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Thursday 14 June 2012

The Therapy Zone

Can You Whistle The Prisoner Theme?

    Once the story of the pilot episode The Arrival was completed and in the can, Patrick McGoohan then turned his attention to the music aspect of the Prisoner, and in particular the theme music. Bearing in mind his admiration for the work of those who had already served their time with him on the Danger Man series, you could be forgiven for thinking that McGoohan would renew his workingrelationship with composer Edwin Asltley who scored all the Danger Man episodes. Indeed it was at this juncture that Edwin Astley was already contracted to provide the theme and incidental music for Roger Moore's The Saint television series, as well as ITC's The Champions.
    Composer Robert Farnon was the first to be approached to write the theme music for the Prisoner, but his version of the theme, a zingy, strident Western theme, based on the theme music of the film The Big Country. But this did not reflect what McGoohan was looking for. Up next was Wilfred Josephs, but again McGoohan was not pleased with the result, although a good deal of the music composed by Jospehs at the time does appear throughout the series.
   By the end of the year the series was still without a regular theme music, and it ws then that music composer Ron Grainer came onto the scene, and with a track record of popular television themes behind him. His most famous perhaps being the theme music for Doctor Who. So the musician set to work composing his version of the theme music. Although McGoohan was not entirely dissatisfied with Grainer's composition, McGoohan nevertheless felt that it was not quite right, it needed 'beefing up.' He explained what he was looking for and the composer went away and revamped his original composition, eventually succeeding in supplying McGoohan with what he wanted.
    It appears however that Grainer was irritated that McGoohan, an actor, had told him, a composer, to change a composition which he had believed was right for the series. So when he recorded a more 'pop' version of the original composition, and not the one heard on the programme!
    It is interesting to read that, according to stories at the time, Patrick McGooahn apparently walked into the cutting room one day whistling what is now the main theme music of the series. According to the stories of the time, Ron Grainer was hired to transcribe McGoohan's ideas. Of course Ron Grainer deserves the credit for orchestrating the music and its arrangement. But the original idea was, according to sources from the time, was McGoohan's.
    How did this man sleep at night...... he couldn't have done. Not with every finger in the Prisoner pie!
   Albert Elms was added to the Prisoner music roster, this to compose the remaining incidental music, whilst the rest of the series incidental music was used from the Chappell Music Library.



  1. Whistling in the dark maybe.... :-D

    It is a fact that news interviews when McGoohan was making Danger Man referred to his working 18 hour days then. He surrounded his studio day with reading and fiddling with new scripts, and learning the current one. I can imagine his pushing himself even harder on The Prisoner. I expect his wife was especially glad to see the thing ended.... :-D

    1. Hello Moor,
      Yes, I can imagine his family being glad when the production of 'the Prisoner' finally came to an end. McGoohan did take his family to Portmeirion when filming took place there in September 1966, staying in White Horses cottage. However McGoohan, it was said, banned his family from going into the Village while filming was taking place!
      I've often throught that McGoohan pushed himself too hard during the production of 'the Prisoner,' having had a hand in virtually every aspect of the series production. If he hadn't he might not have had to go off to recouperate from a breakdown in Switzerland, while visiting family there.

      Be seeing you