50 years since its release, the original motion picture soundtrack for Hal Ashby’s 1971 classic cult film ‘Harold and Maude’, made up exclusively of songs by Cat Stevens, will be released on 11th February 2022 in new 180g 1LP / 1CD / Digital release formats via Island / Cat-O-Log / UMC. The new edition of the soundtrack will combine Cat Stevens’ 9 original songs, as well as dialogue from the film, for the first time.
Hal Ashby’s 1971 film about the unlikely friendship-turned-love story of suicidal teenager Harold Chasen (played by Bud Cort) and 79 year old free spirit Maude (played by Ruth Gordon) is now widely praised as a bona-fide cult classic. Filled with dark humour and existential drama, the film represents the potentially glorious benefits that can arise from a balanced partnership between conservative pragmatism and colourful free-spirited idealism. It reveals the deep lying synergy that exists between seemingly opposing views and how, when united, they can flourish to their mutual advantage.
The movie’s success and cult status has in part been bolstered by its whimsical and poignant soundtrack, in which all songs are performed by Cat Stevens. Originally not wanting to release the soundtrack in fear of it being perceived as a ‘greatest hits’ album in the early days of his career, film director Hal Ashby had to do some convincing. Having listened to songs from landmark albums ‘Mona Bone Jakon’ and ‘Tea For The Tillerman’ whilst editing Harold and Maude, Ashby knew from the start that he wanted exclusively Stevens’ songs to sonically narrate his film, and after a significant campaign, Ashby won Stevens over and thus, the soundtrack was brought to life.
Speaking about the experience, Yusuf remembers: “Harold and Maude was a total experience. My manager said he had a book called Harold and Maude, Colin Higgins wrote it and Paramount were making a film of it and they wanted to use some of my music. I said,“Okay, I’ll read the book.” I couldn’t put it down. I was laughing so much, right into the night. This odd character, Harold, experimenting with death, experimenting with his own concept of non-existence so he wouldn’t have to suffer his mother barking at him all the time. It was great, and satisfied my own particular love of the out-of-the-ordinary.
I eventually went over to San Francisco where they were making the film and I met Hal Ashby, the director and my music was flowing everywhere, in the rushes.
Hal Ashby looked like a guru, very kind of bedraggled beard and nicotine-stained moustache and zappy eyes, but he was a soft character, a very soft character. He was almost like Jimi Hendrix in that respect. A gentle soul.
So we had to make a deal and we did make a deal, but I said, “But you’re not putting out a soundtrack,” and the reason for that was it would have sounded like a collection of greatest hits from Mona Bone Jakon and Tea for the Tillerman. I said, “I don’t want to do a Greatest Hits yet.” So I never allowed them to put out the soundtrack, but I did write two songs for that. I did the demo in San Francisco and I always meant to do them properly but no, Hal puts them straight into the film and that was it, locked away. I’m saying, “no, no, no, it’s not finished!” but I love those recordings now because they’re so raw.”
Seven songs from the two 1970 Island/A&M Cat Stevens albums were included on the soundtrack: “On The Road To Find Out”, “I Wish, I Wish”, “Miles From Nowhere”, “Tea for the Tillerman”, “I Think I See The Light”, “Trouble”, and “Where Do The Children Play?”. Two non-album tracks were also added into the mix: “Don’t Be Shy”, and what became the movie’s unofficial theme, “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out”. These songs would go unreleased until the 1984 Footsteps In The Dark collection, and were later included in the 2001 On The Road To Find Out box set. The Harold and Maude official soundtrack album was first issued in 2007 by Cameron Crowe’s independent label, Vinyl Films. Produced only on LP in super limited quantities, on several different vinyl colours, those records are highly collectible today and trade for hundreds of dollars on Discogs and other fan sites.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the film’s release, the latest edition of the soundtrack will combine Cat Stevens’ 9 original songs, as well as additional dialogue and instrumental music from the film for the first time. Previously unheard audio masters have been discovered in the Island Records archive for “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out”, and all audio has been remastered at world renowned Abbey Road Studios. This edition will also feature enhanced packaging including liner notes, lyrics, transcription of movie dialogue, and photos from the Paramount Pictures production.