The iconic status of the classic 1971 British gangster film “Get Carter” is due to its many converging forces. Star Michael Caine, already bankable thanks to the role of Harry Palmer in Len Deighton’s thrillers such as “The Ipcress File” and the lead role in “The Italian Job”, shines positively off-screen as Jack Carter, the titular anti-hero of this piece. It’s a tight script, driven by the imagination of visionary director Mike Hodges, who has made dark places in the North East of England an integral part of his story.
And then there’s music by Roy Budd, which has now been released on purple vinyl by Music on Vinyl.
Budd, a young man at the time of the commission, used his experience as a jazz musician and songwriter to create something truly memorable. The resulting cool jazz suite encapsulates the transition period of the late ’60s and early ’70s, when the psychedelic romanticism of flower power gave way to the much earthier and bolder sounds of a decade all along. made more troubled and uncertain.
The intro introduces us to the distinctive notes of the “Carter theme” played on the Wurlitzer electric piano. It’s not until we reach the third track, “Main Theme – Carter Takes A Train,” that we hear that instantly recognizable bass line pinched on the upright bass. Percussion and Wurlitzer electric piano (as well as standard piano) combine to perfectly accompany the on-screen footage of Carter taking a train journey from London to Newcastle. We don’t know at the time that we’re watching a revenge thriller, and that the hero returns to his hometown (despite Caine’s undisguised London accent, but let’s not quibble), to find and kill the murderer of his brother. All we know is that the adventure is promised and the character we follow is compelling, probably dangerous, but attractive and cool. The music reflects his personality.
Other tracks like “Getting Nowhere in a Hurry” extend the theme of the jazz suite, offering different tempos. There are also three accessible songs on the album: ‘Looking For Someone’, ‘Love Is A Four Letter Word’ and ‘Hallucinations’. There’s a silly lyric or two in there, but no one pays attention to them as the movie rolls.
Snippets of dialogue from the film are interspersed between the original music tracks. Even from a highly quoted movie, all the most beloved lines are included. There’s the excruciatingly tense exchange between Carter and Eric (Ian Hendry) on the race track. “I had almost forgotten what your eyes looked like.” Always the same. Pissholes in the snow. Then there’s the vaguely comedic scene that translates to Caine’s legendary performance: “You’re a great man, but you’re in bad shape.” With me, it’s a full-time job. Now behave yourself. The lines “Drink, Eric” nicely accompany the funeral “Goodbye Eric!” which contains an ingenious use of the organ.
An essential part of a truly great cinema is a soundtrack that takes the movie to the next level. With ‘Get Carter’, Roy Budd has certainly achieved this. The main theme is the melody everyone remembers, and once you hear it on beautiful 180g vinyl, it’s sure to be stuck in your head for days. But the score in its entirety stacks up and guides our emotional responses to on-screen actions. Perhaps even more importantly, the music, inseparable from the film that gave it life, is nevertheless enjoyable isolated from the images that it so brilliantly accompanies. Sadly, Roy Budd passed away at the age of 46. The stunning soundtrack to “Get Carter” is his lasting legacy.
This limited edition purple 180g disc from Music on Vinyl comes in gatefold format. The inside sleeves contain color and black-and-white production photographs of the film. As well as Michael Caine, other highly regarded British actors including George Sewell and Tony Beckley are featured. There are reminiscences about the making of the film from some of the surviving talent. Contributors include director Mike Hodges, pre-Blockheads Mickey Gallagher and Johnny Turnbull, who joined Budd as vocalists, drummer Chris Karan and bassist Jeff Clyne, and film critic Jonathan Ross. There’s also a touching biographical tribute to Roy Budd himself.
The soundtrack to “Get Carter,” with its urban, slightly unsettling jazz following, is one of the most iconic of cinematic scores, and it sounds wonderful on heavy vinyl. It’s sure to make you want to relive Jack Carter’s violent Newcastle homecoming!
List of tracks: In front of: 1. Get Carter Intro 2. Dialog “Is there a Mr. Carter in the room?” 3. Main theme – Carter takes a train 4. Dialogue “Do you know a man called Albert Swift?” 5. Looking for someone 6. Dialogue – The racetrack 7. Something in mind 8. Dialogue “Who killed Frank?” 9. Going Nowhere in a Hurry 10. “Tell Me About the Girl” Dialogue 11. The Girl in the Car 12. “I Love You” Dialogue 13. Love Is a Four Letter Word 14. “You” Dialogue you’re in luck. They also kill” 15. Life should be like this B-side: 1. Dialogue “All you need is a call to the police” 2. Manhunt 3. Dialogue “Drink: Eric” 4. Goodbye Eric! 5. Dialogue “I want you to listen very carefully” 6. Hallucinations 7. Dialogue “You are a great man but you are in bad shape” 8. Toy 9. Dialogue “Get away from the car or I will blow you apart 10. Goodbye Carter! 11. “Speak or I’ll Kill You” Dialogue 12. Hallucinations Instrumental 13. Getting Nowhere in a Hurry Instrumental A record label: music on vinyl Release date: April 8, 2022 Buy ‘Get Carter’