Well, another year gone. I’ve tried very hard to be good. I’ve tried to look after my family and friends, aimed to be more considerate to people doing difficult customer-facing jobs, and worked doing the best I can writing around half-a-dozen sets of DVD viewing notes, articles for Doctor Who Magazine and TV Years, and fanzine items for the likes of SiG and Celestial Toyroom. Oh, and some blogs. But I don’t think anyone reads those, so that’s probably okay.
If you could manage it, what I’d really like for Christmas is peace on Earth. Obvs. But if not, please could I have the new double-CD release of soundtrack music from the Quinn Martin TV series The Invaders (1967-1968) which La La Land Records published the other week. I hope that there’s one left. They’ve only pressed 2000 units. Is that a lot? I’m not very good at estimating audience sizes.
It would be really nice – if you could manage it. I’d love to immense myself in that two hours, thirty-three minutes and twenty-seven sounds of cues. All that lovely doom-laded Dominic Frontiere material with his clever reworkings of the memorable, moaning, menacing theme tune, Richard Markowitz’s rhythmic suspense from piano and brass, Duane Tatro’s ethereal trimmings for The Prophet, and even funky go-go music provided by Don Ralke.
I know that I’m boringly predictable. Like when you kindly got me Mission: Impossible ’88 (1988-1990) last year. And The Wild Wild West (1965-1969) the year before that. And Lost in Space (1965-1968) the year before that.
Yes, I know, I shouldn’t really like television music as much as I do. I’m afraid that I’m a hopeless addict; doctors tell me that there’s no known cure. It began in those pre-video days when I used to record the soundtracks to Blake’s 7 (1978-1981), Doctor Who (not doing it) and all the other shows on those C90 cassettes you used to give me for Christmas in the late 1970s. I’d listen to those again and again, hearing not just the exciting adventures in space and time, but having my pulse quickened by Dudley Simpson’s clever little scores crafted with minimal musicians. Then later, all the glorious electronic evocations from Peter Howell and other soundsmiths at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, opening new dimensions in sound.
And even for the shows I didn’t record to play and replay, there were those memorable melodies heard week after week, retracked and retracked until etched into my soul. Gerald Fried’s fight cue from Amok Time must have been worn out by the time the final Star Trek (1966-1969) episode had been scored. Or so it seemed.
I still can’t believe that there is actually a 15 CD set with every music score for 1960s Star Trek. Or 12 discs of Lost in Space. Or six discs of Mission: Impossible (1966-1973). All of Albert Elms’ Man in a Suitcase (1967-1968) scores across five discs. I am so lucky to be able to have all the vibrant tunes from my formative years now on tap, often in crystal clarity. All credit to companies such as Silva Screen, Intrada, FSM, Trunk, Vocalion and Network for raiding these sound archives.
Some of this music is surprisingly good – occasionally better than the series it accompanies. I mean, I don’t rate The Protectors (1972-1974) as the pinnacle of ATV film series, but John Cameron’s rich and varied score is a revelation in isolation.
And these are now so often the original cues. I mean, Ron Grainer’s re-recordings of his continental Maigret (1960-1963) themes or Hugo Montenegro turning tunes from The Man from UNCLE (1964-1968) into dance numbers with tasty beats were a lot of fun, but now I can actually hear those original swinging syncopating UNCLE cues from Jerry Goldsmith, Nelson Riddle and all the other musical genii.
I mean, I know that I’m a very lucky boy indeed to have such things, and I don’t take them for granted. I do listen to them a lot. Bernard Herrmann’s heart-rending calls to childhood days within Walking Distance of The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), Franco Piersanti’s brooding but quirky backings for Il commissario Montalbano (1999-), Don Harper’s sinister cimbalom from The Invasion or Mark Ayres’ sepulchred suspense from Ghost Light (both as encountered by Doctor Who), Ivor Slaney’s jaunty tunes for the escapades of The Sentimental Agent (1963), Duncan Browne and Sebastian Graham-Jones soul-stirring odyssey for Travelling Man (1984-1985), Edwin Astley’s Danger Man (1964-1966) harpsichord boogies, Ken Freeman’s syth sci-fi that accompanied The Tripods (1984-1985), Patrick Gowers’ variations on violin for a Granadian Sherlock Holmes (1984-1987), Ben Foster’s expansive and emotive sound textures for Torchwood: Children of Earth (2009), Roger Limb’s festive radiophonics emerging from The Box of Delights (1984), Earle Hagen’s toe-tapping globe-trotting musical vistas from I Spy (1965-1968), Stanley Myers’ mix of electronics and orchestra to relate The Martian Chronicles (1980), Vernon Elliot’s gentle quartet arrangements from childhood encounters with Clangers (1969-1972), John Baker’s captivating electro-jazz from the long-forgotten anti-Mafia drama Vendetta (1966-1968)… There’s even lovingly assemblies of library music, like all the Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire electronic brilliance that underscored The Tomorrow People (1973-1979).
And also sets from specialist enthusiast groups like Fanderson. Seven discs of Space: 1999 (1975-1977) ranging from Barry Gray’s orchestral grandeur to Derek Wadsworth’s funk fusions via the Chappell music catalogue. Even The Secret Service (1969) – a show so obscure that it only aired in three ITV regions – is present and correct with every Swingle-style ‘boom’ laid down for me to relish repeatedly.There’s a few titles I kick myself now for not buying when they first came out. Like Stu Phillips’ scores for Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979) or Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981). But they go for daft money now online, so I’m not expecting any of those. And I’ve not been that good anyway. No, honestly. I’d be delighted just to be reminded of all David Vincent’s attempts to combat the alien infiltration of society.
Oh – but please don’t get me anything on vinyl. I hate writing that. It would be very kind if you did, but un-necessary. Vinyl is so rich and I love its analogue allure… but for where I currently am in my life, it’s just not convenient for me. I enjoy revisiting some of my favourite scores when I’m out driving, but the needle always jumps out of the groove on speed bumps. Digital will do me for now. Maybe revisit vinyl later.
And if you have another moment, maybe you could nudge a publisher towards more books on the subject next year. I have Jeff Bond’s The Music of Star Trek, but a revised edition of Jon Burlingame’s TV’s Biggest Hits would be the icing on the cake.
If you can manage The Invaders, I’d be very grateful. The music is a big part of why I love all these series. And if I ever forget that I do love these series, then I really shouldn’t be writing about them anymore.
I’ve tried to be good this year. And I promise to try to be even better in the next.
I hope that you are well and that Mrs Claus and the reindeer are in good health.
Andrew (Age 55-ish)
Andrew Pixley is a retired data developer. For the last 30 years he’s written about almost anything to do with television if people will pay him – and occasionally when they won’t. And he and his wife have almost run out of shelf-space for CDs. But there’s still a little gap under ‘I’ in the TV soundtrack section which would just fit another title if one could turn up in their stocking. And they both hope that everyone who contributes to and reads CSTonline will be able to enjoy this special time of year in the way that they want to with those who mean the most to them.
[i] Price correct as of 8 December 2019