Prime time TV shows have certainly altered over the years and shows such as THE SWEENEY which we took for granted during the 1970’s, would be welcomed by many for the prime-time Saturday night slot. It began in 1975 and ran for three years. I for one would rather have Regan and Carter on screen than Ant and Dec or Simon Cowell and the dimbo bimbo Amanda Holden and all these so called talent shows, reality farces and loosely titled variety programmes, TV companies now not really comprehending the words variety or quality.




At least the SWEENEY had some sort of direction even if it was at times filled with bad haircuts, alcohol swilling chain smoking police officers who were just as bad as the villains they were trying to catch, each episode being filled with endless punch ups, car chases and coppers saying shut it or your nicked. The opening titles for the show were memorable, and the shows pulsating and dramatic up-tempo theme although short was a sure way to bring people out of the kitchen or any other room in the house and into the lounge to sit and watch for the next hour. The now familiar theme was the work of Harry South who also provided each episode with a lighter arrangement of the opening track. South was born in Fulham on September 7th, 1929, he was a jazz pianist. composer and arranger who started to work in TV in the late 1960’s. But had an already established career which had begun a decade before during the 1950’s, performing alongside fellow jazz artists such as Joe Harriot, Tubby Hayes and Tony Crombie.




The remainder of the scores were the work of various composers and most of the music was taken from the likes of the KPM library, and not specifically composed for the series. The music that was utilised within the series came courtesy of composers Brian Bennett, Keith Mansfield, John Cameron, Wally Asp and Peter Reno to name just a few. Before I go any further I will say I am not going to mention after this point the music for the re-boot version of THE SWEENEY which was released to cinema’s in 2012, the movie and the score by the third rate Lorne Balfe was an abomination and should never be spoken of ever, so Shut It right.

There is a wealth of music contained within the series, and also the two movies that came out of the series also contained some great tracks, the film scores being courtesy of well-known music-smiths Denis King for THE SWEENEY 1977 and Tony Hatch for SWEENEY 2 in 1978. The sound of the TV series was very much akin to the sound that was being used with Italian spy and sex movies of the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s. It had to it a dramatic presence, but fundamentally it was a funky, pop orientated/jazz/big band infused style. Hammond organ electric guitar, percussion and breathy sounding woods featured large, and became the staple musical accompaniment of many of the shows, bold and tuneful brass flourishes that also acted as musical punctuation to the proceedings were in abundance.

The opening theme itself set the tone for much of what was utilised within the shows, As composers such as Barry Morgan, Simon Haseley, Duncan Lamont, Brian Dee, Stephen Gray and Johnny Pearson amongst others let loose with their own particular brand of knock em’ down and drag em’ out musical passages.


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I would not say that the music fitted the action or the scenarios like the proverbial glove, but it certainly added atmosphere and set the mood for what was going on in the many storylines. Because a lot of the music was taken from music libraries, I suppose it was the job of the music editor as they were credited to match the tracks to the action and select a suitable piece to enhance and underline it. As in the disco based FUNKO by Bruton music library composers, Irvin Martin and Brian Dee, which was also utilised in an episode of SPACE 1999, or the fast-paced percussion backed dark piano loops and breathy woods of FLYING SQUAD by former Shadows drummer Brian Bennet or the bombastic and Hammond organ led BORCA by Simon Haseley who many might be more familiar with as Simon Park who shot into the public gaze in 1972 with his theme for the TV series VAN DER VALK (EYE LEVEL) reaching number one in the British pop charts in the latter part of 1972. SKY and CURVED AIR band member and composer performer Francis Monkman also contributed via his track STRESS from the NIGHTMARE episode in 1978.



Monkman of course became known for his powerful score to the British gangster movie THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY in 1980, which had a style and sound somewhat akin to the music from THE  SWEENEY. Monkman’s gritty soundtrack for THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY was re mastered and re-issued in 2016 by British soundtrack label Silva Screen. The soundtrack that accompanied the flying squad on screen was also in many ways fairly typical of British TV music from the 1970’s jazz orientated and filled with bold and pounding beats. Composer Roy Budd had already trod this path with his iconic score for the 1971, gangster film GET CARTER and if you are a fan of this style of scoring then THE SWEENEY music department will be right up your street.




In recent years composers such as Daniel Pemberton adopted this sound in his score for THE MAN FROM UNCLE re-boot in 2015, and there are glimpses of the style present in other scores by Pemberton such as, OCEANS 8. So, the music that we or at least some of used to hear on a Saturday night on Thames TV in the UK, would eventually influence later scores and inspire contemporary composers, many of whom would re-create it or take the sound and add to it their own musical identity. CHARLIES ANGELS the latest re-boot too has a foundation based upon funky beats. THE SWEENEY was a show that people straight away associate with the 1970’s and the music was the sound of a decade, the sound of dramatic TV in the 1970’s.