Edwin (Ted) Astley

Edwin Astley
Edwin (Ted)
Family name: 
Work area/craft/role: 
Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
25 May 1993
Production Media: 
Duration (mins): 

Horizontal tabs

Interview notes

BEHP 0284 S Edwin (Ted) Astley synopsis


Educated at a school in Warrington, which he left at 14. Father was in the building trade and played the cornet in the local brass band. His father also played an instrument called a melodeon which seems to have added to the boy’s musical interest.. Ted started to learn the violin at 9 years of age. At 14 he was making more money playing violin at local hops than at his regular employment with Richmans Gas Stove Co. He also bought a saxophone and learnt to play that, receiving lessons from a relative. This he also played at local dances.

He volunteered for the Army at 17 in 1939 and eventually joined the band of the RASC, based at Aldershot. He was posted to Italy with the band to play to the troops at Monte Casino who were resting between battles – in full view of the Germans, for which he received the Italian Star. He could also now play the clarinet. The Army bandmaster wanted him to go to Kneller Hall but because he did not have the necessary School Certificate that was not possible. Instead he was made up to Corporal, studied more music and began to compose and arrange for the Army. The bandmaster, it appears, was ambitious, and was recruiting top musicians from show business, turning the band into a concert orchestra.

After the war he worked as an instrumentalist in a Manchester dance band. In due course he was asked to forma band at Sale Lido where he spent hours and hours composing and arranging. Ted Astley’s band did a couple of broadcasts before the job folded in 1952. He came to London and was contacted by Geraldo who had admired his work at Sale. He was given the job of orchestrating Tip Top Tunes. He then went to Francis Day & Hunter, the publishers and when they heard about his work for Geraldo they gave him a job. He was now becoming very successful and the Jack Hylton pianist, whom he knew from Army days, suggested he might like to write for films. He was then introduced to the Danzigers who were looking for an up and coming composer. He started work and loved every minute of it – details. He describes his work with Muir Mathieson on To Paris with Love. 1954.

The first Danziger film he worked on at Riverside was Gilbert Harding, Speaking of Murder, 1953, a similar format to the Lustgarten series. Ted hired the Melanchrino Orchestra, but the musicians, sensing he was new to the job, took him for a ride! The Royal Philharmonic were used after that – they were gentlemen!. The next production was Colonel March of Scotland Yard, with Boris Karloff which led to the Robin Hood series. 1955-58. Ted did 140-odd episodes of Robin Hood, writing the incidental music and the famous opening fanfare – but not the theme tune although he the score for that. His first work for British Transport Films was on Scotland for Sport 1958. (Details recalled). At the same time he was writing for features: he had a reputation for being fast and inexpensive. He was approached by an agency to forget about the cheap work, to start again and work up into the higher money. He did several Son et Lumiere productions,, two at the Tower, one at Scarborough and some abroad.

Ted always conducted his own music. One of the other TV series he did was The Saint 1962-69.


He talks about The Saint and other TV series, all of which are listed on the filmography [See under Biographical Notes DS] He also talks about his work in connection with competitions he has entered during his enforced retirement. A documentary short about Francis Bacon is discussed. He philosophises on music for film. He discusses The Mouse that Roared, 1959 and Carl Foreman in particular. He talks about a BKS lecture he gave about the technical problems of recording film music. The Canadian Film Board asked him to do the music for a film about the Mounties, but the Musicians Union would not allow him to do the work. There seemed to be no reason for this, other than that the MU were against TV at that time. The General Secretary of the MU at the time was a Scot, and the height of his ambition was to play in a theatre orchestra pit. He knew nothing about composition, and was dead against Tv and couldn’t be reasoned with. Ted was only a member of the union under pressure. He points out the unusual arrangement whereby the employer – the conductor in this case – has to be a member of the same union as the rank and file. He found himself at loggerheads with sound editors too, and provides some examples.


He was asked to write an opera for the Hammer version of The Phantom of the Opera, 1962.  He had never written an opera before and explains how he set about it. With Hammer he also did Clean Sweep 1958 and Visa to Canton 1960.


Editor’s note: Ted’s main contribution to films and TV was prolific to say the least – literally several hundred productions if one includes all the TV series and recorded items, all of which are listed in his own 6 page filmography. [under Biographical Note DS] Although not specifically mentioned, he appears to have been born in 1922. I make the usual disclaimer about the correct spelling of some names which may need to be verified. 

David W. Robson.



All music composed by Edwin Astley

Part 1 Films

1953 Gilbert Harding. Speaking of Murder

1954 Star of my Night

1954 Devil Girl from Mars [credited as Edward Astley] includes ‘Devil Girl theme’ and ‘Ellen’s theme’.

1954 A Tale of Three Women

1954 The Gay Dog

1954 What Every Woman Wants

1954 The Crowded Day

1954 The Happiness of Three Women

1954 To Paris with Love.  Conducted by Muir Mathieson.

1955 Contraband – Spain

1955 Final Column

1955 Three Cornered Fate

1955 You Lucky People

1955 The Diamond Expert

1955 The Hornet’s Nest

1956 Alias John Preston (with Albert Elms)

1956 The Case of the Mukkinese Battlehorn [short]

1957? Woman Eater

1957? Kill Her Gently

1957 The End of the Line

1957 Zoo Baby

1957 Danger List   [Hammer Film]

1958 Toto and the Poachers

1958 Dublin Nightmare

1958 Jack the Ripper

1958 Three Crooked Men (with Albert Elms)

1958 What a Day [short]

1958 Broad Waterways [short]

1958 Scotland for Sport [short]

1958 Wishing Well Inn

1958 A Woman Possessed (with Albert Elms and Leon Young)

1958 Moment of Indiscretion

1958 Links of Justice (with Albert Elms and Leon Young)

1958 Cat and Mouse (Rockin’, Lovin’ Baby number by Edwin Astley)

1958 Clean Sweep [30 min short] Hammer

1959 The Giant Behemoth (a.k.a. Behemoth, The Sea Monster)

1959 Naked Fury (a.k.a. The Pleasure Lovers)

1959? In the Wake of a Stranger.

1959 The Man who liked Funerals

1959 The Cat Gang

1959 The Mouse that Roared (Carl Foreman)

1959 The Great Van Robbery (with Albert Elms and Leon Young)

1959 Innocent Meeting (with Albert Elms and Leon Young)

1960 Let’s Get Married

1960? Passport to China (a.k.a. Visa to Canton)

1960 The Day They Robbed the Bank of England

1960 Ali and the Camel [serial]

1960 Faces in the Dark (credited to Astley, but composed by Mikis Theodorakis!)

1961 The Last Rhino

1961 Follow that Man

1961 A Matter of Who (incidental music only) Title song sung by Roy Castle. Composed by D. Russell

1962 The Phantom of the Opera (Cover: Stanley Paul) US 45 on Coral 9-62334

1963  The World Ten Times Over. (E. Astley & His Orchestra) UK 45 Oriole CB 1880

1963 The Reluctant Nudist (a.k.a. Sandy, the Reluctant Nature Girl)

1963 Song of London [short]

1963 The Spell of The Lakes [short]

1963 Bristol Fashion [short]

1963 Longlife [short]

1964 Stopover Forever

1964 Land of Magic [short]

1964 Pageantry of Britain [short]

1964 The Smoking Machine [short]

1966 The Man in the Looking Glass ( a 91 minute film made from two episodes of TV series The Baron: Masquerade and The Killing.) US title: Pussycat Alley.

1967 Affair with a Killer (90 minute film made from the two-part episode of TV Series Danger Man: Gunpowder and Paint).

1968 The Syndicate

1968 Green for Ireland [short]

1968 Koroshi (93 minute film made from two-part episode of Danger Man/Secret Agent: Koroshi , Shinda Shima)

1968 Don’t forget to Wipe the Blood Off ( 90 minute film from the two-part episode of Seaway) Theme only.

1968 Mystery Island (90 minute two-part episode of The Baron: Storm Warning and The Island)

1969 All at Sea

1972 Kadoyngg!

1974 Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World. Credited to Edwin T. Astley


A More detailed look at his television work.

[This slightly complex listing is from notes presumably by John Legard or David Robson] The ‘XX’ appears to indicate a recording; the abbreviations C could mean Composed by (or conductor); MD Musical Director; TM Theme Music.

Years quoted are for USA/UK screenings unless stated. Sometimes UK and US screening dates are different and these are mentioned in the text.

1954/5 The Scarlet Pimpernel (some incidental music)

1956 (UK) (with Sidney Torch, John Bath) Theme La Carmagnole by Leighton Lucas; conducted by Sidney Torch.

1953-57 Douglas Fairbanks Presents. Edwin Astley did not compose any music for this series. Theme by Allan Gray, incidental music by Allan Gray, John Bath, Cecil Milner, Robert Gill. [I am unclear why Astley listed this. Perhaps he has been wrongly credited elsewhere? DS]

1955-58 The Adventures of Robin Hood. (Opening fanfare/some incidental) C/MD/Fanfare. UK ?? MSP 6199.

1956-60 (UK) (with Albert Elms) Theme Song by Carl Sigman; sung by Dick James.

1957-59 Mark Saber (a.k.a. The Vise in America) Library music only.

1956/57 The Buccaneers (Some incidental music) (with Bruce Campbell)

                 Theme song by Norman Newell and Edward Horan.

                  Other incidental music by Albert Elms, Kenneth V. Jones

                   a.k.a. Dan Tempest        45 MGM 939

1956/7 The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (Opening fanfare and some incidental music C/MD. (With Bruce Campbell). Theme song Sir Lancelot sung by Alan Lomax. 45 MGM 939

1957/58 Ivanhoe. (Some incidental music) with Albert Elms. C

1958/59 Theme song by Benedict Berenberg

1957/59 Saber of London (Library Music)  Theme by Melvyn Lenard

1959-61 (UK) a.k.a The Uncovered. 3rd/4th seasons a.k.a. The Vise.

1958/59 The Veil (Library music)

1958/59 The Invisible Man (Some of Edwin’s previous music was used although most incidental music was by Sydney John Kay.

1959-61 The Invisible Man

1959/61 International Detective (Incidental Music)

1959 (USA) Theme by Leroy Holmes and Sidney Shaw.

XX EMBER 3304 TV Action Jazz from the TV series played by The TV Jazz All Stars directed by Edwin Astley. UK Ember No NR 5030

1960/62 Danger Man (1st series) (All incidental Music0 Composed theme.

1961 (USA) Theme performed by the Red Price Combo. XX Parlophone R4785 (Cover version: Ted Heath)                                         US 45 London 45-1975


1961 Whiplash (Composed theme song with Lionel Long) C/MD/TM (UK/USA/AUS)    Sung by Frank Ifield (All incidental music). Theme reputed to have been released in Australia.

1961 Journey of a Lifetime (Theme & Incidental music). For Pathe C/MD/TM)

1962/63  Zero One (Incidental music by Edwin Astley). For BBC. A library music LP may be in existence. C/MD

1962-69 The Saint. (Theme & Incidental music) Original Saint theme.

1963-66 (USA) In the end titles in middle of the final season. XX RCA 1492* Orchestra conducted by Edwin Astley – 1965*)  US LP RCA LSP 3631 C/MD/TM

1965-1966 Gideon’s Way (Theme & all incidental music) (Cover version: Brian Fahey)  UK 45 Parlophone R5262 Main theme known as “G” Patrol. C/MD/TM

1964-66 Danger Man (2nd season) (Theme & all incidental music)

1965-66 (USA) In America “Secret Agent Man” sung by Johnny Rivers was played as the intro before Edwin Astley’s theme. Composed by Steve Barri & Phil Sloan. The theme was called “Highwire” in UK publishers. XX RCA 1492* US Title: Secret Agent. (Orchestra conducted by Edwin Astley – 1965*) US LP RCA LSP 3467  C/MD/TM

1965/66 Seaway. (Theme) (Cover version: Brian Fahey.  UK LP Studio Two Two 176.

1966-67 The Baron (Theme & all incidental music)   C/MD/TM

1966 (USA) XX Decca F 12389. Credited to Ted Astley b/w Drophead (Seaway). (Released April 1966) US45 Parrot 45 PAR 108116.

1968-69 The Champions (Incidental music) (With Albert Elms & Robert Farnon) C/MD

1967 (USA)

1969-71 Randall &b Hopkirk (Deceased) (Theme & all incidental music). Cover version: Norrie Paramour.           UK 45 Polydor 56 375  C/MD/TM

1973 (USA) USA Title: My Partner, the Ghost.

1969-70 Department S (Theme & all incidental music) (Cover version: Cyril Stapleton)         UK 45 PYE 7N 17807  C/MD/TM

1970 (USA)


Secret Agent Meets The Saint  RCA LSP 3467

Secret Agent   RCA LSP 3630

The Saint RCA LSP 3631

*Soho/Theme from The World Ten Times Over. Oriole 45-CB 1880 (1963)

Very Varied Music**   VIVO MUSIC VIVO 17

*This track is identical to “Night Patrol” from the International Detective Album

** This is a library music album on Edwin’s own label. For track listing see below.

Edwin also composed the music for many pilots and one-offs for TV

NB The films Diamond Expert (1954) and Final Column (1955) were episodes from The Vise (Saber of London)

The film Jack the Ripper (1958) was two episodes from The Veil.

According to Edwin Astley he recorded versions of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Department S.

**Very Varied Music (Vivo 17) Track Listing:

Phrenic; Ambleside; Misterio; Two Four Fifes; Doo-be-doo, Mystery Series; Brio; Desolata; Chunki Mexi; Village Life; To the Hills; Tranquillo; Aah-Doo, Basseto; Astelle; Rural Folk; Waiting for Helen.

Reference numbers: PR1 to PR 15, EA 524, EA549. (17 tracks).


Jerash [Jordan]

The Silent Guns (where?)



The Tower of London (two productions)