THE DOUBLE DECKERS MUSIC
by David Noades
Although the Double Deckers was never billed as a musical in the way that The Monkees or The Partridge Family were, there is no doubt that the music is an integral part of the success of show, and is a part which has often been overlooked. Whilst songs were not featured in every episode, there was always music used in some way or another, and in most cases you do not immediately notice it, which of course is the sign of a good composer. 12 of the songs from the show (although sadly none of the incidental music) appeared on the spin-off soundtrack album which was released on the Capitol label in America in 1970 and in the UK the following year. The music which accompanies the discotheque sequence in The Pop Singer was taken from a British album called Dance Mood Music issued on the Chappell label in 1969.
The Songs: Title/Writers/Singers
IT'S A DAY AND A HALF (JOAN MAITLAND/RICHARD KERR). The main cast with Melvyn Hayes.
Charming sing-along ditty with the cast attempting to whistle the middle eight in close harmony (it doesn't work)!
TO THE COUNTRYSIDE (IVOR SLANEY/MICHAEL BEGG). The main cast with Melvyn Hayes.
Nice feel-good song with memorable Hammond organ solo. The slow-motion action used in this sequence in the episode Summer Camp makes it look like an early pop video.
GOOD DAY AT YELLOWROCK (IVOR SLANEY/MICHAEL BEGG). The main cast (lead Gillian Bailey).
Thinly disguised parody of The Deadwood Stage from the Doris Day movie Calamity Jane which fits in with the Western theme of the gang's hopeless home movie.
WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE (IVOR SLANEY/GLYN JONES). The main cast except Gillian Bailey and Debbie Russ.
Gentle song with 'peace and harmony' theme, and ironic title considering the girls' jealousy of Miss Petit.
I GOTTA GET THROUGH (IVOR SLANEY/MICHAEL BEGG). Anthony May.
Super psychedelic pop song from The Cool Cavalier featuring backing by Brain's fictitious 'psycho-endlaphone'- a unique synthesiser constructed from an old cash register!
GET ON BOARD (HARRY BOOTH/MELVYN HAYES/ JOHNNY ARTHEY). The main cast.
This song was used in a different version in the episode Man's Best Friend where it is cut up in the Ha-Ha Show dance sequence (the Laugh-In spoof).
LIFE IS A WONDERFUL THING (IVOR SLANEY/GLYN JONES). The main cast.
More semi-psychedelic leanings when the gang are in the company of the Cool Cavalier, and a wonderful dance sequence.
GRANNIE'S ROCKING CHAIR (MAIR SUMMERTON-DAVIES). The main cast except Debbie Russ with Melvyn Hayes (lead Gillian Bailey).
Old-fashioned campfire-style story-song with a nice lead vocal from Gillian Bailey.
ONE MAN BAND (IVOR SLANEY/GLYN JONES). The main cast except Michael Audreson and Douglas Simmonds (lead Gillian Bailey).
Gillian takes the lead again on this stirring march-with-a-message sung to Barney, the Don Partridge style street musician (Don Partridge was a real one man band who actually made it as a pop star in the UK in the mid 60s).
WELCOME TO THE PARTY (IVOR SLANEY/GLYN JONES). Tim Barrett, Bunnie May, Melvyn Hayes and Jane Seymour.
Quirky sing-along number used in the Mat Hatter's tea party sequence with each verse sung by a different character. Curiously the March Hare has been replaced by the White Rabbit.
FAT LADIES (IVOR SLANEY/MICHAEL BEGG). The main cast.
Another comic march with some great lyrics. The gang are done up firstly in military uniforms with the boys also appearing in drag as 'fat ladies'!
OLD MACDONALD (TRAD). The main cast except Michael Audreson.
Rousing reworking of the old children's song which sadly doesn't appear on the soundtrack album.
Ivor Slaney was the main force behind the music for the Double Deckers as he
co-wrote many of the songs, including the main theme Get On Board, and most
of the incidental music. This included many numerous fanfares, underscores
and linking pieces which were used in the show to introduce scenes, and were
sometimes altered to accompany different characters. Sadly, apart from the
songs none of incidental music was recorded commercially.
Ivor was born in Birmingham 1921 and was educated at the Royal College of
Music. He married pianist Dolores Ventura and in the 1940's and 1950's
gained recognition as a composer and conductor. His compositions were mainly
in the light classical field and included such titles as Three Irish Reels,
Hey Fiddle Diddle and Georgian Rhumba which were all commercially released,
and he also arranged and conducted The 101 Strings for the PYE label
although he was uncredited. His work in these fields led to being
commissioned to write film scores which included feature films such as The
Flanagan Boy, The House Across The Lake, A King's Story (based on the life
of Edward VIII) and Terror and some film serials including Scotland Yard
(with Edgar Lustgarden) and the 1967 Children's Film Foundation vehicle The
Magnificent Six and a Half. These were mainly during the 1950s and 1960s
although he continued to compose for films until the 1980s.
He was also invited to compose music for mood music libraries. For those of
you who don't know what these are, they are essentially libraries of
ready-recorded music for use by film makers, TV producers or advertising
companies to save them commissioning music of their own. Many well-known
television themes and advertising jingles have come from such libraries A good example is the famous theme from the UK series All Creatures Great and
Small which started life as Piano Parchment in the KPM music library. Ivor
Slaney recorded a number of pieces for DeWolfe in the 1960s including such
titles as Top Dog, Country Canter, Fun and Frolic and On The Humourous Side.
Many of these have been collected on a recent DeWolfe CD titled Movie
Archives - Light Activity which included Ivor's most famous piece Top Dog,
as well as a numerous comedy links and stings (short linking pieces used for
comic or dramatic effect of the type used in Double Deckers).
This in turn led him to composing some television themes including Here's
Harry for English comedian Harry Worth (BBC 1960-65), the period drama Sir
Francis Drake (ITV 1960-62) which starred a young Michael Crawford, and the
spy series Sentimental Agent (ITV 1962). It was however his work for the
film serial The Magnificent Seven and a Half (which was also directed by
Harry Booth) which led him being commissioned to compose the music for The
Double Deckers. Unfortunately the director and composer were not given any
opportunities to work together again although Ivor continued to work until
the 1980s, and died in March 1998.|
Jack Arel and Jean-Claude Petit
Johnny co-wrote the main Double Deckers theme with it's director Harry Booth
and Melvyn Hayes (he wrote the music and they wrote the lyrics). He was born
in London in the early 1940s and is a self taught pianist. His first job was
as a pianist in a Military Band Concert Orchestra during his National
service in the 1950s. By 1962 he was broadcasting with on BBC radio with his
own orchestra and on television on such shows as All At One and Swing Into
Summer. Arthey was probably best known as a string arranger and his work can
be heard on numerous UK pop hits including songs by The Pioneers, Bob Andy
and Marcia Griffiths, Russ Sainty, Vince Hill, Tap Heperi, The Pearls, Mary
Hopkin and Clodah Rogers. Some of these were for the reggae labels B&C and
Trojan and he released some albums of string arrangements of pop and reggae
titles under the names The Johnny Arthey Orchestra and Reggae Strings. He
also acted as musical director for Edward Woodward (yes the Edward Woodward)
who recorded a string of successful albums in the 1970s before he found
success in the US as The Equalizer. For Mary Hopkin and Clodah Rogers he was
also conductor for their appearances on the annual Eurovision Song Contest
in 1970 and 1971, and he also conducted for Anne-Marie B for Luxembourg in
1977. In the 1970s he worked extensively for BBC radio and issued a series
of easy listening titles containing string versions of pop hits. Like Ivor
Slaney he also composed mood music for such companies as Conroy, Berry and
Harmonic and much of this music was used in television and advertising He is
still active in the music business today.|
The only pieces of incidental music not composed by Ivor Slaney were the two
uptempo dance numbers used in the episodes The Pop Singer and Man's Best
Friend which were composed by Jack Arel and Jean-Claude Petit taken from the
Chappell library from a series of albums titled Dance Mood Music. These rare
albums have become highly sought-after collectors items today as this type
of music has become popular in retro-style clubs, although luckily the piece
used in The Pop Singer ("Following you" - AKA "Hold Up A Monte Carlo") - did
eventually find commercial release on a Jack Arel CD. Both composers have
also written scores for movies and television shows, and have provided the
backing on albums by various French singers.|
Melvyn Hayes started off as a child actor in such films as No Trees In The
Street and Oliver Twist, and went on to appear as an adult in films such as
Crooks In Cloisters, Operation Amsterdam, Man About The House and most
memorably the Cliff Richard musicals Summer Holiday and The Young Ones. Here
Melvyn put his singing and dancing skills to use in a series of spectacular
song and dance sequences in the company of Sir Cliff, Una Stubbs and The
Shadows. In the 1970s he was a familiar face in British TV in such series as
Sir Yellow, Potters Picture Palace and most famously It Ain't Half Hot Mum,
where he portrayed the Army concert party's resident drag performer
Bombardier 'Gloria' Beaumont. Here his vocals were put to good use in
various songs (which were meant to be a bit dodgy), and a couple appeared on
a spin-off EMI album in 1975. Not especially known as a singer or musician
Melvyn has nevertheless appeared in a several musicals and pantomimes on
stage, and in The Double Deckers as well as singing on some of the songs
(most notably his sleepy solo as the doormouse on "Welcome To The Party") he
also co-wrote the shows theme song, co-wrote one of the episodes and was the
Joan Maitland and Richard Kerr
Joan Maitland worked with well known composer Lionel Bart on his musical
Blitz, which was the follow up to Oliver in 1962. She also contributed to
other stage musicals in the 1960s including The Young Visitors, which was
performed at The Picadilly Theatre in London's West End in 1968/69, and
Young Tom which was based on Tom Brown's Schooldays. This played at London's
Cambridge Theatre in 1976 and later became a favourite as an amateur drama
production in British schools.
She also teamed up with fellow songwriter Richard Kerr to write a plethora
of songs including Be True To Yourself, Make Me A Woman and Once In A
Lifetime Man. As well as being a songwriter, Richard was also a bit part
actor and appeared in a few films and TV shows including the thriller movie
Fragment Of Fear where he played a pop singer.
However in the 1970s he concentrated on songwriting and teamed up with
various others to write hits for singer Barry Manilow: Mandy (with Scott
English), Could It Be Magic (with Scott English), In Another World (with
Charlie Dore), Life Will Go On (with Richard Carpenter collaborator Richard
Bettis), Looks Like We Made It (with Will Jennings) and Somewhere In The
Night (with Will Jennings). I don't know if Barry Manilow was ever tempted
to do a cover version of the Kerr-Maitland composition It's A Day And A
Half, but I think he should be persuaded to do so!
South African-born Glyn Jones was of course one of the main scriptwriters on the show as well as script editor. Already well known as a television screen writer (Doctor Who, The Gold Robbers) he has also acted in films, television and radio and directed, produced and written many plays including the musicals La Belle Otero, Mr Pickwick and Peter Pan. He is also a successful author.
Michael was a producer who worked for the BBC, although he occaisonally
worked as a composer, most notably on the musical Mr Polly which was based
on the work of writer HG Wells. This played at The Churchill Theatre in
Bromley, Kent and starred Roy Castle in the late 1970s. Michael also
composed various songs (including those for The Double Deckers) and a piece
called Mexico Grandstand (an arrangement for brass bands) for the 1970 World
I can find no other details for this composer who composed the epic
Grannie's Rocking Chair (if anyone else has any background information,
please contact me)
Michael Audreson, Gillian Bailey, Bruce Clark, Peter Firth, Brinsley Forde, Debbie Russ, Douglas Simmonds, Melvyn Hayes The main cast members sing most of the songs, and of these only Brinsley Forde and Melvyn Hayes seem to have done anything else musical, although Gillian Bailey has a great singing voice and sings three solos in the show. Brinsley appeared in numerous TV shows and films in the 1970s including Please Sir and The Georgian House, but in 1975 formed the reggae band Aswad. Brinsley was lead guitarist and singer and the band recorded various albums for the Island label. Originally their music was more roots-orientated reggae but in the 1980s the band achieved a more pop-style soul sound and had several hits including the number one Don't Turn Around. (See above for Melvyn Hayes).
Anthony May (The Cool Cavalier)
Anthony has had a long career on stage, film and TV but was never really a singer. He did however make a brave attempt on the semi-psychedelic I Gotta Get Though in the episode The Pop singer. Curiously when he appeared in the swinging sixties short movie Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (1968) his singing voice was dubbed by another singer. Perhaps The Cool Cavalier was his revenge!
Bunnie May /Tim Barrett / Jane Seymour
This trio sing Welcome to The party in Alice In Wonderland sequence in the episode Scooper Strikes Out, and none of them appear to be known for their singing skills. Bunnie May and Tim Barrett are popular UK character actors who have appeared in numerous British movies and TV sitcoms, while the latter needs no introduction, and is of course famous for her roles in such productions as Live and Let Die, Battlestar Galactica, Haunting The Passion, Phantom of the Opera and East of Eden and most memorably Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. Listening to her brief effort in the Alice song perhaps it was for the best that she never attempted a career as a singer, although it is no worse than Douglas Simmonds' decidedly off-key solo in Life Is A Wonderful Thing!