Musings About Music In Film

The Wicker Man

By Moxie McMurder wickerman

Not content with having issued some great soundtracks on LP lately, Music On Vinyl released the soundtrack to Robin Hardy's film of The Wicker Man. Unlike the previous album, this issue comes straight from the master tapes and includes all the songs from both cuts of the picture.

One of the greatest soundtracks of all time. It’s just perfect. The music from The Wicker Man was written by New Yorker Paul Giovanni and performed by Magnet, and it fits the film perfectly with a folksy, dark sound perfectly in keeping with the themes of the film. The songs were arranged to hint at a pre-Christian pagan European culture and took some inspiration from a few nursery rhymes, while some of the instrumental score was inspired by various Scottish and Irish folk tunes.

Side One starts with 'Corn Rigs' which, while it sounds innocent enough, hints at some sexual activity, but gives no indication of what’s in store for Detective Howie and the horrors that are to unfold. The lyrics were taken from a Robert Burns ballad. 'The Landlords Daughter' is the first hint that things may not be what they seem on this island.

“And, when her name is mentioned The parts of every gentleman Do stand up at attention The Landlord's Daughter”

The bawdy and somewhat inappropriate nature of the song and the prudishness of Detective Howie are set against each other so perfectly, and it’s a great drinking song! 'Gently Johnny' was recorded although wasn’t seen in the final cut of The Wicker Man, so it didn’t appear in the released soundtrack in 1998. The Wicker Man: The Final Cut DVD has since been released and the full soundtrack; it’s a soft and slow and is reflective of what’s happening on screen as Willow (the titular Landlord’s Daughter) seduces a young boy and The Lord of Summerisle muses aloud how he could live like an animal:

“They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. They do not make me sick, discussing their duty to God.”

'Maypole' and 'Fire Leap' are the two songs on the soundtrack that are pretty much always going around in my head at any given point on any given day. They are incredibly catchy, with the lyrics to 'Maypole' talking of the circle of life while 'Fire Leap' sounds like an incantation. 'The Tinker of Rye' is sung by Christopher Lee and Ingrid Pitt. I’m not sure if Pitt's singing voice was dubbed - much like Britt Ekland - but it comes across as natural.

Side One ends on the famous 'Willow’s Song'. The song is accompanied in the film by a scene of Britt Ekland dancing naked up against the wall that separates her room from Detective Howie’s. As most people know, it wasn’t Britt’s naked body we see writhing and slapping the wall and nor is it Britt’s voice we hear singing (or talking for that matter!). According to Britt, she didn’t know they were going to use a body double and was annoyed that the body double didn’t have a body that matched her own. Britt’s pregnancy has oft been cited as the reason behind the body double but that’s not the story she tells. Anyway, the song is perfect. It’s a soft, rhythmic, bewitching song and has been covered by bands from various genres, such is the draw of this song, absolutely synonymous with the film

Side Two is mostly instrumental aside from a few tracks including 'Summer is A Cumen In' which is sung by the locals as the Wicker Man burns. It’s another folksy hymn sung with smiles on their faces and joy in their heart, which makes it all the more horrifying. The instrumental tracks have a regality to them but still maintain a playful side. Some of the tracks have a traditional Scottish feel to them, and it really does give the film that small, local, rural feel.

I like that a couple of the lines from the film make their way onto the soundtrack ‘And now, for our more dreadful sacrifice... The soundtrack closes with 'Sunset', a sombre end to what is one of the most interesting and brilliant soundtracks of all time.

The Wicker Man is available now on vinyl from Music On Vinyl