The Dave Grusin Archive
Music for the Screen
Adam At 6 AM

Stars:  Michael Douglas , Joe Don Baker Meg Foster, Grayson Hall,  Lee Purcell

Director:  Robert Scheerer
Producer:  Robert Christiansen & Rick Rosenberg
Released:  Cinema Center Films 1970

Story:  A wealthy, young California professor feels there is something lacking in his present existence. In questioning his own lifestyle, he decides to spend the summer in Missouri working as a laborer.

Virtually the entire score of “Adam at 6AM,” even the opening music over scenes of a Los Angeles university campus, consists of country and western oriented themes emphasizing the Missouri location of the picture.

In addition to the main title, there is the energetic “Rise Up” (co-composed with Chip Taylor) to accompany Adam's drive eastwards.  The sense of the lethargic young academic's existence coming to life as he journeys into the unknown gives a great sense of forward movement to the picture after its necessarily slow start.

The country and rock mix - full of hope - gets a different instrumental treatment after the funeral, and emphasizes how Adam has been drawn by the easy-going life in the Midwest.

Both these pieces as well as other similar music in the film (like the composition played when he goes working with the timber-cutting gang) contain a footlooseness which characterizes the aimless lack of  direction in Adam's wanderings.

There is another particularly splashy bit of country fare as Adam and Harvey escape from a gang of pursuers, in typical Grusin style, crashingly brought in in mid-chase to great effect (as executed in “The Electric Horseman” and “Racing With The Moon”).

Tender moments are accentuated by mouth organ in such scenes as his reading of an old letter from his great aunt, and surveying family photo albums in her home.  Mixed with guitar and sometimes strings, it plays a homey, uncomplicated theme which lulls the urban-based professor into a nostalgic sense of longing for his forefathers' simpler roots.

This gentle combination exuding a pull on his more decent instincts is reprised when Adam (feeling left out after his fello workers all go off with young ladies( phones Jerri Jo, and again, when he proposes to her after hearing Harvey's tale of woe and misbegotten living - in these latter cases, the mouth organ also emphasizing a strand of the loneliness and isolation Adam feels.

The country orientation is further reflected in source music, particularly three long cues in the bar after the girls arrive.  “Tiger By The Tale” kicks in perfectly to express the men letting themselves go at the end of a week's work.   “Hey Bopareeba” takes things a step further with everyone completely loosened up.

Despite the fact that the crowd remains as raucous as during the two previous tunes, the atmosphere becomes far more suggestive and sultry between men and women via playing of a languid, bluesy instrumental piece.  This use of source music to imply a progression in the action when nothing on screen has really taken place tells a story all on its own.

There is also a love theme for Adam and Jerri Jo.  It has an amazing kinship with the composition serving a similar purpose in a Dave Grusin score from the previous year for the film “Winning.”  In both cases, these themes reflect the easy way the couples have fallen in with one another, with the relationship having in effect no depth at all, one which can be broken off just as easily.

Light and breezy, untouched by any profound emotion, it is more a reflection of a happiness than commitment or involvement.  Primarily played by piano, sometimes with strings, it also takes on a tender dimension via mouth organ.  In a way it epitomizes the simplicity and lack of sophistication of Jerri Jo which on one hand, has so much appeal for Adam, while at the same time, he finds almost repulsive for the inherent conventionality.

And so goes the score for 98% of the film's running time.  Then, suddenly, the puzzlement audiences have been experiencing over Adam's behavior begins to be met with a few provoking ideas - courtesy of - really only - the score.

Rising from the notes of the mild love theme, and beginning with a murky but relatively short cue implying perplexity as Adam surveys engagement-party decorations in Jerri Jo's home,  the music takes on a radically different cast -as if to indicate the urbane southern Californian is in the process of waking from, but still caught up in a dream (nightmare!) of finding himself in what must seem like a hillbilly world to him.

The music becomes jazz based with a definite psychological flavor - not only as a result of the instrumentation and melodic lines, but by the layering of different musical styles - including the previously omnipresent country with  vibrant big band stingers and much more.

Though the change feels sharp enough to the audience, it starts easily as Adam strolls through the community.  However, as the cue progresses over scenes of the engagement party, even more effects are added to create the jumbled impression- from a kind of railroad blues to rumbling piano (as featured in a Dave Grusin score over 20 years later in “The Firm.”  And no less disturbing is it in “Adam At 6 A.M.”)  And that mouth organ which appeared to be the pied piper enchanting him all along is there too, but now vainly fighting to be heard among the jazzier instruments.

Running under - against - the banal conversation amongst Jerri Jo and her friends, this multiplicity of styles becomes more and more jarring,with the latter chat satirically punctuated by cool jazz which would be most at home on Adam's native West Coast.  The intensity is ever racheted up by a jarring big band interlude, with the cue completed by some guitar licks which categorically state that something very strange is happening in Adam's mind.

A rattled motif, produced by strings is played as he drives to the supermarket for ice cream, solidifying the concept that his mind is going.  At the store, thin strings continue this idea, but with an added dimension of doubt and even poignancy. A metronomic theme then replaces this, turning the uncertainty into derangement  as Adam returns toward Jerri Jo's home, pausing only a moment there before going on - presumably to take off for the familiarity of California - or perhaps to drive off a cliff ….

Over end titles then we only hear the buzz of his sports car speeding down the road.  Admittedly, one couldn't want more appropriate closing music.

Supervising Music Editor:  Gene Feloman

Dave Grusin
Feature Films