1 9 6 8 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes
This long-forgotten Thames TV kids drama series combined a psychedelic pop soundtrack with Get Carter director Mike Hodges, The Sweeney scriptwriter Mike Preston and Swinging London locations and fashions to great effect.
Although not a music show as such, it tapped into the genre with its self-consciously hip style of writing and direction, and by utilising current trends in pop.
The six-part series was made to promote the London region whose territory Thames Television had just secured. Based on a 1967 novel by Aylmer Hall (and published by London Transport), it was designed to encourage teenagers to visit the nation’s capital and use public transport.
The story revolved around three teenagers who were searching London for the mysterious ‘Tyrant King’ after overhearing a telephone call in an old house. The Tyrant King of the title ultimately turns out to be the Natural History Museum’s Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The trendy teen trio – go-go-booted Charlotte (Candy Glendenning), level-headed Peter (Kim Fortune) and the alarmingly modish Bill (Edward McMurray) – wore the latest fashions and were seen in all the right places, including Carnaby Street, the South Bank, the Tower of London, Kew Gardens and, er, an ice rink in Queensway.
These London landmarks were shown off to their best advantage, being photographed from unusual angles with fish-eye lenses and cut-up techniques, giving the show a truly surreal edge.
But it is the musical score which gives this series most of its enduring cult appeal. The Pop Art-style opening titles are displayed on a billboard in a busy London street, accompanied by The Nice‘s Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack.
Various episodes utilised other tracks from The Nice’s debut LP, as well as music from Cream‘s Wheels Of Fire and Disraeli Gears, The Moody Blues‘ In Search Of The Lost Chord and most memorably, Pink Floyd‘s A Saucerful Of Secrets and Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.
Snatches of ancient oriental and classical music were thrown in for good measure.
Guest stars included Philip Madoc as the mysterious ‘scarface’, and Murray Melvin – fresh from Swinging Sixties romp Smashing Time (1967), and previously Alfie (1966) – camping it up as creepy villain ‘Uncle Gerry’.
The series aired at 5:20 PM on Thursdays in October and November 1968. All six episodes of this colourful excursion still exist in the Thames archive but are unlikely ever to be screened again because of the copyright problems of clearing all the music featured.
It is occasionally shown at cult television fairs and at the National Film Theatre.
‘Uncle Gerry’ (Gerald Gould)
Lawrence ‘Scarface’ OConnor