TRACK BY TRACK
By Des Burkinshaw
I remember Romano playing me this and saying, “Listen to this one carefully. It is the closest I’ve ever got to putting my feelings down in music.”
I asked him, “Feelings about what?” He looked at me and said, “Everything.”
This was the only single Romano released under his own name. It didn’t chart.
2. Boulevard Le Depart
A track with no known commission attached to it. Not for the last time, he turned to the hammered dulcimer/cimbalom as the lead instrument (something he did often. I know for a fact he was enamoured of John Barry’s theme for The Persuaders). This is my second favourite on the album and I wish I knew what inspired it. The title was scribbled on the tape box.
Boulevard de Depart
3. Waterloo Bridge
Romano had a chance meeting with Arthur Bryant and John May of London’s Peculiar Crimes Units, whose exploits have been so well documented in the 21stt century by the remarkable author Christopher Fowler. He said, “Someone should do a TV series about you two.” They still haven’t, but Romano was so inspired he sat down at a restaurant piano and started writing the theme for such a series. He called it Waterloo Bridge after John May told him that he and Arthur liked to walk across the bridge every evening.
Waterloo Bridge (Bryant & May Theme)
4. Dutch’s Theme (Wie is Boulez?)
A French production company made a pilot for a detective series, tentatively named after its hero, Dutch Boulez. Romano was commissioned for the title music and he came up with a strange tune that swaps from 3/4 to 4/4 throughout the chorus. They used it in the pilot but the series was never commissioned and the film remains unaired and unaccounted for, though magazine ads were prepared.
Dutch's Theme (Wie is Boulez?)
5. The Senator and the Rockette
ABC in America asked Romano for a theme for their series The Senator and the Rockette but it was taken off-air in December 1969 after the lead actor went Method and had an extra-marital affair with the actress playing the Rockette – one of Radio City Music Hall’s famous dance troupe.
The Senator & the Rockette
6. No Sleep Till Baranya
The famous Hungarian director Hegedüs Benedek contracted Romano to create 2 principal themes for his 1971 outlawed Cold War thriller, The Train Ride. He couldn’t afford to pay much and was risking imprisonment, even his life, daring to make a film without the say-so of Moscow. He shot when he could, on whatever camera and film stock was to hand. None of the actors’ faces could be visible and the film jumps from 8mm colour to 16mm black and white. These accidentally gave the film a great sense of disjointed paranoia.
No Sleep Till Baranya
7. The Girl in the White Beret
I was with Romano when this one came to him. We were walking in Carnaby Street, surrounded by hippies, tie-die and lurid colours everywhere. It hurt the eyes. But then, rounding a corner, came this stunningly beautiful woman – I can see her still – dressed entirely in white and cream. She had on an aran style sweater, had died her hair white and was wearing a beret. “Look at her, the girl with the white beret,” I said. Romano ran over to her and begged her to go for a coffee. She told him to get lost. The track was eventually used on Chubby Cabbage’s long forgotten Bond cash-in, The Spy Who Killed the World.
The Girl in the White Beret
20th Century Fox made the cheeky cowboy caper Scalp! In 1969. It sank without trace due to its gratuitous and senseless racism, violence and nudity. One would have thought this worked in its favour, but Hippies and Native American rights groups, teamed up to mount protests and it was withdrawn from cinema and has never been given a DVD release, though you can find it on Netflix apparently.
Stetson (Theme from Scalp!)
9, If All My Heroes Came to Dinner.
We were having a beer in Soho when a man from ITV approached Romano in 1970 and asked him if he could write a theme about a series in which famous people had dinner together. “What happens?” Romano asked. “They just sit around and chat. It’ll all come together in the edit.” They shook on the deal but as soon as he was gone, Romano laughed and said, “What idiot wants to watch people just sitting around talking over food?” I’m glad, in a way, he didn’t make it to see today’s TV schedules.
If All My Heroes Came to Dinner
In early 1970, Romano took a group of acolytes out for a boozy Soho lunch. The news came in that The Beatles had split up. Romano was delighted. For some reason, he seemed to think that the lack of competition would increase his chances of scoring another hit. Pissed, standing on a table, shouting “Down with Beatles” at the top of his voice, he attracted the attention of fellow Beatles-hater, Sidney Brasher, an Australian film-maker. The two bonded and Brasher commissioned him to write a theme tune for a new spy-thriller set on Bondi Beach. The film copped a lot from the superior Bond novels, which was apt, as Romano copped a lot from John Barry’s superior Bond soundtracks.
11. Sliding Down the Fjjord
- After his leg was amputated, Romano started coming up with titles which leaned heavily on leg function. This particular piece was inspired by watching ice melt from his kitchen window, in those pre-double glazing days. Other pieces to be named in honour of Romano’s phantom leg included: Hop Hop Hop (1970), Walk a Mile in These Shoes (1970) and One Foot on the Pedal (1972). All these recordings are sadly lost.
Sliding Down the Fjjord
12. Dreaming of My Old Dog
Romano loved dogs. He thought he was one because, he too, was loyal, playful and frisky. “The only thing I can’t do is lick my balls,” he used to say.
A children’s show asked Romano to come up with a piece for a new cartoon they were producing. Romano used the death of his old dog as inspiration but the producers rejected it, saying they wanted something perky, not a maudlin rewrite of Old Shep.
Dreaming of My Old Dog
13. The Drunken Aerialist Recovers
Romano went to the circus when he was 10 and saw a drunken trapeze artist fall to his death. His mother clipped him around the ear when he laughed. He thought it was part of the act and resented the telling off. He never went to the circus again but told me this jolly piece was written to provide an alternative ending to that childhood trauma.
The Drunken Aerialist Recovers
14. Save the Whale
The Crouch End Chorus, inspired by the creation of World Earth Day in 1970, began work on an eco-musical. One of Romano’s drinking buddies asked him to write a couple of pieces for it. He misread the brief and composed some orchestral pieces with no lyrics. “We’re a choir, we need lyrics,” said his exasperated buddy. “Write your own, I can’t be bothered,” said Romano. They didn’t.
Save the Whale
15. Make Free on the Lawn
Romano had many friends in the pop world. In the late 60s and early 70s most pop stars were capable of the most incredible, but fun, debauchery. He was once invited to a party at the home of a still internationally famous 70s pop star in which young, nude men parachuted onto the lawn after dinner. “What’s that?” asked an astonished Romano. “That my dear is dessert,” said the famous pop star. “What happened next?” I asked. “Well they made rather free on the lawn,” said Romano, as if it were obvious. “And what did you do?” He went back indoors and chatted up a waitress. “Great party but I was the only one who didn’t get his sweet.” I don’t know if this peace is a commemoration of that day or a piece about regret.
Make Free on the Lawn
16. Bitsie & Silas
Romano was sitting watching the telly one day playing guitar and the little lick that runs throughout came after he saw a documentary about the making of Pet Sounds. He heard how Wouldn’t It Be Nice’s opening guitar part was really hard to play and tried to come up with something that was hard for him. Long after he was dead, a supernatural TV series called Grimm appeared on TV starring Bitsie Tulloch and Silas Mitchell. A fan has emailed me to ask if this was written about them? I had to point out that the composer was dead long before it was made but they just emailed back to say, “That sounds about right for a series like Grimm.” There’s no telling some people.
Bitsie & Silas
17. A Look To Kill
As mentioned elsewhere, Romano was a flawed romantic. He loved women but just couldn’t get on with them. They loved him back but usually only for about a month before they realised the extent of his madnesses and mountainous ego. This is my favourite track of Romano’s and speaks to the jilted lover in all of us.
A Look to Kill
18. Disque Bleu
On a visit to Paul McCartney’s house, he spotted the mellotron used by The Beatles on Strawberry Fields Forever. After getting Paul to turn it on, he lied to him and told him had seen a dog worrying sheep at the bottom of Paul’s garden. Paul ran out to check and while he was gone, Romano recorded the mellotron backing to this on a portable Nagra tape machine he always kept in his bag.
19. Blackthorn Rose
In 1968, Romano picked up a copy of The Beatles’ White Album and told me, “It’s all shit bar Revolution #9 and Blackbird.” I think he was aiming for a tribute to these two with this piece which was actually written about Girlfriend of the Month in early 1969, a contortionist called Rose Blackthorn. See Evolution #9 later.
20. The Lazy Spy
I presume this track was intended for a film project because Romano always liked to add sound effects sympathetic to the project and this starts with an old-fashioned train in the sound effects. However, I was unable to find out who commissioned it. As an aside, I found a sad note scribbled on the tape box, “Why can’t I play trumpet? Why??” As he could play quite a few instruments reasonably well I don’t know why he made such a fuss about that one instrument. The limitations of the early synthesiser he used for the lead sound must have caused him some frustration but it is nice and moody and has some nice twang guitar.
The Lazy Spy
21. The Cemetery Kiss
Dedicated to the memory of one of his girlfriends, Sasha Vilya. She didn’t die, she just told him to drop dead.
Eventually, he started going out with her best friend, for a month.
The Cemetery Kiss
22. The Romans Are Coming
This is actually a compilation of fragments left over from a proper BBC commission. In early 1971, he was commissioned to write some incidental music for a factual drama called Julius and Bodeacea. The music was recorded at Abbey Road with a small concert orchestra. “I never seen anyone get so wasted as those damn brass players,” he told me. “We had to get everything done in the morning sessions because they were pissed as farts after lunch.” This is still true, as anyone who works with orchestras will know.
The Romans Are Coming
23. Closing Time
One of Romano’s fragmentary stings. He wrote hundreds, I’ve included this very short one as an example.
24. Last Orders at The Windmill
I know for a fact this was inspired by a boozy night Romano spent with a very famous leading lady at the Windmill Theatre in London. She is still alive, still regularly appearing in cut-price TV dramas in the UK, so I shall not divulge her name. I think he saw her as next month’s girlfriend but she was strictly a day-to-day person and they only spent one night together. The piece sounds like a What Might Have Been tune to me. He was intensely romantic – just egotistical, temperamental and unreliable with it.
Last Orders at The Windmill
25. Evolution #9
La Cirque Berserque asked Romano to provide a music concréte loop for their 1969, pan-European happening at the Roundhouse, El Condizione du Zimmer – the Condition of the Room. Too sweet to provide audio edge, the tape (Romano labelled it Evolution #9 on the tape box), the tape was never used and has been in the vault ever since. Despite his hatred of the Beatles, it’s a clear homage to their White Album track Revolution #9.