The many television series and films produced by Gerry Anderson were blessed with some of the greatest creative talents of their time, and one of the names that most often appeared alongside his was Barry Gray. Gray composed and directed most of the music for Anderson’s shows and films from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, and as a result many episodes of that era (and a few beyond) were based around musical themes and concepts. Here (in production order) are ten of our favourite Gerry Anderson music episodes!
Supercar – King Kool
The final episode of Supercar sees Mitch the Monkey inspired to take up the drums after seeing musically-gifted giant gorilla King Kool on television. When Mitch seeks out his hero we’re treated to the bizarre sight of two puppet simians exchanging subtitled beatnik slang, before a switcheroo produces much confusion for the owners of both animals. While the final result may be a little cartoonish even for second season Supercar it certainly produces some very catchy incidental music – with almost all our regular characters suddenly showing off hitherto unknown musical ability in a live television performance!
Stingray – Titan Goes Pop
Despite having spoken about this Stingray episode at length previously I still feel it’s worth mentioning again for the skill with which it explores the ever-topical subject of pop superstardom, and the dedication of the fans it attracts! The madness of Beatle-mania is perfectly recreated without ever showing us a throng of screaming fans – we instead spend most of the episode with the Marineville team as they struggle to cope with the consequences!
Stingray – Tune of Danger
Having created a catchy pop song with I’ve Got Something to Shout About for Titan Goes Pop, Stingray now explores the jazz scene to equal success. Jazz trio the W.A.S.P.s are set to perform in the palace of Marina’s father Aphony, but only Troy Tempest knows that a bomb has been hidden in the double bass – and he’s just been left for dead in a burning forest cabin! The central track Blues Pacifica is another gem from Barry Gray, particularly during the sequence of Troy trapped in the burning cabin while the trio’s submarine Downbeat makes its way to Pacifica – and the tone of the music keeps changing to match the on-screen visuals!
Thunderbirds – The Cham Cham
International Rescue investigate aircraft crashes that appear to connect with a popular jazz tune, the ever-popular Dangerous Game! Penelope and Tin-Tin go undercover at Paradise Peaks Hotel to meet the group responsible, the Cass Carnaby Five, in a Thunderbirds episode that almost perfectly combines the spy-fi content the series was growing to love by this point with yet another standout musical score from Barry Gray. Dangerous Game has proven to be one of the most popular pieces of music he ever composed for an Anderson series, with multiple versions being recorded over the years!
Thunderbirds – Ricochet
Pirate radio stations were all the rage in the mid-to-late-1960s and Thunderbirds was one of several television series of the time to use that idea as the basis for an episode – by putting one into orbit! High-flying disc jockey Rick “ping!” O’Shea and his long-suffering technician Loman have as much reason to be in space as, well, John Tracy – until their satellite is knocked out of orbit after an explosion, thus requiring them to be saved by International Rescue! Although the episode doesn’t feature much in the way of new music (most of the tracks heard playing on KLA are recycled jazz pieces from previous episodes of Thunderbirds and Stingray) it does close with a rare chance to hear a version of Flying High, a song that was originally composed for the show’s closing titles! Although we’re certainly glad it was never used as such…
Joe 90 – International Concerto
Joe 90 takes on the brain pattern of concert pianist and fellow W.I.N. agent Igor Sladek in order to facilitate the agent’s escape from enemy custody during a live performance. Perhaps more so than any other Gerry Anderson story International Concerto takes every opportunity to show off the musical genius of Barry Gray, whom we can only imagine took great delight in scoring this episode judging by the exceptional quality of his compositions. Also, special mention needs to be made of the skill with which the Sladek and Joe puppets are operated from below during their piano recitals, providing a sense of realism that is still hugely impressive even fifty years later!
The Protectors – Zeke’s Blues
While not the most music-centric of episodes we can’t not mention this installment of The Protectors, written by and guest-starring the late great Shane Rimmer (in a role originally written for Tony Curtis) as a down-on-his-luck nightclub pianist forced to betray his old friend Harry Rule. The friendship between the two characters feels very warm and genuine, and the tragedy of Zeke’s downfall is all too believable. While music is only a minor part of the story, we love Shane Rimmer too much not to mention one of his most underrated contributions to the Gerry Anderson legacy.
The Protectors – A Pocketful of Posies
Two episodes of The Protectors on this list? Yes indeed. In a role originally written for Shirley Bassey, former Catwoman Eartha Kitt takes centre stage as a stressed singer slowly being driven mad by hallucinations – or is something more sinister afoot? Harry and Paul investigate but the true star of the episode is Kitt, who has several opportunities throughout the episode to show off her singing ability. It even closes with a stellar performance of My Man’s Gone Now (from the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess), which is also included on The Protectors soundtrack collection.
Terrahawks – Play it Again, Sram
Terrahawks enjoyed frequent musical diversions (some might argue far too many) thanks to the inclusion of songstress Kate Kestrel and her colleagues at AnderBurr Records but this episode is one of the few to put all of that front and centre, as the humans and the Martians compete in the Interstellar Song Contest. After a failed plan involving MOID disguising himself as that hip and trendy 19th century pianist Franz Liszt the Martians form the ultimate rock group – Zelda and the Muzoids! We don’t want to give away too much more but the episode is full of laugh-out-loud moments, while Kate’s song contest entry, S.O.S., was actually released on 7-inch vinyl – with accompanying music video!
Lavender Castle – Duelling Banjos
With the Paradox crash-landed in the Great Swamp on the planet Quagmire, how does Captain Thrice propose to repair the ship? If you said “have a banjo contest”…well, either you’ve seen the episode before or you’ve read the title! Nevertheless Thrice does indeed attempt to outplay the banjo-loving Dank in order to enlist his help in their escape, with the animators taking great care to precisely match the movements on the characters’ fingers to the banjo music of Paul Bishop. Once again we see the attention to detail that composer Crispin Merrell always puts into his work – with even his sheet music even making a brief appearance – and the resulting story manages to be both utterly charming and totally loopy.
So there are ten episodes celebrating the musical contributions of Barry Gray, Richard Harvey and Crispin Merrell – but which of these are your favourites? Let us know in the comments below!