It has always been a mystery to me as to why the original soundtracks to some of British cinemas most successful movies have not been made available, after all it took many years for the music for Hammer horrors to get a release on the GDI label and even now some of the Hammer classics remain in the dusty archives and I think that’s where they will remain. Yes, labels such as TADLOW and SILVA SCREEN have been actively involved in re-recording several scores, and these movies I am going to talk about have had re recordings produced but in suite form or musical excerpts etc for a compilation album. The successful films I am talking about are THE CARRY ON, movies, ok maybe they are not exactly Oscar material but they kept audiences around the world occupied for many a year, the comedy probably did not travel well outside of the UK but they seemed to hold their own in Europe at least. The musical scores for these, mirth laden, saucy, innuendo riddled flicks that were filled with suggestive and seaside postcard scenarios that at times were very close to being censored were by two composers, but I think the most popular scores are by the highly talented Eric Rogers who took over scoring duties from Bruce Montgomery after he had worked on the first six in the series and went on to write the music for 22.
One of his most popular score was from the 1966 spoof horror CARRY ON SCREAMING which was the teams send up of the Hammer horrors that were at that time very popular with cinema goers, with the story of FRANKENSTEIN or at least their take upon it being particularly prevalent throughout. Rogers score contained a catchy pop theme song performed by actor Jim Dale who went under the name of Anon on the credits, Dale had made the odd foray into the area of vocal performances and released a few singles with musical accompaniment provided by Ron Goodwin, but it would be comedic acting that Dale became known for primarily. CARRY ON SCREAMING was probably one of the most successful films within the series amongst the fans at least, and was a sequel to, CARRY ON COWBOY and a prequel to CARRY ON DON’T LOOSE YOUR HEAD, it had a budget of 197,000 pounds and featured most of the usual carry on gang Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and Bernard Bresslaw, but also starred, Harry H. Corbett, who had become popular with audiences via his portrayal of the downtrodden Harold in the long running TV series, Steptoe and Son on the BBC. Which was something that composer Rogers picked up on in his score, utilizing part of the STEPTOE AND SON theme OLD NED by Ron Grainer and fusing it with another popular UK, TV theme, Z cars, which was based on the traditional song JOHNNY TODD and arranged by Norrie Paramour for the early police series, when the camera cut to Corbett and his bumbling sidekick Slobottom, played by the wonderful Peter Butterworth.
But there was much more to the music for the CARRY ON, movies than the comedic timing or humorous touch, these were serviceable film scores and Rogers could quite easily shift gears or change style and create a suitable sound for each of the movies he worked on.
CARRY ON CLEO for example contained a suitably epic sounding score, that was filled with fanfares and all things Romanic but it also had to it that underlying touch of comedy with an impeccable timing because we all know in comedy it is all about the timing.
It is said that comedy and maybe horror are the hardest genres of film to score, and I suppose to an extent that is true because each are similar for a composer, by this I mean if its horror one does not want to give the game away as it were and if a score gets ahead of itself it could spoil the effect that is about to occur on screen, the composer having to get the correct balance before and after the actual scene of Horror or violence, the same with comedy, it could be so easy to go over the top with the music and ruin a punchline. So, Rogers I think got it right every time. Born Eric Gakkroger in Halifax U.K. on September 25th, 1921, Rogers became interested in music from an early age, and began to become involved with music at the age of thirteen when he was given lessons in playing the organ at his church. He never actually received any formal musical instruction but was a self-taught musician and gained experience as a musician playing piano for free beer during the second world war. When the war finished, Rogers formed his own orchestra which was given a residency at the Orchid Rooms at London’s Trocedero, he gained a reputation during the early 1950, s for being a talented arranger and conductor for musical variety theatre in London’s west end. He began to work on films during the late 1950, s at first scoring children’s movies but then working on British releases such as the war drama THE WOODEN HORSE and the comedy GENEVIEVE.
In the early 1960’s he collaborated with Lionel Bart on the original stage version of the musical OLIVER, this was because Bart never actually had any knowledge of writing or reading music, Rogers was responsible for converting Bart’s ideas into musical notes and acting as arranger and orchestrator on the production which premiered on June 30th, 1960. At the same time, Roger’s began to work with composer Bruce Montgomery, again carrying out orchestrations and arrangements. In 1962, Rogers acted as musical director on the score for Dr. No, working with composer Monty Norman on the first James Bond movie. Composer Bruce Montgomery was involved with the CARRY ON, films, which at that time were new to cinema audiences. CARRY ON executive Peter Rogers was not happy with Montgomery, the composer found it difficult to deliver his music on time and relied upon Eric Rogers to complete the assignments, so Peter Rogers decided to ask Eric to work on CARRY ON CABBY in 1963 on his own.
This first foray into CARRY ON comedy led to the composer scoring a further 21 films in the series, CAMPING, MATRON, COWBOY, UP THE KHYBER and SCREAMING, being his most prominent and popular, the composers final encounter with the franchise came in 1978 when he provided the score for the lack lustra CARRY ON EMMANUELE.
In 1975, the composer re-located to America, this was because he was receiving numerous requests from the United States to work on television series and films there. He became involved with De Patie Freleng who were responsible for producing many shorts and animated series that were popular at the time. These included, RETURN TO THE PLANET OF THE APES, WHATS NEW MR. MAGOO and SPIDER WOMAN. He also worked as musical director and arranger on several animated shows that the company produced including THE PINK PANTHER SHOW and conducted Dean Elliot’s music for THE NEW FANTASTIC FOUR in 1978. Peter Rogers and Eric Rogers were not related as many thought, but they did however have a great working relationship and long term friendship. The filmmaker often collaborating with the composer in the actual writing of the music giving him ideas etc. as to what he thought would best suit the movies. Rogers was also responsible for writing the ever so familiar SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALADIUM theme which became just as popular as the show itself, and scoring and acting as musical director on movies such as, BLESS THIS HOUSE, NO SEX PLEASE WE’RE BRITISH, ALL COPPERS ARE, INN OF THE FRIGHTENED PEOPLE and THE BEST HOUSE IN LONDON amongst others. Rogers died on April 8th, 1981 aged 59, in the County of Buckinghamshire, England. I think it is a shame that collectors of film music and also fans of the CARRY ON, movies have been denied the original scores for these iconic British films, and like THE ST. TRINIANS, series with music by Sir Malcolm Arnold, there has never been an original soundtrack release of just the music from the films, yes there have been recordings released but these included dialogue from various movies, with the music taking a backseat to the proceedings, maybe the tapes do not exist or have been destroyed lost or are lying in a dusty basement, who knows, but it would be nice to try and find out.
Bruce Montgomery’s CARRY ON scores too would be welcomed in their original form that is, CARRY ON SERGEANT, NURSE, TEACHER, CONSTABLE, REGARDLESS and CRUISING. Were all typical of British films scores from the late 1950, s through to the first part of the 1960, s, with Montgomery’s style being more akin to and belonging to the era of the war years, with the music running continuously more often than not. However, there were some strong themes within all the scores, the march that Montgomery penned for CARRY ON SERGEANT for example ended up being the CARRY-ON THEME and endured throughout the series being heard in some form or another in each CARRY-ON outing, and alongside the serious music if you can categorize it as being serious that is, were jazz orientated pieces of light music which was at the time popular with most. Bruce Montgomery was born on October 2, 1921 in Chesham Bios, Buckinghamshire, England as Robert Bruce Montgomery. He is known for his work on the CARRY ON, movies mentioned previously, plus he also enjoyed a career as a successful author writing Under the pseudonym Edmund Crispin, he penned a series of mystery novels and short stories featuring the character Gervase Fen. Also as Edmund Crispin, he edited several collections of science fiction short stories.
The first, “Best SF” (1955), had a great influence on acceptance of the Sci Fi genre as serious writing in Britain. His Gervase Fen novel “Frequent Hearses” takes place in and around a British movie studio, and contains many insider jokes about actors, directors, musicians, and others in the business. Towards the end of his career his alcoholism became worse, which resulted in him not being able to meet deadlines and complete scores for movies, it was at this point that he enlisted the assistance of fellow composer Eric Rogers and CARRY ON producer Peter Thomas decided that Rogers should be the main composer for the films. Bruce Montgomery, passed away on September 15, 1978 in West Hampstead, London, England, which was a sad ending to a career that could have been even greater.
Apart from his music for the CARRY ON, movies the composer wrote the scores to numerous other pictures, these included, THE BRIDES OF FU MAN CHU, DOCTOR IN LOVE, DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, DOCTOR AT LARGE, TWICE AROUND THE DAFFODILS, THE KIDNAPPERS, RAISING THE WIND and many others. Which when you think about it would be perfect titles for a Montgomery re-recording project.
Eric Rogers, refused to score CARRY ON ENGLAND in 1976, because he was told that he could only use twenty players for his score, he believed he required at least forty, so composer Max Harris was brought in, after this the CARRY ON, series seemed to be losing its appeal, shifting trends and tastes at the time did not see the CARRY ON, humour as that funny anymore. In 1977, THAT’S A CARRY ON was released, this was like a best of the CARRY ON’S a compilation of all the sauciest and best bits from the series, Rogers arranged the music for this release and worked on the final movie in 1978. The CARRY ON, series had for all intent and purpose ceased production after CARRY ON EMMANUELE, but it was to return in 1992 for one last thrust in the form of CARRY ON COLUMBUS, which was honestly not a patch on the originals, and contained a score by composer John Du Prez. Even the presence of Jim Dale and Bernard Cribbins could not save this production, and it quite literally fell off the edge of the world. I think it was a case of the CARRY ON’S not keeping up with modern trends or being current, instead they kept on with the same formula, and as we all know there is always something waiting in the wings that the fickle cinema going public will pick up on. CARRY ON ENGLAND for example was not really that funny, some even saying it was embarrassing to endure, rather than audiences laughing at its jokes and humorous moments they were laughing at just how bad it was and that too was sadly the case with COLUMBUS. The films remained saucy, innuendo filled toilet humour, filled with suggestive and smutty one liners, but the audiences had become a little more sophisticated and selective, and wanted more in the way of entertainment.
Because the original scores for THE CARRY ON’S have not been made available, the obvious way forward was re-recordings, and one would have thought with so much material for the movies that there might have been a handful of releases concentrating upon the music from the series. However thus far we have seen just two releases, which although welcomed and also very good indeed, barely scratch the surface as far as the wealth of music is concerned for these movies. The albums were released by ASV and Vocalion the music being performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic and The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under the direction of conductor Gavin Sutherland who is always so enthusiastic about any project he undertakes. THE CARRY ON ALBUM and WHAT A CARRY ON both highlight the best and the sauciest music from the series and are both very different in content, the ASV album, opens with a suite from CARRY ON CAMPING with Eric Rogers camping it up literally with an upbeat arrangement of ONE MAN WENT TO MOW, which acted as the films main title adapted delightfully for strings and brass, setting the scene perfectly for the remainder of the album. Track number two, COME TO PARADISE and the main characters, is another example of Rogers utilising a familiar theme or motif on which he bases his composition, this time the composer integrates EARLY ONE MORNING, a traditional English folksong which dates to the 16th Century, into the fabric of his score, but by doing so it immediately grabs the attention of the listener and sets the scene on screen creating the correct atmosphere etc. He also does the same later in the album with CARRY ON AT YOUR CONVINIENCE, when he uses OH DEAR WHAT CAN THE MATTER BE.
Rogers was a master at establishing a theme straight away with his chirpy and infectious CARRY ON CABBY theme performed by brass and harmonica supported by timpani and strings, in fact CABBY was very like the theme from GENEVIEVE. Which was released ten years prior to CABBY. The album also includes music from CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER, CARRY ON CLEO, CARRY ON BEHIND, CARRY ON JACK, and CARRY ON DOCTOR/CARRY ON AGAIN DOCTOR all penned by Rogers. Bruce Montgomery is represented via a suite, which includes his themes from, TEACHER, NURSE and SERGEANT.
Which is certainly one of the more entertaining cues on the album. Montgomery’s original CARRY ON THEME is also given an airing, as is his ANGLO AMALGAMATED FANFARES 1 and 3, with a selection of music from the composers score for the 1961, comedy RAISING THE WIND, which although not a CARRY ON, movie, featured a number of actors associated with the CARRY ON series and the DOCTOR films, such as James Robertson Justice, Leslie Phillips and Kenneth Williams, composer Montgomery was also responsible for writing the story and screenplay for the movie as well as scoring it. It was also released under the title of ROOMMATES. This is a great album to just put on and listen to, without much real thought, but at times you find yourself being transported back in time to that small cinema with the itchy seats in which you sat first watching these iconic British comedy classics. We certainly need a CARRY ALBUM VOL 2.
The WHAT A CARRY ON recording, includes, CARRY ON HENRY, CARRY ON SCREAMING, CARRY ON FOLLOW THAT CAMEL, CARRY ON GIRLS and all manner of other CARRY on cues, you have to have both of the albums, no collection would be complete without them. Both are excellent, and must have items, although these days both are becoming quite hard to find.