The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Derek Wadsworth

Interview with Ian Fryer, Space City convention, September 1993.

I always liked music from being that high. I can remember being in the school playground back in 1940 something. Sweets had just come in, after the war, and they have these kind of sweets that used to suck. They were little whistles made of sugary stuff. When you blew them and they played a note. We hadn't had sweets for ages. Because of the war there were no sweets whatsoever. We used to eat licorice and stuff like that. There were 3 of the kids in the playground with these whistles, and I suddenly realized they all the different notes. I thought if he played that note, and he played that note... I had a twig, a little branch, and I said if I go like that note, you play that... That was the first memory of been interested in music. I wasn't from a musical family but I just had the feeling that I wanted to do it.

We were very poor, so we didn't have a piano and I couldn't go to music classes. So I begged and pleaded with the mother to get a piano as I really wanted to play piano. It's just been a lifelong frustration I've never played piano. I can play what is called a ranges piano, I can sit down and work things out on the piano. So the only option open to me was to join the brass bands. In the north of England they had all these brass bands, which were very much a working class institution. They gave us youngsters a chance to to get into music and I found for tuppence a week I was able to join the band and get a cornet. I remember taking it home to my mother. It had a battered old leather case, and when you opened it up it was gold inside this velvet, and mother of pearl on the buttons at the top. It looked really appealing.

I used to cheat a bit, because they gave you these little hymn sheets and they started to teach me how to read music. But in fact the fingering was written over the top, it's 1 and 3 and 1 and 2. So I learned Abide with me, and God save the queen, and Silent night. I was 11 years old then.

I stayed with the brass band for many years, getting better and better. My biggest claim to fame during that period was out with being briefly with Brighouse and Rastrick. I remember I sat in with them when I was a young lad, and they let me sit in the third cornet section. The third cornets at the back do all the om-cha om-cha. It was a fantastic band. I was with the Spenborough Victoria band and they taught me. They didn't want me to be with the Brighouse and Rastrick, they thought they were poaching me, so my band master caused a big scene. Then I started going wrong after that. Up to then I'd been a very good lad, I'd done all my music practice, I'd studied at home. But then I discovered the demon jazz, which was frowned upon by the brass bands. Even worse, I saw this film, the Glenn Miller story [1954].

I can remember the magic of seeing the film, the glamorous Jim Stewart with his trombone. That's why I changed to trombone, it was such as glamorous instrument at the time. I started taking the trombone playing in pubs. Then there's a big confrontation when I was called into the band master's office. I'd been seen playing in the pub with their trombone. There was a big tearful confrontation and I was told I couldn't take it. I realized I was into jazz and I liked it, but I didn't have a trombone so I couldn't play it. So what I had to do then was I joined the territorial army, because they had an army band. I got my trombone, but it wasn't really the ideal trombone, it's what they disparagingly called a peashooter.

I eventually got quite good at playing jazz, and quite good at reading music, and by this time I'd moved on in the factory and I was in the design room, I was an apprentice textile designer. I was knocking on for 21 and a lot of my pals from the jazz scene were starting to go professional, coming back from a weekend at a glamorous Butlins, the holiday camps and dance halls. It sounded very appealing to me.

I decided to apply for a job to be a professional musician. In the paper the Melody Maker they used to do a musicians wanted column. I saw a job, "trombone wanted, Phil Moss, the Ritz ballroom, Manchester". I was invited for an audition, but I didn't really know what an audition was. I imagined playing a few notes and a panel of people looking at you. I caught the train across the Pennines. I had these suede shoes which I thought were very smart at the time. I get to this ballroom and I'm very nervous about it, because it's quite a big splendid ballroom. I'm go for a drink in the pub, and I see these 4 blokes in the corner wearing dinner jackets in the day, exactly my fantasy to wear dinner jackets during the day when everyone else has got their working clothes on.

I realized to my horror it was a live audition, playing with the band in a dance. In those days before discos they used to have continuous live music, and in order to do that, they had a revolving bandstand, with a wall down the middle. They had a quartet on one side, and the big band on the other, and they'd both do half an hour sets. They both played the same tune, the ladies is a tramp or whatever it was, at the same time as they turn round.

Unfortunately in the school playground again I was a bit of a daredevil, and I banged my head and and severed all the nerves in my right ear, so I'm totally deaf in one ear. If anything's coming from that side, I can't hear it. They had a friendly saxophone player there who said he would keep an eye on me. If a solo was coming up, he would give me a nudge and say this your solo. We used to do all this standing up and sitting down in those days that if you if we have to stand up. The music was coming so thick and fast and it was so difficult that he couldn't quite keep nudging me. As they stood down, I stood up. I was just fed up with him by then nudging me. I was trying to concentrate. What he was trying to tell me was that the revolving bandstand had come round, and I'd moved my chair off the bandstand. I was sitting there playing and the whole band started to disappear, and the quartet have come round and they're laughing at me. I was trying to find my way through the curtain, there was no way through. Needless to say, I failed the audition.

Funnily enough, as I was doing this I was writing. The Melody Maker ran a course called the institute of contemporary arranging techniques, ten bob a lesson, and they would send you all this information. It was a very good course, John Barry took the same course. I eventually found out that it was based upon the works of this guy Bill Russo, who used write for Stan Kenton. Then I did become a professional musician about 6 months after that, I joined Terry Foster's band and we worked at Butlins holiday camp. Then eventually I went to France. It was always easy to get a summer job because there's always jobs for musicians, but it was the bit between, the winter, that was the hard part. Particularly in London if you didn't know anyone, it was kind of tough.

They used to have lots of clubs in those days in London, with girls with feathers, cabaret. There was a place called the Latin Quarter, and a job came up there. I was a very good improviser jazz improviser, and he called me from the audition, so I went down to London to audition for that. There was a big lots of trombone players all sitting there and I was one of the last to audition. The band leader said I think you'll be okay, there's just one lad to see from Glasgow and and you'll be all right. And he was fantastic, I just heard him play a few notes, and I thought that's it, I've lost that job. This guy was Cliff Hardie, he played Be My Love, really good jazz soloist. I was walking away downhearted and Cliff Hardie says stick around, if I don't stick around in this job you can have it. He only stayed in the job a fortnight, he got a better offer, and I got the job after him. So I ended up being in London, and that's where I've stayed ever since.

I eventually joined a big band, Jack Dorsey's big band at the Charing Cross Astoria Ballroom. That was a very big band and I got a full time job there. I only been there two weeks when he came to me and said you were the last one to join, we're going to reduce the size of the band, so that's it. So I was pretty upset about that, because it was a very good, steady wage. Jack Dorsey rang me about a fortnight later and said, I'm sorry about your job, I've got something else if interested. Would you like to join this young singer called Dusty Springfield wants to form a regular band. I said great and that was really in the 60s, when the rock and roll era started. I joined Dusty Springfield's band, I stayed with her a few years and became her musical director. She was into Motown music and she wanted arrangers who could arrange that kind of music. She was using various people around town, who weren't writing what she really wanted. I'd always been a jazz musician, I listened to Stan Kenton and the west coast jazz thing, which is very advanced chords and harmonies, and to me rock and roll was slightly rubbish. She had me transcribe things of records, and I started listening to these records and because I was being paid to do it I would listen to what the guitar player was doing, what the conga player was doing, and I realised I'd been listening to the wrong thing. Although the rhythms were simple, the harmonies were quite complex. That was a bit of an insight to me. I started to get a bit of a reputation for being a good rock writer.

That led on to lots of other things. I started doing jingles and Georgie Fame, Manfred Mann, a lot of the groups at the time. I recorded with the Beatles for a while, and the Rolling Stones. I wrote for all of the Small Faces groups at the time. Then I wrote a hit, the Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde, did an arrangement for Georgie which went to number one. So that got my reputation a bit better. I've never really expanded beyond brass and rhythm. But then someone asked me to do strings, this was this was very early sixties; the first one I did was for Sandy Shaw and that worked out okay. Then a show called Hair. The composer, Galt MacDermot, called me to Hair. I'd never heard of it and I was really interested. Funny thing in this business, if you if you really want something, people who are going to hire are suspicious. If you don't want it, you're the greatest thing in the world, they want you. I got the band together, and I got this guitar player called Alex Harvey, who became the Sensational Alex Harvey band. Also in the band was Mike Oldfield.

Alex Harvey, my pal, became a sort of big rock and roll hero. And I used to do his arrangements for him, some production work for him. And then he had kind of management company, called Mountain Management, Bill Fahilly, who flew his aeroplane into a mountain and crashed and died. He had an empire, so they said after we've finished with Alex we'll make you a star. Nothing ever happened, but there's a guy there called Tony Prior, who went on to become very rich and successful with his classic rock albums. He offered me that job the same time as the Gerry Anderson thing. I actually turned it down, maybe I shouldn't because it became very successful.

He was full of ideas, Tony was. Maybe he got fed of of paying royalties to singers, but he wanted a puppet to be a pop star. I was put forward to write the song and do this whole thing. For some reason the project didn't happen, but in the process of meeting Gerry, Gerry said he was finishing Year One, and they were trying to do an independent thing, a pilot film. Tony said, what if we provide the music. The deal was Tony would keep the publishing, which can be very lucrative, and Gerry would get a free score.

So I was assigned to do that job. Gerry was doing Space 1999 and he said we'd like Derek to do it. Gerry likes music, he appreciates good music, but what I like about Gerry is that he respects your individuality. I was amazed really that he put so much trust in me, because although I done quite a number of television commercials by then, and corporate films, I didn't have a name for big feature films. He was prepared to give me a chance, and I'm always grateful to him for that. He didn't give me a brief, it was quite frightening in a way.

By then I was engrossed in commercialism. And I had the the the stupid idea that if you wrote a TV theme, if you're lucky maybe they might make a song of it. So I wrote a tune that fitted the words, "space nineteen ninety nine". When I did the Day After Tomorrow, "the day after tomorrow..." The big star of the day, Sandy Shaw or Cilla Black might have made a single of it. I used the title to give the tune.

The sensible thing to do would be to do a library, a selection of themes, slow themes, chases, explosion music, eerie music, because that's what they ended up doing. They told me I had to score the first five episodes, and then they would reuse the music in other episodes. I was a bit disappointed with Space in one respect, because I was interested in what you might call a rock classic music, rock with orchestration, rock rhythm sections with strings and woodwind. Synthesisers hadn't really happened then, although we started dabbling with him towards the end of Space 1999. And I had my idea of who the best players were. But unfortunately part of the deal was I had to use the ATV orchestra, which was the Jack Parnell band. Very good, a brilliant band, but more into jazz and swing. The lead guitar player was a really gentle soft jazz, but I really wanted more Keith Richard. I'd written these parts which were meant to be very raunchy, and he played them very lightly and politely. That was the deal and there's no time to do it again. I'd like to redo it now, when I've made my first million I'll hire a band and do it all again. In fact I was a bit green about writing film music at this time, although I was used to writing themes by this time. I could work to a stopwatch, but some of this was quite finely timed.

Furthermore there's a musicians union rule where you're only allowed to record twenty minutes of music in a session. An episode is about 50 minutes so you've got to ration that twenty minutes out during that time. Alan Willis was a very experienced editor. He said, what do you think the music to go on this scene Derek? And I said I'm not really sure, I didn't want to admit I didn't know too much. He was very polite and nice and he said, well I thought maybe when he opens the door, you have the music creep in just as a door open. As he walks across the room he could he stealthy, and then he hits the guy on the nose with a musical sting, and then a short after effect. Then when he slams the door shut, we cut the music there. You've probably got better ideas than that, but that sort of thing. I said that sounds alright, we'll do that.

We went to the rushes with Gerry, and the door opens, the music creeps, footstep music, thump on the nose. Before we went in Gerry asked what did you do with that scene, and Alan said, Derek thought it would be nice... He said, that's very good Derek. I went to the pub to buy Alan a good lunch.

I was going to retire and live in the Cayman Islands, there was going to be a series three. Laurie Johnson I met at Pinewood, he was too busy with Avengers, he said there's a new series called the Professionals, I'm down to do it, would you like to do it? There was another series he was going to do, and that fell through. Sadly it all just collapsed, back to the dole office. I did an album immediately after that with Alan Price, which became quite successful, a song called the Jarrow Song which became a hit. I toured the road for Alan conducting for him. I went to America. I did a few more films after that. I did a big project with Cat Stevens which involved orchestras and choirs, Alpha to Omega it was called.

I've done quite a number of commercials, I've had long periods of out of work. I've always played, I play all the time. I play jazz, I do I do arrangements. In the last few few years I've been working for orchestras. I work with the Royal Philharmonic now, I've done 19 albums with them in the last 2 years, of film theme music. I did 17 albums of my own, under the name Danny O'Caine, of American TV music. Now just done 2 of my own albums with the Czech symphony orchestra. I've just done a Clint Eastwood album. I've just finished an album with I've produced and arranged and conducted for Jack Duckworth from Coronation Street, who's hell of a lovely singer.

I've now got three very interesting things in the pipeline with Dave Lane, who was one of the directors on Thunderbirds. It's looking very exciting. That's in the early stages.