The Vic Elmes Interview

By: Jerry Scott, Brian J. Dowling, Simon Morris and Kevin McCorry.

Exclusive to the Space: 1999 Write-In Campaign Website




Finally the mystery surrounding Vic Elmes is cleared up. Here is an interview with him that may help to shed some light on some of the things that went on as far as the music for the first season of Space: 1999 is concerned.

We thank Vic's manager Garrelt Danker for his kind help in helping us contact Vic to conduct this interview.

If one wishes to contact Vic Elmes directly the contact address is as follows:
Vic Elmes
C/O
GARRELT DANKER MEDIENPRODUKTION
ALM 32 29614 SOLTAU - DEUTSCHLAND
TELEFON 05191/14811 FAX 05191/4000
eMail Garrelt.Danker@T-Online.de


Vic Elmes answers to the questions of Jerry Scott according to his email of July, 8th 1998

1) How exactly did you get your start in the music business?

I started in the music business, by forming a band with some school friends. Our first drummer was later to become the drummer of "T.Rex". His name is Bill Legend (real name: Bill Fyfield). Then in 1963, Mike Blakely became our drummer. He being the brother of Alan Blakely who was leader and rythmn guitarist of "The Tremeloes" ("Silence is Golden", "My little lady" a.m.m.).

2) Can you tell us a little bit about your group Christie?

Mike Blakely and I formed "Christie", with Jeff Christie (who played bass guitar and wrote "Yellow River") at the suggestion of Alan Blakely, because it was "The Tremeloes" who first recorded "Yellow River", but they then had a change of heart, and gave us their version fully recorded, to release under the name of a new band. Hence - "Christie". All Jeff and I had to do was record our vocals to their backing track, and a new band was born.

3) You wrote the hit record "Yellow River". What is involved in writing a pop hit?

Jeff Christie wrote "Yellow River". There are very many factors involved in writing a pop-hit. One can write the best song the world has ever heard, but without the right people showing the right amount of interest at the right time (which is sadly too often the case) that song could go forever unnoticed. Basicaly a strong melody/hook which can be very easily and quickly memorised, is half the battle.

4) How did you come to be involved with Space: 1999 ? I have to assume, your being married to Sylvia Anderson's daughter, must have been an advantage as far as you getting the gig was concerned.

It is right to assume, that by being married to Sylvia Andersons daughter, the offer of the job did come more easily than if I´d had no personal connection.

5) What was your working relationship with Alan Willis like? And in what way's did he help you in writing music to fit the show?

Alan Willis and I became very good friends, due to our close working relationship, and I have to say I learned a great deal from him, as it was more than obvious that Barry Gray had no intention of trying to work together with me. It became very clear that he considered me as something of an underling or novice where music was concerned, because of his vast classical background. Therefore this made it impossible for us to find a working relationship.

6) Did you ever actually meet Barry Gray? Were you involved in any way with the writing or performance of the Y1 theme? (The reason I ask this is that on several tv theme compilations which feature the Y1 theme,you are often credited as co-author of the piece with Gray. I also noticed on the Fanderson "Space 1999 Documentary" a clip of the sheet music for the main theme which seems to co-credit you,and this seems to be in Grays handwriting).

Where you can hear the lead guitar piece playing in the intro theme, and of course at the end of each episode, it has to be said that I did write this piece myself, based upon the overall mood of music which Barry Gray was composing. I used a bass player, and drummer from a very good rock band named "Zebra", and I played the lead guitar part.

*** Jerry's added info ***
The "Zebra" members Vic mentioned above were Liam Genockey on Drums and John McCoy on Bass. Of the two men, John McCoy is the better known, having later gone on to play Bass in "Deep Purple" singer Ian Gillan's solo Band "Gillan".

7) Did you have anything to do with the brilliant electric guitar solo on the Y1 theme? (And incidentally,if you did not,I'd love to know who played it....)

I think the previous answer covers this question.

8) Did you write the full score for "Ring Around the Moon", or the "Moon-walking" sequence music only?

"Ring Around the Moon", was accredited to me, although we also used some library music.

9) Were there pieces of music that you wrote for the series that weren't used? If so, for what episodes, and what criteria was given for the decision not to use your music?

I can`t give an answer to this question, because to this day, I have not seen every episode complete.

10) Two high-tempo "disco" tracks that were later used in Return of the Saint (1978) were included in the 1976 RCA vinyl record/cassette release of the Space: 1999 Original Soundtrack, did you also compose these mystery pieces? If so, were these two tracks initially written for Space: 1999 and not used in the series itself for some reason, but incorporated into the commercial release of the first season music and heldover by ITC to use elsewhere, in Return of the Saint?

In answer to this question, I have to say I have absolutely no idea, as I have never heard this record release.

11) The music of early first season episodes have a peculiar non-orchestral, non-Gray style, including a rock variation of the main theme music played in "Matter of Life and Death" as Koenig, Bergman, and Security guards are answering an alarm in the Medical Area and the low-key version of the same theme music that plays over the episode title sequence of "Ring Around the Moon". Did you also compose these tracks?

To answer this question, I can only say that I guess I must have, as far as I can remember.

12) Would you know who wrote and performed the sitar music played in the prologue of "The Troubled Spirit"? If so were you involved in the selection of this particular musical style for the show?

I seem to remember that this citar piece was recorded by a session musician, although I cannot say whether Barry Gray actually wrote it or if it was just improvised.


EXTRA ADDED QUESTIONS

1. Just what did you do to qualify for the title of "Musical Associate" on Y1?

I convinced the producers that I was a capable musician in my own field.

2. How easy did you find it writing and recording music for Ring Around the Moon? Could you tell us what sort of music you wrote? And what sort of music or specific artists may have influenced the style of music you eventually wrote?

I did not find it at all easy working on "Space 1999" as I had never worked in the film business before. With a lot of help from Alan Willis, I had to learn how to improvise and compromise to get through it all. I don´t remember being influenced by anyone while I was working on the series, only what came out of my own head.

3. Had you seen any episodes(or heard any of Gray's classical-styled score),and if so how did he think your pieces compared. Were you concerned that your background and personal style would clash with that already established in the show?

I´ve not seen all the episodes of the series, and Bary Gray never made any comment about my contribution to the series, nor I on his. The idea of the two styles of music clashing, was the main point of the exercise.

4. Have you ever seen any Y2 episodes(or heard the score for Y2). If so what did you think of the music in Y2 as compared to Y1,and do you think you might have been more comfortably involved in Y2- type musical scores?

I´ve only seen one episode of the second "Space" series, therefore this is not a good basis for me to make any kind of comment or comparison.

5. Are you still involved in the music business? And what are you now doing?

Yes I´m still involved in the European music business ("Christie again" and Vic Elmes again"), thanks to his Lordship Sir Gary Danker. I would like to work for Canadian and American (film-)producers too!

6. Did working on Space 1999 whet your appetite for film/tv work. Have you done anything like that since?

After "Space" I (e.g.) worked on the film "The ups and Downs of a Handyman" and on a pilot T.V. series for Sylvia Anderson, which was a puppet series for very young children. It´s title was, "The Animates" but only a few episodes were televised, because it did not prove to be a success.

7. If you ever saw any other Y1 episodes,do you think it might have helped you to contribute music to a different episode?

In answer to this question, possibly.

8. I would like to know just what is involved in the writing of the music for a story where in the chronology of the story's making does the writing of the music fit in?

It´s a question of following the mood changes within a film, and then trying to write the appropriate types of music for each mood.

9. What guidance did the score writers get? Did they see the finished episode sans music or just get a general "write a suitable piece" for a sci fi show"?

We were asked to write a suitable piece for the title music, but each episode was different, so a great deal of library music was also used.

Vic Elmes, London, August 1998.



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