Whenever Thunderbirds gets mentioned on the telly these days, they often like to play up how much merchandise the series generated.
Models, books, records… just what could have triggered this proliferation of consumerism? Aside from the obvious explanation (people like a good, well-made show), I'd really like to suppose that it was helped along by the now iconic Thunderbirds march.
Play that music over any product, and it will probably sell it. Funeral services, toilet disinfectant, carrots, you just watch. Even all that spam from Nigeria would probably elicit its very first sale from you, if only it opened playing the right MP3.
And no wonder. Composer Barry Gray is also remembered for his extensive work in advertising, as this CD testifies.
For this is a dizzyingly extensive compilation of just some of the hundreds of commercials on which Gray worked in the 1950s and 60s, usually sourced here from his own private collection of masters. Gray himself not only composed and recorded many of these pieces, but also sings on some of them, and can even be heard throughout this collection cuing in the other artists. (who on occasion are Eric Sykes and the equally legendary Mike Sammes!)
Admittedly though, after Trunk Records' similarly-themed Music For Biscuits release a few years ago, I didn't find a lot on this CD to write a shopping list about. A few of the commercials are joyous in their retro style (Quaker Banana Mellows!), while the excerpts of incidental music sound awesome for similar reasons. What really gets me doing cartwheels though is the mere fact of its existence.
These adverts and others are all roughly 50 years old, many of them designed for use as generic local cinema commercials. Despite their presumable ubiquity at the time, there just weren't many opportunities for these pieces to get recorded by the public and saved for posterity. Sure you could smuggle a phone in with your popcorn, but sooner or later the ushers are going to notice the lead trailing out through the foyer and back to your house, and even then, the video definition those things could capture back then was so low as to be non-existent.
Failing that, what cinema is going to keep an archive of old adverts that it can no longer use?
Yet because the recordings on this CD have been generally taken from Gray's own literally mildew-covered masters, most of them sound as sharp as a button, and are heard here even clearer than upon their original presentation.
The final track celebrates a more unexpected benefit of all Gray's tireless efforts: Gray himself crooning a promotional song for Moreno (pronounced moh-ray-noe) - the cinema cartoon production company that was employing him to score so much of their output.
"When you want commercial made,
With catchy tune,
And cute idea, That's crystal-clear,
In the best cartoon...
'Cos... everybody's going Moreno!"
It's a no-braino.
Available to sample and buy here.
Barry Gray Centenary Concert
Music For Biscuits
Thunderbirds (2004 film)
Thunderbirds Are Go!
All About Thunderbirds (BBCTV documentary)