Production Personnel Biography
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Laurie Johnson

Composer, The Avengers, 1965-69
Composer and Co-Producer, The New Avengers, 1976-77

by David K. Smith with Mike Noon

The music most fans know and love was by noted film and television composer Laurie Johnson. His tenure began when the show went to film (the Emma Peel and Tara King eras, with help from Howard Blake on the latter) and continued until the series ended. In 1970 he added film production to his CV; one of the companies he owns with Brian Clemens was responsible for The New Avengers and The Professionals.

Patrick Macnee has enthused in interviews and in print that Johnson composed an original score for each and every episode. Well, in truth that's a bit of hyperbole. If he had, it would have devastated the show's budget! What the producers did was build a "library" of incidental music that was recycled throughout the series. Then, for many—but not all—episodes, additional incidental music was composed to suit either a strong story theme or special situation. Some episodes received a great deal of original material (a perfect example is "Quick-Quick Slow Death," which features all of that cheesy dance hall music), some episodes got just a few licks to add flavor, and some got no original material at all, with the music drawn exclusively from the library. This was pretty much standard operating procedure in the television industry back then, except that several composers were often contracted to write incidental music for a show, in the same way that different directors were hired. As an example of just how much gets "recycled," Johnson did not even write the main theme just for The Avengers! It was instead a reworking of "The Shake," a tune he had composed some time earlier for purposes unknown.

Born in Hampstead on 7 February 1927, Laurence Reginald Ward Johnson studied at the Royal College of Music and later taught there. At age nineteen he began composing and arranging for the Ted Heath Band and went on to write for Geraldo, Jack Parnell, Ambrose and others. He entered the film industry in 1955 and, considered very much of the old school, composed the scores for over four hundred films. In 1961 the Laurie Johnson Orchestra had a UK Top 10 charter with the Latin-styled "Sucu Sucu," written by Tarateno Rosa, the theme from the UK television series Top Secret. In 1994 he formed the London Big Band featuring twenty-five of the finest jazz and orchestral musicians in the country. Laurie lives in Stanmore, Middlesex.

According to Laurie Henshaw (author of the liner notes for some of Johnson's LPs), Johnson owes his deserved success to a disciplined routine broken only for meals and an occasional brief stroll. His day starts at 6.30 AM and often runs through to midnight. "If I am working on a film score, I usually keep at it for seven days a week," he says. "In all, the job takes about two months." Working as composer, arranger and conductor, Johnson has scored for and conducted orchestras ranging from thirty musicians for big jazz arrangements to over eighty for film studio works. "If you want a particular kind of written music played and interpreted perfectly," he claims, "then you must use as key musicians men who are versed in the arts of improvisation—jazz musicians, in fact."

Laurie Johnson has an official website.

All materials copyrighted per their respective copyright holders.
This website Copyright 1996-2017 David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.
Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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