style of the early 1960s, for the André Previn Trio. Other tracks include an alternative elongated Main Title; and more delightful jazz source music including a 10-piece slow jazz azz number, ‘Spaghetti Factory’ and another delightful piece ‘Togetherness’ underscoring the beginnings of the relationship between Mardou and Leo Percepied (George Peppard).One of the best of these bonus tracks is the previously unreleased ‘Trip to the Moon’, dreamily romantic for a happier scene in the film where the couple are making plans for a future together.

The 20-page booklet describes the provenance of the film, its production and post-production problems and a track-by-track analysis, plus stills from the film that also starred Janice Rule and Roddy McDowall - and some interesting photographs of the jazz players especially Mulligan and Previn.

For jazz enthusiasts, a rewarding album with some telling original score writing from Previn, especially for the mentally unbalanced character played by Leslie Caron

Ian Lace


Film Score Monthly News Releas:e

The Subterraneans(1960) was an attempt to package the Beat generation for mainstream consumption. Based on the novel by Jack Kerouac, the film was produced by the legendary Arthur Freed and starred George Peppard, Leslie Caron and Roddy McDowall. Its reception was mixed but stellar in one key respect: the progressive jazz soundtrack -- one of the all-time best -- composed and conducted by Andre Previn.

Previn was the ideal composer to pull off such a marriage: at once a classically trained musician who scored a bevy of high-profile pictures for M-G-M in the 1950s, he was also a talented jazz pianist who soaked up the atmosphere of the West Coast jazz movement -- all at 31 years of age.

Previn assembled a world-class roster of jazz artists: Gerry Mulligan (who also acted in the film), Carmen McRae, Shelly Manne, Red Mitchell, Buddy Clark, Dave Bailey, Art Pepper, Russ Freeman, Bill Perkins, Bob Enevoldsen, and Jack Sheldon. Previn himself appeared on-screen performing with The Andre Previn Trio. Previn composed an underscore that married his jazz source cues with the romantic aesthetic of theHollywoodsymphonic style -- the venerated soloists move in and out of Previn's romantic, often modernist sound.

The Subterraneans was released on LP at the time of the film, and in recent years several of the jazz source selections were included on a Rhino compilation. This CD presents the definitive Subterraneans soundtrack running over 79 minutes: the original album program followed a new program of bonus selections, containing all of the previously released music and much more, including the underscore. Unlike most FSM CDs, the selections are not presented in film sequence, because in this case the score -- with the jazz source cues -- would not play well in literal film order.

The music has been remixed and remastered in stereo from the original 35mm three-track masters, with the exception of certain source cues which were recorded on monaural 17.5mm film. Liner notes are by Jeff Eldridge and Lukas Kendall.

The Subterraneans

Music Composed and Conducted by Andre Previn

Album Program

  1. Main Title (Why Are We Afraid?) 1:57
  2. Source No. 1 (Guido's Blackhawk) 3:05
  3. Two by Two/Leo and His Mama 4:00
  4. Bread and Wine 4:12
  5. Coffee Time 2:44
  6. A Rose and the End 3:25
  7. Should I 2:29
  8. Look Ma! No Clothes! 1:33
  9. Things Are Looking Down 7:22
  10. Analyst/I'm Leo/Yuri and Leo 4:19
  11. Balloon (Like Blue) 1:57
  12. Alarm Clock (Raising Caen) 3:04

Total Time: 40:35

Bonus Program

  1. Leo and Mardou 3:30
  2. Main Title/New Prologue 2:10
  3. Spaghetti Factory 2:29
  4. Source No. 2 3:20
  5. Togetherness 3:42
  6. Trip to the Moon 2:22
  7. Leo in Bar 3:14
  8. Roxanne at Ariel's 3:47
  9. Red Drum Blues 4:25
  10. What Do You Need/I Want to Wait/Eyes to Split/Yuri Asleep 2:26
  11. The Square's Pad 3:18
  12. Red Drum Blues (alternate) 4:06

Total Time: 39:17

Total Disc Time: 79:56

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: