Earlier in the year, I got an email newsletter from Amoebe Records in San Fransciso, the world-famous record store. They had one copy of this soundtrack album, on vinyl, still sealed. I jumped at the chance to buy it – but the newsletter would have gone to thousands of people around the world, right? There was no chance it’d still be available, but it was, and I’m listening to it right now.
The reason I was so eager to get my hands on this soundtrack was that for a very long time, it’s been out of print. The estate of Jimi Hendrix pulled the release because they didn’t want his music to be associated with a film depicting drug use. I guess they should have thought about that when they licensed his two songs to be used in the film in the first place, but maybe that was just an oversight.
I don’t think this is the original release from 1987. I don’t think it would have spent so long, sealed, in such a high-profile record store. Instead, I think it might be a reissue, especially since it’s on DRG Records, a New York label, rather than the original 1987 release on the British Silva Screen Records imprint.
The two Hendrix songs, All Along The Watchtower and Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), used so devastatingly in the film, are replaced here with inferior live versions (possibly as an attempt to get past Hendrix’s estate?), so it’s not a perfect reproduction of the film’s soundtrack. The 1931 song Hang Out The Stars In Indiana, used to soundtrack Withnail, Marwood and Monty’s trip into Penryth ‘to get fitted with some good quality rubber boots’ is also dreadfully cut short to only what you hear in the film, so they’ve taken a few liberties in compiling this album.
Before I left the UK, I bought a bootleg version of the soundtrack on CD, subtitled The Embalmer, from a guy on eBay who, as it turned out, lived around the corner from me in Chorlton. A quick Google search suggests that this is now a well-sought after item, and it should be – it has all the instrumental score sections used in the film, together with all the unabridged, original versions of the ‘pop’ songs used in the film.
I can’t say enough about the film, Withnail And I. Ever since I saw it on the big screen at University (as part of our Film Society, although it did have a minor re-release in the UK at that time around 1999), it’s been a constant favourite of mine. I think I’ve owned it on all home video formats over the years too. I originally bought it on VHS, then on DVD, and now I own a Blu-Ray copy autographed by Paul McGann from a couple of years ago when I saw a screening in Auckland in which he was in attendance.
As far as scripts go, Bruce Robinson’s script for Withnail And I might be almost perfect. It’s of such high quality, that it’s intensely rewarding for repeat viewings, and for me is up there with This Is Spinal Tap – even if it isn’t lauded as much as that film.
Hit: While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles
Hidden Gem: Marwood Walks – David Dundas & Rick Wentworth