Wicker Man - Settling the Score
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The six 'core' musicians entrained or flew to Scotland for the shoot.
Their significant appearances are in The Green Man and on the wall
outside the school. But they turn up all over the place after that.
I was filmed playing the lyre on the cliff-top - legs akimbo with
a two-hundred foot drop between - as Howie is stripped, the organ
in Howie's church scenes [interesting that the Church had ecclesiastical
quibbles about the service but were happy to have an organist in
drag] and the piano on the mainland [shot to exclude identifiable
features in case anybody really looked closely!]. You also hear
me when you see Lord Summerisle play the piano.
There was not a little of the mischievous about Paul. Realising
that it would bore him to death whilst at the same time I [21 years
old, remember] would probably quite like spending some time alone
with Britt Ekland, I was charged with insuring that Britt could
mime Willow's Song accurately. So I would happily
pop into Britt's room, where she would lie in bed [this, at the
time, seemingly starry affectation has of course since been explained
by her then pregnancy] and I would teach her the song - and since
you ask, she was always very polite, kind and friendly1.
The extension of this 'care and attention' to detail was that Paul
felt it necessary [after a lot of pleading on my part!!!] that I
be on the set for the now infamous shoot of Willow's Song,
thumping a drum to keep her in time with the playback when she danced
and helping out with the lip-synch when she 'sang'. The shoot was
tiresome - a 13 hour day by my reckoning. One of my other little
jobs [invented out of sheer boredom and hard to find in any job
description] was whipping Britt's towel away before each take. The
much noted complications arose because of the need to covertly slide
the 'bum'-double in, which was usually preceded by make-up asking
for a small adjustment that needed Britt off-set. Actually, all
the subterfuge was hokum, really. The story at the time was that
the day before the shoot, the publicist distributed a note to each
room at the Kirroughtree Hotel announcing that a body-double was
being used and that on no account should Ms Ekland be informed.
Sadly, he did not exclude Britt's room! I can categorically affirm
that Lorraine Peters was the body-double - and if you are interested
in comparing body-types, she is also the naked woman weeping on
the grave, and credited as such. And if you wanted absolute proof
of this, it happens that Ms Peters was having her period on that
day and the camera angle, as is clear in the film, militated against
the use of a tampon. Consequently, and despite the best efforts
of the crew to swab up after each take, DNA evidence probably survives
at the location to this day! As to Jane Jackson, who has it on record
that she was filmed by a man in a sheepskin coat as the body double,
I would venture to guess that her footage now resides safely in
someone's private collection!
Whatever the editor, Eric Boyd-Perkins' defence, there is no question
that he butchered the Willow Song sequence musically
- in the British release version at least. This exquisite number
loses its compulsive and hypnotic effect through insensitive and
unrhythmical cutting and much of Mike Cole's beautiful bassoon playing
and at least one verse are lost [the scoring was quite interesting
- harmonica, bassoon, violins, recorders, pulsating tom-toms, African
thumb piano, multi-tracked Nordic lyre - the same Nordic lyre -
not Celtic harp - you see me play at Burrowhead]. Britt's
singing on the film was voiced by Rachel Verney but a version was
recorded by Lesley Mackie [Daisy in the film] which was intended
for LP release [the difference in tonal quality is minimal, but
Lesley was the more secure]. Lesley also sang the haunting credits/flight
music and the Northumbrian pipes for that were played by Bruce Watson,
[he also played the flute for the woman/baby/egg sequence] who was
last heard of working as an osteopath and whose endless perorations
during studio time were matched only by Christopher Lee's. I wrote
the 'Chop, Chop' sequence, using Oranges and
Lemons as the basis for a faux-Scottish violin jig.
I still get about £2.00 per annum royalties off that! Howie's
last-minute search for Rowan uses largely traditional Scottish folk
music, particularly the Strathspey 'Robertson's Rant',
although we use the Irish variant of the reel 'Drowsy Maggie'2.
In fact a lot of the background scoring is Irish rather than Scottish-derived
and a lot of that is cannibalised from old 'Hocket' arrangements3.
The use of a more 'contemporary idiom' for the 'cave chase' was
undoubtedly a mistake. We probably [on one of those recreational
evenings most likely] thought 'rock' music was a good idea in a
cave! I do remember that we recorded it to picture at Shepperton
and that the sound engineer [not the estimable Louie Austin,
who did such a wonderful job at De Lane Lea] had to put a large
canvas sheet over the bass stack to prevent bleed and undue vibration
on the soundstage! Rachel Verney and another singer, Sally Presant,
also made other lasting and uncredited contributions to the film,
namely many of the boys' voices in the Maypole sequence,
important subsidiary vocals in The Flame Dance, all
other female BVs and the vocalise that accompanies Howie's stripping.
As it was an important part of my job to insure that music accurately
synched to picture, I have a vivid memory of having to score a phenomonally
complex dream sequence for Howie [remember, this was pre-computers,
so you had to operate off the editor's frame-by-frame breakdown
- we had no dedicated sound editor either] which was like post-scoring
an animation, it was so intricate. The fades and dissolves and extensive
use of library footage [the snails were library, by the way] for
this sequence seriously dented the budget. Despite Robin Hardy's
enthusiasm for it and its inclusion in what I assumed at the time
to be 'The Director's Cut', I have never seen reference made to
it again and it is in no existing version of the film.
Paul Giovanni returned to his Riverside Drive apartment in New York
and lived on into the 1990s, writing The Crucifer Of Blood
and trying out a new musical he'd written called Shot Through
the Heart. It seems he eventually succumbed to AIDS.
I didn't work on another feature film for nearly fifteen years,
but I did work with Diane Cilento again on a musical version of
Boucicault's The Streets Of London which did a critically
acclaimed, but too-short run at Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket.
And I've since retained contact and/or worked with most of the musicians
on the film.
is one more small secret to impart. In 1997, Trunk records released
a technically risible, sonically abysmal mono CD of The Wicker Man
soundtrack. Not a single participant in the score received a penny
and were, apart from the composer and a mispelt me, uncredited.
At a hidden location, much superior stereo mixes of much of the
music do indeed exist - including the full three-verse version of
The Tinker Of Rye sung inimitably by Mr Lee and Ms
Cilento. When someone comes up with a realistic proposal that includes
the musicians [who were not offered 'buy-out' contracts at the time
because they didn't exist] and singers who helped define the entire
character of this legendary film, they may re-appear - who knows?
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