Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson
Laurie Johnson (b. 1927)

British through and through – having read Laurie Johnson’s fascinating autobiography (Noises in the Head [2000]), I learned how much the composer of the music for First Men on the Moon (1964), The Avengers (1969), The New Avengers (1976), The Professionals (1977) and the film Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter (1974) (among many others), was influenced by his years in the armed forces. I grew up with Jonny Morris’s Animal Magic (1962-) – whose jaunty theme music was by Mr Johnson.

Laurie Johnson’s concerthall music is very interesting. I love his Symphony (Synthesis) (1969) for combined jazz and symphony orchestras. The CD liner notes by Christopher Palmer say:

to explain [his symphony] would take us into areas of technical analysis which Laurie Johnson prefers to keep firmly sealed off with NO TRESPASSING signs.

– This intrigued me, and after ‘trespassing’, uncovered the organicism of the 2nd movement: all based on a symmetrical arrangement of minor thirds and semitones. This is clever and effective.

Laurie Johnson’s London Big Band CDs are fantastic. They take one back to the days of 1950s’ dance halls. I have learned much from Mr Johnson’s quiet humour, his English style, his musical fusions, his focused handling of jazz ensembles and his indefatigable sense of order and self-discipline.

Some years ago I had the honour of meeting Laurie. He took me to lunch and told me stories of Joe Meek and Bernard Herrmann whom he knew well. I was lucky enough also to meet Laurie Johnson’s collaborator Brian Clemens. Both are gentlemen. Laurie Johnson is dangerously good!

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