Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Prisoner: Rejected Themes

Ron Grainer's theme for 'The Prisoner' is a classic, but it could have all been very different. Grainer's music was the third attempt at creating the right feel for the opening of the show, and even that required a major overhaul before being deemed suitable by perfectionist / control freak / egomaniac Patrick McGoohan.

First up was Robert Farnon. Farnon was a popular Canadian composer of 'light music', but his proposed theme sounded more like something from a Western (specifically, the theme to 'The Big Country') and failed to impress anyone, least of all Mr. McGoohan.

Wilfred Josephs was next up. Josephs was a prolific composer who wrote a number of classical works as well as themes for film and telly. Josephs' take was much more atmospheric and urgent but extremely busy and in search of a discernible tune. The composition didn't work as a theme tune, but later appeared as recurring incidental music with a better and slightly tidier arrangement.

Australian composer Ron Grainer proved more successful, of course, although his original conception was far gentler and slower. McGoohan apparently accompanied him to the recording studio and encouraged him to considerably ramp up the music into the loud, driving, unforgettable theme so familiar to fans of the series but, like most legends attached to the series, that's probably a load of rubbish - Grainer was a brilliant and experienced composer, after all - and McGoohan tended to take the credit for pretty much anything not nailed down, the crazy bastard.


  1. Good Lord! the Robert Farnon music is dire. It is the Big Country. Have been watching the Prisoner intro with Robert Farnon's score. It just does not make sense. Would love to know what Mr McGoohan said about it.

  2. ^ I imagine that McGoohan claimed he'd recorded it himself using 'one man band' equipment (cymbals strapped to his knees etc).

    "the crazy bastard" ha ha

  3. What about this arrangement?

    I'm not sure who wrote it, I'd always assumed it was Ron Grainer. Have to agree with Mr Seatman about the Robert Farnon theme. Atrocious!

  4. Mr. Beast, that version came out on a single credited to Ron Grainer. It's really expensive.

  5. MGoohan never claimed that he'd *whistled* the tune (which is pretty impossible to do anyway). His crazy bastard fans said that some people who were there at the time, said that he did this.

    That McGoohan evidently picked the right alternative of the tunes he was presented with, says that he was not such a crazy bastard as he is painted sometimes.

  6. Unmann-Wittering4 October 2011 at 08:29

    Good to see you have a sense of humour about the whole thing, but I'm afraid you are completely wrong - I can whistle the tune brilliantly.

  7. I think that the unnman-wittering whistling sound-file would be the perfect addition to the post, just to prove what is possible..... ;-D

    And of course if the crazy bastard could hold a tune and whistle, then..... maybe.............

    But the fact remains that he never made this claim himself.

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