Two For Tuesday: Edwin Astley

One of the reasons I’m focusing on composers who wrote the theme songs and incidental music for television is because I wanted to know more about these people. Here’s a composer I wouldn’t have thought of if I hadn’t.

Edwin (Ted) Astley composed many of the themes for British TV series in the ’60’s and ’70’s. He was born in Warrington, Lancashire in 1922, and during World War II he played saxophone and clarinet in the Royal Army Service Corps. In the 1950’s he was writing arrangements for the bandleader Geraldo. Later, his orchestra (The Ted Astley Orchestra) was well known in the north of England and he was writing songs for singers such as Anne Shelton. He started writing for television in the ’50’s for shows such as Ivanhoe (starring Roger Moore), The Adventures of Robin Hood (though not for the song at the end of the show), and Colonel March of Scotland Yard (starring Boris Karloff).

In 1960 he wrote the theme for Danger Man, starring Patrick McGoohan; it was the show that was renamed Secret Agent and for which a new theme song was written for the US. This is his 1965 recording of it with his orchestra.

In 1962 he wrote the theme for The Saint, starring Roger Moore. This was the theme that was used through most of the series, at least until the color episodes in the late ’60’s were filmed. It was later recorded by the band Orbital in 1997, the single rising to #3 on the British Singles chart. This is the original.

He also wrote music for Gideon’s Way, The Baron, and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). As a bonus, here’s the theme from that show.

Astley married Hazel Balbirnie in 1945 and they had three children. Oldest daughter Karen was married to Pete Townshend of The Who, while her brother Jon produced and remastered the band’s reissues. Daughter Virginia is a singer-songwriter. Astley retired in the late 1970’s and died in 1998.

Edwin Astley, your Two for Tuesday, September 10, 2019.

24 thoughts on “Two For Tuesday: Edwin Astley

  1. I love how the 60โ€™s used the harpsichord in their music. I donโ€™t know the last one at all but love the song. I know Secret Agent Man but donโ€™t know this original song which I love. I love the Saint but saw only a few episodes. Roger Moore was excellent as the Saint but my heart belongs to my George Sanders. Glad you showcased this unknown but great musician

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    1. I’ve never seen “Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)” either, but after reading the description (a detective and his dead partner solving crimes), I’d like to see it.

      For some reason, they changed the name and theme song of “Dangerman” when it came to the US (and presumably Canada). My guess is they wanted to capitalize on the “007” fad that was going on here. The shows were exactly the same otherwise.

      Having seen both the movies and the TV show, I have to say I prefer Roger Moore, maybe because the shows were also modernized and had more of that “007” vibe going. Moore would have been a better James Bond than Sean Connery in the ’60’s (he was pretty much a disaster in the role in the ’70’s), and in fact they offered him the role, but he couldn’t get away from “The Saint” long enough to make any of the movies. Oh well…

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  2. I have heard the theme to Danger Man before… great info…
    Patrick McGoohan, I remember for the Prisoner… still trying to figure the last episode out.

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    1. “The Prisoner” was an excellent show, but if you missed an episode you were kind of lost. Though they never name him, it’s pretty much assumed that Number Six is John Drake from “Danger Man.” Evidently Astley missed out on sc

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      1. I have all of them…I agree…if you would have missed one…you would have been lost.

        I’ve read about Pete Townshend all my life and knew his wife’s name… and her brother Jon….didn’t make the connection in this.

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  3. Wow – that’s all great information. What a small world to have him tied to Pete Townsend too! I remember re-runs of some of those shows and the theme songs came right back to me! Great research, John!

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    1. I’m assuming you’re talking about Roger Moore’s Templar. George Sanders was pretty good in the movies, and I understand Vincent Price played him on radio. THAT would have been pretty cool to hear. Val Kilmer wasn’t very good in the movie back in the ’90’s…

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