Original Soundtrack

Hells Angels on Wheels

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Biker movie soundtracks are usually good sources for primitive fuzz guitar instrumentals and other wild sounds, though there's always some decidedly non-rock incidental music to wade through as well. Unfortunately, the original soundtrack to Hells Angels on Wheels pushes the ratio so far to the square side of things that it's rendered sonically flaccid and ultimately disposable. The film itself is regarded as a cornerstone of the late-'60s biker craze, with appearances by future star Jack Nicholson and real-life Hells Angel leader Sonny Barger. This slight soundtrack (clocking in at 22 minutes and feeling shorter) is wrapped in the garish flame-colored advertisements for the film but delivers lightweight flutes and harpsichords that would likely move any real Hells Angel to distraction and violence. "Skip to My Mary J." comes the closest to generating heat, with distorto-guitar soloing and buzzing feedback over a relatively mannered rock backing track, though it's no "Blues' Theme." The title track also features some noisy riffing, but the arrangement is ruined by an unnecessary vocal chorus laying cringe-inducing "bah bah bah bah"s over the whole thing (a musical feature that is utilized throughout the soundtrack). The remainder of the record is a dated collection of sitars and vibraphones in a soft jazz setting that would be more appropriate to a hotel lounge than an uninhibited biker gang film. Hells Angels on Wheels was composed, conducted, and produced by Stu Phillips, who has a long string of television and film credits that include the theme to Battlestar Galactica and music for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls; he also worked with MOR pop artist Ed Ames and easy listening orchestras like the Hollyridge Strings and the Boston Pops, which should indicate the direction that listeners will find themselves riding in.

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