Bernard Hermann’s music for Psycho is, arguably, the most famous film score of all time. It’s certainly the most recognisable – even if you haven’t seen the film, you’ll know the music, which has been copied, spoofed and reworked numerous times over the years.
This new release of the two most important tracks from the film is claims the first to be lifted from the original masters – Hermann’s 1975 soundtrack LP was a new recording. There is, however, a 2015 LP release that also claims to be lifted from the original tracks, which met with variable reviews. This new version, mastered at Abbey Road, is presented in glorious mono, and I’m willing to wager that this will be the most authentic version of the tracks, as heard in the film, that you’re ever likely to hear.
Nicely packaged, with an iconic still on the cover, a design that apes record releases of 1960 (including sleeve notes from the era) and a free embossed postcard, this release has been mastered from the original recordings, and in truth, you’ll probably be buying this as a collectable rather than a record to play. But you really should give this a spin, ideally with the volume cranked up. Familiarity has bred, if not contempt, then at least indifference to the music, but the fact is that this is the most intense, psychotic, stabbing film score ever recorded. famously consisting of nothing but string instruments, the main theme – Prelude – has a nightmarish urgency to it that immediately sets you up to expect the worst, while Murder, famously composed to accompany the shower scene even though Hitchcock had originally wanted to present the scene without music (can you imagine?), is pure hysteria – the music sounding like the stabs of the knife and the sort of thing that you can imagine shocking audiences out of their seats when the film was first released. Hitchcock said that “33% of the effect was the music”, but he underestimates – I’d say that the music is the making of that scene.
If there’s a downside to having this soundtrack on vinyl – aside from its brevity – then it is surely that the music is not exactly easy listening. You probably won’t be playing it at too many parties. But as a long-overdue release for one of cinema’s most iconic scores, this limited edition – to 1960 copies, of course – release is pretty essential.