As a child I was not aware of the fact that a number of my favourite TV themes were penned by one man, Edwin Astley. Remember the opening shot of ROBIN HOOD, where Richard Greene fires an arrow from his long bow accompanied by the proud nine note fanfare also do you recall the catchy and rather cheeky 7 note motif for THE SAINT as played by Roger Moore. These are just two examples of some of the most well know pieces of TV music from the 1960,s. Edwin Thomas Astley was born in Warrington in 1922. His father was a manual worker mostly working on building sites. Astley left school before he was sixteen and started work at the age of 14 working in an office where ovens were made. He was always attracted to music and took a keen interest in all things musical. He was given a violin by a relative and decided that he wanted to make music a career. He joined the R.A.S.C. band when he was still a teenager and took up the clarinet and saxophone, by the time he had reached his 18th birthday Astley was not only performing music but was arranging it for the band. In 1945 he won a cash prize for a song that he had co-written and was lucky enough to have it recorded by Dame Vera Lynn no less. It was also at this time that he met and married Hazel Balbirnie. After leaving the army Astley joined the Peter Pease dance band and soon had become accomplished enough to lead his own band, he re-located to London and was given a job at the music publishers Francis, Day and Hunter where he acted as an arranger for various vocalists.
During the late 1950,s Astley moved into writing music for television, one of his first being ROBIN HOOD which became a popular series with adults and children alike. Another early TV series that he worked on was THE BUCCANEERS which led to him becoming involved on THE SAINT and DANGER MAN. In later years he worked on RANDALL AND HOPKIRK DECEASED and also provided some of the scores for THE PERSUADERS. He also worked on movies from as early as 1959, THE MOUSE THAT ROARED for example and in 1962, composed the score for Hammer films version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, which included an original operatic composition and in 1973 wrote a serviceable soundtrack for DIGBY:THE BIGGEST DOG IN THE WORLD. During the late 1970,s Astley went into semi retirement, and moved to the countryside, but even there he could not stay away from music, he constructed a recording studio at his home and installed a number of synthesisers and started to work on building a music library.
He also worked on various projects with and for Pete Townsend (his son in law) and also worked on arrangements and orchestrations of tracks that had been made successful by THE WHO and THE ROLLING STONES and turned them into symphonic pieces that were performed by the LSO. He died in Goring, Oxfordshire on May 19th 1998.
One thought on “EDWIN ASTLEY.”
Ed epitomized the 50’s and 60’s new medium British TV music and then some.
What giant of a man.
Between him Jack Marshall, the Glen Glen Sound, Vic Mizzy, Wes Farrell and God forbid we forget Shorty Rodgers (the trumpet playing wolf in the Warner Bros cartoon the three little bops.That once the wolf “has learned the rule, you need hot chops to play real cool,” floats up from Hell and blows a mean chorus solo, totally free of Pentatonic cliches ground to death the box playing pentatonic minor generation, and over a 6 chord bop blues, where the extra chords sort the real players from the guys that just want broads, bucks, bad chemicals & a Knighthood for getting more money than they’ve ever deserved, and Tavistock obedience.) You’ve got the entire era stitched up, but Ed was the King.
In case you can’t tell, it gets under my skin the real pro’s like Ed get largely forgotten, but a couple of louts that betrayed their mate while he was down to steal his gig can get knighted. I prefer the Ashlar dressed so it fits coursed dimensions. (By all means edit out what doesn’t suit you buddy. Great job with your memento for Edwin)