Raygunesque #11: Roy Budd

Art & Culture



The familiar piano harpsichord sound is running on a loop through my head. 



Dum, dum dum dum dum… 

It started with an email – as it so often does. It was from a company called Mishka Productions, about a Phantom Of The Opera release. The email address was one of the lesser used ones for The Raygun, my main job, if job is the right word, but so far so normal. 

Another writer had passed on my details, suggested I might be a good person to talk about the project, a restoring of the original horror flick, rescored by legendary soundtrack genius Roy Budd, one of the final projects he was working on before his untimely and tragic death. 

Then I saw the name at the bottom of the note – Sylvia Budd. Not only was this someone telling me about a fascinating project from a soundtrack legend, but this someone also happened to be Budd’s widow. 

Always ahead of his time – he penned his breakthrough score for Get Carter when he was in his early 20s – Budd’s take on The Phantom Of The Opera, the 1925 film, pre-dated today’s current vogue for rescoring old black and white films by some years.

“For most of Roy’s life, he was always looking for the possibility to buy the original print of Phantom of the Opera, as he loved the film from his childhood,” says Sylvia who kindly consented to chat after a few emails between us. “When the opportunity came about to purchase the 35mm print of the film, he jumped at the chance. He then spent many years working with his vision for the score in his head, before writing it down in space of three weeks in 1992. It was a long held ambition finally realised, and he was very excited about sharing his work.”

It was prescient, we suggest, as this is becoming increasingly commonplace. Since Budd’s death, everyone from the Pet Shop Boys to the Cinematic Orchestra and Air to another recently released take on The Phantom from The Laze, released by the rather wonderful One Way Static label. Jeff Mills has had numerous stabs at rescoring films, perhaps only Giorgio Moroder, with his better-than-you-think-it-might-be take on Metropolis from the early 1980s, came before.  

“Over the years since Roy’s death, you are right in that there are been many black and white films that have been scored, including Phantom,” she continues. “Roy was the first to score the Phantom of the Opera, and it had been in his mind for many years. To answer the question, yes, he certainly was a precursor for this new fashion, and it is such a shame that he wasn’t able to see his shine.”

It’s taken years to make it to DVD and CD, even though Sylvia Budd pledged to her husband that she would marshall it through before he died. 
“It has been my long-held wish and promise to Roy to release his work, but unfortunately due to ill health along the way, this is just happening now,” she says. “It is released as a DVD and a CD as not only are there many fans of this cult classic film, who would enjoy Roy’s vision, there are equally as many pure Roy Budd fans, who would take pleasure in listening to his symphonic score without the film. There were also some extra treats I wanted to give to his fans, including the rare performance footage of Roy, and the interview with Mike Hodges.”

Despite his work being much admired by heads, especially among the hip-hop community, Sylvia Budd thinks her husband was moving more into orchestral works. As she says: “Roy’s writing was taking a very different direction, as he was getting more and more involved with the Deutsch Oper Berlin and writing his first opera for the great Wagnerian stage director Gotz Friedrich, who had become a close friend to Roy. Roy was voraciously writing, and at a peak of creativity, so who knows where he could have ended up.”

Still, the famous intro to Budd’s Get Carter is still a familiar refrain, its longevity is remarkable. Would it have surprised him? “Roy was extremely pleased to hear that The Human League had used his score back [in 1981, their reverent cover appeared on the legendary Dare elpee), and it can still be found popping up in many places,” she notes. “It is linked to such an iconic film, and had such a striking and atmospheric refrain, it is not surprising that it has such longevity. I’m sure he’d be very touched that it has a special place in film history, and it was interesting to hear Mike Hodges discuss the score in his interview on the DVD extra.”

Its influence has been remarkable and it continues to make its mark, another fact that hasn’t been missed by Sylvia Budd. 

“Get Carter certainly continues to influence new generations, and I have no doubt that other compositions of his work will continue to appear in future years. 

“It is good to know that Roy’s work continues to find new fans, and his name remains relevant in the industry. He had a very particular way of writing a score, with much time spent on the preparation of it; constructing it in his head, thinking about what the score was for and what atmosphere and emotions needed to be conveyed. There was therefore a distinct quality to his compositions, which would stand the test of time.”

 •  Phantom Of The Opera with Roy Budd’s score is available on DVD, a CD of the score is also available. And do yourself a favour and pick up Diamonds, it’s ace and the vinyl reissue is readily available and not to steep either. You should already own Get Carter anyway.

Ear Budds

A selection of Roy’s finest:

Roy does Get Carter…

About as balearic as the SAS gets, from Who Dares Wins…

Don’t just take my word for it, an even more balearic edit from Frank Tope and Dan Foat, aka Wild Geese…

…who were probably named after this Budd-scored flick…

Not on vinyl, as far as we’re aware…

Another oft-sampled cut, from personal favourite Diamonds…

And finally, from the same album…