Episode 7: The Pop Singer
First shown: 17 October 1970 (US), 4 February 1971 (UK)
Director: Harry Booth
Writers: Harry Booth and Glyn Jones
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
Melvyn Hayes as Albert the Street Cleaner
Anthony May as Sidney, The Cool Cavalier
Ivor Salter as the Policeman
The gang find a man sleeping in their bus. He turns out to be an unsuccessful musician, a singer of protest songs; they rebrand him as "The Cool Cavalier" and hold a successful concert, ending only when Brains' musical machine explodes. But he decides that the musical life is not for him after all.
"Life Is A Wonderful Thing", by Ivor Slaney and Glyn Jones. For me this is a rare musical mis-step by the show. The song is set too high for the kids to sing comfortably, and the political message is conservative - this is the point in the story where the gang persuade Sydney not to bother with protest songs. It's another example of the gang being Billie and her backing singers, but there is nothing wrong with that. Judge for yourself:
"Following You" (instrumental), by Ted Atking and his orchestra
This isn't listed in the end credits, nor wasa it included on the album of music from the show, but it's an amazing piece of orchestral groove. (You could probably date the episode to the month of 1970 in which it was filmed by the clothes of the dancers.) Full version on YouTube here.
"I Gotta Get Through", by Ivor Slaney and Michael Begg
I'm not well enough acquainted with 1970 crooning hits to know which other great works of pop culture this is paying homage to, but it's performed with sufficient confidence that it must be firmly rooted in the Zeitgeist.
The efforts of the gang to rebrand the unfortunate Sydney are a great bit of youthful cooperation and ingenuity. The disco scene, a little beyond the ken of the episode's target audience, is rather well done for what it is. The ending, with Sydney deciding to give it all up and go home, is probably the saddest of any episode, but manages not to jar the overall feel of the series.
Less glorious moments
I don't think you could get away with a homeless man turning up in a children's den with such benign plot consequences today...
My radical heart is saddened by the notion that there is no place for protest songs in a well-ordered world.
It seems implausible that the police would a) take an interest in the gang's disco in the first place, and then b) let it go ahead if they were concerned.
What's all this then?
This is the first real attempt to get to grips with contemporary culture, apart from the hovercraft in Tiger Takes Off. The visual references are obviously Top of the Pops on the one hand, and the Three Musketeers (and perhaps the Royalists of the English Civil War) on the other. But at the same time, the message of the episode is to neutralise the threat of pop culture and demonstrate (to anxious parents?) the virtues of a retreat to traditional values.
There was a 1970 biopic of Oliver Cromwell, starring Richard Harris and Alec Guinness, but it came out in August which would have been after this episode was made. Cromwell's son Richard was played by none other than Anthony May, the Cool Cavalier. So he changed sides at some point in 1970.
All in the studio this time, apart from Albert handing out leaflets in Shenley Road, Borehamwood.
Anthony May (Sydney, the Cool Cavalier) was born in 1946; his biggest hit was a couple of years before Double Deckers as the unnamed male lead in cult short film Les Bicyclettes de Belsize. He hasa long string of TV, film and theatre credits, including the voice of the King of the Dead in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and had a bit part in Angelina Jolie's Maleficent in 2014. Apart from this episode of Double Deckers, he doesn't seem to have done much singing.
Ivor Salter (the policeman) was born in 1925, and had a string of minor parts, possibly peaking as a farmer in Crossroads in the late 1970s. He was in Doctor Who three times, first as the Morok Commander in Glyn Jones' story The Space Museum (1965), then as Odysseus in The Myth Makers (also 1965) and finally as another policeman, Sergeant Markham, in Black Orchid (1982). He died in 1991.
Peter Miller wrote two other episodes of Here Come the Double Deckers, Robbie the Robot and The Go-Karters, which are two of the best of the lot; he wrote various other comedy and thriller episodes for TV, but nothing since 1986. His peak was possibly a six-part early evening sit-com called The Square Leopard in 1980, which is panned here.
See you next week...
...for Scooper Strikes Out