Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Brian Jones 'Lost Masterpiece' - A Degree Of Murder (Soundtrack)

The soundtrack by Brian Jones has never had an official release, possibly because of legal conflicts. Although the Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page, session pianist Nicky Hopkins, musician Peter Gosling, and Small Faces drummer Kenney played on the album Jones contributed many respective instruments to the recording sessions. It was recorded between late 1966 and early 1967 at IBC Studios in London. Jones stated that "the boys in the band played on the record" but Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman has said that neither he nor drummer Charlie Watts participated in the music making and Jones never elaborated exactly which members played on the soundtrack. Jones also stated that many session musicians play on the soundtrack but session logs reveal that most of the instrumentation was done by Jones himself. 

Jimmy Page talks about working on the soundtrack:
"Brian knew what he was doing. It was quite beautiful. Some of it was made up at the time; some of it was stuff I was augmenting with him. I was definitely playing with the violin bow. Brian had this guitar that had a volume pedal-he could get gunshots with it. There was a Mellotron there. He was moving forward with ideas."

British underground filmmaker Fabrizio Federico took inspiration from Brian's soundtrack for his movie Teddy Bears Live Forever (2019) proving Jones lasting influence in the cinema department: 
''It's a perfect film score, the tapestry of different instruments and sounds was a first in 1966, and on top of that this was his first soundtrack! God only knows what he would have created had he had lived, maybe he could have won an Oscar for best soundtrack at some point.''

In the tumultuous period between late 1966 and February of 1967, Brian reached the pinnacle of his songwriting success. Brian was dating the model/actress Anita Pallenberg and ended up composing the film score for the German-made film called "A Degree Of Murder" (Mord Und Totschalg) which starred Anita. Brian saw the project both as a creative challenge and something that would bring him and Anita closer. Keith Richards said of Brian's soundtrack:
"For a project nobody ever tried before-to write a whole piece of music for a film-it was good." 

The director of the film, Volker Schlondorff described the film and Brian's role:
"I liked Brian and trusted him. You could feel that he had a lot of creativity. He was very much in touch with his time and he was also very much in love with Anita, the only actress in the movie - and its soul. She was bound to inspire him, if he was to write the music for her. And it wasn't just that his music was special, it was that the score was so spontaneous, vital. Only Brian could've done it. He had a tremendous feeling for the lyrical parts and knew perfectly the recording and mixing techniques required to achieve the best sound for drums, his guitar or flute et cetera." "When the editing was done, Brian came back to Munich and sat in the editing room with me as we discussed, just as with any other professional movie composer, where to put music and what kind of music. It was just the true story of a girl who accidentally kills her boyfriend with his own gun, but instead of going to the police she hires two men for a few hundred marks to drive the corpse to the country where they bury him in the construction site of an autobahn. No moral implications, no guilt trips. It's more like an outing on a beautiful autumn day. Brian's score then was to provide a reflection of those rather callous feelings, while somehow managing to hint that of course she was mourning her boyfriend's death."

Brian wrote a theme, which is reprised throughout the film in various styles including bluegrass, folk, Eastern influences, R&B, rock and country. Once Brian had accumulated enough material for the project he turned to Glyn Johns to help put it together. Although the two men did not get along personally, they worked together smoothly on the project. Glyn Johns described his role: 
"Brian came to me and asked for help. He'd lost so much self-confidence by this time and really was in need of a hand. In a way I felt sorry for him. It wasn't that I didn't think he was capable of handling the project himself. But clearly he wanted help in the engineering. So I agreed. Brian worked very hard in his Courtfield flat on two little tape machines. He had all types of ideas which worked. He did it very well, and it came out amazingly. And we had a good time doing it. Brian was extremely together and confident while he was working on it. When it was finished he was both pleased and relieved. The rock 'n' roll bit which was written to fit the early murder scene was really good" 

The soundtrack was recorded at IBC Studios between late 1966 and early 1967 with all music composed, arranged and produced by Brian (with Glyn Johns engineering). The soundtrack also featured session musicians Jimmy Page (guitar), Nicky Hopkins (piano), and Peter Gosling (background vocals). 
Brian played all the other instruments including: sitar, organ, recorder, banjo, harpsichord, autoharp, dulcimer, clarinet, and harmonica. In the March 10, 1967 official press release, Brian explained that he used players: 
"ranging from one musician to ten. I ran the gamut of line-ups - from the conventional brass combination to a country-band with Jew's harp, violin and banjo. In the main the musicians were established session men - though some of the boys from the group also played."

Although the exact beginning dates of the recording are sketchy, we can pinpoint a general ending date for the project at around February 12th, 1967. Brian had been working on the finishing touches of the film score on this date when the infamous Redlands bust occurred. In fact, Brian had called Keith to tell him that he and Anita would be joining the party within a couple of hours, only to be informed by Keith that Redlands had just been busted. The following events might sound like a soap opera, but they involve both stories that both involve Brian's soundtrack and had ramifications to Brian being able to enjoy his success.

Next stop: Their Satanic Majesties Request....