I was traveling the past few weeks, so I didn’t have a chance to write a blog post celebrating Jerry Fielding’s centennial on June 17th.
Fielding was a unique voice, and I’m a huge fan. See my earlier post with clips of his rare television work.
I guess the rap against Jerry is that he didn’t really write tunes...he was more environmental and textural. Rather the opposite of a John Barry approach.
But I remember being at Nick Redman’s one time (Nick was the ultimate Fielding booster) and we were listening to Lawman, “Laura’s Room,” and Nick pointed out what a beautiful tune it had—and how absolutely wrong it was to criticize Fielding on this front:
Here’s a rare 1977 radio interview with the composer:
Fielding hated “Raindrops Are Fallin’ on My Head” from Butch Cassidy! It came out the same year as The Wild Bunch and he just hated the anachronism. I don’t know if he mentions it in this interview, but he criticized it in others.
When I was in college (mid-1990s) I wrote a musicological analysis of Fielding’s score to The Mechanic (1972). I’m afraid it was not a very good paper...although I remember making the observation that one of the important things the score did was carve out the social space of the hit man and his underworld:
I thought that was a good point. The musical analysis was beyond my capabilities except in the most superficial sense—but I did get a copy of the full orchestrations from Brigham Young University for reference.
(Want to see the BYU Fielding holdings? Here’s the finding aid.)
And I still have that copy today, sitting in the corner of my office! I’ve asked the publishers doing full scores today (Omni, Chris Siddall, Neumation) if they would consider this one, but they each said the market was too small—they would lose money. I understand that, but it’s disappointing.
I’ve had this score for years and from time to time I enjoy following along, but between orchestrator Greig McRitchie’s penmanship, the quality of the xerox, the transposed instruments, and a lot of “come sopras” it can be hard for an amateur like me to follow. (“Come sopra,” meaning “as before,” is when the score simply says, “Copy 3M2 bar 37,” for example. Fielding had a lot of that, because he would spend so much time on intricate passages for the key sequences, he would need to make up for it by doing other cues very quickly.)
So if I ever sell a script for a million bucks, I promise: I will bankroll a book of The Mechanic. It’s an amazing piece of work.
Farewell to Jerry Fielding—one of the greats. Truly, a unique voice, and a defining sound of 1970s cinema.