Notes from Elmer Bernstein

“Walk on the Wild Side” was a second in a series of jazz scores that I wrote in the 50s and 60s. The setting for the film was the southern underworld, which had a particular effect on the kind of music I wrote. Because one thinks of the south as the home of the Blues I decided to base the main theme of the score on a kind of rolling Blues theme.

Probably the most interesting story about the creation of that theme involves the main title of the film. One day the producer of the film invited the artist Saul Bass and me to come to, what seemed to us, a rather grand home in Beverly Hills. He then started to spin us a story for the images he wanted at the beginning of the film. He started to tell us a story of the good cat and the bad cat and a fight that they get into, and the good cat recovers and walks off. Saul Bass and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes and thought “typical silly producer idea.” In any case, Saul went home and started to shoot film with his own cats. He showed it to me, and I then wrote the theme to which the Main Title was eventually shot. It was a case of music first.

The other inspiring factor was what was, at least to me, a first look at Jane Fonda whose performance in the film was electrifying. It has been rewarding to have the music survive, as the film did not succeed.

It is a pleasure to welcome this fresh rendition of the score.

Elmer Bernstein