TV Spies

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Cold War intrigue, and the popularity of the James Bond movies, led to a proliferation of TV spies in the 1960s. Some were serious, like Britain's "Danger Man" ("Secret Agent" in the US), some were silly, like "Get Smart," and others were somewhere in between, like "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." And of course TV continues to offer secret agents, with "Alias," "Rubicon," and other shows.

David Garland has been keeping a secret dossier on the dramatic, playful, snazzy, jazzy soundtracks composed for TV spies, and now files his report by presenting music from the shows named above, as well as "The Avengers," "Mission: Impossible," "I Spy," "The Prisoner," and more.

Mission: Impossible

The Avengers

Get Smart

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.:

Comments [20]


If you see the "serious" first season of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. now, which is considered the best season, it's pretty awful too. The production values are atrocious. Most of the plots are either dull or silly (but not as silly as the following years). The only three good episodes from the first season were "The Double Affair," "The Mad, Mad Tea Party Affair," and "The Never, Never Affair."

Great music, though, by Jerry Goldsmith, Lalo Schifrin, Gerald Fried, etc.

Apr. 28 2012 10:48 PM

David, I just finished listening to this archive of your presentation for 5 November last year.

Amazing the works for "Man From UNCLE" and the "The Prisoner".

But are you aware that the composer for the second one Ron Grainger also wrote the original theme for the TV series "Doctor Who"? Most people are not. The theme for the current one contains some elements, but listening is suggested. I strongly suggest that you dedicate your hour (when possible) to that interesting series, especially since you already did one for Star Trek and that contains work by Jerry Goldsmith.

Feb. 18 2012 10:25 PM
Tom G. from Dallas, TX

Loved this show. I particularly liked "The Avengers" studio dup. Very nice, clean sound. I'll throw this one on my iPod for repeat listening!

Dec. 03 2011 07:02 PM
David Garland

@listener David, alas, there were many shows not included for lack of time or availability. I'm not sure even the Wild Wild West theme has been released in its original form. I'd love to hear an album of music from the adventures of Jim West and Artemis Gordon (names I still remember easily after all this time; loved the show back then).

Nov. 06 2011 09:16 AM

You left out one favorite 60s spy and theme song: "The Wild, Wild, West."

Nov. 05 2011 11:20 PM
David Garland

@Julian from Manhattan, I'm glad to know you're listening and enjoying. Thanks for joining me in the journey through varied musical territory!

Here's the playlist:

Jerry Goldsmith - The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Vol. 1 - First Season Main Title - Film Score Monthly

Earle Hagen - I Spy - The Time of the Knife: Oop, The Troops; Away We Go; Shiftycraft; Dead for Real - Film Score Monthly

Lalo Schifrin - Mission: Impossible - Main Title, More Plot - GNP Crescendo

Jerry Goldsmith - The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Vol. 3 - The Deadly Quest Affair-Teaser - Film Score Monthly

Dave Grusin - The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., Vol. 3 - The Mother Muffin Affair (excerpt) - Film Score Monthly

Irving Szathmary - Get Smart - Main Title

Secret Squirrel (Main Title) - Hanna Barbera Pic-a-nic Basket Of Cartoon Classics - Kid Rhino

Laurie Johnson - The Avengers – The Avengers Theme, Hidden Tiger (Section A) - Edsel

Howard Blake - The Avengers - Wish You Were Here: Main Title - Silva Screen

Edwin Astley - Danger Man (Secret Agent) - Theme, Incidental Cue – Network

Beethoven – Danger Man: The Prisoner – Moonlight Sonata – Network

Peter Nashel - Rubicon - suite - unreleased

Ron Grainger - The Prisoner, Vol. 1 - Main Title - Carlton/Silva America

Albert Elms - The Prisoner, Vol. 2 - Speedboat Dash - Carlton/Silva America

Nov. 05 2011 10:31 PM
Julian from Manhattan

David, I love your programming choices. Your "early" music program on Sundays is one of my absolute favorites. Anything your hand is on tends to improve. I've listened to the Movies on the Radio program many times. This one was freakishly up my alley, I love those themes. When you brought up the harpsichord (which I love; I tolerate Bach on the piano, and maybe he would have preferred it had it existed, but to me, the harpsichord sounds better - but I wouldn't want Beethoven on it!) I couldn't believe it. The Dangerman theme is one of my absolute favorites. Are we kindred spirits? Well, we both have eclectic tastes.

Nov. 05 2011 10:20 PM
David Garland

@Seth Wittner, interesting that you had the chance to study with Hagen! I understand he literally wrote the book (or at least *a* book) on film and TV scoring. I'm curious about his autobiography, too! Your thoughts on harpsichord use are intriguing.

@TracyP, thank you for your Avengers expertise!

@Barret from Brooklyn, re Get Smart--Ha!

Nov. 05 2011 10:15 PM
Susan Myers from Yonkers, NY

The Prisoner--YEAH!!

Such a great show, with equally great music. My husband, a Brit, never saw it. Amazing.

Thanks for including it, David.

Nov. 05 2011 09:58 PM

It was such a joy to discover David's show today. I got to study film and tv-scoring with Earle Hagen in LA. He wrote for many tv shows including "I Spy" and taught a workshop for BMI. My thought on harpsichords in spy music is that the attack of the instrument is very quick, more so than the attack of a piano. The entrance of the harpsichord can startle a listener and imply intrigue and surprise. It also is a very precise kind of sound, with a rapid decay and any rhythmic imprecision on the part of the player will be heard, so like a spy opening a safe or scaling a wall, the harpsichordist has to be very exact in the playing and the sound could suggest this. Seth Wittner

Nov. 05 2011 09:51 PM
EM from NY

In addition to the many wonderful themes played this evening, I always think of themes from the British programmes "Callan" and "The Sandbaggers". I would love to know more about their origins.

Nov. 05 2011 09:49 PM
Ron from Ramsey, NJ

Excellent choice.
I connected to what you said about "Man From Uncle". I watched that all the time, but tailed off when it just became stupid.
Thanks for helping me re-visit my most enoyable years!

Nov. 05 2011 09:48 PM

Your identification of the particular theme for "The Avengers" was actually from Season 7 or 8, when Linda Thorson (as Tara King) replaced Diana Rigg. Laurie Johnson specifically wrote a specific "Tara's Riff, " which identified when she (Tara) would appear.

Nov. 05 2011 09:47 PM
Barrett from Brooklyn, NY

"No one had ever done a show about an idiot before. I decided to be the first." - Mel Brooks, on the creation of "Get Smart."

Oh, just wonderful, David...and you beat me to the punch regarding "The Prisoner." Can't wait!

Nov. 05 2011 09:45 PM
Cesar from Manhattan

The harpsichord may have been used in avant garde TV music to enjoy the juxtaposition of the Baroque with the modern.

Nov. 05 2011 09:40 PM
Drew NYC

David--one reason for the prevalence of the harpsichord in '60s film and TV scores was the enormous popularity of the film 'Tom Jones" and its harpsichord-heavy score.

Nov. 05 2011 09:37 PM
Mary Ann Bleecker from Rockland County

Hello, David,
It's very interesting to look back on this special genre.
I think the sound of the harpsichord is often used to imply that the goings on are somehow 'high class', in terms of money or intellect.
Mary Ann

Nov. 05 2011 09:26 PM

Amazing stuff! Where can I find the playlist?

Nov. 05 2011 09:22 PM

An often overlooked program, Percussionist Stewart Copeland of The Police wrote the electronic music soundtrack for an 80s television spy series dealing with the end of the Cold War, The Equalizer.

Nov. 05 2011 09:08 PM
Carly Maziejka from Auburndale

I have not heard the theme music from these programs and many more for many, many years obviously. I think this is a prime example of one of the differences between shows then and now. The music then was very distinct from one show to the next. It set the stage of what was to come during that episode's show. Whereas, today's themes are just elevator music. You hear it during the ride up, but you forget it the second you step off.
I look forward to hearing this program!
Thank you guys and dolls!
Carly Maziejka

Nov. 05 2011 11:04 AM

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