Aged seven, Roy was starting to compose for himself, and arrange to his taste, some of the famous hits of the time. ‘JMC’, a music journalist, came to his home and wrote “he composed a tune at seven years of age which contains more melody than most popular songs. He arranges all the tunes he plays and, in the main, his arrangements are a good deal better, and certainly fuller, than those acquired on sheet music – they come from his imagination”.
Henry Mancini’s Sounds And Scores
Even with a demanding daily schedule, he was taking the time to study and write, modelling his efforts on Sounds And Scores by Henry Mancini from which he learned the basis of composition and taught himself. Many years later he came to meet and know Henry Mancini personally.
Arranger and Conductor
In all his compositions, Roy always wrote his own arrangements and conducted his own music. Whilst still in his teens, he took on a new Agent who placed himself, in the main, as co-writer, arranger, lyricist and publisher. Their relationship became so strained that in 1980 Roy decided not to renew his contract with him and put and end to their agreement.
Roy’s remarkable versatility took him to conduct numerous world famous orchestras both Jazz and Symphonic and had, in particular, led him to enjoy a long standing relationship with the National Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic.
First Film Score – Soldier Blue
At twenty two, his international reputation also came from his film scores. The first one, Soldier Blue, immediately noticed by Sam Wanamaker, caused a considerable political row due to its violent opening scene relating to the killing of hundreds of Cheyennes at the Battle of Sand Creek in 1864.
Directed by Ralph Nelson, and starring an excellent Candice Bergen together with co-star Peter Strauss (playing a pacifist Cavalry Soldier) and Donald Pleasance (cast as an old wicked Gun Runner), the score was much acclaimed by the Press. Years later Bob Hope was still remembering vividly the storming presentation of the film at the Motion Picture Academy in 1971 and the great score of this “Kid Composer – the youngest guest of the Motion Picture Academy presenting his new film score in Los Angeles”.
A few months later, Roy wrote his first hit Get Carter, starring Michael Caine, John Osborne, Britt Ekland written and directed by Mike Hodges, still the number one thriller in the UK and now with international recognition. A violent gangster film, with a terrific raging Michael Caine, aiming to revenge his brother’s death. Roy Budd’s music superbly accentuates the calculated escalation of the violence in the film. The main theme is now an international classic.
It was in 1983 that the pop group, ‘The Human League’ were the first ones to use the famous Get Carter theme on their album Dare. This was a total surprise to Roy who was extremely pleased with this resurrection.
In the year 2000, a re-make of Get Carter starring Sylvester Stalone with Mickey Rourke, Alan Cummings and Michael Caine – doing a cameo for fun – used Roy’s very recognizable original sound tracks rearranged by Tyler Bates.
Many people seem surprised that a young composer was capable of writing such a score, but in the case of Roy, the transition to adulthood happened very early because of this advance that gifted children have. He had formed his own impressions of life very early on and had already felt and suffered. Being a famed stage and TV star in his teens had consequences. He had to face things alone at school and was often badly bullied by fellow pupils.
Roy had already been through emotions that are normally only experienced in adult life especially when, aged 6½, he was spending most of his weekends playing the piano for all kinds of charities so had no choice but to mature rapidly.
In 1985, he came to meet the great Gotz Friedrich, a formidable director and production talent who had enjoyed an impressive international reputation for many years as director of the West Berlin Opera House and Stage Director of his Wagner’s production, ‘The Ring’ in Bayreuth, Covent Garden and all around the world. Their instant friendship and close collaboration, stimulated Roy’s inspiration. He understood Roy very well having himself been a Jazz pianist in his youth before becoming the great Wagnerian that we all remember. Gotz gave Roy his biggest career boost when he asked him to write his first Opera for the Berlin Opera, an amazing challenge to be given in a composer’s career.
The Phantom Of The Opera
In 1991, Roy had bought an original 1925 copy of Phantom of the Opera from a collector and started restoration. Going back to his teenager passion for this legendary film, he was going to be the first one to write a score. When the restoration was complete and the symphonic score, written for 84 musicians, was finished, Gotz Friedrich decided to screen the film for the first time in his Berlin Opera, a cinema screen was going to be installed for a full orchestra playing Roy’s score simultaneously on stage. Until 1998, he was still trying to find the time and funding to programme The Phantom saying “I truly believe that we owe this to Roy and his fantastic score.”
World Premiere at The Barbican
This impressive film score, written with a great generosity of conception, this score has soul and heart. In one of his last interviews, Roy Budd said to John Mansell “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 but, saying that, it was quite an experience having to compose nearly ninety minutes of music. I am very proud of this score.”
The world premiere Charity Gala in support of Unicef, was going to take place at the London Barbican on the 21st September 1993, followed by a Gala Premier at the Paris Opera and also the Berlin Opera.
Much later in 1999, Ray Harryhausen the film director (creator of the Dynamation Process giving life to his mythological creatures in Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger/Clash Of The Titans etc.) and a personal friend of Lon Chaney starring as the Phantom in the film, wrote to Roy’s widow “Roy’s score for The Phantom is exceptional, it enhanced the pantomime of the original silent classic of Lon Chaney no end. I am sure that Chaney himself would be very pleased.”
You can read more about Roy’s final film score here, now finally released for purchase on DVD.
Roy composed for a large number films over his career, a list of which appears below. His talent was recognised by many, as can be seen by this scan of the Top 30 Rare Soundtracks, where Budd’s Fear is the Key score, stands alongside such greats as The Italian Job, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds and Let It Be. Click on the image to make it larger and see all the listings.
Whilst Roy worked on a wide range of films, he developed strong working relationships across the industry. One of the producers he worked with on six projects was Euan Lloyd, creating such films as Catlow, Wild Geese and Who Dares Wins. Watch our short video series to to hear Euan Lloyd discuss what it was like to work with Roy, how some of the scores developed, and behind the scenes of film production.
A full list of films that Roy worked on can be seen below.
LIST OF SELECTED FILMS
1970 – “SOLDIER BLUE” – western starring Candice Bergen, Peter Strauss and Donald Pleasance. Directed by Ralph Nelson for AVCO-EMBASSY
1971 – “FLIGHT OF THE DOVES” – Irish family adventure story starring Jack Wild, Ron Moody, Dorothy McGuire, Stanley Holloway and Willie Rushton. Directed by Ralph Nelson for COLUMBIA.
1971 – “GET CARTER” – thriller starring Michael Caine, Britt Ekland and Ian Hendry. Written and Directed by Mike Hodges for MGM.
1971 – “ZEPPELIN” – first world war drama starring Michael York, Elke Sommers and Anton Diffring. Directed by Etienne Perrier for WARNER BROTHERS.
1971 – “CATLOW” – comedy western starring Yul Brynner and Richard Crenna. Directed by Sam Wanamaker for MGM.
1971 – “SOMETHING TO HIDE” – drama starring Peter Finch and Shelley Winters. Directed by Alister Reid for AVCO-EMBASSY.
1971 – “KIDNAPPED” (originally named “DAVID & CATRIONA”) – Scottish family adventure yarn starring Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Jack Hawkins, Donald Pleasance and Gordon Jackson. Directed by Delbert Mann for AIP.
1972 – “STEPTOE & SON” – comedy starring Harry H. Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell. Directed by Cliff Owen for EMI.
1972 – “THE CAREY TREATMENT” – murder mystery directed by Blake Edwards and starring James Coburn and Jennifer O’Neill.
1973 – “MAN AT THE TOP” – British drama directed by Mike Vardy and starring Kenneth Haigh and Nanette Newman.
1973 – “THE STONE KILLER” – thriller featuring Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam and Ralph Waite. Directed by Michael Winner for COLUMBIA.
1973 – “STEPTOE & SON RIDE AGAIN” – comedy starring Wilfrid Brambell, Harry H. Corbett and Diana Dors. Directed by Peter Sykes.
1973 – “WELCOME TO BLOOD CITY” – sci-fi western starring Jack Palance, Keir Dullea and Samantha Eggar. Directed by Peter Sasdy for ANGLO-EMI.
1973 – “FEAR IS THE KEY” – thriller starring Barry Newman, Ben Kingsley, John Vernon and Suzy Kendall. Directed by Michael Tuchner for EMI.
1974 – “THE BLACK WINDMILL” – thriller starring Michael Caine, Janet Suzman and Donald Pleasance. Directed by Don Siegel for UNIVERSAL.
1974 – “THE MARSEILLE CONTRACT” – British thriller starring Michael Caine, Anthony Quinn, James Mason. Directed by Robert Parrish.
1974 – “THE INTERNECINE PROJECT” – thriller starring James Coburn, Harry Andrews, Lee Grant and Ian Henry. Directed by Ken Hughes for BRITISH LION.
1975 – “DIAMONDS” – middle-eastern thriller starring Robert Shaw, Richard Roundtree, Barbera Hershey and Shelley Winters. Directed by Menahem Golan for CANON.
1975 – “PAPER TIGER” – Oriental family drama starring David Niven, Toshiro Mifune, Hardy Kruger and Ando. Directed by Ken Annakin for PARAMOUNT PICTURES. (Winner of coveted “Golden Globe” American critics’ award in the music category for best score).
1977 – “SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER” – British family adventure fantasy, “dYNAMATION” by Ray Harryhausen and starring Patrick Wayne, Taryn Power, Margaret Whiting, Jane Seymour and Patrick Troughton. Directed by Sam Wanamaker for COLUMBIA.
1977 – “FOXBAT” – Action Adventure Thriller directed by Po-Chih Leong and starring Henry Silva, Vonetta McGee and Rik Van Nutter.
1978 – “THE SANDBAGGERS” – British TV Drama Series starring Roy Marsden, Ray Lonnen, and Jerome Willis. Created and written by Ian Mackintosh.
1978 – “TOMORROW NEVER COMES” – psychological thriller, main title sung by Matt Monroe and starring Oliver Reed, Susan George, Raymond Burr. Directed by Peter Collinson.
1978 – “THE WILD GEESE” – African mercenary adventure story starring Roger Moore, Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Hardy Kruger, Stewart Granger, Frank Finlay, Jeff Corey, Ronald Fraser, Barry Foster, Kenneth Griffith and Jack Watson. Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen for RANK.
1980 – “THE SEA WOLVES” – Second world war adventure story starring Gregory Peck, Roger Moore, David Niven, Trevor Howard, Donald Houston, Kenneth Griffith, Patrick Allen, Patrick Macnee. Main title sung by Matt Monroe. Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen for PARAMOUNT.
1980 – “MAMMA DRACULA” – French/Belgium horror satire starring Maria Schneider and Louise Fletcher. Directed by Boris Szulzinger.
1982 – “WHO DARES WINS” (in the U.S. called “THE FINAL OPTION”) – thriller starring Judy Davis, Richard Widmark, Robert Webber, Edward Woodward and Lewis Collins. Directed by Ian Sharp for MGM/UNITED ARTISTS.
1984 – “SQUARING THE CIRCLE” – TV Special on past and present Poland. Written by Tom Stoppard and directed by Mike Hodges (collective winner of American critics’ awards).
1985 – “WILD GEESE II” – action thriller starring Edward Fox, Scott Glenn, Barbara Carrera, Laurence Oliver. Directed by Peter Hunt for EMI.
1986 – “FIELD OF HONOUR” – South Korean war film starring Everett McGill, Min Yu, Mike Mooney, Ron Brandsteder. Directed by Dae-hie Kim and Hans Scheepmaker.
1987 – “THE BIG BANG” – X-rated animated science fiction fantasy starring Georges Aminel and Carole Androsky. Directed by Pisha for 20TH CENTURY FOX.
1992 – “THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” – American silent horror film starring Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin and Norman Kerry. Directed by Rupert Julian for UNIVERSAL.
Although some of these films have disappeared some are making a comeback such as Mamma Dracula the score of which has been released on a new CD.
Last Work and First Opera – Britannicus
Taking his inspiration from the French writer Racine’s play (c.1669), Roy said of this Opera, “it is essentially a love story that takes place in the midst of Roman politics at its most intruiging; evil, corrupt and deadly – Britannicus has been exploited and manipulated – I can write about that – it is also an important part of our history.” He gave the leading role to Rene Kollo as Nero and asked Peter Hofmann, a Wagnerian and also Rock Singer, to take the part of Britannicus. Executive Producer was to be Manfred Durniok (most acclaimed film Mephisto)
In 1986 he had already chosen Hofmann to record a song with the London Symphony Orchestra, of a poem that Roy had written in 1980 entitled Say You’ll Be Mine (that song was originally supposed to have been part of the score of the Wild Geese II but the idea was not taken further). He then produced a single of this song, recorded in Wembley at the CTS Studios with Hofmann and his favourite Sound Engineer, David Hunt.
In 1984 Roy had enjoyed writing for the LSO choir and produced a song Planet Of Dreams, dedicated to Stephen Hawking. This was part of a double album production that he entirely arranged for the LSO and LSO choir.
In addition to a planned series of operatic events, Roy had in mind to produce a special opera cinematic film from his opera Britannicus and was already visiting suitable Roman locations around the world.
From 1970 to the end of his life, his compositions took most of his time but undoubtedly his music was moving to a different sphere. Most of his films had been thrillers, westerns or war films yet he always yearned to compose for romantic or costume films and space fantasies.
In 1988 he was asked to write a symphony to celebrate the bi-centennial anniversary of the French Revolution but due to the sudden death of the organiser, the project was abandoned. Nevertheless Roy found the time to write and record the Tricolor Overture with the Luxembourg Symphony Orchestra.
Writing the Phantom score and Britannicus opera really fulfilled Roy. He said, “there is no coming back, I feel free, that is what I want to do now.”