As well as being a much-in-demand orchestral violinist, arranger and conductor, Charles Williams was also a prolific and extremely successful composer of light music. Born Isaac Cozerbreit in London to Jewish immigrant parents in 1893, he later adopted his father’s new name. Williams contributed music to more than 100 films including the 1937 version of The 39 Steps, The Apartment (which also topped the American charts) and several commissions from Alfred Hitchcock. In the 1950s he wrote and recorded countless orchestral pieces of so-called “mood music’, many of which became familiar as film and television signature themes. By far the most well-known of these is Devil’s Galop – the theme tune to the BBC’s Dick Barton, Special Agent (1946-51) – so-named (with just one ‘l’ in Galop) after the galoppade – a rapidly-paced country dance based on the galloping horse. As if it weren’t energetic enough the BBC sound engineers decided to play it even faster than Williams’ original tempo marking to ramp up the suspense still further!
Since Dick Barton, the Devil’s Galop has been used as backing music to countless chase scenes in BBC TV programmes including Dad’s Army, The Goodies, the Goon Show and Monty Python (to accompany the brilliant Spanish Inquisition sketches, amongst others). More recently Mitchell and Webb used the theme in The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar sketches. Even the youngest generations will be familiar with the theme as it was used in CITV’s children’s show ZZZap! as the theme song of the character ‘Tricky Dicky’.
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