A while ago I sat down and listened to the 1998 Trunk Records of The Wicker Man soundtrack back to back with the Silva Screen version that was first released in 2002 and which was also included with the 40th anniversary home release of the film and has had various reissues on CD and vinyl.
As you may well know if you are reading this the soundtrack was composed and arranged by Paul Giovanni and performed by him and the band Magnet, which was formed in order to record the soundtrack and was assembled by the film’s associate musical director Gary Carpenter.
It is easy to forget just how odd and unique the soundtrack is. It feels very much like part of older British traditional music even though only a small part of it is directly traditional in origin.
The Trunk Records release is described as “The original motion picture soundtrack music and effects” and is not a conventional soundtrack album where each song is presented as an isolated whole, possibly with snippets of dialogue from the film between the tracks. On this album the songs, effects and so on are sequenced into one another and at points fragments of earlier songs reappear and fade in and out:
“The original music and effects tapes were found and carefully copied, and the LP release is an identical copy of the sounds found on these tapes.” (Quoted from the Trunk Records site.)
(Above: the 1998 Trunk Records release of the soundtrack which included a map of Summer Isle.)
It isn’t purely a straightforward edited recording of the film’s audio… it’s more like it takes you a journey through the atmosphere of the film, one which evokes a sense memory of its story rather than telling it in full and it captures the “otherly” character of the film.
Something which struck me when you sit down and listen to the lyrics is their obsession with fecundity. They are more than bawdy, more a sort of overwhelming sleazyness masked by a connection to nature. They become akin to a form of propaganda intended to convince the listener/islanders that this is the correct and natural way of being and there is a sort of overpowering enforcement of conformity to them, disguised as a form of liberal paganism.
The current interest and critical appreciation of The Wicker Man can in part be traced back to the Trunk Records release of the soundtrack; at the time of its release the film was not overly referenced and the release was one of the sparks (apologies for the accidental sort of pun) that started its rehabilitation.
My copy of the CD still has the HMV price sticker on the back and cost £14.95, which allowing for inflation since the late ’90s means it probable cost the contemporary equivalent of £25. Blimey (!)
The Silva Screen edition of the soundtrack is more conventionally presented and features isolated complete songs accompanied by some snippets of the film’s dialogue and at times it seems almost curiously showbiz-like in comparison to the Trunk Records edition. It isn’t sequenced in the order that the music appears on the album but rather is front loaded with the “hits” – Corn Rigs, The Landlord’s Daughter and Gently Johnny.
Both versions of the soundtrack have their champions and pros and cons and they complement one another in a manner which is in keeping with the film’s history in the sense of there not being a definitive, complete and final version of the film known to still be in existence.
Interest in The Wicker Man only seems to grow as the years pass, as do the number of releases and reissues of books, DVDs, Blu-rays, posters, zines, documentaries, trading cards, soundtracks etc related to it. As I’ve commented before the film has inspired a mini-industry all unto itself.
I suppose collecting multiple releases of a film, alongside related merchandise, is not all that different to say following a band and buying different versions of their singles back in the ’80s and 90s, which sometimes varied only slightly in content and at times it was only the cover art that was different. However, if you were to attempt to be a completist Wicker Man collector you would probably need a fair few pounds and also a fair amount of shelf space.
In this post I gather together some of the output (very bountiful harvest?) from the Summer Isle mini-industry…
The first more full length (well, sort of, this is The Wicker Man after all) and archival “proper” home UK release of the film.
The Quest for The Wicker Man, Constructing The Wicker Man and the two editions of Allan Brown’s Inside The Wicker Man non-fiction books.
One of the many and varied poster designs.
A title graphic which accompanied the BFI’s Sing Cuckoo: The Story of The Wicker Man Soundtrack documentary, which featured amongst others Stephen Cracknell of The Memory Band and Jonny Trunk of Trunk Records.
Covers to two issues of Nuada – “The Wicker Man journal” from the late 90s.
Artwork which accompanies Stephen Applebaum’s eBook of conversations with Robin Hardy, Anthony Shaffer and Edward Woodward.
The first edition of The Wicker Man novel and a reissue.
The Wicker Man The Complete Piano Songbook.
Images from The Wicker Man press book.
The DVD of The Wicker Man given away free with The Guardian newspaper – and for completist purposes as in its early days The Wicker Man shared a double bill with it, the DVD of Don’t Look Now that was given away free with The Observer newspaper.
More images from The Wicker Man trading cards, including various “chase”-able collectibles such as original print blocks, signed cards etc.
Various DVD, VHS, poster, novel and soundtrack covers etc (including a revisit to the Trunk Records edition). No laser disc I notice, which I don’t think the film was released on…
…but talking of rarer formats, above are two Betamax versions.
One of the various VHS covers.
The limited edition poster released in 2013 to accompany the Silva Screen limited edition reissue of the soundtrack and another trading card printing block and I think one of the collectible “chase” trading cards.
The issue of Sight & Sound magazine with The Wicker Man as the cover feature and Vic Pratt’s Long Arm of the Lore article from the magazine and the The Films of Old, Weird Britain issue with cover art partly inspired by The Wicker Man.
And last but definitely not least… one of the places where the current interest in and critical acceptance of The Wicker Man can be traced to; Volume 6 Number 3 of Cinefantastique that was published in 1977, which was an issue of the magazine that largely focused on The Wicker Man.
- Notes on The Trunk Records release of The Wicker Man’s soundtrack at the label’s site
- Silva Screen’s 45th Anniversary reissue of The Wicker Man’s soundtrack
- Sing Cuckoo: The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack at the BFIPlayer
- The Wicker Man (1973) Wikia – an extensive “rabbit hole to disappear down” resource of all things Summer Isle
Elsewhere at A Year In The Country (well, a few of such things, I expect there are more):
- The Wicker Man – The Future Lost vessels and Artifacts of Modern Folklore
- 138 Layers and Gatherings of The Wicker Man
- Summerisle in (Sort Of) Pop #1 – Pulp’s Wickerman
- Summerisle in (Sort Of) Pop #2 – The Sneaker Pimps’ How Do / Kelli Ali’s Willow’s Song
- Your Face Here; Peering Down into the Landfill – A Now Historical Perspective on the Stories of The Wicker Man
- The Wicker Man / Don’t Look Now Double Bill and Media Disseminations from What Now Seem a Long Long Time Ago
- Constructing The Wicker Man
- The Wicker Man, Edge of Darkness and Village of the Damned – The “Tricky” Cult Remake
- Willows Songs
- Revisiting Willow’s Songs
- The Wicker Man Revisited / Refreshed – The Long Arm of the Lore
- The Wicker Man – Summer Isle Books, Bindings, Pounds, Shillings and Pence
- Sing Cuckoo: The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack and Other Partly-Archived Summerisle Discussions
- The Wicker Man – Notes on a Cultural Behemoth