Lord Thames on Laurie Johnson and ‘And Soon the Darkness’
Although Laurie Johnson’s contribution to And Soon The Darkness is a relatively small one, it does at least provide us with a chance to celebrate a long and distinguished career.
By the 1960s, Laurie Johnson’s name started to become much better known thanks to the rise of commercial television. His recording of ‘Sucu Sucu’ for Associated-Rediffusion’s Top Secret was a chart hit in 1961, and as well as other commissions for A-R, he was also writing for the KPM music library. Many of these tracks became well know, as themes for Animal Magic, This Is Your Life, Whicker’s World and World In Action (the latter theme, ‘Private Eye’, is still in use today as the theme for Michael Apted’s 7 Up documentaries, the latest installment of which has started on ITV this month.)
The middle of the decade saw possibly his most important commissions to date – Dr Strangelove (of which Johnson recalls Stanley Kubrick telling him at the end of the recording sessions it was the best soundtrack to any of his films), and of course The Avengers, where Johnson came up with a gloriously decadent string theme which would last till the end of the series in 1969..
And Soon The Darkness followed soon afterwards, and features many familiar Avengers faces behind the camera, like director Robert Fuest and writer Brian Clemens. Johnson’s contribution is limited to the instantly memorable theme, which later had lyrics added by Alan Price and was recorded by pop-soul singer James Royal (with the help of an excellent arrangement by Keith Mansfield) though sadly with limited success.
Johnson continued to write soundtracks through the 1970s, and added another string to his bow – not only did he furnish The New Avengers with a fantastic military funk theme tune, he also became co-producer with Albert Fennel and Brian Clemens. This partnership would continue with LWT’s The Professionals into the 1980s. Johnson continued as a producer with the revived Gainsborough Pictures, as well as scoring their productions.
In 1997, Laurie Johnson would form the London Big Band, with many familiar jazz and session players in the line-up, including old friends from the Ted Heath days, and he even returned to the charts thanks to the theme from The Professionals being used to advertise the Nissan Almera.
Although And Soon The Darkness doesn’t even merit a mention in Johnson’s autobiography, ‘Noises In The Head’, for me it’s among his best work, almost as much for what isn’t there as what is. The lack of incidental music, normally a minus point for me, only adds to the grim and bleak atmosphere of the film, which is almost in contrast to the relatively upbeat theme See what you think!
These words were taken from the programme notes of the Filmbar70 screening of ‘And Soon the Darkness’ London, 17 May 2012.