Unreleased David Bowie film soundtrack detailed

A film as enigmatic as Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 cult classic The Man Who Fell To Earth is always going to conjure up mysteries in its wake and one of the biggest for the past four decades has been the fate of its much-talked-about soundtrack. Long sought after and highly celebrated by fans, the soundtrack of the David Bowie-starring film, has up until now never been available as a body of work. In celebration of the film’s 40th anniversary and STUDIOCANAL’s 4K theatrical release, UMe is releasing for the very first time the original movie soundtrack, featuring seminal and original pieces by Stomu Yamash’ta and John Phillips, who composed specifically for the film.

The full 25 track soundtrack is available now digitally and on CD. On December 16th, a 19 track vinyl edition of the soundtrack featuring just Yamash’ta and Phillips’ score will be released as a double LP. For the collectors, a limited edition dual format deluxe box, which pairs the vinyl and CD releases with a 48-page hardback book with rare photos, notes from the movie’s editor Graeme Clifford and an illuminating new essay by British music critic Paolo Hewitt, will be released that same day.

The Man Who Fell To Earth was David Bowie’s first starring film role and it reached cult status due to the late artist’s outstanding performance as Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien who finds himself stranded on Earth while searching for water for his drought-stricken home planet. Long after he portrayed him, Bowie continued to be drawn to the character; his acclaimed play, “Lazarus,” continues the story of T.J. Newton.

Little is known, and much has been asked, as to why the soundtrack was never originally released. To this day there has never been a definitive answer but money concerns and contract disputes have both been cited. The album just disappeared and the master tapes were lost. The story behind the creation of the soundtrack has also long been mired in mystery with conflicting, confusing and incorrect information repeated for the last four decades. The story is told in great detail in Paolo Hewitt’s liner notes included in the deluxe box set. The story goes that in addition to starring in the film, Bowie was to provide the soundtrack and intended to record the music as his next album, the follow-up to 1975’s Young Americans, once shooting was completed. But instead, he started working on another project and after three months had only completed a handful of demos for the film with the help of British arranger Paul Buckmaster.

Although they had composed the music to a videotape of the film, none of it was synched to the picture and it was nearly unusable. The director Nic Roeg rejected the music and decided to go another direction. Bowie released his record Station to Station the same year as the film and in 1977 when he made his acclaimed album, Low, he sent Roeg a copy with a note that simply read, “This is what I had in mind for the film.”

With just weeks until the film’s premiere and without a soundtrack, Roeg enlisted his friend John Phillips of The Mama’s & The Papa’s to take over and create the twangy music he envisioned. As Hewitt writes, “He did not want music that illustrated the picture (an ethos Bowie might have started off with as he began composing) but rather music that ‘clashed,” therefore deepening the viewer’s unease.”

Phillips recorded the soundtrack in London with the help of former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, famed pedal steel session player BJ Cole and jazz percussionist Frank Ricotti. Phillips delivered an eclectic set of original songs and covers that ranged from country and bluegrass to rock, pop, jazz and instrumental soundscapes. Interspersed throughout the soundtrack are several atmospheric and otherworldly compositions from Japanese percussionist-composer Stomu Yamash’ta including “Poker Dice,” “Wind Words” and “Memory Of Hiroshima.” Songs from Louis Armstrong and The Kingston Trio round out the soundtrack.

Due to lost tapes recently being uncovered it is now possible to finally present the original recordings the way they were supposed to be heard, an incredible 40 years later.

2 CD | 2 LP | Deluxe Edition

CD 1

1. Poker Dice – Stomu Yamashta
2. Blueberry Hill – Louis Armstrong
3. Jazz II – John Phillips
4. Venus: The Bringer Of Peace – Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
5. Boys From The South – John Phillips
6. 33 1/3 – Stomu Yamashta
7. Rhumba Boogie – John Phillips
8. Try To Remember – The Kingston Trio
9. Mandala – Stomu Yamashta
10. America – John Phillips
11. Wind Words – Stomu Yamashta
12. Jazz – John Phillips

CD 2

1. One Way – Stomu Yamashta
2. Space Capsule – John Phillips
3. Bluegrass Breakdown – John Phillips
4. Desert Shack – John Phillips
5. Memory Of Hiroshima – Stomu Yamashta
6. Window – John Phillips
7. Alberto – John Phillips
8. Mars: The Bringer Of War (Excerpt) – Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
9. Liar, Liar – John Phillips
10. Hello Mary Lou – John Phillips
11. Silent Night – Robert Farnon
12. Love Is Coming Back – Genevieve Waite
13. The Man Who Fell To Earth (Demo) – John Phillips

LP 1

A1. Poker Dice – Stomu Yamashta
A2. Jazz II – John Phillips
A3. Boys From The South – John Phillips
A4. 33 1/3 – Stomu Yamashta
B1. Rhumba Boogie – John Phillips
B2. Mandala – Stomu Yamashta
B3. America – John Phillips
B4. Wind Words – Stomu Yamashta
B5. Jazz – John Phillips

LP 2

C1. One Way – Stomu Yamashta
C2. Space Capsule – John Phillips
C3. Bluegrass Breakdown – John Phillips
C4. Desert Shack – John Phillips
C5. Memory Of Hiroshima – Stomu Yamashta
D1. Window – John Phillips
D2. Alberto – John Phillips
D3. Liar, Liar – John Phillips
D4. Hello Mary Lou – John Phillips
D5. The Man Who Fell To Earth – John Phillips

Author: Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.