The Senior Service: the Girl In the Glass Case
released 17 June 2016
A whole album of instrumental imaginary vintage ‘Cult TV’/Film themes from Medway Punk veterans. Ged Babey salutes their genius.
Before I hit my teenage years, the early 70’s, I loved TV. It was my escape. The Persuaders, UFO, Space 1999, the Protectors, the Saint, Catweazle were among my favourites but the pinnacle of cool tele was Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). Basically it followed the mis-adventures of two Private Eyes. The thing is, one of them was dead and a ghost. You could tell that cos he wore a white suit and could disappear and reappear at will. Only Jeff could see Marty and the ghost could consequently help the not-dead one out of some sticky situations. It was a brilliant concept that was a small-imaginative leap for a kid from invisible imaginary friend to ever-present ghost-best-friend and protector.
The reason this is relevant is that the theme tune to Randall & Hopkirk (deceased) remains one of my favourite pieces of music.
In isolation it is a simple and effective 90 second score, heavy on the harpsichord. The emotional attachment to the memory of the programme and the time, when it represented drama and escapism and the magic of beating death is everything though.
I’m still waiting for my deceased best mate to pop up in a black Beatles wig and white suit, and haven’t given up hope altogether.
The Theme from Gerry Andersons 1970-73 series, UFO too, is also one of the sexiest, most-groovy pieces of music ever. Set in the Future, 1980, when aliens were attacking earth and the women who manned Moonbase wore the coolest miniskirts and purple geometrically bobbed wigs (search on Youtube for Gabrielle Drake, yeah Nicks sister in UFO). Jesus, I couldn’t wait for 1980 -I’d be 16 and could join SHADO and get my hair like Ed Strakers. ( Well, achieved one of those…) I always lived in a fantasy world and the key to unlocking it was the tunes…
Fast Forward to the Far-Future, 2016 and the Senior Service, the latest band to burst forth from the little clutch of towns known collectively as Medway, who are former members of The Prisoners, The Mighty Caesars, The James Taylor Quartet and the Buff Medways; Jon Barker – organ, Graham Day – guitar, Darryl Hartley – bass guitar and Wolf Howard – drums and percussion. Close friends who have always dug TV/film themes and instrumental music, and are influenced by John Barry, Barry Grey, Booker T and the MG’s, Ennio Morricone and The Small Faces among others.
“We got together to play instrumental covers because I happened to have bought a Hammond organ” says Jon, “but we dropped that idea before we played a note and quickly moved onto our own stuff.”
This of course, has been done before, and very well by The James Taylor Quartet in 1987, who followed up the Mission Impossible (covers album) with the Money Spyder (original instrumentals). Both were repackaged as The First Sixty Four Minutes in 1988, and if you ever see a copy don’t hesitate to buy it! I’m pleased to tell you that the Girl In the Glass Case is every bit as good, if not better.
As the press release rightly says “A thrilling musical journey tinged with the filmic hues of bygone celluloid classics. Here you’ll find it all; excitement, action, romance, intrigue! Each song tells its own story – no words are necessary. As with all great instrumental music, it weaves its web of magic through the light and shade created from the brush of keys, plucking of strings and beating of skins, with the occasional splash of colour provided by brass, vibes and theremin (naturally) – this exquisite combination alone conjures up its narrative.
It’s a collection of songs with an orchestral sensibility juxtaposed with an urgent garage rock crash bang wallop! ”
Every track is great, but number 4, Hit the Lip somehow stands an inch or two higher than the others being a sort of mixture between There’s a Ghost In My House and the Hawaii 5-O theme tune.
The sleeve notes to The Haunted Pad: British Instrumental Guitar Music of The Sixties Part One 1960-61 (which I bought recently) say; It’s unthinkable now, but in almost any given week in the early sixties it was not unusual for one-third of the singles in the UK Top 30 to be instrumentals. Which is remarkable, but when its of such a high quality as the Senior Service, it sounds like it would be a damn good idea to bring back those days.
Because the tunes don’t have the familiarity of cover versions it does take a few repeated listens to really get into this album, but once you do, it really is a joyful album, both as background and foreground music, as ‘soundtrack’ and as ‘rock’n’roll’.
Wisdom comes with age and the Senior Service are wise old dudes, providing the theme tunes to the movies in our heads which are inspired by the past, real, imagined, rose-tinted or sepia, Groove on maestros. And….Action!
Buy the album from here
And there’s still tickets for the London album launch on the 18th June at the Lexington
All words by Ged Babey.