Edwin Astley (1922–1998) first gained some fame as “Ted Astley,” touring England with his own orchestra. He had some songs covered by well-known British performers (including Anne Shelton and Vera Lynn) before making his name in TV theme and incidental music, first for Boris Karloff’s “Colonel March,” and then between 1955 and 1958, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Sir Lancelot” and “Ivanhoe.”
Astley’s high point was probably the album that featured one side of “Secret Agent” music, and the other side, music from “The Saint.” No, he did NOT write the famous theme for “Secret Agent” that appeared on American television, sung by Johnny Rivers. He wrote the themes when the show was called “Danger Man.” The best known bit of music from the show is “High Wire,” which sort of sounds like “Music to Whisk Eggs By,” and seemed like it was played almost constantly in every episode. The odd choice of instrument for the lead may have been inspired by the zither used for "The Third Man" mystery film. There can be something quite unsettling about a cheerful instrument used over grim noir footage, or mated to jazz drums as it is here.
Astley also wrote music for late 60’s TV shows “The Baron,” “Department S,” and “Randall and Hopkins, Deceased.” He also had many movie credits, including quite a few grim films such as “Dublin Nightmare” 1958) “Naked Fury” (1959) and “The Giant Behemoth” (1959). On the lighter side, there was “The Mouse that Roared” in 1959. He composed the orchestral music for the Herbert Lom version of ‘Phantom of the Opera” in 1962.
Fun trivia: Edwin’s daughter Karen married Pete Townshend. Karen and Pete’s son Jon Astley was in charge of many of The Who’s re-mastered CD releases. Sadly, there’s no CD featuring the best of Edwin Astley’s film scores. It’s not everyone who can make a harpsichord sound hip.
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