Really there had never been a rock soundtrack to a movie that wasn't about rock music before. Up to that point, it was considered impossible. Even Mr De Laurentiis said it'd never work. It was Mike Hodges, the producer [sic], who brought us into the project, and I think there was a fundamental gap between his view of the film and Mr De Laurentiis'. Mike Hodges really made it into a cult film by being very self-consciously kitsch, whereas Dino regarded it as an epic and not to be messed with. I'll never forget: He came to the studio, sat down and listened to our first demos and said, “I think it's quite good, but the theme will not work in my movie. It is not right.” And Mike walked over and said, “A chat with you, Dino. You don't understand where this film is going to be pitched…” But I had a really nasty moment there, “Oh no, he hates my “Flash… aaaahhh-aaaaaahhh”, and it's going to go on the cutting room floor.
For the record, as far as I remember, I played piano on: Doin' All Right, Father to Son, Now I'm Here, Dear Friends, Teo Toriatte, All Dead All Dead. Notably NOT on Sail Away Sweet Sister - I got Freddie to learn it and play it with Roger and John for the backing track - I wanted his marvellous rhythm and percussive feel on piano - but yes on Save Me, Las Palabras de Amor, Flash and The Hero (plus organ on the Wedding). But from here on in we began using synthesisers and there were many excursions from us all into keyboard territory… The only pure piece of piano from this era from me is Forever - which was a doodle done live in the studio which I rescued for a bonus track later on.
I played the backing track all on piano … using a fist on the low keys to make the “explosion” sound … unfortunately the rather crummy video we made doesn't show me doing this … only Roger hitting a Cymbal … so a few people have been mystified by this. But the rest is guitars, stacked to make the harmonies… I layered the Vox guitars with double-tracks using the small Deacy amp, I think … I often have done this when overdubbing multi-guitar parts (for instance in God Save the Queen). It makes the harmonies richer, and somehow they blend more.
We were engaged to do the job by Mike Hodges who was the director of Flash and Dino De Laurentiis, who was that famous Italian film producer who always thought big and some people would have said didn't have any subtlety. But, in fact, he had a sense of something unusual. He made that huge remake of King Kong – billions of dollars – but the combination of him and Mike Hodges was very odd because for Dino it was a very serious film engaging the top-level talent in Italy and to Mike it was a spoof. So there was this clash, and I'm pretty sure it was Mike's idea to engage us for the job and what happened was we went in and saw some of the rushes of the film and loved it, and we all went away and made some demos separately, Roger, John, Freddie and me, and there came a day when we all got in the studio and played them back to Mike and to Dino and asked: “This is what we've come up with. What do you think?” There was a horrible moment when Mike jumped up and down saying, “it's brilliant, it's brilliant”, and Dino sat there with a face ashen and white as a sheet and obviously didn't enjoy it, and when it came to the theme I had written – you know, Flash – well, Dino said: “It's very good but it is not for my movie.” So we all got a bit glum and went away. But what I think happened was Mike went to Dino and said: “You got to have faith here. This is something that is going to work and Brian has actually captured the essence of the movie in this piece of music.” But it was a big adventure in those days. I don't think there had ever been a feature film with background music done by a rock band before – it was a real dangerous departure. You had to have your base of strings to create emotion. It had never been done. And to his credit, Dino did come around and was very supportive.
The opening Flash's Theme by Brian, with its pulsing, clunky piano intro was done at Richard Branson's Townhouse studios in west London. Brian was working on it late one night, but he couldn't get the exact piano sound he wanted. “What about using a pick-up like we do live?” Some keen fool suggested. “Great!” Getting the section of Helpinstill piano pick-up and it's [sic] ancillary parts to fit to the studio piano and blend with the microphone sound involved jumping in the van and making a cross-London trip to our warehouse at Edwin Shirley Trucking in West Ham. After waking up the night-watchman and scouring 2,000 square feet of equipment-packed space by torchlight, we finally arrived back at the Townhouse with the various component parts - some three hours later. The things you do for art…