vernon elliott ensemble

Ivor the Engine / Pogles Wood
Vernon Elliott Ensemble

There should be a Captain’s Industry Award for services rendered to the preservation of rare and obscure recordings given to Trunk records. Was there ever a label more befitting of the description eclectic – we think not. More than a mere record label we’d like to think, while imprints like Finders Keepers and Angel Air (to name but two in a growth market) plunder the archives and vaults in an attempt to piece together lost nuggets from psyche / folk / rock’s rich past, Trunk’s detail has been one birthed by the obsession of its helmsman Johnny Trunk to one suspects – to relive his childhood memories. While others have been busy scouring and scavenging the bottom of the barrels of whatever old school genre happens to be in vogue at a given time, Mr Trunk has been busying himself picking up the less obvious gems from pops less obvious past, the stuff that was never really in fashion whether in its hey day or since, stuff considered perhaps too kitsch or too out of the normal scope of the considered lover of pop music in all its shapes, sizes and contrivances.

Let’s face it who else would have the nerve to have the cheesy incidental suites of Mike Sammes gracing their catalogue let alone having them sit alongside the iconic cult soundtracks ’Kes’ and ’Wicker Man’ not withstanding bringing in from the cold Basil Kirchin the man responsible for penning the soundtracks for The Mutations and The Abominable Dr Phibes as well as flirting with dubious porn kitsch.

The realisation of the Ivor the Engine and Pogles Wood suites to vinyl and CD has proven to be a labour of love for the Trunk enterprise. The idea first germinated some six years ago when Mr Trunk met childhood hero Oliver Postgate (the creator of both Ivor and Pogles Wood – and a name synonymous with childrens tv folklore) with a view to releasing the lunar sounds that back dropped the legendary 60’s series the Clangers. There’s rumoured to be other Smallfish production soundtracks in the pipeline – notably Noggin the Nog, the Pogles and the Pingwings.

With a running time of just over 38 minutes this collection gathers together 39 pieces out-takes, effects and incidental music from the two series, Vernon Elliott’s compositions are to say the least exquisite, like some strange heirloom they act as a timeless viewfinder to a period of innocence and enchantment, a world of imagination if you like. The suites attract an almost nonsense attraction to themselves to which lovers of Raymond Scott’s 30’s era ‘powerhouse’ orchestrations and those much fond of the Beau Hunks will find a loose common ground. The beauty of Elliott’s work is the vivid imagery it portrays, when you hear ’cruising theme’ you can almost see in your minds eye the little train huffing and puffing along as Elliott’s beautifully arranged wind and piano motifs shuffle sumptuously with carefree abandon, in many way it’s a ploy utilised since cinema began – think back to the silent era of Chaplin and Keaton and try visualising the melodic storyboards. The Ivor the Engine suite is markedly by it briskness and jollyness, the peek -a- boo woodwinds spar playfully atop the steadying frame of the piano florets – the devilishly daft ’donkey theme’ assuming a crooked and clumsy texture contrasts with the sly motifs drawn for ’cat’s theme’.

In sharp contrast the soundtrack for ’pogles wood’ is both magically enchanting and eerie, the creative use of the wind arrangements to craft out the would be sounds of the woodland life is truly a feast of beguiling proportions, more adventurous, lush and textured, the gorgeously breezy ’pogles walk brisk’ with its cantering flutes, triangles and glockenspiels are seemingly congregating to out do each other during their chosen moment in the spot light. Elsewhere there’s the ominous (wait for it) ’apprehensive music’ and the wonderfully pirouetting ’plant growing’. Though for the archivists the main treat is the hauntingly noire-ish ’pogle into witch’s theme’ which apparently married to the occasional appearance of the witch had parents of the day so fearing that their children would be disturbed led to so many complaints that the series was eventually pulled off air.

All in all a beautifully preserved moment of uncluttered innocence from an age rekindled alas in memory alone yet forever lost in time.

Further reading –

Seeing Things – An Autobiography by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin.

from March 2008

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