Tag Archives: Edwin Astley

EDWIN ASTLEY.

edwin Astley

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.

th

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.

THE SAINT

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.

THE HOT POTATO.

9190

When you start to listen to Guy Farley’s music for THE HOT POTATO, instantly you are taken back to the glory days of film scoring, when John Barry ruled supreme and Laurie Johnson and Edwin Ashley’s infectious and pulsating TV themes were resounding from every television set in the UK. Farley’s score for THE HOT POTATO I have to say is one of the most entertaining and listenable scores to be released thus far this year. The composer certainly has embarked on a labour of love here, I say that because it is such a mesmerising and engrossing work, which is carefully and meticulously woven together. It is filled to overflowing with references, nuances and trademarks that could as I have already stated belong to John Barry or Edwin Astley and Laurie Johnson, it has about it a presence a sound and a colourful and exciting attraction that I for one have not found in many film scores since the late 1960,s and early 1970,s. I love the way in which the composer utilizes harpsichord and also low woods and combines these with that pizzicato Barry-esque sound and further embellishes these with the use of strings and brass. Whilst listening to the score I found myself being reminded of such scores as THE KNACK, IPCRESS FILE, QUILLER MEMORANDUM and PETULIA, plus there are certain phrases and flourishes throughout the work that could be from either THE SAINT or RANDALL AND HOPKIRK (deceased) and also there is a big band sound that acts like a glue bringing everything together, which is very much in the style of  Laurie Johnson when he scored TV series such as THE AVENGERS. But I think more than anything it is the harpsichord and the use of at times cheeky but at the same time bold sounding brass stabs plus those low at times almost rough and smouldering sounding woods and the even more seedy jazz influenced sounding muted trumpet punctuated by bass and stroked percussion that holds the attraction for me. Of course in certain cues one can also here the influence of Barry’s 007 soundtracks, the composer re-creating the style which Barry employed in THUNDERBALL, which is ominous and tense but also hauntingly melodic. I recommend this soundtrack without any reservations whatsoever and whole heartedly, and I am just off to listen to it again…