The Lounge Bar Orchestra – Omeroyd Sound
8 inch Vinyl/DL
Released 6th November 2019
The library music of the 60s and 70s and the Lounge Bar Orchestra in particular get put under the microscope by author Greg Healey….Ian Canty tunes in to find the Test Match has been rained off and Testcard F with music accompaniment on instead….
This new EP Omeroyd Sound brings together three tracks originally recorded for television during the 70s by conductor and arranger Reg Omeroyd with his crack outfit the Lounge Bar Orchestra. He brought the group together in 1968 at Ousewater Television to provide incidental music and themes for their programmes. Early successes for the band were the memorable opening title music to the Mollie Sugden agricultural comedy My Mum’s A Ploughman and scoring cop show Work A Flanker, a rare starring role for Michael Ripper as hard-bitten copper Eddie Flanker. This alone kept the band in Woodbines and hard liqueur for at least a month.
Perhaps their biggest success though was 1970’s Double Diamond, a Sci-Fi Serial about two twins with telekinetic powers. A young Ray Burdis portrayed both twins, Desmond and Duncan Diamond, who battled dark elements and, in one episode, a dark elephant too. Unfortunately it had to be dropped midway through its run because of copyright issues, but soon the TV session was awash with talk of the revolutionary Omeroyd Sound – word has it that no-one less than Alan Hawkshaw had the odd sleepless night over them (though it might have something with Hawkwind’s communal house being down the road as well).
Sadly all was to come to an end on the fateful night of 3rd of October 1975. It began normally enough when Reg bade his comrades farewell to pilot his top of the range Ford back to his two storey pile Le Mansionette near Lindisfarne. Or so it seemed. To all intents and purposes, Reg disappeared. Ousewater’s Police Five knock-off show Constabulary V (fronted by an OTV investor’s nephew by the name of Shawn Taylor) broadcasted an appeal a week later, but it came to no avail.
A month later the only real lead local Police were to have turned up – Reg’s car was found in pristine condition, parked at a car park serving a local beauty spot. No fingerprints were able to be taken, as he always wore driving gloves (which made showing guitarists the solos in his work difficult). A simple note was found and it read “Just off for a wee. Back in 5 mins”. His car has remained there, some say as a monument to Reg, others say the Police are too lazy to pick it up. Eerily when the council repainted the bays in the car park and moved Reg’s car into overnight storage, the day after the work was completed his car was found perfectly parked in a newly painted bay at the exact spot Reg left it.
No-one knows what happened to him and it remains a “cold” case. Many theories have put forward – that he was an East German spy, or ran off with money from Ousewater TV’s coffers (the station closed a month after his disappearance), or he has been assistant kit manager for Colchester United’s reserve team for the whole time. But what remains is his music and Fruits de Mer are to be commended in making three of his best known works with the Lounge Bar Orchestra available on this brand new EP.
The sensitive flow of Washing Lines (a children’s adventure series) begins things, but then gets a more urgent surge out of nowhere before sunny Hammond reassures one a tad. It really does bring back memories of hot summer days in the school holidays, shivery twinkles and wobbles capturing the mood. Very elegant and put together with a real style, it’s lovely piece.
Next we move onto Maximum Strategy, the theme for a private detective series featuring Gavin Beaker in the lead role of tough talking, hard hitting and cake-dropping ‘tec Axiom Wicker. Suitably wide-screen sounding with great horns and strings, there’s all the tension and relentlessness that Beaker struggled to bring to the role. Brassy and Beaty, to reference Ousewater TV’s successors’ TV Ouse and their 1983 Cagney And Lacey rip-off.
Flipping over the disc we come to Space Library, which framed someone’s bright idea of for a Sci Fi show based in, yes, a library. A gentle melody is picked out on strings and then a queasy effect rather like on the Madness song House Of Fun emerges. The best bit though is the wonderful “space” trumpet, echoes and thunderous drums. Marvellous!
We can only hope that more from the Lounge Bar Orchestra archive becomes available (a long player is in the offing). The only thing better would be Reg turning up unscathed after all those years in the wilderness, but lets not go mad. Though as a child actor in 1979 when working on tough inner London drama You’re Alright Ain’t Yer (starring Gillian Taylforth and Mick Ford), we were introduced to the music director who had a striking resemblance to Reg Omeroyd, apart from sporting a large Zapata moustache.
*The above might be partially made up and the Lounge Bar Orchestra the brainchild of the talented Greg Healey, author of the acclaimed Not In Front Of The Children. What most definitely the truth is that it is a fine evocation of the classic TV themes/library music sound, done by someone with a clear love for those scores. Tunes knocked out 9 to 5 by unknown heroes, who were only looking to earn a regular crust, but instead provided timeless background music for TV. Music which sound-tracked a lot of people’s tender years, including mine. Anyone digging these kind of grooves would be well advised to cop a load of this pronto. Vinyl copies will be available at Fruits de Mer and Megadodo’s one day Thunderbolt Festival in Bristol, on Saturday 2nd November 2019. You might even see Reg there!
Bandcamp link is here
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here