If you’ve seen Summer of ’67 already, you probably noticed the music. In fact, we won “Best Soundtrack” at the Mid Tenn Film Fest and have had a number of other festivals and film critics mention the music. Since Fred was the composer for the score, he provides a behind the scenes look at the Summer of ’67 musical score.
Guest post by Fred Wilharm
Normally when we do a feature film and need a score, we would simply hire a composer and be done with it, allowing us more time for other aspects of the film. Summer of ’67 was different. I wanted to play a more active part in the score on this film because
A) I lived through the 60’s and know a thing or two about the music, and
B) I have some talented musician friends who I knew would get into recreating the era in song. The only problems with this plan – I’m not really a songwriter, and, most sixties protest songs were written in a state of drug-induced psychosis (the strongest thing I partake of is Dr. Pepper). I decided the best way to try to replicate that feel was to come up with lyrics while in a state of semi-slumber. So if the lyrics don’t make perfect sense- that’s why!
Using even one authentic sixties hit song would have cost several times more than the total budget of Summer of ’67, so I wrote three songs: “Vietnam”, which laments the war; “Boatload of Destruction”, a protest song sung by Sam Brooks (“Van the Man”) in a hippie gathering in the woods; and “Uncle Sam Blues”, a bluesy harmonica number. “Boatload” and “Uncle Sam” are also heard on the radio when Van is driving his VW bus.
After penning the lyrics, I started thinking about which of my musician friends would be best suited to record the songs. I asked for audition tapes and my instincts were right- Scott Southworth was ideal for the bluesy songs, and Ed Bardin nailed “Vietnam”. Ed went to a recording studio in Milton, Fl to lay down the tracks. He took along his guitar prodigy son Jeremy, who had the assignment of recording a lullaby style song on acoustic guitar for the baby shower in the film. Scott came to a studio here in Springfield, where I shot some behind the scenes footage of him channeling his inner Dylan.
For the scene where the hippie van takes off full of protesters bound to interrupt the Memorial Day ceremony, I asked Nashville guitarist Mark Breton to play “America the Beautiful” in screaming guitar style, and it worked perfectly, even meshing with the next scene, which was Kaitlynn Logsdon singing the same song at the gathering. Mark also recorded some acoustic guitar stingers and interludes to plug in where needed.
“Wayfaring Stranger”, a public domain folk song, worked well as a song sung by hippie girl Alexandra Sedlak (“Celeste”) and accompanied by Robert Beihn (“Cool Breeze”) on guitar and Daniel Harper (“Storm”) on drums. Alexandra’s pitch-perfect voice was a real asset to the scene.
All the above took care of maybe 15 minutes of the film- only 65 minutes to go! Scoring the rest was accomplished using a high-end production music site, Audio Network. For one price, I was able to pick from thousands of songs in varying lengths with varying instrumentation. The music is of such quality that one of the songs was even recorded in Abbey Road Studios in London! Sharon and I spent hours matching songs to scenes, sometimes keeping them and sometimes discarding them and trying something new. Sometime during this process, we were contacted by a composer, Jeff Anderson, who was interested in scoring the film. We explained how we were proceeding and asked if he would assume the role of “music consultant”. Jeff then told us what areas he liked and what needed changes. We made changes, ran them by him, made more changes, and steadily were able to improve the score to what you see today. One of our favorite parts of the film to score was the last third, where we used somber military drumbeats and soaring orchestral music to grab the viewer and take him on an emotional roller coaster ride.
Finally, we were contacted by a Nashville band, Boogie Woogie Jesus Project about using their music in the film. We needed a song for closing credits and decided their “Seek His Love” was perfect, adding that late 60’s feel that comes naturally to a band that grew up in the era.
Scoring an entire feature film ourselves was quite an ambitious feat, but in the end, well worth it.