CULT CLASSIC: ROY BUDD-THE INTERNECINE PROJECT.
Cult Classic: Roy Budd-The Internecine Project.
By 1974, London born jazz pianist, arranger, bandleader and composer Roy Budd was twenty-seven, and had been performing professionally since the age of fifteen. A year later, he formed his own quartet, and in 1967, released his debut album Roy Budd At Newport. The young pianist was a prodigious talent, who by 1970 had turned his attention to the world of film scores.
Roy Budd’s first film score was for Soldier Blue which was directed by Ralph Nelson and released in August 1970. Just a year later he was commissioned to write the score to the gangster film Get Carter which was released in 1971, and starred Michael Caine and Britt Ekland. Over the next three years Roy Budd continued to combine his work as a bandleader and musician with writing film scores.
He was commissioned to write the score for The Internecine Project, a British thriller which was directed by Ken Hughes and starring James Coburn and Lee Grant. Joining Roy Budd when the soundtrack was recorded were his usual rhythm section of drummer Chris Karan and bassist Pete Morgan. They were joined by legendary tenor saxophonist Tubby Hayes and the National Philharmonic Orchestra when the soundtrack to The Internecine Project was recorded. Sadly, when the film was released no soundtrack album was available. It was belatedly released in 2020 and is a reminder of the multitalented Roy Budd at the peak of his powers.
Roy Budd was born on the ‘14th’ of March, 1947, and by the age of three music was already part of his life. He used to listen to jazz playing on the radio. Just a year later, when he was four, Roy Budd started to play piano by ear. Then he started to copy the melodies he heard on the radio. This included Knees Up Mother Brown which he used to tap out with just one finger. Those who watched Roy Budd play said music came effortlessly to him, and he was regarded as a child prodigy.
The following year, 1952, Roy Budd met Winifred Atwell, who was one of his favourite pianists. When she heard the five year old copy the way she played she was stunned and said: “I’ve never seen anything like it, his sense of rhythm is superb. There’s a real genius here all right.”
Just a year later, in 1953, Roy Budd made his official debut at the London Coliseum. Although the six year old had only recently made his live debut American pianist Liberace had already heard about Roy Budd. He wanted to meet the young pianist, so sent Roy Budd and his parents tickets to one of his shows. Unfortunately, Liberace’s bodyguard didn’t believe the Budd’s had an appointment and they never got to meet him. To ensure this didn’t happen the next time, Roy Budd was sent a photo that included a personal note. This allowed him to prove he had an appointment with Liberace the next time he was in London.
By the time Roy Budd was eight, he could also play the Wurlitzer organ. This was another example of his prodigious talent.
Two years later, in 1957, ten year old Roy Budd was already a familiar face on British television, and had played before the royal family at The London Palladium. He had achieved so much since he made his debut just four years earlier. He was a special talent who said in an interview: “I have no idea of how the music comes. When I hear the a tune I just sit down at the piano and the music flows from my fingers.” That would be the case throughout his career.
During his early teens, Roy Budd discovered jazz. This inspired him to form the Roy Budd Trio.
By the time he was fifteen, Roy Budd had already started playing professionally. Soon, he was being nominated and winning awards for the best jazz pianist. This included winning the UK jazz poll in the category of best pianist for five years running. Roy Budd’s life was transformed as he played at some of the most prestigious venues across the globe.
He was by then regularly appearing on radio and television. Roy Budd had also started to write his own jazz compositions. This was a natural progression for the young musician.
So was forming his own band. When he turned sixteen, he formed the Roy Budd Quartet which featured drummer David May, Graham Jones or Steve Clark on bass with guitarist Pete Smith completing the lineup. They played at various venues in London, and regularly played at the Green Man and at the Lillipop Hall at Tower Bridge where they were a popular draw. Jazz fans from all over London travelled to see the young pianist and his new band.
Despite forming the Quartet when he was sixteen, the Roy Budd Trio was still going strong. The same year, Roy Budd brought drummer Chris Karan and bassist Pete Morgan onboard and they became what’s regarded as the classic lineup of the Trio. This new lineup of the Roy Budd Trio was influenced by its leader’s love of Brazilian music and would play together for over forty years.
At the time he turned professional, Roy Budd also decided to hire agent Doug Stanley. He would help the young musician for the next three years before emigrating to Australia. By then the two men had become friends and Doug Stanley had guided Roy Budd’s career.
Later, Roy Budd became the resident pianist at the Bull’s Head, Barnes. That was where he met songwriter Jack Fishman. He was so impressed with Roy Budd’s musical ability that he used his contacts at MCA to secure him a three-year recording contract.
This must have looked like the start of another successful chapter in Roy Budd’s career. However, after year, MCA used a clause in the contract that allowed the company to drop Roy Budd after the release of his 1965 debut single Birth Of The Budd. For a young musician who was only used to success, this must have been a huge blow to Roy Budd.
Despite this, Roy Budd bounced back and signed to Pye, and in 1967 released three albums. This included his debut solo album Pick Yourself Up!!! This Is Roy Budd. Later that year, he retained with his sophomore album Roy Budd Is The Sound Of Music. The Roy Budd Trio also released their debut album Roy Budd At Newport during 1967. It had been a big year for the twenty year old pianist, bandleader and composer.
Roy Budd also wrote the theme for the Granada TV police drama Mr Rose. Little did he realise that he would soon be better known for his film scores. That was all in the future.
In 1969, Lead On Roy Budd was released, with Budd ‘N’ Bossa following in 1970. By then, Roy Budd was about to change direction and write his first film score.
The opportunity arose when he heard that director Ralph Nelson was looking for an English composer to write the score to his controversial revisionist western, Soldier Blue. Roy Budd was so keen to write the score that he sent Ralph Nelson a tape featuring music written by Dimitri Tiomkin, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Lalo Schifrin and Max Steiner’s lesser known works claiming that it was own. Unsurprisingly, when Ralph Nelson heard the quality of music on the tape, he commissioned Roy Budd to write the score to Soldier Blue. There was a problem though.
Although Roy Budd could write music he couldn’t conduct an orchestra, which he was expected to do when the soundtrack was being recorded. Fortunately, he remembered Jack Fishman’s advice to never look at the control room. Heeding his friend’s he put his head down and conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra during the recording of the Soldier Blue soundtrack.
When the controversial and bloody film was released in 1970, the soundtrack to Soldier Blue played its part in the success of the western. Other filmmakers hearing Roy Budd’s soundtrack commissioned him to write the score to their films.
This included Mike Hodges who was the director of the gangster film Get Carter which starred starred Michael Caine and Britt Ekland. There was a catch though, the budget for the soundtrack was only £450. To save money, Roy Budd only used three musicians, and he played Fender Rhodes and harpsichord on what’s one of his finest soundtracks.
Sadly, when the film Get Carter was released in 1971, it wasn’t a commercial success. Despite that, Roy Budd was commissioned to write more soundtracks.
Later in 1971, Roy Budd wrote the soundtrack to Flight Of The Doves, then Fear Is The Key which was released in 1972 and The Stone Kill in 1973. Between 1970 and 1974 Roy Budd was prolific and wrote the score to sixteen films. This included The Internecine Project which was released in 1974.
The Internecine Project.
The Internecine Project was a British thriller that was written by Mort W. Elkind, Barry Levinson and Jonathan Lynn. It was directed by Ken Hughes and starred James Coburn and Lee Grant, and was released in 1974, by United Artists.
The film was set in London in the early seventies, and tells the story of a former secret agent Robert Elliot, who is about to be promoted and become a government advisor. He decides that he wants to get rid of anything and that relates to his past. To do this, he comes up with a plan where his four former associates will unknowingly kill each other on the same night.
This they do against a soundtrack featuring sixteen of Roy Budd’s compositions which were arranged by Frank Barber. They were recorded at CTS Wembley in 1974, and featured some familiar faces from Roy Budd’s past. This included drummer Chris Karan and bassist Jeff Clyne while the National Philharmonic Orchestra who he had conducted on Soldier Blue provided the strings.
They were joined by guitarist Judd Proctor, violinist Sidney Sax, percussionists Frank Barber and Tristan Fry, while Paul Fishman played synths. Horns came courtesy of tenor saxophonist Tubby Hayes and trumpeter and flugelhorn player Kenny Baker. Roy Budd played piano, harpsichord, clavinet, Fender Rhodes and synths. Together with this multitalented group of musicians he recorded one of his finest soundtracks The Internecine Project. It has Roy Budd’s name written all over it.
Anyone who has listened to and studied the key ingredients of a Roy Budd theme will spot what can only be described as a big theme that is memorable, melodic and tuneful. That is the case from the ruminative sounding Main Theme, with its haunting strings which in an instant transports the listener back to the early seventies when The Internecine Project was set. Somebody’s Going To Have To Kill Him features dramatic, heavy orchestral riffs and as tablas play and strings sweep. It’s a gripping and full of tension. So is Never Think Twice where Roy Budd takes a less is more approach before the strings sweep and a pulsating bass and pounding piano adds to the drama as it builds. There’s tension and drama throughout The Deal, as if hinting that something could go horribly wrong at any time. It’s one of Roy Budd’s finest moments on The Internecine Project and one where he plays a starring role. Cinematic, chilling, eerie and haunting describes Find A Solution where the tension continues to build. That’s the case on Alright Alex where Roy Budd combines a harpsichord, chilling strings and timpani to accentuate the sense of drama and danger. The tension continues in Room 716 where bursts of drama can be heard before the chilling and menacing sounding Waiting For Murder unfolds.
The arranged to Mr Easy quivers and shivers, as it becomes funky, mesmeric, melodic and filmic. Roy Budd again uses the strings to add darkness and drama to Death In The Shower as percussion, piano harpsichord and horns are deployed and add the finishing touches to another of the soundtrack’s highlights. During Witness the darkness and drama of the previous track returns and strings add a chilling backdrop, timpani adds drama and the harpsichord adds that early seventies sound. Cinematic strings sweep in as You Or Him unfolds as percussion, a pulsating bass and otherworldly sounds combine as a dramatic, menacing sounding track reveals its secrets. Chilling, haunting, dramatic with a hint of desperation describes Finish The Job. Borrowed Time is a filmic track that is full of drama and paints pictures, while End Theme manages to be both melancholy and beautiful. Then on 5 Minutes Left To Live. funk, fusion and Latin rhythm combine to create a dramatic ending before Roy Budd drops in his trademark harpsichord leaving the listener wondering what happened, who lived, who died and was there a twist in the tail?
Although The Internecine Project wasn’t a high profile film with big budget, Roy Budd wrote and recorded what was a stunning soundtrack. It’s better than the film itself which wasn’t particularly successful. Very few people saw The Internecine Project when it was released in 1974, and it was about decade later when it started to appear late at night on commercial television in Britain.
After writing the score to The Big Bang, which was released in 1987, Roy Budd turned his back on the world of soundtracks and returned to his first love jazz. That was the case until his sudden and tragic death after suffering a brain haemorrhage on the ‘7th’ of August 1993 aged just forty-six. British music had lost a prodigious talent.
Now twenty-seven years after Roy Budd’s death, critics, film fans and record buyers are looking beyond his best known soundtracks to Soldier Blue, Get Carter, Flight Of The Doves and Fear Is The Key. Roy Budd wrote the soundtrack to thirty films, and sadly, many of these films weren’t a commercial success.
That was the case with The Internecine Project, which is an oft-overlooked hidden gem that is worth watching the next time it’s on television. However, the best thing about The Internecine Project is Roy Budd’s soundtrack which transports the listener back to the early seventies and is chilling, haunting, full of drama and tension, but is also funky, mesmeric, melodic and truly memorable and a reminder of a prodigiously talented composer, bandleader and musician at the peak of his considerable powers.
Cult Classic: Roy Budd-The Internecine Project.