Many of us film music collectors often talk about the Golden age of film music which was in the late 1930,s through to the 1950,s and included the works of Korngold, Steiner, Newman, Friedhofer, Rozsa, Herrman and others. Then we have the Silver age which for me was more about the 1960,s with new and up and coming composers such as John Barry, Francis Lai, Maurice Jarre, Jerry Goldsmith et al. So when I discuss music for TV I think it is only right that we also give this a category also, in my ever so humble opinion British TV music was second to none and especially in the 1960,s was inventive and original, so maybe we should refer to this period as the Platinum years. It was a period that begin in the early 1960,s and carried on through until the mid to late 1970,s Network records have released a double compact disc which showcases just some of these wonderful themes and also various incidental music tracks from the programmes as produced by I. T. C. These included numerous shows that were to become the staple viewing diet of the Great British public and also would be imported worldwide.
Composers that worked on I.T.C. productions created a sound that became synonymous with the productions and also I think dominated the 1960,s it was a sound that was sort of uniform but at the same time each and every show had its own individual musical fingerprint. Composers such as Edwin Astley, Albert elms, Ron Grainer, Roger Webb, Tony Hatch, John Barry, Ken Thorne, John Cameron, Laurie Johnson, Brian Dee, Robert Farnon, Irvin Martin AND EVEN Paul McCartney created a music sound-scape of haunting and infectious themes and atmospheric scores that would unbeknown to them become an important part of television history. THE MUSIC OF ITC was released in 2009 and boasts 103 tracks from various shows as heard in their original forms. The compilation is somewhat dominated by composer Edwin Astley, who was after all one of the most prolific composers of television music and was responsible for so many of what are now classic themes for the small screen. THE SAINT, DANGER MAN, GIDEONS WAY, THE BARON,DEPARTMENT S, RANDALL AND HOPKIRK (DECEASED) the list is endless and at times unbelievable that all of these great themes came from one composer. Astley also penned some of the scores for THE CHAMPIONS which had a theme by Tony Hatch. My own personal favourite by Astley is RANDALL AND HOPKIRK (DECEASED) the harpsichord adds a wonderful atmosphere to the proceedings and forgive the pun but also infuses a haunting and comedic aura to the work. The compact disc opens with DANGER MAN, there are 6 cues in the first section representing the show, which are taken from the half hour episode series.
Patrick McGoohan starred as John Drake a secret agent that was sent into dangerous situations and nearly always emerged unscathed a role that stood him in good stead for the lead in THE PRISONER. Astley,s theme for the black and white series was made up mainly from bass which was over the top but also attention grabbing for audiences, the composer utilising a trick that composer James Bernard used on his Hammer film scores, the brass basically spelling out DAN-GER MAN. This first section of 6 tracks commences with the MAIN TITLES, then segues into 4 cues of at times tense sounding score which is then rounded off by the series CLOSING TITLES music. Tracks 7 through to 13 are taken from the second series which was not only in colour but had one hour episodes, this was a more sophisticated series that included a world wide stage for the secret agent Drake and took him on even more dangerous missions and assignments. Astley created a new theme for this series but still included the DAN-GER MAN motif performed by the brass section and there was the ever present melodic and jazz infused incidental music that was bolstered on this occasion by the inclusion of brass flourishes and stabs to heighten the tension. The main theme from the series was released on a single as HIGH WIRE.
GIDEONS WAY is next in the running order, now this is show I must admit I did not see a lot of but funnily enough I do remember the music or at least Astley,s rather regal sounding opening theme music for the series. The series which starred stalwart British actor John Gregson as Commander George Gideon was based upon the novels of John Creasy, it was filmed in a kind of documentary style which was effective in creating the correct mood for the series storylines. There are two cues from the series included here, MAIN TITLES and CLOSING TITLES, as the incidental music also composed by Astley is thought to be either lost or destroyed. In many ways Astley’s style is not dissimilar to that of John Barry, bold sounding brass laced with at times strings or smoky sounding saxophone or subtle woods.
More Astley in the tracks 14 and 15 this time from THE BARON, this starred hero of the Italian sword and sandal adventures Steve Forrest as John Mannering and antiques dealer who also works for British intelligence. Astley again stepped up to create a haunting and infectious sounding theme for the series, the MAIN TITLE and CLOSING TITLES are included along with 5 cues of incidental music from the series. As a matter of interest the series also starred composer Paul Ferris(WITCHFINDER GENERAL) as Mannering’s assistant.
This compact disc includes all of the music that remains from THE BARON again the remainder being either lost or destroyed.
Tracks 23 to 31 are taken from the popular series THE SAINT which starred the ever dapper and debonair Roger Moore as Simon Templar this was the series that paved the way for Moore to become James Bond. The music tracks included are a mixture of material from both the black and white original series and the later colour series, Astley wrote a killer theme for the series and one that is still today instantly recognisable by people of a certain age. One only has to hear that seven note motif and it seems to take you right back in time when the show was being aired.
Next up is MAN IN A SUITCASE, music courtesy of Ron Grainer, we are treated to 6 cues from the series two of which are versions of the iconic theme from the series, plus 4 cues of incidental music which are a delight to hear and at times one can hear musical quirks and a style that was to manifest itself in the composers score for THE OMEGA MAN.
The series starred Richard Bradford who was well cast as McGill an ex CIA agent who had been discredited by the organisation and had set himself up as a private investigator. The series was also very popular and Bradford oozed charm to the point of being so cool he could have been called ice cold McGill.
Another popular series that Grainer scored for ITC was THE PRISONER, I think the attraction of the series was that one did not really understand much of it, it was an off the wall offbeat piece of television but one that was compulsive and alluring. Patrick McGoohan starred as number six, who was a secret service agent that wanted to quit his job, but as soon as he does he is kidnapped and taken away to a somewhat surreal community called THE VILLAGE where he is tortured, observed and interrogated, his captors asking why? Why? did you resign?
The music side of things were just as tense and fraught as the series, composers Wilfred Josephs and Robert Farnon were asked to write a theme but these attempts were both rejected by Patrick McGoohan, enter then Ron Grainer who was set the task of writing a theme but even Grainer had his first attempt rejected. The sections here include MAIN TITLES A, MAIN TITLES B, CLOSING TITLES and 4 tracks of incidental music which was written by Robert Farnon and Albert Elms. Of course record label Silva Screen have released a number of discs that include the scores and the central themes from THE PRISONER.
Craig sterling, Sharon Macready and Richard Barret now there are three names from the past, these are THE CHAMPIONS, played by Stuart Damon, Alexandra Bastedo and Richard Gaunt. The main theme for this series was written by Tony Hatch and had incidental music penned by Edwin Astley and Albert Elms, the opening theme was a typical Hatch piece instantly recognisable and forever lingering in ones head, long after the show had finished.
The main titles and closing titles are included plus there are 3 cues of score by Astley and a further 2 composed by Elms. Albert elms was the original composer for the series he was scheduled to write the shows opening and closing theme but due to a clash of schedules, Elms was busy on THE PRISONER composer Robert Farnon was assigned to work on THE CHAMPIONS Farnon submitted his rejected theme for THE PRISONER as the theme for THE CHAMPIONS but had this rejected also, so Tony Hatch was brought in and the rest as they say is history, with the first episode having a score by Farnon and Elms scoring the second episode only to be replaced by Edwin Astley from episode three because Elms was asked to return to work on THE PRISONER.
The next section is dedicated to the series DEPARTMENT S, which was the handiwork of Edwin Astley, its not till you go through this compilation that you actually realise just how much this composer contributed to British television music, his riveting and highly charged DEPARTMENT S theme is certainly iconic with a Capital I, in this section there are eight cues from the series including the opening theme with seven being incidental cues, but saying this all of them could be main themes for any television series as they are highly contagious and affecting. DEPARTMENT S was a series that focused upon a special Interpol department that was given the task of solving cases that the police had been baffled by. Its mainstay characters were Jason King played by the flamboyant Peter Wyngarde, Stuart Sullivan portrayed by Joel Fabiani and a touch of glamour being added in the form of Rosemary Nichols who played computer expert Annabelle Croft. Astley’s music is sauvé, sweeping and sophisticated with an instant musical hook that entices the audience into the mysterious and complex world of DEPARTMENT S. In other words a classic.
Disc two opens with RANDALL AND HOPKIRK DECEASED, this starred Mike Pratt as private investigator Jeff Randall who’s partner Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope) is killed, Randall thinks he has gone mad and is seeing things when he is visited by his departed partner, but Marty has returned as a ghost to aid his partner in his investigations and also to keep an eye on his attractive widow played by Annette Andre. The storylines and the formula proved to be a great success with TV viewers and composer Edwin Astley once again stepped up to provide a great opening and closing theme for the series employing harpsichord as the lead instrument and also utilising it as a three note musical stab or punctuation each time Marty appeared on screen to great effect. Astley first turned to the harpsichord for his DANGER MAN hour long episodes and it certainly enhances and supports the action and antics on screen in RANDALL AND HOPKIRK.
This collection includes six tracks from the series, four of which are incidental cues that in many ways have a kind of Barry-esque sound to them, with the other two cues being the opening and closing themes for each episode, which although similar are orchestrated in a slightly different way. Out of all the I T C productions I think it is RANDALL AND HOPKIRK that I recall mostly, mainly due to the music, the series was repeated on Sunday lunch times during the mid 1970,s and still attracted good viewing figures.
Next up is THE STRANGE REPORT musical duties falling to Roger Webb, again the series had a killer opening theme which commanded you to the TV right from the off.
The music that Webb provided for the series was quite European sounding, by this I think of composers such as Stelvio Cipriani, Piero Umiliani, Gianni Marchetti and even Bruno Nicolai when hearing the theme and incidental tracks from the series, it has a kind of big band but easy listening sound, which was a style that many of the Italian composers employed when scoring Police, Romantic/Sex or Giallo movies. Webb was known for working of other TV series such as GEORGE AND MILDRED and also was involved on the soundtracks for DEATH IN VENICE and BOOGIE NIGHTS among others. THE STRANGE REPORT, starred Anthony Quayle, Anneke Wills and Kaz Garas. Adam Strange(Quayle) and his team only tackle difficult and out of the ordinary cases that have proven to difficult or politically sensitive for the likes of Scotland yard, Webb’s forthright theme opens spectacularly with a brass fanfare that literally screams out the shows title before diving head first into a powerful and pulsating central theme.
THE PERSUADERS is next in the line up, starting with John Barry’s opening theme for the series and then segueing into the song GOTTA GET AWAY, which was penned by Tony Hatch and his wife Jackie Trent. The track gets an instrumental working also with an arrangement by Ken Thorne, who provided a lot of the series incidental music scores. Thorne’s music for me resembled the work of Charles Fox and Bob Crewe on the Roger Vadim movie BARBARELLA and also echoed a Burt Bacharach style, it had that kind of pop vibe.
THE PERSUADERS starred Roger Moore (Lord Brett Sinclair) and Tony Curtis Danny Wilde) OR WAS IT Tony Curtis and Roger Moore ? JASON KING is next with some scintillating and funky sounding music by Laurie Johnson. This is a hip and up beat score that also contains some wonderfully dramatic moments, the composer fusing a big band brassy sound with Hammond organ and funky jazzy guitar and underlining these elements with a strong dramatic sound.
THE PROTECTORS was not one of I T C,s most successful series, in fact I would say that the shows theme AVENUES AND ALLEYWAYS has outlived the actual programme or at least memories of it. The score for the series was by John Cameron, who was a composer that worked steadily in film and television but never really hit the big time or the A list, however his score for a TV adaptation of JACK THE RIPPER which starred Michael Caine was a masterpiece in my opinion and is a soundtrack that is crying out to be issued onto CD.
Cameron utilised a jazz big band style and underlined this with a funky beat for his scores for THE PROTECTORS and at times employed various arrangements of the title theme which was written by Mitch Miller and Peter Callander and performed by singer Tony Christie who took it into the British charts twice, once in 1972 reaching number 37 and then again in 2005 when it peaked at number 26.
The ill fated THE ADVENTURER comes next in the running order, I say ill fated because the series never really gelled with the TV audiences around the world and even the presence of a PERSUADERS/VENDETTA like theme by John Barry the series flagged a little in the ratings compared with other I T C productions, personally I think it was because of the casting of Gene Barry as the series central character Gene Bradley who is a multi millionaire, film star and successful businessman, but he looked somewhat awkward in the role and this reflected in the ratings for the series.
The compilation includes the Italian main titles which is unaccredited but for me does sound something akin to the style of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis. Most of the incidental music was written by Paul B Clay but this is sadly lost or destroyed. THE ZOO GANG follows this with a theme by Paul McCartney and Wings and incidental music courtesy of Ken Thorne, this I think has to be my least favourite series from I T C and also my least favourite theme. The last selection of music on the collection comes from THE RETURN OF THE SAINT, music by Brian Dee and Irvin Martin, the theme that introduced the series still included the familiar original theme from the 1960,s series, THE RETURN OF THE SAINT was a much harder worldly wise series which I suppose reflected the period in which it was released the late 1970,s. Also included on this compilation is the Italian/European opening theme which is a rather oddball song by Guido and Maurizio de Angelis performed by Oliver Onions, the De Angelis Brothers had enjoyed considerable success during the 1960,s and 1970,s with their Spaghetti western soundtracks and also their film scores for the films of Bud Spencer and Terrence Hill, plus they had already ventured into TV scoring as well.
This is a wonderful collection filled with great themes that evoke many memories, presented extremely well with consistently very good sound quality and informative sleeve notes. Go buy it NOW……..