Friday, 26 June 2015

John Steed, In Memorium

Sadly, at the ripe old age of 93, the TV legend Patrick Macnee - best known as John Steed in the long-running drama the Avengers - passed away yesterday.

Daniel Patrick Macnee (6 February 1922 – 25 June 2015) was born in London. Descended from the Earls of Huntingdon, his father trained race horses and his mother was a lesbian, whose partner was referred to by Macnee as "Uncle Evelyn". Educated at Eton, where he met the future Goon Show star Michael Bentine, he was one of the honour guard for King George V during the late monarch’s lying in state at St George's Chapel in 1936. Legend has it that he was expelled from Eton for selling pornography and being a bookmaker for his fellow students.

He began acting while at school, appearing in Henry V at the age of 11, with the later Sir Christopher Lee as the Dauphin. Macnee joined the Royal Navy during WWII, becoming a navigator on torpedo boats in the English Channel and North Sea and, after the war ended, he returned to acting, gaining valuable experience onstage in London’s West End before accepting some minor film roles, including that of Young Marley in Alastair Sim’s classic version of A Christmas Carol. But when the call came from David Greene, a director friend at CBC in Toronto, he left England within 48 hours and spent much of his adult life in Canada and the United States. Whilst in America Macnee appeared in supporting roles in a number of films, notably Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), in Gene Kelly’s Les Girls (1957), with Anthony Quayle in the war film The Battle of the River Plate (1956) as well as playing dozens of small parts in American and Canadian television and theatre.

When working in London on the documentary series The Valiant Years (based on the World War II memoirs of Winston Churchill), Macnee was offered a part originally known as Jonathan Steed in a new TV series called The Avengers. Originally conceived as a vehicle for Ian Hendry, who played the lead role of Dr. David Keel, Macnee was to play his assistant, but moved into the lead role after Hendry's departure at the end of the first season.

Macnee's other significant roles include Sir Godfrey Tibbett in the James Bond film A View to a Kill, This Is Spinal Tap and on TV he appeared in Alias Smith and Jones, Hart to Hart, Columbo, Magnum PI, Murder She Wrote, Battlestar Galactica, The Love Boat and The Twilight Zone. He made his Broadway debut in Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth in 1972, and has the distinction of playing both Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson – the latter with his old friend Christopher Lee.

Back in 1964 he did something quite extraordinary. At the height of his fame he recorded a brace of duets with co-star Honor Blackman – and it’s these recordings we celebrate today.

Originally issued on Decca in the UK (and on London in the US the following year) and reissued twice – in 1983 (on Cherry Red) and in 1990 on Deram (when it reached the UK Top Five), Kinky Boots is a mad, bad, camp classic – a truly great record and one of my all-time favourites. I hadn’t heard it until the Cherry Red reissue, but fell in love with it then and there and, more than 30 years on, still absolutely adore it. Same goes for the B-side, the excruciating Let’s Keep It Friendly, a stilly song and a silly performance – but utterly beguiling.

At the same time as this 45 was issued Blackman also released her only album, Everything I've Got, although neither side of the single was originally included (the A-side was included on some later reissues). Everything I've Got is a not-terribly-good album on which Pussy Galore attempts a handful of torch songs, a few lounge standards and a cover of the Lennon-McCartney song World Without Love. The album was reissued by Cherry Red in 1983.

Belgian record executive, producer and songwriter Marcel Stellman has worked with hundreds of acts over the years, including repeat WWR offender Jess Conrad, and famously owns the rights to the TV show Countdown. Musical Director Mike Leander (Michael George Farr, 1941 –1996), began his career at Decca in 1963, working with people including David McWilliams, Gary Glitter (he co-wrote many of Glitter’s major hits), the Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithfull, Joe Cocker, Billy Fury, Marc Bolan, the Small Faces, Van Morrison, Alan Price, Peter Frampton, Shirley Bassey, Lulu, Roy Orbison, Ben E. King and the Drifters, Gene Pitney and the Beatles, scoring the arrangement for She’s Leaving Home.

Here are both sides of this fabulous 45, plus a track from Honor's album, Men Will Deceive You.

Enjoy!

3 comments:


  1. Thank you for this lovely tribute to Patrick MacNee. Personally, this side of MacNee's personality totally blew me away as I'm used to the urbane, dapper and sophisticated John Steed of The Avengers. These songs are a hoot!
    I've been able to listen to the above tracks, they're both hilarious and very memorable. And yet, for whatever reason, they won't download.
    Darryl, when you have the opportunity, will you please reload these tracks, or otherwise troubleshoot the problem? Thank you very much for your time and efforts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Muf! I'm afraid Divshare is still playing up, and I have limited bandwidth at the Box (it's very expensive!) However, if you drop me an email ( dwbullock at sky.com ) I'll send you the tracks.

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