ALL DONE WITH MIRRORS op.51 (June 1968)

Film score for "The Avengers" TV Series
Published by: HARMS WITMARK
Commissioned by: ABC Studios, Elstree
Instrumentation: Orchestra
[Key to Abbreviations]
Duration: 20 mins
Recordings Available



DVDs of complete film episodes available from AMAZON


The principal composer of "The Avengers" was Laurie Johnson who asked Howard Blake to take over scoring on 10 of the films whilst he was engaged on writing a musical. Producer: Albert Fennell


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

Customer Review
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful: The Avengers music Tara King era, by Howard Blake, 8 Aug 2011 ByMs. M. Potter "milkchocgirl" This review is from: The Avengers - Original Tara King Season Score (Audio CD) At last the soundtrack to the final series of original Avengers has been issued. It is fantastic. It is a great release of some fantastic music.
It is generally well known that the composers for the Avengers were Johnny Dankworth (series one, two and three) and Laurie Johnson (series four and five). But it is often over looked that the main music for series six, (Tara King) came from Howard Blake. This is possibly because the main theme for series six was by Laurie Johnson carried over from series four and five.
This great release helps to put the record straight and give Howard Blake his rightful place on the map of the Avengers music history.

Laurie Johnson had composed music for episodes of the Avengers during the Emma Peel era but as the series moved into season six, now the Tara King Era, he was busy working on the music for a musical.
He needed help, and on the recommendation of Bernard Hermann Blake was hired to assist.

The double CD set begins with the main theme by Laurie Johnson. Then there are selections by Howard Blake of music from ten episodes: - "My wildest dreams", "Whoever shot poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?", "All done with mirrors", "Game", "Super secret cypher Snatch", "Noon Doomsday", "Wish you were here", "The Interrogators", "Take me to your leader" and "Who was that man I saw you with?". The whole programme ends with the main theme by Laurie Johnson.

The music is excellent and these are some good choices to include on a representational CD of the music composed by Blake for the show. The sound is also very good and compositions are very interesting and enjoyable. I particularly like the music to "Noon Doomsday" with its Mexican horn sound. There is also the Morse code feel of "its all done with mirrors", the swing genre of "The interrogators", the wah wah blues march sound of "take me to your leader" and the jazz atmosphere of "wildest dreams".
The music contained on this fabulous CD has only recently been re discovered. This is a unique release and it has been put together very well indeed.
Howard Blake, born in London, England, won the Hastings Festival Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music and later became a Fellow there. Beginning as a composer and conductor for television and cinema, he eventually expanded his musical career to include ballet and theatre, composing scores for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the London Contemporary Dance Theatre, Ballet Rambert, and The Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet.
He is best known as the composer for the highly acclaimed score for the animation film "The Snowman". He has also written a Piano Concerto and a Violin Concerto.
Blake is also renowned for his choral works, as well as songs and chamber music. With over 500 compositions to his credit, he was awarded an OBE in 1994 in recognition of his services to all forms of music.
Music for TV and Film is often ignored as serious music. Possibly because of the nature of the music being a backdrop to the visual element. But the music is an important part of these films and TV shows because they are often the crucial things that create the atmosphere of the piece.
In the case of The Avengers the music was especially commissioned for this series. Composers like howard Blake,Edwin Astley, Barry Grey and Laurie Johnson created some very original music and deserve to be respected as serious composers. Howard Blake has his own unique style.

If you are interested in music for films and television, The Avengers TV series or the music of Howard Blake you will like this release very much. I highly recommend it.

Ms.M.Potter, 8/8/2011

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