Capture the funky mood

Ben Blackmore recommends an essential soundtrack for lockdown listening.

Having signed off on the anxiety-inducing score for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, David Shire began work next on The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three, a stylish 70s potboiler starring Robert Shaw and Walter Matthau. But while The Conversation’s suspenseful soundtrack is an exercise in restraint, Pelham One Two Three bursts right out the gate with its rollicking salvo – heavy with brass and impossibly funky.

The film, largely because of its score, was the perfect embodiment of bubbling tensions in New York City at the time: at once purposeful yet louche, syncopated but discordant. What we see is a sunken city, down-at-heel.

But Shire’s soundtrack evokes bustle and grit, too. This rousing heist music races on from station to station with its subway rattle and meandering keys, navigating the plot’s myriad twists and turns. The music’s urgency delineates from its frenzied instrumentation, which was achieved using the 12-tone composition method. Who knew?

Like sweat, the film clings to the viewer, its soundtrack so good it threatens to hijack the picture altogether. It almost makes one nostalgic for public transport… but perhaps that’s just quarantine talk.

The original motion picture score of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (Simply Vinyl, 2001 – SVLP 358) complete with liner notes is on sale at The Record Album