Music certainly plays an important part in explaining the popularity of the South African radio series of The Avengers. Here we take a look and a listen! Let's start off with an example clip, from All Done By Mirrors... Just click the bowler to play the audio file...

 
All Done By Mirrors
Episode Six

 The Springbok Radio Gong

Springbok Radio used the distinctive sound of a gong between programmes – quite a clever, innocent form of mental conditioning for their listenership, making them turn their attention to the radio! The gong was struck live by the announcers and this accounts for the variations in the sound of the gong from one episode to another. The gong would have been heard at the start of every episode of The Avengers on Springbok Radio – and many of the surviving radio recordings include them.

 
The Springbok Gong

 Regular Music

After the opening narration and 'teaser' scene, Laurie Johnson's catchy Emma Peel era version of 'The Avengers Theme' accompanies the voiceover announcement, "The Avengers. John Steed and Emma Peel – The Avengers".


The Avengers Theme

In the original transmissions, 'The Avengers Theme' lead into the programme's first commercial break. After the advertisements, listeners would be welcomed back to The Avengers by the lively opening of the 2nd movement of Laurie Johnson's 'Symphony (Synthesis)', which underscored the episode number announcement – "Episode ... of this story..."


Symphony (Synthesis)
2nd Movement
(Con Moto)

As each night's episode drew to a close, one of two variations from Laurie Johnson's 'Symphony (Synthesis)' would play out from the end of the action and lead into the programme's second and final commercial break. These variations were either the short drum roll and cymbal at the end of the 4th Movement of the piece or the longer, more atmospheric climax to the 5th Movement with trumpet. These would be used both for dramatic effect and timing reasons.


Symphony (Synthesis)
4th Movement
(Allegro)


Symphony (Synthesis)
5th Movement
(Finale)

One exception to this rule can be heard at the end of Episode Six of The Quick-Quick-Slow Death, which has a sound effect of a crowd as the playout leading into the commercial break. The same Avengers theme then follows the advertisements with the reminder "The Avengers. Listen every evening, Monday to Friday, to John Steed and Emma Peel – The Avengers... Brought to you by the makers of Cold Water Omo," and the once-weekly announcement of central cast (Donald Monat as John Steed and Diane Appleby as Emma Peel) and the adaptor/director and producer.


Alternate Playout, Commercials and
Closing Theme with Announcement

 Title Tunes

Following the episode number announcement, each serial has its own signature tune, a sort of Title Tune, which plays as the serial name is distinctly mentioned. The tunes range from the catchy ditty for Love All, through all kinds of instrumentals to the distinctly unmusical sounds used for Get-A-Way! These title tunes often continue for a short while, giving a musical backing to the lively narration by Hugh Rouse.

Serial Title Play
Title Tune
Track Title and Other Details
The Fantasy Game –
The Quick-Quick-Slow Death –
Love All 'Old Fashioned' – Eric Siday
LP Version
Get-A-Way! –
A Deadly Gift –
The Super Secret Cypher Snatch 'Helicopter Eyeview' – Eric Siday
LP Version
Dial A Deadly Number –
Not To Be Sneezed At –
Who Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40? 'Symphony (Synthesis) – 2nd Movement (Con Moto)' – Laurie Johnson
A Grave Charge –
All Done By Mirrors –
The Morning After –
The Joker –
Straight From The Shoulder This theme appears to be a variation on 'Take Five' by the Dave Brubeck Quartet
Stop Me If You've Heard This –
From Venus With Love –
A Case Of Interrogation –
Too Many Oles –
Train Of Events –
Escape In Time (Remake) –

 Incidental Music

Donald Monat said in an interview for this website in 2000: "Incidental music would almost certainly have come from library material. Each producer had his or her own favourite libraries of theme and background music..."

It's hardly surprising that other excerpts from 'Symphony (Synthesis)' are used as incidental music, as in Who Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40? (Episode Five) where the opening of the Fourth Movement (Allegro) is employed. It is a very atmospheric piece that has garnered critical acclaim.


Who Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?
Episode Five
Symphony (Synthesis) – 4th Movement (Allegro)

Then there are tunes as in The Quick-Quick-Slow Death (Episode One) which were popular choices at Sonovision that can be heard in several serials. Another tune in Straight From The Shoulder (Episode One) is another one much-utilised. A very similar tune, possibly a different excerpt from the same music, is used in the The Fantasy Game (Episode One). Love All's title tune ('Old Fashioned' by Eric Siday) must have been favoured as it is heard as incidental music throughout The Super Secret Cypher Snatch. Love All and some other Avengers serials contain synth-pop music, very much like 'Popcorn' by Hot Butter (1972). Judging by the below, the Eric Siday library music album Sounds of Now must have been a well-used LP at Sonovision Studios.


The Quick-Quick-Slow Death
Episode One
Incidental Music


Straight from the Shoulder
Episode One
Incidental Music

The Fantasy Game
Episode One
Incidental Music


The Super Secret Cypher Snatch
Episode One
Incidental Music


The Super Secret Cypher Snatch
Episode Three
Incidental Music
('Jazz Cellar' by Eric Siday)
LP Version


The Super Secret Cypher Snatch
Episode Four
Incidental Music
('Logo Gogo B' by Eric Siday)
LP Version

The Super Secret Cypher Snatch
Episode Five
Incidental Music
('Racing News A' by Eric Siday)
LP Version


The Super Secret Cypher Snatch
Episode Five
Incidental Music
('Sports Desk A' by Eric Siday)
LP Version


The Super Secret Cypher Snatch
Episode Six
Incidental Music
('Fly Right' by Eric Siday)
LP Version

   

 

Generally each serial has its own incidental music style to go with the story. One example, from Too Many Olés, lends a distinctly Spanish feel (Episode One). Escape In Time (Remake) is imbued with music of an historical lilt with the likes of 'Brush Up Your Shakespeare' written by Cole Porter for 'Kiss Me, Kate' (Episode One). Some of the longest and most tuneful pieces are the dance band numbers used in The Quick-Quick-Slow Death. Would the producers' libraries have contained the likes of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Kenny Clarke, Henry Mancini, James Last, Burt Bacharach and possibly the composers of James Bond or Pink Panther movie themes? Perhaps lesser known pieces were chosen for copyright reasons. They're certainly not that easy to track down!


Too Many Olés
Episode One
Incidental Music


Escape in Time (Remake)
Episode One
Incidental Music

One particular serial that has an incidental track that will cause any self-respecting telefantasy fan to sit up and take notice is The Morning After. This story makes regular use of a piece of music that is a library music tune reminiscent of Edwin Astley's distinctive Department S theme from the popular ITC television series. It's one of those reworkings that changes enough of the composition to avoid copyright but which keeps enough for the listener to find it instantly recognisable. This piece is used at about the nine minute mark in Episode One and re-appears in all of the subsequent episodes, directly after the episode title announcement.


The Morning After
Episode Four
Incidental Music


Department S Theme
by Edwin Astley
(for comparison)

 Songs

The Joker is one of the few serials where almost a whole song can be heard. It is 'Mam'selle' written by Mack Gordon, Edmond Goulding and J Delettre. This was performed by many artists in the 1940s and 50s and the version here is thought to be by The Pied Pipers. The villain plays this on a record player and hopes that Mrs Peel will recognise 'their song':

Mam'selle – Performed by The Pied Pipers

A small cafe, Mam'selle
Our rendezvous, Mam'selle
The violins were warm and sweet
And so were you, Mam'selle
And as the night danced by
A kiss became a sigh
Your lovely eyes seem to sparkle
Just like wine does
No heart ever yearned the way that mine does
For you...
And yet I know too well
Someday you'll say goodbye
Then violins will cry
And so will I, Mam'selle

Occasionally, well-recognised tunes are included but are not a part of the incidental score – for instance, when we hear Steed's watch playing the 'Jingle Bells' tune in the serial Dial A Deadly Number.

In true Avengers style, the dialogue sometimes contains quotes from song lyrics. The clowns in Stop Me If You've Heard This declare, "When you've got to go... You've got to go".

 Name That Tune...

The music in The Avengers radio series is great. If you recognise any of the tunes, please drop us a line and let us know. We would love to hear from you and be able to update this feature.

Written by Ron Geddes with Alan Hayes
with thanks to Donald Monat and Etron81

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