Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Forgotten Movie Songs #14: "Tell Me" from ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE

The ending to James William Guercio's Arizona highwayman cop film Electra Glide in Blue has cinematographer Conrad Hall's camera performing an awe-inspiring pull-back from the final image, thus dwarfing our film's hero, Robert Blake, by having the valley's buttes swallow him up with their majesty. When paired with the epic ode to a lost America, called "Tell Me," the shot--in spite of its beauty--becomes an unforgettable picture of sadness. This uncommon character study/murder mystery justifiably became a cult sensation after its disappointing release in 1973. And I believe both the song and the score--each written by Guercio--have a lot to do with its appeal. (The very cult-flavored supporting cast--including Mitchell Ryan, Billy Green Bush, Royal Dano, Elisha Cook Jr., and Jeannine Riley--deserves some credit, too.)

Guercio wrote, produced and directed his one and only film after becoming a distinctive, Grammy-winning producer and songwriter for jazz/pop outfits like Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago. He did go on to produce one of Hal Ashby's last movies, 1981's little-seen Second Hand Hearts, again with Robert Blake and co-starring Dyan Cannon. But his time seemed taken up with running his Caribou studios in Colorado's Rocky Mountains (at least until it burned down in 1985). And though he was later an owner of the Country Music Channel, Guercio pretty much escaped the music industry to delve into the cattle and oil-drilling business. I get the impression that, despite his director's commentary for the MGM-released DVD, Guercio doesn't very much want to revisit his dalliances with the movies and music, because it's very difficult to hear his work anywhere but on YouTube these days (and posts featuring "Tell Me" are constantly being taken down by, I assume, requests from the songwriter, and then put back up again by fans who love the song). Nevertheless, a re-release of the score to Electra Glide in Blue is definitely in order; there's clearly a market for it.

The song is called "Tell Me." The music and lyrics are by James William Guercio, and they are powerfully performed by Terry Kath, the late lead singer for Chicago who, with Peter Cetera, makes key cameos during the film's most exciting sequences.

Tell me about the sun
Tell me about the rain
Tell me about the fields
Tell me about the plains

Will they come again
I don't know
Will they ever come again
I don't know

God above, is there not anything that we might do
To try and make this world of ours a better place for me and you?

Tell me all about man
Tell me so I can understand
Tell me somebody all about wars
Please try and tell me just how much more

Oh pray it's not too late
Oh no
Please everybody, everybody, everybody pray it's not too late
It's not too late

Oh come on, mmmmm
Yeah come on
Lay down a little prayer for us
Come on, say a prayer for us, please

God Bless America today
God Bless America today



Jim Vines said...

Thank you for this fine tribute to a great movie and great song. (FYI: The "Electra Glide" soundtrack was finally released to CD a few months ago!)

Goatlips said...

Someone upload Tell Me as a 192kbps AAC file please! www.quartetrecords.com/electra-glide-in-blue.html‎

Unknown said...

Robert Blake deserved an Oscar "nod" for this fine performance. I watched this film for the first time I saw it when I was a young man and never realized what a poignant film this actually is! The end scene w/the song "TELL ME" is one of the most memorable endings in cinema history. Watch it,Share it!!!

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

There are many memorable film endings....but EGB tops the lot.....why?
'Tell Me' is compelling and fits the final images in the film perfectly.There is something about this song that stamps indelibly on the brain.It's relentless,slow temp and lovely choral work is unforgetable and will stay with for your lifetime! I have played it many times and never got tired of hearing it.
It always reminds me of the greatest road film and Wintergreen, that tragic figure who didn't stand a chance with his honesty, in a world of corruption, uncertanty and disinterest. Fabulous

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the late great Terry Kath's most compelling vocal...( of which there were so many.)

It is hard to imagine his death will be 40 years ago this coming January. Rest in Peace Terry.

Unknown said...

Did Kath EVER perform this song Live?
Either solo, with his Trio, or with Chicago?
I have Scoured the sites and no luck.
Uneducated would Swear they were hearing Charles the first time.
Remember Miami Vice using it to close out their Very Popular 80's series.

Unknown said...

And Terry, Genius.
Once in a lifetime combo of talent: rich voice; unparalleled range on guitar; vision for music.

Unknown said...

Is there a download available for this song? Is the soundtrack the only way to find this amazing track??

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Unknown said...

I love to watch old gold movie.

Unknown said...

Great movie