Fletch – Soundtrack Review

Few composers own the sound of a decade as much as Harold Faltermeyer does the 1980s. His catchy electronic scores for some of the decade’s biggest hit films resulted in not just seminal movie theme music, but brought film themes back to the popular music world. His first solo score for Beverly Hill Cop produced a number one hit in the form of the film’s theme “Axel F”, while that same score and his work for Top Gun both won him Grammy awards.

His one score in between those works was for the Chevy Chase vehicle Fletch, a massive comedy success that would cement Chase’s status as a true movie star. Compared to his other works of the period, Faltermeyer’s score for Fletch has been overlooked for decades, being released on LP at the time of the film’s release but only just now receiving a CD release by Varese Sarabande records.

Preserving its original LP presentation, this long-overdue CD release provides a decent sampler of the music from the film. While Faltermeyer’s score contributions are what many modern collectors will be seeking out, they make up less than half of the album’s brief 36-minute runtime. Instead, it is the original songs that take centre stage here, much as they did with Top Gun’s original soundtrack.

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Luckily, these songs are steeped in the 1980’s electronic pop sound that interested parties will undoubtedly be seeking. Opening up the album is “Bit by Bit (Theme From Fletch)”, a driving pop number sung by Stephanie Mills and used as a promotional single for the film. One listen is more than enough to get the song stuck in your head for hours, even if it seems overly repetitive at only three-and-a-half minutes long.

Dan Hartman’s “Fletch, Get Outta Town” has little bit more personality with his trademark pop-rock song and on-the-nose lyrics about escaping, although it also seems overly repetitious at four minutes. This is followed up by the first Faltermeyer contribution on album, the love song “Running for Love”. It is a slow, saxophone-assisted number sung by John Farnham that fails to stick in the mind, representing the album’s first misstep.

Dan Hartman returns with a darker and more purposeful feeling in “Name of the Game”, overlaying multiple voices for the chorus to great effect. The Fixx’s contribution, “A Letter to Both Sides”, is a middling effort from one of the biggest New Wave rock acts of the period. Kim Wilde, another New Wave star, provides the song “Is It Over?”, which will have the listener asking the same question as it repeats its chorus ad nauseum.

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Faltermeyer’s score is limited to just four tracks, using three of them to close out the album. “Fletch Theme” is the one track situated among the songs, which does it a bit of a disservice. Against the catchy, upbeat sounds of the opening few songs, Faltermeyer’s all-synth theme sounds a bit too meandering and lifeless. Taken on its own merits, it effectively conveys the bumbling detective angle of the character, but it is hard to deny that its melody is less memorable than that of Beverly Hills Cop or Top Gun.

Creating some confusion, though, are the two score tracks “Diggin In” and “Exotic Skates”, eschewing the “Fletch Theme” melody but both featuring a theme that sounds related to that track. Heard immediately in “Diggin In”, it is another staccato keyboarded idea in the vein of “Axel F”, and provides a more comedic feel than that initial theme offering does. One wonders if that official theme track was Faltermeyer’s first pass at an idea, while the later tracks represent its finalized version. Those two score tracks will be fun and funky additions to any Faltermeyer playlist, while the instrumental version of “Running for Love” is somehow more memorable than its sung version.

This release on CD was long-overdue, and Varese Sarabande should be commended for finally making it available. The Fletch soundtrack has several memorable songs, a few middling ones, and material from the best period of Harold Faltermeyer’s career. While an expanded score presentation would have been appreciated, it offers plenty for fans of the movie, composer, or the decade’s music in general.

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