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.