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THE AVENGERS -TARA KING SEASON SCORE Double album CD released 08 08 2011 on SILVA SCREEN RECORDS SILCD1363
DVDs of complete film episodes available from AMAZON
|16th September 2015||Howard Blake will be interviewed about the legacy of music produced for ITV over the years - including his own involvement with 'The Avengers'., ITV Television first national screening at 8.00pm on 16th September 2015|
The Avengers is here! Well, one incarnation of The Avengers, because long before Marvel’s super-hero-hooked movie there was the cult-British spy show The Avengers. First broadcast in Britain during the ’60s, the plots showcased thrilling espionage antics that were set to a swanky and dramatic score. But there is a connection to the spy Avengers and the Marvel Universe, or at least some influence. X-Men creation Emma Frost is rumored to have been inspired by the TV Show and the X-Men‘s own mutant series, Excalibur, showcased a villain, Emma Steed, whose name was a sly combination of two of the TV show’s main characters (Emma Peel and John Steed). Like a lot of shows from the ’60s, the score in the The Avengers was sweeping, dramatic and fueled by big-band arrangements. Just last year, a collection of the series’ best compositions surfaced on this two-CD set (available as an import only).
So with all-out Avengers fever in full effect, Hive checked in with composer Howard Blake, who scored the final season of the show, to get his expert views on how to use a big-band to conjure up excitement, the day Henry Mancini persuaded him to take an acting cameo in Victor Victoria, and just how you go about soundtracking a scene that involves someone falling 200 feet from the top of a lighthouse.
What initial ideas went through your mind when you got the job to score the show?
Terror! I was pretty young at the time and I had written a few documentary films and short films — I was a sort of all-purpose studio musician and an in-house pianist for Abbey Road at that time — so I was just getting my feet wet, really. Then suddenly I had to write the first episode and it was like the most trapeze-walking week of my life! I was a big fan of Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn Theme music but I thought it had to carry on from what Laurie was doing. I remember when I first walked in the band was all set-up — it was the best big band you could get – and I got up for the first session in front of these very hard looks and I was ready for a very hard time! I had to write it all in a week and I just thought I’ll have to suspend all criticism – like not think whether it’s good enough – and I just have to cover paper and get it off to the copyist! I went up to Earl Street that day shaking with fear, and when I got in front of the guys they and the conductor all stood up and applauded, which was very unusual. But I thought it was going to be met with total silence! And that really started off a career for me.
What as the very first part of The Avengers score that you created?
The first episode was called “My Wildest Dream” and it’s a very good episode, very Freudian and about this psychiatrist and he’s finding people whose wildest dream is to kill their boss. It’s a pretty spooky and unpleasant thing. I remember I used a bass guitar riff [plays a spooky-but-funky riff on a keyboard], and that was the baseline. Then I brought in big-band over that.
The fight scene from “My Wildest Dream”:
How important is that brassy, big-band sound when scoring a show or film?
A lot, I think. That sort of score is very much of that period and I’d say that in a way it was started by Mancini on the Peter Gunn thing. It was very unusual to use the big-band, although there was a film called I Want To Live! which was scored exclusively for big-band, and that’s the late-’50s. So that idea of using it for suspense for television came in with The Avengers. I think it gives a terrific punch! We had three trumpets, three trombones, five saxes, bass, drums, piano, and extras — I used to play organ at times. It’s a very exciting sound and when it really gets going it really makes the series sound very exciting.
What instruments are best to soundtrack a villain?
I used to use quite a bit of bass clarinet. If you want some oily, streaky character, you use bass clarinet and it immediately gives you that feeling. And muted brass, like a trumpet, that can get the same sort of effect. And always a bit of flute; I brought in a bass flute which was a new instrument then, too. I also bought the first Minimoog from Robert Moog, actually. It was kinda a surprise to everybody when I used that!
Did you get any feedback on the score from the actors?
The weird thing is, when you write the score on a TV series everyone is too busy filming the next scene. I recorded at Elm Street which is where the series was shot. I met up with Patrick Macnee [who played John Steed], who was a very charming person, but that was at the end of the whole series. He told me he really appreciated what I’d done. He actually asked if I could teach him to sing, but I told him that wasn’t really my expertise. And Linda Thorson, who was the star of the last season [as Tara King], I remember on day one she looked pretty terrific and she was just about to go and I wished her luck. I never saw her again until, I can’t believe this, last year! We had this reunion down at Chichester University last summer and I was sitting on stage and she came up and gave me a kiss. I asked her what took her so long!
Were you ever offered a cameo in the show?
Well, I later worked with Henry Mancini and he actually persuaded me to play the part of a piano player in Victor Victoria which was a big mistake!
Why was it a mistake?
I was musical director of Victor Victoria and did the big-band score in the film for Mancini so I got to know [director] Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews and Blake said, “We’ve got this one shot if you’d like to be in it. It’s a big nightclub scene, you just come and play the piano for Julie. It’ll be fun, you’ll love it.” I said, “Just one shot?” He said, “Yeah, just one shot.” What I didn’t know was I had to turn up at 6 a.m. in the morning in a white tux and they said come and sit at the piano: I sat at that piano from six in the morning until eight in the evening without a break. I got so locked they had to lift me off and take me for a massage. What they hadn’t told me, which was a joke on the part of Blake Edwards who was quite the practical joker, was it’s a 360 degree camera shot and as it goes around you they have to move all the audience and all the set and it’s quite a complicated thing. It wasn’t much fun.
What’s the trickiest sort of scene to soundtrack?
In the episode called “It’s All Done With Mirrors,” there is a scene where the crook in it is hurled from the top of a lighthouse and he falls 200 feet all the way to the bottom and down these stoney steps, which of course is not a possible thing to do. So I started with a sort of [mimics uptempo, bouncey refrain], but I was like I can’t keep doing that. So I thought I’d send up bits of it and use a xylophone, like this is not possible so I thought it would be funny and then bring it back really loud. But it’s a problem where you’re thinking you’re working with the film to make it work. That was quite a tricky thing to score.
Watch the first part of “It’s All Done With Mirrors”:
Philip Mylnar, 5/4/2012
Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone
In seinem Gastspiel bei der Serienmusik zu The Avengers bietet Howard Blake Musik auf hohem Niveau (As guest-composer for The Avengers series Howard Blake presented music of the highest level.)
At the end of the sixties Howard Blake wrote ten episodes of The Avengers. The series was already in the post-Emma Peel era and concerned to match its earlier high level. It succeeded with beautiful episodes among the twenty-six made with Linda Thorson as Diana Rigg’s successor Tara King, and the ten with music by Howard Blake presenting a small but arguably important musical counterbalance to the over- one-hundred-episodes set to music by Laurie Johnson (which over the last year have become somewhat hard to obtain.) At root the two composers have much in common: both use the typical mixture established by Johnson - big band and classical symphony orchestra, including harp, reducing down to wind soloists and a small string section. Howard Blake arrived as an academically-trained composer from the Royal Academy with nothing more (and nothing less) than a recommendation from Bernard Hermann, but he produced from the same sound-body something different from the veteran Laurie Johnson’s ‘smoother’ Big Band style - something sharper, more dramatic, giving more of a scurrilous edge to the often obstruse Avengers plots – something most interesting. For the episode with people as living toys up against angry giants he uses screeching xylophone scales as these ‘people-puppets’ tumble down their ‘Snakes and Ladders’ game. He writes a ‘burlesque for contra-bassoon’ (so titled) and throughout one feels that such titles should not just be linked to the action alone, but that they are really more like abstract pieces called something like ‘Interludes for Harp’. Unmistakably this is music-making on the highest level where film has given stimulus to sound and compositional possibilities, not just the straightforward following of film action. This double CD ought to be a teaching CD for today’s film and tv composers.
Tobias van de Locht, Cinema Musica (Germany), 15/12/2011
The Avengers remains one of the great institutions of British television, a landmark series and the epitome of the swinging 60s. Alongside the impeccable production values, the cream of British acting talent and the sheer quality of a TV series that was born in 1961, there is the immaculately crafted music.
Jazz legend Johnny Dankworth supplied the jazzy sounds for the original videotaped series and then Laurie Johnson took over for the filmed series, delivering the now iconic theme and a whole raft of scoring for each individual episode. However, in 1967, Johnson began working on a new musical The Four Musketeers so conductor/composer Howard Blake stepped in as cover and composed for ten episodes of series 6, the final chapter for The Avengers as Tara King entered to replace Emma Peel as Steed’s glamorous but deadly sidekick.
Howard already had a long connection with the series having played piano for many of Laurie Johnson’s scoring sessions. The chance to write and record music with many of the top musicians of that era (including Kenny Baker, Don Lusher, George Chisholm and Herbie Flowers) proved a golden window of opportunity.
It led to a career that has delivered a succession of diverse musical triumphs as a composer that range from choral works and ballet to TV and film scores. His music for the much loved annual Christmas treat The Snowman highlights his prodigious talent and the Walking In The Air theme sits easily alongside the many great Yuletide songs.
Silva Screen is delighted to be able to release Howard’s music for the first time, featuring all ten episodes of The Avengers that he both composed and conducted. This 2CD set comprises 50 tracks and also includes the essential Laurie Johnson theme. The 16 page booklet includes a fascinating background to the music with full episode credits and a wealth of pictures.
Original Television Soundtrack
MY WILDEST DREAM
02. Main Title
03. Action Sequence
04. Nightmare For Harp
WHOEVER SHOT POOR GEORGE OBLIQUE STROKE XR40?
06. Main Title
ALL DONE WITH MIRRORS
07. Main Title
08. Action Sequence
09. Blues in Suspense
10. Over The Top
11. Optical Illusions
12. Fife & Drum
SUPER SECRET CYPHER SNATCH
13. Main Title
14. Action Sequence
15. Action Sequence 2
16. Cyber Crush
18. Tag Scene
19. Main Title
20. Contrabasson Plays Burlesque
21. Circus Snakes & Ladders
06. Main Title
07. Adagio Flute / Main Theme
08. Harp to Flute / Brass Menace
09. Tag Scene
TAKE ME YOUR LEADER
10. Main Title
11. Wah-wah Blues March 1
12. Wah-wah Blues March 2
13. Light Suspense
WHO WAS THAT MAN I SAW YOU WITH?
14. Main Title
15. Winds & Oboe Solo
16. Fender Rhodes Leading Back to Theme
17. Fender Rhodes Suspense
18. Extended Title Music
19. Quiet Winds
21. The Avengers Theme (Laurie Johnson)
Buy Soundtracks, 8/8/2011
While composers like Lalo Schifrin, Jerry Goldsmith and Morton Stevens went to the bank when American TV cashed in on the British spy craze with THE MAN FROM UNCLE and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, the top show in the country where Bond started it all was THE AVENGERS, which cast Patrick MacNee as the debonair agent John Steed. Most popularly gracing this show’s hip musical stylings were Laurie Johnson and Johnny Dankworth as the bowler-hatted Steed partnered with such lovely, cat-suited ass-kickers as Honor Blackman’s Catherine Gale and Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel. Now it’s time for Linda Thorson’s lesser-known Tara King and her oft-accompanist Howard Blake (later to gain even more cult appeal for scoring FLASH GORDON) to get their place in the jazzy sun with Silva Screen’s release of THE AVENGERS- ORIGINAL TARA KING SEASON SCORE. It was during the show’s final run from 1968 to 1969 when Blake joined the team, ably picking up the baton from Johnson (whose inimitable theme opens and closes the album) to continue the show’s swinging espionage. Whether it was the jazz bass nightmares of “Wildest Dreams,” the Morse-code combo of “It’s All Done With Mirrors,” the knock-down swing that packs “The Interrogators”’ punch, a Wah-wah blues march that commands “Take Me Your Leader” or the Mexican horn menace of “Noon Doomsday,” the ten Blake episodes that are packed onto this two-CD set show the composer could speak the international language of TV spying with the best of them.
Soundtrack Picks By Daniel Schweiger, Film Music Magazine, 21/7/2011