Sunday, 14 December 2008

Themologists: Laurie Johnson

Some People Are On The Telly's second Themologist has become synonymous with sixties popular culture. His ability to compose a catchy melody coupled with his rich arrangements has created some truly unforgettable theme tunes.

Laurie Johnson (right) was born in Hampstead England in 1927. His army career was spent in the Coldstream Guards. During the fifties he spent most of he time in composing for big band (including the Ted Heath Band). After that he moved into film and TV.

Notable film credits include Dr Strangelove, East Of Sudan, It Shouldn't Happen To A Vet and Hot Millions.

His TV credits are a cavalcade of classic themes guaranteed to alert the entire household that their favorite show was about to start. For cult value, probably the most recognised and fondly remembered is the theme to The Avengers (left).

This long running iconic sixties adventure series starred Patrick Macnee with Honour Blackman followed by Diana Rigg then Linda Thorson as his dashing female sidekick. All three of women were probably responsible
for the sexual awakening of many a young boy (and God I know I'm one).

Other classic themes include Las Vegas (the theme to Animal Magic), Jason King, World In Action and Wicker's World.

As memorable as the aforementioned are, probably the most famous is his signature tune for a programme that, while lacking the cult status of some of his other programmes was at its peak, watched by millions upon millions over half a century. This was a show that ran from 1955 and has been broadcast on both BBC and ITV up until 2007. For years, a measure of achievement in life and recognition of success by your peers was either a visit to Buckingham Palace or a visit by Eamon Andrews (right) with his big red book speaking those immortal words: This Is Your Life.

Into the seventies then and honorable mentions should go to Johnson's action packed themes for The New Avengers which was an ill conceived contemporary version of The Avengers. Starring an aging and weary Macnee, the series lacked the zing of its predecessor. Even the fruitsome Joanna Lumley couldn't make up for the presence of Gareth Hunt. Also from the same production company (of which Johnson part owned) was The Professionals, the repeats of which are still a mainstay of the ITV4's daytime schedules. Warning: this tune contains high levels of wah-wah that some listeners may find disturbing.

We'll end our whistle-stop tour with a return to The Avengers and my favourite piece of music by Johnson, the Avengers Tag Scene which was used in the last sequence of pretty much every episode of the final series. This usually involved Tara King (Thorson left) turning up at Steed's flat asking what's so urgent that she should have to be called away from a Saturday evening reading Checkov. At that point the great man would emerge from behind his Swiss Cheese plant with a tray of Boluga caviar and a bottle of Dom Perignon. The languid lounge-core strains of this tune make it abundantly clear what's on the old perve's mind and that is to follow should exist in the imagination only. Take it away Maestro:


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