Roy Budd

Theme from the Wild Geese

Roy Budd (1947-93)

As a young man, Roy Budd's talent as a jazz pianist was widely recognised. He was much in demand playing in halls, clubs and pubs in and around London. His versatility stretched over a variety of genres from classical music to the jazz piano of his idol Oscar Peterson. As an instrumentalist and band player he released albums in the 60s before moving effortlessly into film composition in the 70s.

In many ways, the music of Roy Budd and John Barry in the UK paralleled the direction taken by Lalo Schifrin and Quincy Jones elsewhere. His musical style seemed well-suited to the suspense genre, violent thrillers and gritty reality films. Budd's music characteristically made easy transitions from one soundscape or style to another, yet the thriller category seemed to be his natural home and had him paired frequently with the actor Michael Caine.

Considering Roy Budd's jazz background, the military style overture to The Wild Geese (one of his most famous scores) is poles apart from is normal style and more reminiscent of Ron Goodwin, but the snare drums and the bold theme set the scene both for the film and the soundtrack. In contrast, the second track is a pop-style vocal called 'Flight of the Wild Geese', written and sung by Joan Armatrading.

The main titles on the third cue develops the military theme further which is picked up in latter tracks as the basis of the stirring action music which is the hallmark of this start encrusted film. The soundtrack include three tracks based upon a string quartet by Borodin, dramatically arranged for the film by Roy Budd, and used as the theme for Richard Harris's character. In the case of 'Rafer's Death' this arrangement is skilfully interwoven with 'The Wild Geese Theme' to great effect

Then there was Get Carter which became a pivotal film for both actor and composer. The main theme is extremely simple, even minimalist using bare harpsichord, electric piano, acoustic bass and tablas, although some of the arrangements give it a little bit of flesh. The score also contains some jazz-influenced sounds, and a few songs courtesy of Roy and Jack Fishman (one of Budd's frequent collaborators). Apart from these, the soundtrack is as stark as the visuals with a whistling wind being the sole accompaniment at times. The CD soundtrack of the film contains a number of snatches of dialogue featuring the mild but menacing voice of Michael Caine. This soundtrack therefore fulfills the double role of showcasing the music but also immersing the listener into the cult world of the movie, in the same manner as Taxi Driver from the pen of Bernard Herrmann. The digitally remastered video of the movie contains a few extras including the opening titles featuring Michael Caine travelling up North by train interspersed with Roy Budd himself playing the theme on a variety of electric keyboards with the visuals projected on a screen behind him. It is a testament to the cult status of "Get Carter" that a remake is currently under development and planning to use Budd's theme. Let's hope they don't spoil it!

Budd then wrote another score for Euan Lloyd - The Sea Wolves. Although Roy Budd wrote mostly jazz, he seemed just at home with pseudo-military music of which The Sea Wolves is a superb example. Some of the score is based around Richard Adinsell's 'Warsaw Concerto', adapted by Roy Budd with great sensitivity, and which also provides the music for the film's theme song 'The Precious Moments' sung by Matt Monroe with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse.

The overture again incorporates the 'Warsaw Concerto' after a wonderful spine-tingling Budd theme that achieves its aim of stirring the blood. The imperative snare drums combine with bold military brass giving just the correct balance of heroism, amateur enthusiasm and a touch of humour that typified the last charge of the Calcutta Light Horse, carried out with typical British style and understatement. The 'Warsaw Concerto' is also used to great effect as the love theme throughout the film, with even a tearoom dance arrangement, and it is a tribute to Roy Budd's score and arranging that the whole album blends together seamlessly. The score, as does the film, builds to the action sequences of the raid in Goa executed with Budd precision and Budd panache. The album is brought to a close with a further poignant piano rendition of the Warsaw Concerto.


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