The Seahorse

Soundtrack to an unfilmed movie, Horse Under Water

'The Seahorse' is a soundtrack produced in the 1990s by UK musicians Robert Green and Carl Barber. It is an aural imagining of the great, 'lost' Harry Palmer movie.

Keen to write a soundtrack for an imaginary movie, Green and Barber alighted on Deighton's Horse Under Water, which director Harry Saltzman had an option to film but which in the end he never took up, as their inspiration.

The album itself is contemporary in tone, with a mixture of ballads and background colour tracks with names like Journey to Albufeira and Sniper on the Rocks, which refer to specific action scenes in the book.

The album does a good job of firing the imagination, allowing the reader to add a soundtrack to the images he or she creates in their mind when reading the book. It is easy to imagine Michael Caine as Harry Palmer driving along the coast of Portugal when you listen to this album. The CD is rather difficult to obtain but is sometimes available on eBay.

Curious to find out more about the genesis of this unusual album, The Deighton Dossier asked Robert Green to explain how he came to write the soundtrack to a movie we're unlikely to ever see. Read the interview below.

Interview between Deighton Dossier and Robert Green, on 'The Seahorse'.

DD: Where did you get the idea to produce this album?

RG: I have always loved film soundtracks, even when i was a child. I did an album of songs with Carl a few years back and one of the songs we did had an instrumental section in it. It was this song that inspired us to do a 'mock' film soundtrack.

I loved the Harry Palmer films, being a Michael Caine fan, and when Carl came up with the Idea of using Horse under Water I thought: 'perfect! 

Are you and Carl fans of Len Deighton's books?

I loved the films but it was Carl who read the book for inspiration. I wasn't a great reader of books in those days. When I did read the novel, I admired Deighton's attention to detail....especially the official forms and jargon.

Some of the tracks - The Agent, for example - have a definite sixties film sound. Was that conscious?

The Agent was the one track that i wanted to have a sixties spy feel to it.....the tune is very much inspired by John Barry [creator of the Bond theme]. It was meant to be a cross between 'Randall & Hopkirk' and 'The Pursuaders'!

Famously, Horse Under Water was never filmed, as Caine gave up Harry Palmer after three movies. Were you consciously trying to 'fill in the gap'?

It wasnt as complicated as that. We just thought it would an enjoyable thing to do; plus, at the time, we were trying to get into writing music for tv and film and thought it would be a showcase for our talents.

If there were another Deighton book to inspire more music, which book would that be?

I have to confess - I know very little about Len Deighton, apart from the fact that he wrote The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, Horse Under Water and Billion Dollar Brain! I do know he could cook and that it was his hands breaking the eggs into the bowl in Ipcress File and not Michael Caine's.


Album front cover of 'The Seahorse', 1996

Chapter and verse

Tracks listed on the album include: 'The Agent', 'Driving School', 'Romance', 'The Market Place', 'The Dive', 'Sniper on the Rocks' and 'Sunset'. Even just those titles starts to build a picture of how the film might have looked.