Will Salmon loves his Wicker Man LP – and it’s red vinyl!
It’s all about “Willow’s Song” for me. The musical centrepiece of The Wicker Man’s soundtrack has been covered many times and remains emblematic of the film’s weird appeal. It’s a seductive and spooky slice of acid folk written by Paul Giovanni and beautifully sung by Rachel Verney. Finding a copy of the soundtrack, however – at least in its filmic form – is harder than you might think. That’s because there are two versions available. The one you can pick up today in your local HMV was released by Silva Screen in 2002, and is great. The sound quality is pristine, it features the lovely “Gentle Johnny” – a highlight of the film’s extended edition – and the cover is beautiful.
And yet... something about it feels wrong. It’s too clean, too polished – something The Wicker Man, with its faded film stock and wintry colour palette, never was. Crucially, the “Willow’s Song” here is not the same as the movie’s – it’s performed by Leslie Mackie, who played Daisy. The Verney version is only available on the edition put out by Trunk Records in 1998, now long out of print on CD and god’s own format, vinyl. Back then, nobody had attempted to release the soundtrack before and, with no master tapes available, the tracks here were taken from a mono music and effects tape, with some songs ( like “Gently Johnny”) absent or incomplete. Vinyl copies are tricky to find and expensive, tending to hover around the £ 50 mark these days – especially the red vinyl version. It’s a strange artefact: occasionally feeling more like an abridged audio version of the film than a collection of music, but the atmosphere is unique. It puts you back on Summerisle in a way that the sparkly stereo version doesn’t. And “Willow’s Song” is the Rachel Verney version – the proper version! – in all its murky, mysterious glory.
Will is finishing off his spooky poodle mask as we speak.