That fugitive thing

I have just read an article in which the author “hopes to catch that fugitive thing—Englishness”. He could do worse, I reckon, than contemplate the fictional secret agent John Steed.

avengersHere he is, in company of Emma Peel, with whom he shared many a rip-roaring adventure, saving the world from various villains in the 1960s TV series The Avengers. Steed was a gentleman, with a gentleman’s courtesy and sense of fair play. Mrs Peel was an English rose, a honey with a large wardrobe of mini-skirts. It’s all good, clean fun. Underlying issues of class, race and prejudice and economic injustice are cheerfully ignored, which is also the English way.

Cracker of a theme tune, too. It is performed here by Roland Shaw and His Orchestra. Shaw was an arranger and producer for Decca records. This is not the original theme, but in 1964 Shaw’s orchestra released a version of the James Bond theme which was an improvement on the original and which became a surprise hit. They followed up with several LPs of similar material, including Themes for Secret Agents in 1966. One of these was “The Avengers”.

As you will hear, Roland Shaw knew how to project the dapper, brave Patrick Steed in music. Perhaps no surprise, as he was to the manner born. His full name was Roland Edgar Shaw-Tomkins. Born in Leicester, he studied music at Trinity College, and served in the RAF during the Second World War. Englishness, old boy.

  • Artist: Roland Shaw and His Orchestra
  • LP Title: Focus On Phase 4 Stereo (Various Artists)
  • Track: Side 2 Track 4 “The Avengers”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Decca
  • Catalogue number: BPS 1
  • Manufactured in: Great Britain
  • Year: 1968 (track first released on the LP Themes for Secret Agents, 1966)

Many of the records featured on Planet Vinyl are for sale on Discogs.

 

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