I am delighted to announce my latest project as producer: the very first authorized soundtrack from the classic 1960s series The Wild Wild West. Many of you will remember the Robert Conrad-Ross Martin series, a kind of “James Bond in the Old West” adventure that aired Friday nights on CBS. Despite its popularity, no recording (even of its memorable theme by Richard Markowitz) was ever issued of this music. La-La Land Records, in the wake of our success with Mission: Impossible, authorized a two-year project involving a search for original musical elements, a massive restoration and eventual creation of a 4-CD box consisting of the excerpts from the 26 best scores over the series’ four seasons. The set even premieres the original recordings of an unused Dimitri Tiomkin theme for the series. Among the other composers represented: Robert Drasnin, Richard Shores, Dave Grusin, Harry Geller, Jack Pleis, Fred Steiner and Walter Scharf.
Bob Drasnin was one of the last of the great composers of the classic era of TV that spanned the 1950s through the 1980s. He scored everything from The Twilight Zone and Playhouse 90 to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible. I was proud to have included excepts from all of his U.N.C.L.E. music on the albums I produced for FSM a few years ago. In his later years he was a teacher and mentor to dozens if not hundreds of film-scoring students… and he was a nice guy with great, often very funny, stories about his years in the trenches. Here is the obituary I wrote for Variety; and here is a longer, more detailed appreciation of his work.
On Saturday, I took part in “The Golden Anniversary Affair,” a celebration of the 1960s spy-series classic The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in Culver City, Calif. I moderated the afternoon music panel, featuring Lalo Schifrin and Gerald Fried (Robert Drasnin was unable to attend), and both produced and hosted a special, one-time-only evening concert of music composed for the series.
I chose 14 tunes (Jerry Goldsmith and Schifrin music from the first season, Fried and Drasnin from the second and third seasons), found most of the original charts from the 1964-66 recording sessions, and worked with six great L.A. jazz musicians in two rehearsals to get the music just right. Their rendition of Goldsmith’s romantic theme, “Meet Mr. Solo,” gave me chills, and their performance of Lalo’s Latin tunes like “Roulette Rhumba” were lively and colorful. Fried’s noirish “Lament for a Trapped Spy” and Drasnin’s cool-jazz number “Basic Black” were other highlights for me. It was an unforgettable night (the audience of 100 dyed-in-the-wool U.N.C.L.E. fans really loved it). My old friend Bob Short prodded me to do this and I’m so glad we did.