Roy Budd died on the 7th August 1993 at the tragically early age of 46. Fortunately for devotees of film music, during a relatively short career he managed to cram in over fifty films, several of which found their way onto record.
Born on the 14th March, 1947, Roy Budd the musician was entirely self-taught, and was hailed as a child prodigy. At the age of four he began to play the piano, initially by ear and then by copying various melodies he heard by listening to the radio. By the age of six he had appeared in public at The London Coliseum, at eight he had mastered a Wurlitzer organ and four years later was appearing on television, and before Royalty at The London Palladium. On the latter occasion, he was apparently so nervous that his piano solo was over at least a minute before the accompanying orchestra had finished!
During his teens he developed a taste for jazz and formed The Roy Budd Trio, with bassist Pete Morgan and drummer Chris Karan. On leaving school at the age of sixteen, he embarked on a professional career as a jazz pianist and was so successful he won a UK jazz poll in the category of best pianist for five years running. At the same time he became the resident pianist at the Bull's Head, Barnes, London and met up with songwriter Jack Fishman. Fishman was so impressed with his musical ability that he secured him a three-year recording contract with MCA, and although the company used their option to drop him after only a year, Fishman bet the Managing Director that Budd would become an internationally renown writer of film music - a bet he was soon to win.
In 1970, Budd duly made his début in the world of film music, but this was achieved in rather unusual circumstances. Hearing that director Ralph Nelson was looking for an English composer for his controversial film, SOLDIER BLUE, he was so keen to get the assignment, he put together a tape consisting of music composed by such greats as Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin and Lalo Schifrin, and sent it off to Nelson, with the claim that it was all his own work! Shrewdly, he didn't pick any of these composer's main themes, in case of arousing the director's suspicion, and, not surprisingly he got the job.
SOLDIER BLUE was filmed mainly in Mexico and was based to a large degree on a battle which took place at Sand Creek in 1864, when hundreds of Cheyenne Indians were brutally killed. Candice Bergen played a white girl who is captured and forced to marry an Indian - thus learning to appreciate their problems. Co-star Peter Strauss is a cavalryman, a 'soldier blue' who develops a conscience, while Donald Pleasance was cast as a wily old gun-runner with allegiance to nobody. Ironically, despite being intended as an 'anti-violence' Western, with the action showing the futility and horror of war, the film was heavily criticised for its violence - particularly the gory opening which was exceeded in blood-shed only by the climax.
According to Budd, his main difficulty in the scoring of his first film, was that he had no knowledge of how one undertook such a task. He bought 'The Henry Mancini Book Of Sounds And Scores' which gave him the general idea, but it was the intricacies which still caused him problems. For example, he recalls phoning fellow musician, Tony Hatch, to ask him how to write a viola clef - Hatch, despite his wide experience in song-writing, was unable to assist. Apart from the main theme, which he based on Buffy St. Marie's hit song of the same title, he composed all the music required for the film, but then encountered his second major difficulty. At the recording sessions, he found himself expected to conduct the 65-piece Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - a far cry from his jazz-club experiences! However, he followed the advice offered by Jack Fishman, which was to never look back to the control room, and his first assignment was successfully completed. Although Budd's film score was not recorded, it was represented on an album for Pye Records which included six tracks for which he adapted his original arrangements to feature himself on piano.
With the invaluable experience of this first full film score behind him, Budd embarked on a heavy schedule during the following year (1971). The acclaim with which SOLDIER BLUE was greeted, led to many more opportunities in the genre, and during the year he was able to score another seven films. The first of these - FLIGHT OF THE DOVES - was, like SOLDIER BLUE, directed by Ralph Nelson, but there was nothing controversial about this sentimental film, in which Ron Moody and Jack Wild were re-united following their huge impact together in Oliver. Jack Fishman provided the lyrics for the several songs which made up the soundtrack.
Next up for Budd was the score for a film which has since become something of a cult. Written and directed by Mike Hodges, GET CARTER starred Michael Caine, John Osborne and Ian Hendry in a thoroughly violent story of a London based racketeer aiming to avenge his brother's death at the hands of Northern gangsters. It was described by the noted American critic, Pauline Kael, as "So calculatedly cool and soulless and nastily erotic that it seems to belong to a new era of virtuoso viciousness." However, Budd's music admirably suited the mood of the film, particularly his main theme, which incorporated the sounds of Caine's train journey to Newcastle. The film's budget reputedly allowed only 450 pounds for the score, but he overcame this restriction by using only three musicians, including himself playing electric piano and harpsichord simultaneously.
Budd's innovative method of using the film's sound effects to complement his music, continued with ZEPPELIN. Set during the first world war, this story of an attempt by the British to steal the secrets behind the infamous German airship, was noted for its special effects, but not for its acting, which included a particularly 'wooden' performance by Michael York. The film, directed by Etienne Perier, also featured Elke Sommer, Marius Goring, Rupert Davies and the actor who made a career out of playing Germans - Anton Diffring. On this occasion, Budd took advantage of the distinctive sound of the Zeppelin's diesel-powered engine to introduce his own stirring main theme. He recorded only two tracks from the soundtrack, 'All You Want Me To Be' and 'The Main Theme'.
Any lack of excitement in director Delbert Mann's remake of Robert Louis Stevenson's KIDNAPPED was more than compensated by the marvelous British cast he assembled. The screen-play combined aspects of both the original stories of Kidnapped and Catriona - in fact, the film was originally to have been entitled 'David And Catriona'. Michael Caine starred as the fiercely patriotic Alan Breck, David Balfour was portrayed by newcomer Lawrence Douglas and Catriona by Vivien Heilbron. However, the supporting cast were what really helped to bind the production together, and these included such stalwarts as Trevor Howard, Jack Hawkins, Donald Pleasance, Gordon Jackson and Jack Watson. Filming took place in the Scottish Highlands, with Oban, the centre point of activities. On this occasion, Budd was able to record the complete score for Polydor Records.
Roy Budd's fifth project of 1971, proved to be the start of an enduring relationship when producer Euan Lloyd signed him to score the western, CATLOW. According to Lloyd, it was the film's director, former actor Sam Wanamaker who wanted Budd for the music, having been very impressed with his work on SOLDIER BLUE. Lloyd was not familiar with his work but was able to find an Elstree cinema who were showing the film, some time after its release, and despite a poor sound system in the cinema, he heard enough to convince him that Wanamaker's judgement was sound. CATLOW, the first of six films (PAPER TIGER, THE WILD GEESE, THE SEA WOLVES, THE FINAL OPTION and WILD GEESE II) on which Budd worked with Lloyd , starred Yul Brynner in the title role, Leonard Nimoy as bounty hunter Miller, who is set on hounding Catlow to his death, and Richard Crenna as Ben Cowan - once on the opposite side to Catlow in the American Civil War, but now his friend and partner. The feminine interest is provided by Jo Ann Pflug as Christina, who has a fling with both men, and Daliah Lavi as Rosita - Catlow's original lover. The film was shot entirely on location in Almeria, Spain. An authorised recording of the musical soundtrack, consisting of just seven cues, was released only in Japan, but Budd's main theme was also recorded for Pye Records.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN DEADLY SINS (1971) was produced and directed by comedian Graham Stark. This British film apparently had all the right credentials for box-office success, its writers including those with vast previous success on television, such as Bob Larbey and John Esmonde, Barry Cryer and Graham Chapman, Marty Feldman, Alan Simpson and Ray Galton, with Stark himself and Spike Milligan - the latter also featuring in the film itself. They were joined by a host of British comedy stars, including Bruce Forsyth, Joan Sims, Roy Hudd, Harry Secombe, Leslie Phillips, Julie Ege, Harry H. Corbett, Ian Carmichael, Alfie Bass, and Ronald Fraser. Despite all this, however, the film didn't exactly set the box-office alight, being more of a series of sketches - not all of them new - than a complete story-line. Just two cuts of Roy Budd's score, which was co-written with Jack Fishman, found their way onto record - 'Envy, Greed An' Gluttony' and 'Lust'.
SOMETHING TO HIDE (1971) was written and directed by Alistair Reid based on the original novel by Nicholas Monsarrat, and starred Peter Finch as Harry, a civil servant who kills and buries his wife, then goes slowly to pieces. Finch's decision to take on this role was influenced by his admiration for Reid's work on a previous film (THE ROAD BUILDER), and his belief that the part he was offered was nothing like he had done before. In surely one of very few films set on the Isle Of Wight, he was joined by Colin Blakely, who gave a convincing performance as his incredulous boss, as did Shelley Winters who portrayed his drunken wife. John Stride, Linda Hayden (as a young pregnant girl) and Harold Goldblatt were amongst the supporting cast. Budd once again teamed up with Jack Fishman for the music, but his magnificent 'Concerto For Harry' was entirely his own composition and was the saving grace of a rather forgettable film.
THE CAREY TREATMENT (1972), a medical murder story directed by Blake Edwards, tells of a doctor wrongly dismissed and arrested after the fifteen year old daughter of the hospital's chief surgeon dies following an abortion. James Coburn, portraying a Boston-based pathologist colleague of the doctor, determines to prove his innocence, but in doing so unwittingly becomes a potential murder victim himself, at the hands of the girl's father. Jennifer O'Neil, Skye Aubrey, Dan O'Herlihy, Regis Toomey and Elizabeth Allen also starred in a film which possibly concentrated too much on the morals involved than on the action. Only the title theme was recorded, on one of Budd's many compilation albums made for Pye during the seventies.
FEAR IS THE KEY (1972) was a faithful film version of an Alistair MacLean novel, directed by Michael Tuchner, starring Suzy Kendall, Barry Newman, John Vernon, Ben Kingsley and Ray McAnally. The story-line was about a man who lays an elaborate plot to track down the killers of his wife and children, who die in a plane crash. When recording the score, Budd returned to his jazz roots by engaging the services of players of the calibre of Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes and Kenny Baker. In fact, it was Scott, the legendary jazz-club owner, who played solo sax for the lengthy car chase sequence which took place alongside the Mississippi River. According to director Tuchner, this sequence needed to be recorded in a continuous ten minute plus take, whilst hitting split-second action cues so as to blend perfectly with the chase sound effects. Budd and his orchestra achieved this (on "Car Chase") in just two takes!
During the remainder of the seventies, Budd continued to work on films of widely different style and nature, which gave him the opportunity to utilise his considerable gift for diversity. Outstanding amongst these were THE STONE KILLER, THE MARSEILLE CONTRACT and THE BLACK WINDMILL (two more Michael Caine films), PAPER TIGER, SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER and THE WILD GEESE.
Moving on to the eighties, his work included the scores for THE SEA WOLVES, WILD GEESE II and FIELD OF HONOUR, but he didn't restrict himself to this genre. Returning to his first love, he played regular jazz gigs at 'Duke's Bar' in Marylebone, London; as well as partnering veteran harmonica player Larry Adler. He also arranged for and accompanied such artists as Bob Hope, Tony Bennett, Charles Aznavour and Caterina Valente (who became his first wife) in concerts all around the world.
But perhaps his most ambitious project was that completed shortly before his death. His symphonic score for the 1925 silent film classic - Phantom Of The Opera - written for an eighty-piece orchestra, was recorded and will hopefully see the light of day eventually. During an interview with film music writer John Mansell, which took place only weeks before his sudden death, he discussed this project: "There are 82 minutes of music, which is more or less continuous. It was a little strange not having to contend with dialogue and sound effects etc., but saying that, it was quite an experience having to compose nearly 90 minutes of music. I am very proud of this score."
On being asked by Mansell if he had been influenced by any composers, his reply was guarded: "I don't think 'influenced' is the correct word. I love Wagner and of course I think that Jerry Goldsmith is great - he's been around for a long time now and he still produces some really magical stuff. I think he's lasted so long because of his ability to be able to write for a large symphony orchestra, and also he is at home sitting at a keyboard. Jerry Fielding was another great composer, if he had lived I'm sure that he would have been in much demand now, he was very underrated, and of course, he fell foul of the political back- stabbers in Hollywood."
In previous interviews he also admitted to admiring the works of Henry Mancini and Lalo Schifrin. But Budd's own technique was also much admired. As The Daily Telegraph obituary pointed out, one of his strengths was his ability to make sudden changes in a complicated score at a director's whim. A few scribbled alterations and some brief notes to the copyists would suffice, even when the score involved a large number of musicians. He never needed to employ the services of an arranger.
Producer Euan Lloyd summed up his professional relationship with Roy Budd: "It was at times rough and sour but we always wound up celebrating the final results, and, privately we were abiding friends as close as any two brothers. Knowing what immense mental and physical effort went into his music, it is, for me, understandable that some 'catastrophe' might inevitably interrupt his life. Knowing also that his almost-certain greatest work, the scoring of the original film version of 'Phantom Of The Opera', drained his body resources to the limit, it was a dreadful price to pay to give the world a score to remember for all time."
In closing, we would like to express our belief that Roy Budd would be pleased that some of his best work is beginning to become available (REBIRTH OF THE BUDD on Sequel and THE STONE KILLER on Legend, for example). Certainly, during his conversation with John Mansell he revealed that he didn't think there is ever enough of his music released: "In 99% of the cases the music is locked away in the company's vaults and left to gather dust, or worse it's thrown away. Sadly, music is not really that interesting to production companies, but that's the way it is now, and it's been like that for years." Hopefully, these releases will ignite renewed interest in this composer's wonderful work and additional volumes of his music will follow, in the not too distant future.
Geoff Leonard is a film-music historian, co-author of the THE DEFINITIVE JOHN BARRY BOOK and principal of Play It Again Records, which has released John Barry's BEAT GIRL soundtrack as well as JOHN BARRY - THE EMBER YEARS, THE A-Z OF BRITISH TV THEMES and BORN FREE - THE DON BLACK SONGBOOK.
These notes were adapted from liner notes intended for an aborted CD compilation of Roy Budd's music that included the scores to SOLDIER BLUE and FEAR IS THE KEY as well as themes from ZEPPELIN, KIDNAPPED, CATLOW, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN DEADLY SINS ("Lust"), SOMETHING TO HIDE ("Concerto for Harry"), GET CARTER and THE CAREY TREATMENT.