Steve Davis' Interesting Alternative

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Davis discovers proggy pastures on the big and small screens...

As a young sprog I used to love Pogles Wood and Ivor The Engine. Was it the possibility of a derailment every week that was the big turn on? Or perhaps I just got sucked in by Vernon Elliott’s magical composing? I recently bought the soundtrack to The Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe by Robert Mellin and Gian Piero Reverberi. Occasionally, those little earworms dragged it into my subconscious and I found myself whistling some of the themes within the score. I just had to get it! And then there was Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, Space 1999, Captain Scarlet and, of course, Stingray. How hot was Marina!? She didn’t speak but she could breathe under water, for fuck’s sake! On reflection, how little I knew back then! Here was cutting edge animation (albeit with strings) complemented by futuristic musical scores (with more strings), and lurking behind those catchy opening themes there was a whole universe of invention. These TV (and also film) hired hands were among the best composers of their generation, arguably ahead of their time and, perhaps, by definition “progressive”? The BBC realised the value of great in-house composers. The pioneering work of the Radiophonic Workshop has become legendary, with Delia Derbyshire responsible not only for the Doctor Who theme tune, but also for helping create one of the great electronic psychedelic albums of the late 60s, White Noise’s An Electric Storm (Island). I’ve started to appreciate the works of Barry Gray and Derek Wadsworth to name but two, and that’s thanks to Richard Wileman (www.kardaestra.co.uk) and his excellent “film score-friendly” music. Try Karda Estra’s last album Mondo Profondo for a toe dip. Richard is a film and library music aficionado. His appearance on the Interesting Alternative Show as our special guest was a treasure trove of gold. The subsequent two-hour show The Interesting Cinematic Show that he recorded for us is one of my favourite archive programmes. It showcases excerpts from films like Alien and Taxi Driver, to the stalwarts of library music, like Keith Mansfield and Johnny Pearson, and relatively well-known classics like Roy Budd’s Hallucinations (from the film Get Carter) to legendary artists like Ennio Morricone and his work in Italian spaghetti westerns. These composers were multi-talented and multi-genred! They churned out such a variety of styles that it’s difficult tracking down their desirable “progressive” output, but if you’ve got a couple of spare hours, take a trip to tinyurl.com/npptyzy and scroll down to find Richard’s excellent introduction to the scene. Catch Steve’s Interesting Alternative Radio Show every Monday 10pm-midnight at www.Phoenixfm.com