Blow the Bloody Doors Off!
Tonight, as the boombastic title suggests, is going to be bloody enjoyable. But let's look at the facts: how did we get here and what does this murky East London evening have in store? Well the man responsible is musical director Terry Edwards, who called this evening’s entertainment obviously Caine's Greatest Hits; they make sense together, but they were also fairly different with two British and two American composers in the musical mix. There is a jazz influence and an orchestral influence, the biggest influence of course being the common denominator Caine himself.
With over 100 films to choose from it was no easy job to whittle down it down to the music we're going to hear. Caine is the (well tailored and dashing) thread to this evening that features scores from simply some of the best musicians and composers. The music includes Sonny Rollins' scoring of Alfie - the involuntary education of a hipster; John Barry's The Ipcress File - the tale of a working man's Bond; Quincy Jones’ quintessentially English soundtrack to The Italian Job which is apparently the 27th great British Film of all time (Total Film) and finally, Roy Budd adds the musical grit to Get Carter, one of the first realistic gangster films to hit the screen.
Not to be too la-di-dah about it but what makes this music so great? Well it all came down to its limitation. As Edwards explained you had a certain amount of time, money and musicians and these composers pushed everything they had to the limit. There are certain soundtracks you listen to and you just hear that the tune has been done again and again for effect within the plot, that doesn't necessarily work as a piece of music outside of the film. But that's not the case here - far from it.
These composers were young and hungry when they composed these scores, and had as much to prove as Caine himself. Take Get Carter as example of Edwards’ point. Roy Budd (at the incredible age of 23) had only £450 to score the entire film, but he overcame this restriction by coming up with the nifty solution of just using only three musicians, including himself, playing electric piano and harpsichord simultaneously. Well maybe John Barry post Bond wasn't short of a penny. Earlier in the 60s, he had even allowed a much poorer Michael Caine to lodge in his flat, after he'd been forced to leave his own flat, penniless.
Like the plots to the films themselves, we won't stay in one place very long this evening. You'll hear the swinging tune that Sonny Rollins wrote that defines Alfie and the swinging London of its time. Maybe even his sense of cool in the film comes from Rollins himself as he picks himself up and dusts himself off after every encounter with his 'birds'. But don't take my word for how good it is. Rollins’ friend Miles Davies said ' He was a legend, almost a god to a lot of the younger musicians. He was an aggressive, innovative player who always had fresh musical ideas. I loved him back then as a player and he could also write his ass off...'
As Edward explains in Get Carter, that single note melody on harpsichord and piano IS the film. On Days Like These, which Matt Monroe sung on for The Italian Job, it has a certain lushness that really does set up the film as we are slowly drawn into what will be a dramatic opening to the film. And you can't go wrong with John Barry's orchestration for spy thriller The Ipcress Files, a subtle delicious alternative to his big Bond scores.
Suave spy, conniving crook or self-absorbed lover; these are the characters we'll encounter. But tonight the actors are replaced by musicians. Musical director and multi-instrumentalist Edwards has brought together a musical ensemble of what he calls 'rockers and readers' for this evening: those who can read music but go way beyond that and, like himself, can turn their hand to more than one instrument. We have the likes of Seb Rochford (Polar Bear) who not only plays drums but also the tabla. Mark Bedford (Madness) will play on both acoustic and electric bass. Then there are of course the important flute and saxophone lines and we'll hear Finn Peter (Jerry Dammers) and Jack Pinter (The Black Rider). Not to forget the other unusual sixties and seventies sounds and shapes created by hammer dulcimer, trumpet, string quartet and of course the Hammond organ. Now the icing on the cake is the addition of singers Maggi Ronson, Tracie Hunter and a certain Matt Monroe Jr will get to sing one of his father's most famous tunes. And the master of ceremonies will be comedian, music fan and lovely geezer Phill Jupitus.
I think it's fair to say today’s generation consider Michael Caine to be Batman's butler or Austin Power's father, but when he 'arrived' on the cinema screen in the 60s he brought real and convincing and extremely memorable characters for the first time in these films. He pretty much employed a whole generation of impressionists with that accent. So let's pull up our almond rocks and put on our daisy roots, push the mothballs out of our whistle-and-flute and enjoy this night - maybe with a thin glass of beer. Enough already. Cue the music!
Words: Ben Eshmade