One of the most memorable elements of Hal Ashby’s 1971 classic cult film, HAROLD AND MAUDE, is its profoundly tuneful soundtrack made up of songs written and performed by Cat Stevens. Stevens (latter rebranded Yusuf Islam), who was a popular British artist with a few hits, and platinum albums under his belt, was suggested by Elton John, the original choice of the filmmakers to compose the soundtrack.
Stevens’ songs were a great addition to the movie that concerned a young man (Bud Cort) who was obsessed with death falling in love with an old lady (Ruth Gordon) who is obsessed with living life to its fullest. Much like Simon and Garfunkel’s score for the 1967 classic, THE GRADUATE, Stevens was the principal performer throughout HAROLD AND MAUDE, although there are snatches of works by classical composers such as Johann Strauss II, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and other bits of incidental music.
But it’s Stevens who dominates and illuminates the movie’s message. Unfortunately the soundtrack wasn’t released in America when the film came out, but A&M put out a version of the material on vinyl in Japan in 1972. It was a flawed collection as it omitted two crucial songs, “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out," and featured five Stevens tunes that aren’t in the movie.
The two songs, “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out,” were written specifically for the film, but not released until his 1984 compilation, Footsteps in the Dark: Greatest Hits, Vol. 2. That’s a long time to go without two of Stevens’ best songs without being commercially available except on videocassettes of the film.
Much later, in 2007, a limited edition of the soundtrack was released by Vinyl Films Records. It contained all of the Stevens songs that were in the movie, plus five previously unreleased tracks including banjo, instrumental, and alternate versions of “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out,” and demo, and alternate takes of “Don’t Be Shy.” The icing on the cake is that a 36-page full-color booklet about the making of the film is included. There’s also a picture disc version of the album.
The bad news is that the 2007 release is very pricey as it was a limited edition of only 2,500 copies. The newest edition of the soundtrack was released on Record Store Day (July 17, 2021), and it’s also a limited release, but at 8,000, it’s at least a little bigger of a run.
Dubbed “The Songs From the Original Movie,” the RSD release doesn’t have any of the bonus tracks from the 2007 edition, and at nine tracks, it’s a bit short, but it’s yellow vinyl, and a great listen of the to the songs presented in the order that appeared in the film (the 2007 one does this too, but since that one is out of print and expensive as hell, let’s go with this one).
I was happy to score a copy on RSD, and have been enjoying it since. Of course, by this time, it’s an expensive get – along with every other version of the HAROLD AND MAUDE soundtrack it seems. But if you really want you own copy, you can do what I did decades ago and compile one from the Stevens’ albums, Tea for the Tillerman, Mona Bone Jakon, and Footsteps in the Dark (Greatest Hits, Vol. 2). That’s the best suggestion I have. Otherwise, you can wait for another, more affordable version to come on the scene in the future. Until then, if you want to sing out, sing out.