It took time for audiences to come around to Harold and Maude. The 1971 film, written by Colin Higgins (9 to 5, Foul Play) and directed by Hal Ashby (Shampoo, Being There), depicted the unlikely but ultimately powerful relationship between young, death-obsessed Harold (Bud Cort) and elderly, free-spirited Maude (Ruth Gordon). Its blend of dark comedy and ironic uplift initially underwhelmed most critics and moviegoers. Slowly but surely, however, it earned cult classic status. One of the aspects that lingered most in the collective memory was Cat Stevens' memorable score. Brought on after Elton John dropped out, the British troubadour provided seven "oldies" from his 1970 albums Mona Bone Jakon and Tea for the Tillerman and also composed two new songs: "Don't Be Shy" and "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out." Yet a full-length soundtrack was never released...until now. On February 11, A&M/Cat-O-Log/UMe will release the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to Harold and Maude in CD, 180-gram LP, and digital formats.
The road to a proper Harold and Maude soundtrack has been a long one. A quasi-soundtrack came out in Japan in 1972, but it bizarrely omitted Stevens' two original songs and added older songs of his which weren't featured in the film. Stevens' 1984 compilation Footsteps in the Dark finally premiered "Don't Be Shy" and "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" on vinyl and CD. Then, in 2007, Cameron Crowe's Vinyl Films label released a limited-edition Harold and Maude LP in various color pressings, all of which quickly went out of print and now command big money on the secondary market. That edition added a handful of alternates, demos, and instrumentals. Most recently, for the movie's 50th anniversary, A&M released a new version for Record Store Day 2021 with just the nine songs.
Now, after 50 years, an official, wide-release soundtrack is being issued. An expansion of the RSD LP, it includes the seven songs reprised from Cat's first two Island/A&M albums Mona Bone Jakon and Tea for the Tillerman ("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?") plus "Don't Be Shy" and "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out." Dialogue and instrumental cues are also included but the bonus tracks dropped from the Cameron Crowe-helmed edition appear to be missing. All of the audio, including previously unheard masters of "Don't Be Shy" and "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out," has been newly remastered at Abbey Road Studios. The physical formats will include liner notes, lyrics, transcriptions of movie dialogue, and photos from the Paramount Pictures archive.
Cat Stevens, known today as Yusuf Islam, comments in the press release, "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." He continued, "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."
Stevens came to a decision: "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."
That rawness adds to the special, whimsical, and delicate quality that permeates Harold and Maude. Over the years, the film has inspired a novel, a short-lived Broadway play, and a musical adaptation with an original, non-Stevens score; the late Colin Higgins tried to bring both a prequel and sequel to fruition but to little avail. The 1971 film has endured, however, and so has its charming music from Cat Stevens. Look for Harold and Maude: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from A&M/Cat-O-Log/UMe on February 11. You'll find the track listing and pre-order links below!
Cat Stevens, Harold and Maude: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (A&M/Cat-O-Log/UMe, 2022)
- Don't Be Shy
- Dialogue 1 (I Go to Funerals)
- On The Road to Find Out
- I Wish, I Wish
- Tchaikovsky's Concerto No.1 in B
- Dialogue 2 (How Many Suicides)
- Marching Band / Dialogue 3 (Harold Meets Maude)
- Miles From Nowhere
- Tea for the Tillerman
- I Think I See the Light
- Dialogue 4 (Sunflower)
- Where Do the Children Play?
- If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out - Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort
- Strauss' Blue Danube
- Dialogue 5 (Somersaults)
- If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out
- Dialogue 6 (Harold Loves Maude)
- If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out (ending)