Monday, July 25, 2011
"Rome, Italian Style" Track of the Day: The John Gregory Orchestra, "The Avengers"
Song: "The Avengers" by The John Gregory Orchestra
Why's it part of the "Rome, Italian Style" playlist?: It's a faithful cover of the other Avengers theme, the lesser-known one from the British spy show's pre-Emma Peel seasons that was composed not by Laurie Johnson, but by the late British jazzman John Dankworth. Those rarely seen (due mostly to the British TV networks' love of throwing their archived shows away) and shot-on-videotape first three seasons were more serious in tone, and Dankworth's crime-jazz theme reflected that harder-edged tone.
A show that's turned 50 years old (!) this year, The Avengers started out as a total sausage fest, with Patrick Macnee's John Steed partnered with Ian Hendry's David Keel, a doctor seeking vengeance on the drug dealers who murdered his fiancée. When leather-clad anthropologist/judo expert Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) arrived as a replacement for Keel (Hendry, the show's original lead actor, decided to bounce after the first season to pursue a film career), the once-grim procedural gradually evolved into the eye candy-filled, sexy and playful spy-fi classic we know and love today.
"When the women came, it coincided with the rise of women's lib. So women were totally excited to see, in what was after all a comic strip type show, a woman [who] actually does things," said Macnee in 1998, when he was promoting his memoir The Avengers and Me. "At that time, to see a women like Diana Rigg, with that beautiful auburn hair throwing men over her shoulder, then tossing her hair out of her eyes, smiling and saying 'Where do we go next?' was highly attractive--particularly to young women. And to young men, particularly with the clothes, because they were... err, revealing and interesting. Suddenly a woman was vibrant in a medium in which [that] normally didn't happen."
The Avengers 50th Anniversary Press Launch from Avengers 50th on Vimeo.