To place it in its context, this is a soundtrack album from the first of two films made based on Henry Miller's novella about his adventures in thirties Paris. Penniless and struggling to make his way as a writer, Miller found a room-mate and wrote of their social and erotic life in the book on his return to New York in 1940, though the work remained unpublished until 1956 when it first emerged in France. Its American publication had to wait until 1965, after the obscenity court case over Miller's Tropic Of Cancer. This 1970 Danish film, directed by Jens Jorgen Thorson, thus came quite early in the public knowledge of the book, and very much takes its feel and spirit from Miller's work.
The choice of Country Joe McDonald to lead the soundtrack was a particularly apposite one, as he was an artist at home with acerbic and cutting lyrics, but also with tenderness and humour. The soundtrack, much like the film and book, took on its own life, reflecting the various moods of the work. Miller himself described Quiet Days In Clichy as "a dose of life which I administered to myself first, and which I not only survived but thrived on." Sexual relationships with an array of Parisian women and girls, some of whom were prostitutes, were very much part of this life, and Country Joe's two-part title song reflects and retells the variety of sexual episodes that occurred in Miller's apartment in language that would still rate warnings today. Joe also sings and plays three other tracks, ‘Nys' Love’, ‘The Hungry Miller & The Hungry World’ and the closing song, ‘Mara’. Of these ‘Hungry Miller’ is a gentle wordless guitar piece, and creates a particular mood that contrasts with five other varied instrumentals: Andy Sunstrom's very Parisian accordion on ‘Clichy’ and ‘Champs Elysees’, the new Orleans jazz of ‘Luxembourg Stomp’ from Papa Bue's Viking Jazz band, Danish band Young Flowers' ever so gentle guitar lead on ‘Menilmontant’, and the evocative late night club feel of Ben Webster's tenor sax on ‘Blue Miller’. Each one serves as a different mood piece, reflecting the shifts within both the novel and the film. Young Flowers also deliver the laid back vocal on ‘Behind The Golden Sun’ and the more straight-forward blues rock of ‘Party Beat’. Country Joe's ‘Mara’, as the closing track here, serves as a coda to the album as it is a song about past times and things moving on, all neatly ensuring that this fine and varied album has a life of its own while still supporting the film.
There was to be another two-hour French film adaptation of Miller's novel directed by Claude Chabrol in 1990, but arguably the shorter and earlier movie with this fine and varied soundtrack comes closest to capturing the feel of Miller's thirties adventures.