Although there are quite a few comedy western films, only Mel Brook's Blazing Saddles and The Three Amigos made any kind of splash as spoofs of the genre. Who better to write the music for a spoof than the man who started what is probably the most popular style of main theme for a Western but Elmer Bernstein? Why, Elmer Bernstein of course. It has to be said that this score was in Bernstein's 'crap comedies' phase where there didn't seem to be many good assignments coming his way. Bernstein of course always wrote some great music for undeserving films. The Three Amigos wasn't perhaps as great is as it could have been, but was certainly vastly better than some of Bernstein's assignments at the time.
The opening number is a song (one of three) written by song meister Randy Newman and sung by Steve Martin, Martin Short and the other guy. While it is generally sensible, the lyrics are completely absurd in places 'wherever you find us, is where we will be' - well, yeah. Oh and the long drawn out falsetto notes which don't crack for a moment and may find the unsuspecting in fits of hysterics. Bernstein's main theme is introduced in the second track, along with a few smatterings of Newman's Amigos theme. Both have an opening phrase over which 'The Three Amigos' fits extremely well, wonder whether they were intending to use Bernstein's tune as the title song, who knows? (Who cares?) Anyway, it's a great theme and played to the hilt by the orchestra (the sound being particularly splendid, even on LP).
There are a few dialogue tracks which aren't nearly as annoying as you'd think. It's not really enough to tell the story with, but provides with a few memories of the film if you've seen it and some strange gibberish for everybody else. The second song is sung by the Three Amigos when they arrive at the town they are attempting to save, comments are passed on the patrons 'looks like someone came in here with the ugly stick.' After a menacing piano intro, there is a change of heart and the Amigos launch into My Little Buttercup. Hmmmm, quite. It sounds pretty funny on disc, but is really quite hilarious on screen as they perform it as a song and dance routine in their lycra Amigo costumes in front of the most grubby looking Mexicans they could find. Other scenes of dialogue feature the singing bush (the voice of Mr Randy Newman himself curiously altered to sound worse than usual). Bernstein's score bounces in and out of the dialogue scenes, but none of the best music is obscured in any way and so can be enjoyed on its own terms. There are some rather lovely guitar solos as well as some good, slightly silly creeping around music. However, when the main theme appears in brassy, blazing glory is when it really starts to cook.There is a distinctly strong Mexican flavour to much of the rest of the score, which works very well at delineating the locals from the Amigos.
The third and final song starts with the guitar intro from another song, the name of which I cannot remember, however you'll know it when you hear it. Blue Shadows on the Trail is what Mr Newman has called his song and is actually rather nice indeed, although the way its performed on screen (with horses for backing singers and the most patently phoney Texan background in the world ever) is appropriately silly. The final track is a great compilation of the main theme mixed with the Three Amigos song theme and ends an extremely entertaining score.
Sadly, the score has only been released on LP so far and there don't appear to be any plans to release it on CD. This could make purchase somewhat tricky, but I've seen it in quite a few record fairs for virtually no money (although I have a copy on Minidisc from a friend - which also means that I don't have a track listing, sorry). If you want to hear some really awful singing, then I can thoroughly recommend the demo versions for the songs as sung by Randy himself on his Guilty boxed set.. his falsetto is really something, really, honest....
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad