Its thirty seven since this movie was first released, a classic British Gangster film,it was the forerunner of so many movies that would follow. Francis Monkman’s score is to be re-issued by Silva Screen very soon,this edition of the soundtrack will include selected dialogue from the movie…
Francis Monkman was one of the founding members of the progressive rock group CURVED AIR, he left the group and joined fellow musicians and friends Herbie Flowers who had been in the groups Blue Mink and T.Rex, John Williams the now world famous classical guitarist and Tristram Fry who was an accomplished Timpanist for the Royal philharmonic Orchestra and had also performed with the Academy of St Martins in the field under the direction of Sir Neville Mariner. These talented musicians formed the band SKY in the late 1970,s. The band specialized in instrumental rock/progressive rock fusion that incorporated classical and also jazz styles, it was this style of music that Monkman employed on the soundtrack to the now cult British gangster movie THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY in 1980, fusing these styles with dramatic content to heighten the already taught and powerful storyline. Born Andrew Francis Monkman in 1949 the musician/composer was a pupil at Westminster School of music where he studied both organ and harpsichord, he went onto continue his studies at the Royal College of Music in Kensington London and won the Raymond Russell prize for virtuosity on the harpsichord and then became a member of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. In the 1960,s Monkman formed the group Sisyphus which eventually evolved into CURVED AIR, during the 1970,s Monkman played alongside an array of talented artists, Al Stewart, Elton John, The Shadows and Brian Eno. He also made an appearance playing keyboards on the Shadows former drummer Brain Bennett’s first solo album which was entitled VOYAGE.
The soundtrack from THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY was originally released on a limited/collectors edition long playing record on CES records at the time of the films release, it was then re-issued again on vinyl in 1982, also in the 1980,s Silva Screen records released an 11 track compact disc of the score and since this now long deleted release there have been a few re-issues of the soundtrack (legal and otherwise) one of the most recent being in 2000 on the Dressed to Kill label. This edition contained 10 tracks from Monkman’s score omitting the 1 minute and 57 sec opening cue from the Silva Screen release which was entitled THE MAIN TITLE, this was in fact the music that we heard as Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) arrives back in England and is greeted by Charlie (Eddie Constantine) at the airport. The Dressed to Kill records release also included tracks or songs that were apparently inspired by the movie. But it is Monkman’s score that I am more interested in and not the handful of so called subject inspired vocals by artists or groups that have no relevance to the original soundtrack whatsoever. Sadly the original score tracks do sound as if they are lifted from an LP record as surface noise can be heard during the quieter moments of the recording.
Track number 1 is the OVERTURE from the score, it begins with electronic keyboard supported by fast paced percussive elements and laced with dramatic sounding strings that are full of urgency. In many ways the style employed here is not a million miles away from something that Roy Budd could have written during the 1970,s its sense of exigency and fraught sounding atmospherics set the stage wonderfully, the composer building the tension and adding layers of stressful sounding apprehension as the composition progresses, Monkman utilizes electronic or synthetic sounds admirably within the cue combining these with conventional instrumentation. Track number 2, THE SCENE IS SET, begins in a more relaxed fashion again keyboards being the principal instrumentation underlined by soft woodwinds and harrowing strings that are punctuated by percussion, the track then steps up the tempo and segues into the now familiar saxophone led central theme from the score which although short lived certainly makes an impact upon the listener, after this brief introduction of the theme the composer then reverts back into a more subdued mood and even brings into the equation near romantic sounding strings that blossom from nowhere but just as swiftly disappear. Track number 3, AT THE POOL is a tense but also at the same time soft sounding piece, electronic keyboards again form the foundation of the cue, interweaved with jazz sounding but soft flourishes and nuances from the woodwind and a chiming motif making a brief appearance all of which build o a crescendo of strings and percussion as we see one of Shand’s associates murdered. Track number 5, THE ICE HOUSE, begins with a subdued and edgy variation of the central theme performed on chimes and underlined by strings that are barely audible, piano and strings then make an entrance adding melody and also a sense of relief to the situation, again the composer fusing synthetic with symphonic to great effect, unfortunately the surface noise of clicks and pops does rather spoil this cue. Track number 6, TALKING TO THE POLICE is a vocal that is a reggae style ditty with vocals courtesy of Bob Hoskins. Track number 7, GUITAR INTERLUDES is exactly what it says, classical guitar solo which evokes the sound and style of the composer Rodrigo. Track number 9, FURY, is a combination of organ, synths and also edgy sounding strings that burst into another variation of the central theme momentarily whilst percussion increases the tempo and piano punctuates with jagged sounding stabs all of which is underlined by bass guitar and more percussion.
There is then a lull with almost plaintive strings being used as a calming influence, percussion returns and wailing but melodic saxophone is introduced alongside strings as we see Harold Shand cleaning blood from his body in the shower after brutally murdering Charlie. Monkman’s music evokes Harold’s sadness and despair at having killed Charlie but also relays his anger at being betrayed by a man who he thought he could trust. Track number 10, TAKEN is a masterful and infectious piece and we hear this as Hoskins character is driven away in the back of a car at gunpoint by a smiling Pierce Brosnan. Hoskins not saying a word, but his changing facial expressions saying it all. Monkman’s score underlining and elevating the scenario wonderfully. THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY is in no doubt a classic movie and one which along with GET CARTER (1971) has certainly had great influence over other films within this genre, YOUNG AMERICANS (1993) for example and also LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (1998), although the latter falls somewhat short of the lofty heights achieved by director John Mackenzie’s masterpiece, that is unrelenting, absorbing and undeniably engrossing.