Very exciting news for fans of cult British television is that Network Distributing is exclusively releasing definitive soundtracks to some of the best-loved shows from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Two titles are currently available with more planned for 2014.
The soundtracks are released on very high quality 180g vinyl (you can feel the quality as they are heavy in the hand) and pressed by Pallas in Germany. The colourful gatefold sleeves featuring striking images from the series are another attractive feature. The music has been cut together by Ray Staff, the renowned engineer who was behind David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. Everything has been put into place to ensure that the sound quality is fantastic.
Available now is Man in a Suitcase, the iconic 1967 ITC series funded by Lord Lew Grade that starred Richard Bradford as McGill, a former CIA agent wanted for treason who can’t return to America and is on the run, working as a private investigator to make ends meet.
The music for the series features two of the most iconic names in the history of soundtracks. The score for the series, presented here in full, was composed by Ron Grainer, an Australian working in Britain whose previous credits included the ground-breaking satirical show That Was The Week That Was, and who would go on to create the memorable theme to Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner. His name is most synonymous with the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who – one of the best-known tunes in the world.
Grainer’s theme for Man in a Suitcase is typically excellent. It’s a jazzy number, piano-based with an addition of brass. It’s spiky, punchy, and evocative of the fugitive theme of the series.
The rest of the album (which runs to around an hour) is given over to the incidental music that would have formed the backdrop to the on-screen action. The composer for that job was Albert Elms, who was in the midst of the most extremely prolific period of his career. Around the same time he was scoring two other hit ITC shows. The easy one was The Champions. The one that defined his career was creating a soundscape to accompany the most surreal and provocative show ever made – The Prisoner.
There are echoes of his other work in evidence here. Elms takes no cues from Grainer’s soundtrack but instead creates his own unique sound. The international settings for the show ensure that there’s a touch of flamenco guitar in one of the tracks, and a few instances of the neo-classical as well as nods towards the spaghetti western. It’s the long, slow, sleazy jazz piece on the first side that is Elms at his very best. It reflects the loneliness, isolation and hopelessness of the main character, as well as the rough and often hostile environments McGill finds himself in. Side two features another distinctive Elms sound: a percussive number with crazy bongo drums – the sort of unusual frantic music he later honed to perfection for The Prisoner.
Experiencing to the Man in a Suitcase soundtrack is to listen to the über-cool of the swinging sixties. The sound conjures images of espionage and excitement as well as slow jazz, and comes from a time when television was unashamedly escapist. As well as its attachment to a popular television series, the music is classy in its own right, and liable to get you feeling like a sixties’ TV hero.
The vinyl soundtrack is a beautiful collector’s item, and the extremely high quality of the product means it would make a fantastic gift for vinyl enthusiasts. It’s certain to be a collector’s item and would also be loved by any fans of the iconic series who haven’t committed the ultimate act of sacrilege and parted with their turntable. The soundtrack is available exclusively from Network.