Real Gone Music resurrects two quintessential sexploitation film soundtracks from Russ Meyer
Bill Loose’s soundtrack work should not go unnoticed as he was an important contributor to the cult movie scene of the 1960s and 1970s, scoring for films like The Rebel Rousers and The Swinging Cheerleaders. His library music sound is interspersed with various elements of jazz, rock and roll, and other elements of non-genre abstractions. What helped Loose expand his repertoire is that in the 1950s he was in charge of creating music for the Capitol Records musical cue library. Dozens of television shows used his cues. This helped him land infamy with The Hollywood Squares theme song, as well as becoming musical director to The Doris Day Show.
How he went from popular culture hero to creating the soundtrack to the weird world of Russ Meyer is uncertain, but the soundtracks to Russ Meyer films have become an unconscious catalyst to Meyer’s dedication of the undeniably busty. What has resurfaced is Real Gone Music’s vinyl reissue of Loose’s soundtracks to two of Meyer’s most notorious sexploitation films: 1968’s Vixen and 1969’s Cherry… & Harry & Raquel. Unless you were to find a rare copy, it was virtually impossible to nab on to a Meyer film let along the soundtrack.
On Vixen, Loose is like an artist who uses musical brush strokes to paint the emotion of sensualness of the celluloid. What we get from Loose are vistas that take from classical music and soft-spoken jazz to create a montage of songs that play into the importance of the moment.
Listening to them again today, they feel slightly awkward just like Meyer’s screenwriting. But it serve its purpose. This is exactly what a soundtrack should do. We get something like “Conversation Piece;” the title is generic enough to be extracted from a library music collection but enhanced by Loose’s deep musical knowledge to create a sound that is whimsical and modest. He takes from the classical waltz and turns it into parlor sounds. Pulling from his time after World War II and working as conductor for the U.S. Army Air Forces Orchestra in New York, he likes to pull in various elements of classical styles and turn it into contemplation like a soft-spoken Henry Mancini. Even his jazz moments are not enunciated like other composers of the time who utilized social elements to fuel the momentum. “Janet’s Theme” is to the sax what Bill Evans is to the piano. “Canadian Romp” is Looses’ big band moment, encapsulating the luxury of the 1960s sound. What Loose has done here is make a complemented piece to accentuate Meyer’s cinematic form.
Cherry… & Harry & Raquel change gears that try to capitalize on Meyer’s wackiness. A gateway into Meyer’s 1970s culturally sardonic films like Up, Cherry exists to exploit the culture of its time, blending softcore moments with a drive to uncover the hazards of marijuana. Escaping from the luxuriousness of Vixen silkiness, Loose creates a pop odyssey that begins with a mono version of “Toys of Our Times” and ends with a stereo version. He worked with composer Stu Phillips and created a garage pop standout performance, fittingly, by The Jacks & Balls.
A song like “Here’s Harry” lightens the rock fabrication with a dorky harmonica melody like a sarcastic joke. We listen to it now, and it is almost goofy in nature but representative of the times where anything seems to work well together. “Cherry & Raquel” is Loose’s giallo moment, and I am a complete sucker for it. The song borders on sultry chanting that I cannot get enough of. “Franklin & Cherry,” is iconic to the Meyers’ fim style where Loose takes upon the pomp and circumstance of the marching band and smacks it clear across its ass as if he just goosed the queen.
With these surviving soundtracks, Real Gone Music shows two sides to Meyer’s style thanks to Loose’s aural interpretations. He may not stand out like Mancini, Bruno Niccolai, or Roberto Rizzo, but it’s Meyers’ legacy and Real Gone Music’s packaging makes these two albums all the more intriguing.