From the Timewarp to Mindwarp for our next Doctor Who composer! Richard Hartley may well be best known for a long association with a fellow Richard-O'Brien and The Rocky Horror Whow. For he was involved in its music from the very beginning. Starting out as part of an original four-piece band, because with the show's miniscule budget Hartley could only afford to hire four musicians who had to double on a second instrument.
"We couldn't just hire a bass player. We had to find a bass player who could also play saxophone."Hartley himself played keyboard himself for the five weeks of the initial run, and went on to arrange the score for its 1973 stage début, and the Picture Show adaptation for cinema two years later.
He would later remember the beginnings of the Picture Show alongside O'Brien while speaking to the Guardian's theatre section:
"Rocky Horror is just Frankenstein with a twist. Except there's no twisting – it's rock'n'roll. Richard and I listened to the same records when we were growing up, so we just put all the things we loved in. You can hear the influences: a bit of Chuck Berry, and a bit of Rolling Stones in Sweet Transvestite. It's self-indulgent, but the songs aren't pastiche like the ones in Grease.RockyMusic reveals yet more of Richard's background in sound.
The space only seated 50 people, but they rolled around with laughter. I've never thought it was that funny. It was done seriously – this wasn't variety-show camp. Until he was in costume, Dr Frank N Furter was a serious scientist. Then, when the high heels came out, it was liberating for him- and Tim Curry appealed to both sexes.
It was only subversive in the sense that it was raw-edged: the music was like something by a garage band. For the film, we wanted things to be more gothic, so we got two musicians in from Procol Harum. It was sweetened for Hollywood, with strings and a brass band, too. We recorded the backing tracks in four days, and the vocals in a week. We pre-recorded every song except Science Fiction, so what you see is all mimed. It would have been easier and cheaper if they'd sung live. But the whole film still cost less than $1m.
I'm staggered it's such a phenomenon. The film's a bit long, and it's so slow. It wilts after an hour then picks up again. That might explain why audience participation started to play a big part at screenings – they probably got bored so they started answering back."
""If you were English and played in a rock and roll group you could do no wrong," explains Hartley over tea in his airy London apartment.Hartley was active in scoring for film post-Rocky Horror, too! The Romantic Englishwoman (1975), Aces High (1976) & The Lady Vanishes (1979)- a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 original- among his credits.
As a keyboard player he toured Europe with 'Denny and the Witchdoctors,' an eccentric musical group that combined fifties rock and roll with a touch of Barnum and Bailey's circus. "Denny, who was in his early forties, dressed exclusively in leopard skins.
He did a fire-eating act while he sang and played the banjo. In between he used to string up wires and swing all around the stage. It was a great show. Very visual.""
Moving into the Eighties he continued his cinematic work while also moving into television. Nicolas Roeg's Bad Timing (1980) & the Golden Raspberry-nominated Sheena (1984) added to his big-screen CV.
He would also work on several projects with director Mike Newell- they had first worked together on 1982's Bad Blood in New Zealand. Within three years they had collaborated on both Dance With A Stranger, and The Good Father.
But what of his television work? The Sixth Doctor adventure Mindwarp was one of his first moves onto the smaller screen, and his commission could have been intended to reflect a new way of working on music for Doctor Who at the time, as Doctor Who Electronica suggests-
"It was originally intended that the incidental music duties for Season 23 should be split half-and-half between freelancers - represented exclusively by Dominic Glynn - and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. One version of events has it that the Radiophonic Workshop's various commissions had to be reassigned because of Jonathan Gibbs' sudden departure, but this seems unlikely as Gibbs didn't leave until November 1986, by which time Mindwarp had been transmitted."But why look to outside sources for the music?
"By 1986 commercial synthesizers were widespread and relatively inexpensive, and so were freelance electronic composers. Consequently, when DW returned from an 18-month enforced holiday with a reduced budget, John Nathan-Turner found it more cost effective to start commissioning incidental scores from outside the BBC again.
The freelance composers employed from 1986 until the original series' cancellation in 1989 tended to keep hold of their work, and only one score from this period - the score for Mindwarp (1986), composed by Richard Hartley, who was also responsible for arranging the music for the latest stage tour of The Rocky Horror Show- is lost."
Shadowlocked's 'THE (OCCASIONALLY EXCESSIVE?) MUSIC OF DOCTOR WHO' heaped praise upon it as a high point of the mid to late Eighties music for the programme:
"Richard Hartley's sole contribution for Mindwarp is a belter, and one of the factors in making this tale such a clammy, claustrophobic one. The synthesised, doomy score pins down that feeling of dread and amplifies it, particularly in the climatic scenes of Peri's not-quite death."Alex Wilcock is a fan, too.
"I’m always unhappy when an ’80s Who story is released without the option of being able to listen to the musical score separately.
Richard Hartley’s glistening and occasionally thumping incidental music here is the exception: it’s the only score of the decade for which the master tapes no longer exist, so it’s not cost-cutting nor lack of interest that means there isn’t one on this disc.
I’m still miffed it’s the excuse for not making the scores for the other ten The Trial of a Time Lord episodes available, though."
It seems neither the BBC or the composer himself kept any of the tapes containing the music- indeed Mindwarp gets no mention on his own official website! As a consequence the only way to hear Hartley's music is to watch the story as transmitted.
Perhaps the time has come for a reissue? Let's do the Mindwarp again.............