The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh – Original Soundtrack

I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for almost eight years now, and it’s a decision that I can honestly say I’ve never regretted. I love this city. I love its crazy roads, obscene colloquialisms (Jag Off!), awesome food and legendary record stores.

I also love its cinematic history, mostly because it’s so weird. Sure, we got George A. Romero’s zombie flicks to lay claim too, but the greater Pittsburgh also played hosts to classics like The Deer Hunter and Flashdance, as well as “classics” such as Sudden Death, Striking Distance and Stigmata.

The selection of movies to be filmed in my adopted hometown are as idiosyncratic and quirky as the town itself, and the oddest of the bunch has to be the 1979 critical and commercial dud, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh stars basketball legend Dr. J as Moses Guthrie, the star player for the (fictional) Pittsburgh Pythons. The team sucks, until a spunky ball boy convinces Guthrie and the coach to cut everyone from the team except Moses, and replace them with players who share his astrological sign of Pisces.

Why?

Don’t worry about that. It just works, okay? It works so well that the team (renamed the Pittsburgh Pisces) goes on to win almost every game of the season, make the playoffs, and face the dreaded L.A. team in the Finals (spoiler alert: they win in thrilling fashion). Yes. It’s cheese, but its wonderfully aged cheese, made all the better by its amazing disco/funk soundtrack.

The soundtrack to The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh features performances by a variety of artists, it’s mostly the work of Thomas Bell. If you don’t know who Thom Bell is, you still probably know some songs he was involved with. During the 70s, Bell was one of the driving forces behind the Philly Soul sound, contributing as a songwriter/producer to some of the biggest acts of the scene, such as The Delfonics, The Stylstics and The Spinners (who are on this soundtrack). Bell produced, arranged and conducted every song on the record, and he wrote all the songs on the album as well, with the occasional assist from Leroy M. Bell (his nephew) and Casey James, the duo who made up Bell & James (who, not coincidentally, are also on this soundtrack).

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh bombed huge when it came out in 1979 (I know, what a shocker) so the soundtrack was never even granted an official release. The few copies that were made were only issued as promos for radio stations. However, thanks  to Discogs, I know have one of those copies. So now, I am more than pleased to present to you the soundtrack to The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, the finest soundtrack to a film about Pittsburgh basketball and its relationship with astrology that you’ll ever hear.

Thomas Bell Orchestra featuring Doc Severinsen – A Theme For L.A.’s Team
An odd starting number for the soundtrack, considering that the movie is about the team from Pittsburgh, but it still serves as a solid opening number that sets the vibe for the whole album. And hey, it has Doc Severinsen from The Tonight Show, so that’s something.

Phyllis Hyman – Magic Mona
In the film, Mona is the astrologer/spiritual adviser who helps coordinate all the players’ star charts so they’ll know their strengths and weaknesses for each game (sure, it sounds stupid when I say it like that). For her theme song, Bell recruited Phyllis Hyman, a soul singer with a powerful voice who was actually raised in Pittsburgh (but born in Philly). Hyman had a few minor disco/dance hits in the 70s and 80s, and even had something of an acting career going for a while, but she committed suicide in 1995 at the way too young age of 45. I don’t know much about her other than that (which I culled from her wiki page) but she sure had an amazing voice, even if “Magic Mona” is a silly song.

The Sylvers – Mighty Mighty Pisces
The theme song for the Pittsburgh basketball team was contributed to by The Sylvers, a family act of nine (holy shit!) brothers and sisters from Memphis, Tennessee. Maybe the popularization of birth control is one of the reasons why we don’t see bands like this anymore. This song is basically one long hook “Mighty mighty Pisces/now you’re making history!” with some inspirational verses thrown in. Just like the movie itself, it’s stupid as hell, but instantly charming and fun.

The Spinners – “(Do It, Do It) No One Does It Better
One of Thom Bell’s more memorable projects, The Spinners were a big name for a while, scoring a string of amazing soul singles throughout the 1970s. Their funky soul style doesn’t really shine with this track though. If you want to see just how awesome The Spinners were, check out this performance of “Rubberband Man,” one of the best soul tracks of the decade.

Bell & James – The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
Thom Bell was burying the lead by making the title track the last track of the first side, because this song is amazing! It’s probably the main reason why I’ve fallen in love with the movie so much. It’s impossible to feel down or sad after hearing to this track, which is one of the most oppressively upbeat disco tunes I’ve ever heard, which is quite the feat when you think about how disgustingly upbeat most disco is.I dare you to find a better funk/disco track about a Pittsburgh-based basketball team. You won’t! Seriously though, it’s pretty incredible, if all music was this fun and exciting the world would be a much better place.

As for Bell & James, the short-lived duo never really scored a major hit on the charts during their short-lived career, although Bell recently reappeared on The X Factor recently, which is just weird. He was eliminated, but I bet if he would’ve won if he sang this track.

Frankie Bleu – Moses’ Theme
There’s a really odd romance subplot to The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh involving Dr. J’s Moses character and the big sister of the ballboy. The “seduction” scene pretty much involves her watching Moses play streetball by himself (in slow motion) while this slow jam plays. Download this song, try that out for yourself and report back to me.

The Four Tops – Chance Of A Lifetime
I really hope I don’t need to explain who The Four Tops are. I mean, they’re only responsible for “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “I Can’t Help Myself,” “It’s the Same Old Song,” “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” and “Bernadette,” (my favorite vocal group song of all time). “Chance Of A Lifetime” is less than a fraction of good as those tracks, but it’s still one of the best songs on the record. Like most of the best songs on the soundtrack, it’s upbeat disco with a “you can do it theme” that’s impossible not to like.

I need more motivational disco in my life. Wah-wah guitars make me feel like I can accomplish anything.

William Hart – Follow Every Dream
This soundtrack works best when it’s trying to be funky and semi-inspirational, so this love song by the lead singer of The Delfonics is kind of meh. It’s fine. But whenever I listen to it I usually stop it halfway though and play “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” instead.

Eubie Blake & Thom Bell – Ragtime
It’s a ragtime song…dude, I have no idea. It’s only a minute and twenty seconds long, just go with it.

Loretta Lynn & Frankie Bleu – Is It Love, Must Be Love
The Coal Miner’s Daughter was the last person I expected to see on a soundtrack that predominately features soul, R&B and disco, but if the 70s were anything, they were random. This is a cute 70s soft-rock style song, generic, but cute. I have no idea who the unfortunately-named Frankie Bleu is.

 

20 Responses to “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh – Original Soundtrack”

  1. G says:

    Thom Bell & Frankie Bleu – “Moses Theme” is missing..

  2. Lost Turntable says:

    BLARG. Fixed!

  3. Yale Avenue West View Pa says:

    Thank You for posting this record! I actually saw FISH in the movie theater.
    The REAL star of this movie is (well, WAS) the Civic Arena.

  4. Shawn Brown says:

    I can’t believe this. I was watching this movie today and decided to look once again to see if I can find out how to buy this music and I come across this recent post. Please tell there is a way to buy these songs from you. Is that correct?

  5. Lost Turntable says:

    Dude, just click on the links to download the songs.

  6. C West says:

    Thank you, thank you. I have been looking for this soundtrack for years and while watching this movie again for the 50th time decided to search online once more. These songs are incredible.

  7. Tommy S says:

    Live in Michigan, Just found a copy of the album signed by Dr. J to the Daly family (Chuck Daly was his assistant coach at the time in Philly) $3 at resale shop…what a find!

  8. Lost Turntable says:

    NICE!

  9. TC says:

    Tommy S – hell of a find, I’ve been looking for a copy myself and haven’t found a thing (and I’m in Philly). Anything I do find is ridiculously expensive and that’s without a Dr. J autograph! Well done mate! Also thanks LTT for posting this, such a fantastic soundtrack

  10. shy says:

    I love love that you have made this music available for downloand . I tried downloading magic mona , but there wasn’t a prompt only play and pause. Could you say again how to download maybe I’m missing something.

  11. Lost Turntable says:

    Right-click, “save as.”

  12. Miguel B. says:

    Thanks for posting!!!! I can’t stop listening just like I couldn’t stop watching this movie over and over when I was a kid.

  13. John A says:

    Where can I find lyrics to songs in Fish that saved pittsburgh?

  14. diana says:

    Where can I find the cd of the Fish that saved pittsburgh?

  15. Lost Turntable says:

    Easy! It doesn’t exist!

  16. yinzerella says:

    I can’t believe that this movie ever got made.
    I love it.
    But how can you NOT love a movie that showcases a giant box of fish sticks?

  17. meekfizzle says:

    Only Is it love, Must be love works when I click on it! help!

  18. Lost Turntable says:

    FIXED!

  19. John Moses says:

    oh man this is incredible! This is a top 3 fav movie for me and the soundtrack which I gave up on looking for a while ago is a major reason why.

    One correction, the seduction scene song is actually the Spinners – (Do It, Do It) No One Does It Better. I thought it was the money scene of the whole movie. She says”blah blah blah and men that can only count in twos…” Then Dr J(who must have gotten so much a$$ thrown at him back then he’d need 10 assistants to manage his time) goes “what’s wrong with twos?” Then the song plays. I think the video and song both enhance each other. I think this track is dope, but maybe it is cuz of the movie. I believe Lupe sampled this on his Follow the Leader mixtape on the song “Theme Music to a Drive By”. The horns at 2:51 which I have been looking for forever, that one elusive track. Thanks fam!

    Now that I’m thinking about it, I hope the newer DVD version doesn’t have Moses theme playing, that would have been disastrous.

  20. GRATEFUL says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH. I have been looking for this for years. I am so happy! If I could hug you, I would.

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