Girl On a Motorcycle: The Soundtrack

Les Reed
Composer Les Reed

One of the best things about Jack Cardiff’s 1968 film The Girl on a Motorcycle is the terrific score created by the award winning British composer and songwriter Les Reed. Les Reed was one of the most prolific members of the mid-60s London music scene and he’s probably familiar to most people thanks to the success of popular songs he wrote and arranged for other artists. Reed often worked with other songwriters like Geoff Stephens and Barry Mason, and these creative partnerships yielded many hit songs.

Here’s a short list of some of the songs that were composed and/or arranged by Les Reed and performed by the recording artists who made them popular (links should take you to YouTube clips for each song):

Tom Jones – “It’s Not Unusual”
Herman’s Hermits – “There’s a Kind of Hush”
Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders – “Game of Love”
The Drifters – “Hello Happiness”
The Fortunes – “Here It Comes Again”
The Dave Clark Five – “Everybody Knows”
The Applejacks – “Tell Me When”
Petula Clark – “Kiss Me Goodbye”
Lulu – “Leave A Little Love”
Elvis Presley – “Sylvia”
Engelbert Humperdinck – “The Last Waltz”
Mireille Mathieu – “Les Bicyclettes De Belsize”

John Barry Seven
The John Barry Seven with Les Reed on the piano

Les Reed came from a musical family and trained at London’s prestigious College of Music. In 1958 he began playing piano with renowned composer John Barry and his touring band the John Barry Seven. This partnership lasted until 1962 and during that time Reed worked with John Barry on the soundtracks for Beat Girl (1959), Never Let Go (1960) and the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962). But it wasn’t until 1968 that Les Reed would get the opportunity to compose and record his first film score for Jack Cardiff’s The Girl On a Motorcycle.

Reed’s score for Girl On a Motorcycle is a powerful psychedelic mix of jazz influenced sounds that fuels the film and sticks with you long after the credits have rolled. The edgy soundtrack features lush strings, punchy brass, smooth vibes and Hammond organ grooves that perfectly compliment Jack Cardiff’s uninhibited directing style on the film. Reed’s score really injects life into Cardiff’s striking cinematography and experimental editing. Besides the avant-garde incidental music, Reed’s soundtrack also contains memorable songs sung by the French chanteuse Mireille Mathieu and the legendary British born jazz singer Cleo Laine.

This unusual combination of sounds and styles makes Les Reed’s soundtrack for Girl On a Motorcycle a great standalone recording and one of the composers most highly regarded efforts. Even critics of The Girl On a Motorcycle who don’t appreciate Jack Cardiff’s film often still find some enjoyment in Les Reed’s unforgettable score.

Girl On a Motorcycle Soundtracks
LP and CD covers for The Girl On a Motorcycle soundtrack

Late last year Britain’s RPM Records re-released Les Reed’s soundtrack for The Girl On a Motorcycle accompanied by his soundtrack for another film, Les Bicyclettes De Belsize (1968). I haven’t heard this latest release, but it doesn’t include any of the Mireille Mathieu and Cleo Laine songs for the movie so I can’t really recommend it. If you’re going to purchase The Girl On a Motorcycle soundtrack I highly recommend buying the original RPM Record release, which contains all of the music recorded for the film. The soundtrack is currently selling at Amazon for $19.98, but I thought I’d offer a sample from it here.

Listen: Les Reed – “Girl On a Motorcycle” (Theme)

To learn more about Les Reed and his generous contributions to music I recommend visiting his website: Les Reed OBE: The Official Website.

This is a continuation of my extensive look at Jack Cardiff’s 1968 film The Girl On a Motorcycle. Previous posts:
Some Thoughts On Jack Cardiff 1914-2009
The Girl On a Motorcycle: Advertising