The Professionals was created by Brian Clemens, who had been one of the driving forces behind The Avengers. The show was originally to have been called The A-Squad. Clemens and Albert Fennell were executive producers, with business partner Laurie Johnson providing the theme music. Sidney Hayers produced the first series in 1977, and Raymond Menmuir the remainder.
In 1987, ITV was re-running some episodes. After the Hungerford shooting incident the particular episode that was to be aired, "Lawson's Last Stand", had a theme that was deemed insensitive and was replaced by the less violent "The Untouchables".
After the series ended, ITV produced Dempsey and Makepeace as its replacement, while Raymond Menmuir produced Special Squad for Australia's Network Ten in the mid-1980s, following The Professionals' format. A revival series, CI5: The New Professionals was produced for Sky in the late 1990s and starred Edward Woodward, but it was not a success. The BBC introduced Spender in the early 1990s, which featured several Professionals influenced themes.
The version on Channel 4 was given a lukewarm reception by the critics. Although Michael Hogan of The Daily Telegraph considered the new pairing of Allen and Charles an improvement as presenters, he found it "lacking the warmth, wit and charm" of its parent programme. Lucy Mangan of The Guardian thought that, unlike the original programme, the professional version failed to get viewers invested in the contestants, and that "watching professionals get it wrong" was "a cold, slightly embittering experience". James Jackson of The Times described it as a "format fluff" that is "like a smaller, colder moon orbiting the warm Jupiter giant that is the GBBO mother show".
There have been quite a few versions of the main theme to the show released over the years, though never the original television session recording recorded by Laurie Johnson and his orchestra. This is near-impossible: due to the nature of the contracts, each individual musician in the orchestra would have to give his/her consent (and many of them have passed away now, anyway). So from a commercial point of view, it is too complicated and not financially viable to try to reach such an agreement. This is a shame as, I'm sure most would agree, this original recording is undoubtedly the best....
Although most of these are long out-of-print, a good source for tracking them down is the GEMM website.ArtistLaurie JohnsonTitleThe Music of Laurie Johnson Volume 2 - The ProfessionalsFormat3-CD setDate of release (UK)2008Record LabelEdselCatalogue NumberEDSD 2021CommentsWell it only seems right to kick off with what, for the time being at least, is the definitive "document" of Laurie's work on the series, with fifty(!) incidental themes used in the show. It should be noted that only the first CD in the set covers The Professionals - but at almost 80 minutes, there is more than enough material to keep fans happy.... well, up to a point, anyway...
Let's get the negative points out of the way first. Every track - including the main title theme - is monophonic. It is uncertain whether they were originally recorded this way - after all the programme as transmitted had mono sound. Countering this, though, is the fact that most of the pieces are of high sound quality. OK, let's review each track in detail...
The main theme is, at last(!), the genuine TV version (actually, the second recording, which accompanied episodes from the second season onwards in original transmission. Tragically, having waited for over thirty years to hear this, the sound quality is mysteriously dire, with "squashed" audio dynamics one usually associates with old, cheap tape cassette. Indeed if you were to rip it from a DVD, you would get better results.
"Theme A" is the frantic, bouncy, jazzy version of the title theme heard in a few first season eps, usually to accompany a chase. From here on the audio is of a far more, ahem, professional sound quality.
"Theme B" was only used once in the show and is the slow, "sleazy jazz" version of the main theme used in the fourth season episode "It's Only a Beautiful Picture" when the lads are trawling around central London looking for the photographer.
The next couple of two tracks are marked as being from "Foxhole on the Roof", though the second of the two is actually from the episode "A Man Called Quinn". By 1980 synthesisers were becoming accepted in the mainstream. For the "Foxhole" track, however, they are employed to provide sustained-note backgrounds to the military-style brass and percussion. By the time of the "Quinn" episode, filmed the following year, Laurie has clearly become more comfortable with the electronic instruments as the strident "chase" theme here shows.
Overall this CD set is a must for even casual fans of the show - especially considering the ludicrously low price you can pick it up for! While it suffers two major disappointments, these are more than made up for by the choice of pieces. Most of the really memorable themes from the show are here (although inevitably there are a few greats that didn't make it - the unforgettable car chase theme from "Man without a Past" being the most obvious omission). What's interesting here is that although there is no mistaking that they were written as soundtrack music, they actually stand up in their own right - and it perhaps isn't until you hear these pieces in isolation that you really appreciate Laurie's ability as a composer. I guess the only reason why Laurie was never invited to score for other television shows during the 1970s and 80s was the industry became reliant on inexpensive "library" houses.
Contains an excellent version of the theme by the Laurie Holloway orchestra. It is a different arrangement from the original as the middle section uses the incidental music that accompanies the motorway chase sequence from 2nd season epsiode "Hunter/Hunted" (Thanks to Oliver Lomax)
This version comes closest to the original score. Well worth tracking down, then! Despite The Professionals theme being the A-side, the record's sleeve bears a picture from The New Avengers
The Professioanls theme is on the "Out Of The Box" side. It is the shortest in a medley that also contains versions of TV themes such as "The New Avengers", "CHiPs" and "Hart To Hart", all set to a disco beat. (Thanks to Oliver Lomax)
Big thanks to Barbara Johnson and Chris Drake for cover scans.ArtistLaurie Johnson and the London Studio OrchestraTitleThe Avengers / The New Avengers / The Professionals / The First Men on the MoonOther tracks-FormatExtended play Flexi-disc singleDate of release (UK)February 1984Record LabelEva-ToneCatalogue Number1111814CommentsCame free with Starlog magazine. I don't know about the nature of the recordings (possibly the same as the above-mentioned) and I doubt whether you'll find one of playable quality nowadays!ArtistStanley Black and the London Symphony OrchestraTitleITV ThemesOther tracksThunderbirds / The Professionals / The Avengers / The New Avengers / Jewel In The Crown / Upstairs Downstairs / The Duchess of Duke Street / Black Beauty / Minder / The Two Of Us / Happy Days / Tales of the Unexpected / Coronation Street / The Sweeney / The Bill (Overkill) / Hannay / World Of Sport / Aztec Gold / Carmen To The Ring / Saint & Greavsie / Hill Street Blues / L.A. Law / Hooperman / The A-Team / This Is Your Life / Highway / BlockbustersFormatLP / Cassette / CDDate of release (UK)November 1988Record LabelPickwick InternationalCatalogue NumberLP:SHM 3247 / CD: PWKS 516 Cassette:HSC 3247CommentsThe Professionals attempt is good but lacks the raw 70's funkiness of the TV theme. It is played by the full orchestra (a much larger orchestra than Laurie Johnson used for the original) and so the brass and tubular bell opening bar (where the car smashes through the plate glass window) sounds awesome! (helped by the size of the hall where the recording took place!).ArtistThe Power Pack OrchestraTitleA IS FOR ACTIONOther tracksSuperman / Magnum / Knight Rider / The Professionals / Starsky & Hutch / Shoestring / Hawaii 5-0 / Hill Street Blues / Dempsey & Makepeace / Indiana Jones / T.J. Hooker / The James Bond Theme / Dukes Of Hazzard / The New Avengers / Rockford Files / Street Hawk / The Good, Bad, and the Ugly / Bergerac / The A-TeamFormatLP / Cassette / CD (with some tracks substituted for more contemporary audience)Date of release (UK)1985Record LabelMusic for Pleasure / EMICatalogue NumberMFP 5705-1 (LP) / 41 5705-4 (cass)CommentsA very 80's release! Most tracks on this album are played with the same instruments which any musician will recognise as classic 80's sounds: The Yamaha DX-7 slap bass for the bass. Linn and Simmons SDS drumkits for the drum tracks and plenty of DX-7 Brass sounds for good measure. This is the only recording of THE PROFESSIONALS to get the waah-waah guitar anywhere near the TV version. Other good covers are a very authentic Starsky & Hutch (with the lead played on waah guitar instead of a lyricon as on the TV version), T.J. Hooker and Dempsey & Makepeace.ArtistVariousTitleFAVOURITE TV THEMESOther tracksInspector Morse / Ruth Rendell Mysteries / Upstairs Downstairs / She / Poirot / A Woman of Substance / Tales of the Unexpected / The Professionals / The Match / The Avengers / Forever Green / New Adventures of Black Beauty / Chimera / London's Burning / Dr Who / The One Game / ITV World Cup 90 / A Hundred Acres / On The Line / Wish Me Luck / Summer's lease / ITV Athletics / The Good Guys / Classic Adventures FormatCDDate of release (UK)June 1992Record LabelMusic ClubCatalogue NumberMCCD 069CommentsThe cover of The Professionals theme here really is terrible, especially considering the fact that is was played by the South Bank Studio Orchestra! This does contain the middle sequence that is in the original sheet score for the TV theme, which you may recognise as the car chase incidental music from 'Hunter, Hunted'. 2b1af7f3a8