[Review] Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)

A mishmash of MTV hits, mariachi music, Little Richard and Andy Summers.

Kronomyth 2.5: Jam down the road you bum, bum, bum, bum

These are dark times and they’re getting darker. Music provides an escape from the darkness. Or it can provide the soundtrack to life’s lighter moments: meditation, jubilation, intoxication (itself a different type of escape). This soundtrack to the film Down and Out in Beverly Hills probably fits somewhere in between and nowhere at all. It was a dark film with unredeemable characters who found their happy ending by embracing their own brokenness. Buttered popcorn optional. The songs selected for the soundtrack were celebratory, even if what they were celebrating was shallow. The instrumental soundtrack, provided by The Police’s Andy Summers, was thoughtful, graceful. Yin and yang.

In an imperfect world, the soundtrack provides two perfectly good outcomes. It gave Little Richard his first hit single in sixteen years with Great Gosh A’Mighty. And it shows Summers capable of writing a perfectly good score for a movie, even if his contributions clock in at under fifteen minutes. My biggest complaint is that there isn’t more of Summers’ score to enjoy, which I suppose is a compliment couched in a complaint.

Truthfully, the first two albums by Summers and Robert Fripp were less than I expected. I expected more of the same with this soundtrack and was pleasantly surprised to find that Summers had shifted his attention to soft jazz, short ambient pieces and even the blues. It’s an eclectic if abbreviated sampler from a guitarist who clearly had more to say than he’d said with The Police and Messr. Fripp. Now, whether you need to track this soundtrack down to fill in some missing pieces of the former Policeman, well, probably not. Unless you’re building a shrine to Summers, which I don’t discourage you from doing but wouldn’t join you in the effort either. Both the film and the soundtrack are worth revisiting, although one is clearly darker than the other. You may also want to check out the original film that inspired this, Jean Renoir’s Boudu Sauvé des Eaux, released in 1932. Plus ça change…

Original elpee version

A1. Great Gosh A’Mighty (It’s a Matter of Time) (Richard Penniman/Billy Preston) (3:55)
A2. California Girls (Brian Wilson) (2:50)
A3. El Tecalitleco (Silvestre Vargas) (3:03)
A4. I Love L.A. (Randy Newman) (3:29)
A5. Tutti Frutti (Dorothy LaBostrie/Richard Penniman) (2:20)
B1. Down and Out in Beverly Hills Theme (Andy Summers/Tony Humecke) (5:20)
B2. Search for Kerouac (Andy Summers) (2:13)
B3. Nouvelle Cuisine (Andy Summers/Tony Humecke) (1:30)
B4. Wave Hands Like Clouds (Andy Summers) (1:05)
B5. The Mission Blues (Andy Summers) (2:20)
B6. Jerry’s Suicide Attempt (Andy Summers) (2:00)

The Players

Little Richard (A1/A5), The Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan (A3), Randy Newman (A4), David Lee Roth (A2), Andy Summers. Produced by Andy Summers (B1-B6), Dan Hartman and Billy Preston (A1), Ted Templeman (A2), Russ Titelman and Lenny Waronker (A4).

The Pictures

Art direction by JA. Design by Ilene Weingard.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in 1986 in the US (MCA, MCA/MCAC-6160).

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