Shades of Joy: Music of El Topo

One of my favorite soundtracks ever! And a somewhat confusing record. First, there are two versions – the film score on Apple (which I hear is to be avoided) and this bay area jazzfunk jam “inspired by the film” by the Shades of Joy on Douglas.

Alejandro Jodorowsky – the movie’s director is credited here with writing all the music (which sounds improvised), yet appears to play no instrument or take part in the session at all. But, of the people who do actually play on this record, most noteable is funky keyboard legend Howard Wales! The sound here ranges from all out funky get-downs, to trippy, moody electric Miles Davis-esque excursions. Very highly recommended.

Listen here to an exerpt from one of the more groovin’ tracks.


  • I’ve seen this soundtrack around, but I’m hoping it was the Apple version since I passed it up.

    Did they do a photoshop job on his eyes?

  • yeah, dude, his eyes freak me out. The Apple version has a black cover with that dudes freaky eyes showing through the words “El Topo”. I guess it’s all orchestral.

  • The musicians were all local Bay Area rock and jazz session guys, a couple of whom were on Howard Wales’ Douglas lp.

    I like this quote from Jodorowsky in the liner notes: “I ask of a film what most North Americans ask of psychedelic drugs. The difference being that when one creates a psychedelic film, he need not create a film that shows the visions of a person who has taken a pill; rather, he needs to manufacture the pill.”

  • The apple record is good – definitely not avoidable – its just not a funk record.

  • Shades of Joy also have a self-titled LP on Fontana from ’69. Not overly “funky” but a cool jazz/pop/rock sound, and
    worth checking out. Generally ignored,
    clean copies go unbid on eBay for under $10 – which is surprising given the rep of the El Topo LP.

  • this is fantastic record… for sure.. 2 pressings exist at on douglas..and then one on Columbia (which they distributed after the buzz started to pick up about the movie) TOO bad there is no soundtrack available on vinyl for Jodorowsky’s next film Holy Mountain. And no need to ‘avoid’ the Apple’s great too, just not in the funk/jazz/fusion vein. just as Destro mentioned.. !

  • Bay Area Legendary Sax player Martin Fierro did all of the arrangements for the “Music of El Topo”, with his band “Shades of Joy”, including Howard Wales, Jackie King, and others. BTW, Photoshop did not exist when that album cover was created.

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