SPIDER-JAZZ.

Spider-Jazz.

Label: Trunk Records.

Anyone who grew up in the late-sixties will have fond memories of the original series of Spiderman cartoon series, which was created by Grantray-Lawrence Animation, and made its television debut on ABC-TV in 1967, just five years after the crime fighting superhero made his debut in Marvel Comics. Spiderman was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, who watched as their web-spinning superhero became a favourite of a generation of American then Canadian children. 

Sadly, it was a few years later, before Spiderman made his debut on British televisions, and quickly became a favourite of children and adults, who were brought reading this classic comic book during the early sixties. By the late-seventies, Spiderman was a familiar face on weekend television, but by then, many older children who had grown up watching the original series, saw it with new eyes.

The original version of Spiderman had been made on a low-budget, and there were numerous errors, and many background, sequences and scenes had been re-used, often within the same episode. Many teenagers took great delight in pointing out mistakes, including in one episode where the spider logo on Spiderman’s costume initially had six legs, then eight legs and back to six later in the show. Cue howls of laughter from teenagers across Britain. 

Despite the errors in the original series of Spiderman, many people of a certain age still have fond memories of this memorable cartoon series. Especially the music, which by the series one featured a new theme tune, where session singers sung the praises of Spiderman and background music penned by composers Bob Harris and Ray Ellis. Sadly, it’s believed that the master-tapes to the music no longer exist.

Following series one of Spiderman, Grantray-Lawrence Animation became insolvent and later, were declared bankrupt. This was the start of a  new chapter for Spiderman, and producer Steve Krantz decided to bring in new personnel to work on the next series, including animation director Ralph Bakshi. The only problem was that Steve Krantz decided to cut the budget to Spiderman, and what was already a low-budget production became an extremely low-budget production. However, Steve Krantz’s other idea was something of a masterstroke, when he decided to use one of the many library companies that were providing the music for commercials, film, radio and television.

The library company that Steve Krantz chose was KPM, which by then, was one of the top providers of library music. It had a vast library of music that had been recorded on spec, but also had access to the talented and versatile songwriters, arrangers, producers and musicians who were capable of writing and recording music to match themes or moods for a film or television show. This was just what Steve Krantz needed as KPM had already established a reputation for producing modern dramatic music that was miles ahead of the library music produced by the nascent American companies. Proof of this is the music on Spider-Jazz which has just been released on vinyl by Trunk Records and is a reminder of what was a golden era for KPM Music, which was one of the elder statesman of British library music.

While American library music companies were relatively new, the origins of KPM Music can be traced back over two centuries. 

KPM Music.

Robert Keith founded a comp[any in 1780, to make of musical instruments, and fifty years later, in 1830, entered into a partnership with William Prowse, a music publisher. The newly formed partnership was named Keith Prowse Music (KPM), and over the next hundred years, the company grew and expanded into other areas,

By the early twentieth century, Keith Prowse Music was selling sheet music and concert tickets, but it was  the invention of the gramophone proved to be a game-changer. Demand for sheet music and concert tickets grew, and in 1955, Keith Prowse Music was decided to diversify, into one of the most profitable areas of music, music publishing.

One of the reasons behind the decision to diversify into music publishing, was to feed the demand for soundtracks for radio, television and film. Previously, music libraries supplied classical music, which was what was required.  By the mid-fifties, and the birth of television, the world and music were changing, and changing fast.

Four years later, in 1959, Associated Rediffusion bought another music publisher Peter Maurice and merged it with Keith Prowse Music. The newly merged company became Keith Prowse Maurice, which became known as KPM Music. The newly named KPM Music was a much bigger player in the world music publishing. However, in the mid-sixties, a new name took the helm at KPM Music, and transformed the company into one of the biggest names in library music.

When Robin Phillips joined KPM Music in the mid-sixties, he proved to be an astute and visionary businessman. Two decisions Robin Phillips made demonstrate why. His first decision was that KPM Music should switch from the old 78 records to the LP, which made sense, as LPs were what people were buying. They were less prone to breakage, which meant less returns and more profit. LPs could contain more music, and could be released in limited editions of 1,000. The other decision he made was to hire the best young British composers and arrangers. 

Among the composers Robin Phillips hired were Keith Mansfield and Johnny Pearson, whose talent and  potential as composers he recognised.  Robin Phillips managed to hired them before they’ had established a reputation,  although they were known within music publishing circles.

Later, Robin Phillips managed to hire some of jazz musicians of the calibre of John Cameron, Syd Clark, Alan Hawkshaw and Alan Parker. Their remit was to provide him with new music, which was referred to as production music. Many of their remits was to write music which matched themes or moods, which initially, wasn’t isn’t easy, but soon, the composers were able to do so. Almost seamlessly, the composers created themes for many well known television shows and films.  

For the composers and musicians involved in writing and recording library music, they were part of what was one of the most lucrative areas of music. When EMI realised that KPM Music had one of the best and most profitable music libraries and decided to buy the company. Executives at EMI had spotted the profitability of library music and the consistency, quality and depth of KPM Music’s back catalogue. However,  not everyone within the music industry approved of library music.

Other songwriters looked down on writers of library music, and the British Musician’s Union wasn’t fan of library music. They banned their members from working on recording sessions of library music. Somewhat shortsightedly, the Musician’s Union thought that eventually, there would come a time when there was no need for any further recordings. Their fear was that the sheer quantity of back-catalogue would mean no new recordings would be made, and their members would be without work. Fortunately, KPM Records thought of a way to subvert the ban.

KPM Records would fly out composers, arrangers and musicians to Holland and Belgium, where local musicians would join them for recording sessions. This meant that often, the same musicians would play on tracks that were penned by several composers. For the musicians involved, this proved lucrative and some were reluctant to turn their back on session work for companies like KPM Records.

Still the Musician’s Union’s ban continued, and it wasn’t until the late seventies that the Musician’s Union lifted their ban on new recordings of library music. By then, the Musician’s Union realised that they were fighting a losing battle and had no option but to concede defeat.

Meanwhile, the music that was being recorded in Europe and once the ban was lifted in Britain, found its way onto albums of library music released by KPM Music. Again, KPM Music were innovators, and  released limited editions of library music. Sometimes, only 1,000 albums were released, and they were sent out to film studios, television and radio stations and advertising agencies. However, by then, interest in library music had grown. 

Although the albums of library music  were never meant to be commercially available, a coterie of musical connoisseurs had discovered KPM Music’s albums of library music and were determined to add each release to their collection. They weren’t alone.

Later, DJs and sample hungry hip hop and house producers discovered the world of library music. This was a boon for many of these producers who were musically illiterate, and certainly couldn’t play an instrument. However, with some practise they were eventually able to sample albums of library music for their latest production, and occasionally, this resulted in a hit single for the musical pirates. Meanwhile, the original superhero was just as popular as ever.

The Return Of Spiderman.

Way after KPM Music provided the soundtrack Steve Krantz’s second series of Spiderman, the web-spinning superhero was still a favourite of another generation of children in North America, Europe and Britain. They watched reruns of the show in the early to mid eighties, and later, the series found its way first onto video, and later DVD. 

By then, many of those who grew up watching the first and second series of Spiderman, had fond memories of the eclectic music that provided a backdrop to the first two series’. Especially in series two, where Spiderman was  a groovy, hep cat who spun his web to  a soundtrack the veered between jazz-tinged to funky, lysergic  and often dramatic. It was just a pity that nobody had compiled a compilation of the music from series two. 

Spider-Jazz.

That changed when Trunk Records recently released Spider-Jazz which features eighteen traces from series two of Spiderman. It features music penned by the best composers who worked for KPM Music. This includes Syd Dale, Johnny Hawksworth, David Lindup, Johnny Pearson, Keith Mansfield and Alan Hawkshaw. There’s also four tracks from the successful songwriting team of Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. They all played their part in the success of Spiderman and the Spider-Jazz compilation.

It’s a compilation that many people of a certain age will want to add to their record collection, especially collectors of library music. Sadly, because of legal reasons Trunk Records are unable to mention the star of the compilation…Spider Man. Nor were they allowed to include a picture of the web spinning superhero, which is why on the words “Spider-Jazz: KPM Cues Used In The Amazing Animated Series That We Are Not Allowed To Mention For Legal Reasons” It feature on the album. Despite that, Spider-Jazz is guaranteed to bring memories flooding back and get the listener’s spidey senses tingling.

Side One.

Syd Dale’s The Hell Raisers from his 1966 album The Sounds Of Syd Dale opens Spider-Jazz, and is an irresistible slice of cinematic Latin jazz. Thankfully, it’s only the first visit to this compilation.

Johnny Hawksworth’s groovy sounding The Eyelash is taken from the 1966 compilation The Mood Modern, and is a reminder of swinging London in the  sixties that is also perfect for a web spinning superhero.

There’s a return to The Sounds Of Syd Dale for the dramatic, futuristic and lysergic Walk In A Nightmare. It gives way to Johnny Hawksworth’s Hammond organ driven Beat Street which featured on The Mood Modern. It’s the perfect backdrop for a sixties superhero fighting evil on the streets of New York. Syd Dale’s Walk and Talk which is an almost Gallic slice of cinematic jazz, and is another track taken from The Sounds Of Syd Dale.

The four tracks from Bill Martin and Phil Coulter are all taken from the 1967 compilation The Sound Of Pop. This includes Big Bass Guitar which was tailor-made for a Spiderman cartoon. There’s even some jazz guitar which reinforces Spiderman’s credentials as a hep cat, before the Hammond organ takes the track in the direction of soul-jazz. By contrast, Mr. Chestertons Dog sounds as if it was penned for a sixties comedy, and has an almost ironic sound. However, one can imagine Spiderman slinking along in these early animated cartoons to do battle with his latest nemesis. Mods and Rockers is a rocky, jazzy and dramatic and is another track that is perfect for the crime fighting superhero. He nearly meets his maker on the lysergic LSD which closes side one.

Side Two.

The David Lindup composition Stand By  which is slinky, cinematic  and jazz-tinged opens side two, and is taken from The European Sound Stage Orchestra’s 1967 album Impact and Action. It’s the first of several tracks from this compilation. 

Take A Goosie Gander is another track from the 1966 album The Sounds Of Syd Dale. It’s slow, moody and full of tension as elements of classical and jazz are combined to create this cinematic track.

Juggernaut was penned by David Lindup and is taken from The European Sound Stage Orchestra’s 1967 album Impact and Action. It’s a track that sounds as if it was tailor-made for the Spiderman cartoon. Johnny Pearson’s Grand Prix which has a dramatic filmic sound is also taken from Impact and Action and is a reminder if any was needed of the golden age of library music.  

The European Sound Stage Orchestra also released the album Tension And Suspense in 1967, and it featured David Lindup’s composition Veiled Threat which was perfect soundtrack to either Spiderman or a sixties police drama or thriller. Sixth Sense is another David Lindup composition and builds up the tension and drama beautifully. 

Keith Mansfield’s Funky Flight featured on several KPM Music compilations during the late-sixties and seventies. However,  originally this fusion of funk and soul-jazz featured on Beat Incidental which was an album that featured music Alan Hawkshaw and Keith Mansfield’s music.

The dramatic, cinematic jazz of Alan Hawkshaw’s Raver made its debut on the 1967 compilation The Sound Of Pop, which features compositions by the great and good of British library music.

Syd Dale’s The Washington Affair closes Spider-Jazz, and is another track from The European Sound Stage Orchestra’s 1967 album Impact and Action. It features a wonderful big band arrangement that closes the album on a high and gets the spidey senses tingling.

For fans of web spinning superhero Spiderman, and anyone whose yet to discover the delights of British library music, Trunk Records’ new compilation Spider-Jazz, which has just been released on vinyl is the perfect place to start. It’s just the latest lovingly curated compilation of library music from what was the genre’s golden age. 

During that golden age, KPM Music was one of the leading lights of library music, and produced some of the most memorable music of the mid to late-sixties. It was written by Syd Dale, Johnny Hawksworth, David Lindup, Johnny Pearson, Keith Mansfield, Alan Hawkshaw and  the songwriting team of Bill Martin and Phil Coulter who were all working for KPM Music. They often arranged and produced their compositions, which were played by some of the best up-and-coming musicians of the time. Sometimes, they were joined by experienced musicians who realised that library music was a lucrative business, and offered a steady income. That was the case from the sixties right through the seventies and into the eighties, which was the golden age of library music. This was when the music on Spider-Jazz was recorded. 

During the second half of the sixties, the eighteen tracks on Spider-Jazz were recorded for KPM Music, and provided the soundtrack to the second series of the Spiderman cartoon. Nearly fifty years later, and some of the music that featured on that second series of Spiderman features on Spider-Jazz. The music on Spider-Jazz is groovy, jazz-tinged, funky, dramatic and cinematic, and is also guaranteed to set the spidey senses tingling and of course, bring back memories of a classic cartoon.

Spider-Jazz.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: