Gareth Hunt and Music

Gareth Hunt with guitar

Actors crossing over into music is not an uncommon occurence today, nor was it in the sixties and seventies. Barbara Feldon released the Get Smart-centric singles “Max” and “99.” The Partridge Family built an entire series around a fictional band that released real-life records. Even Jason King himself, Peter Wyngarde, released his infamous and controversial self-titled album of spoken-word tracks in the midst of his Department S/Jason King fame (later rereleased on CD as When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head).

The trend extended to Avengerland, with a number of the series’ stars releasing singles or full-blown albums. Without a doubt, the most notable of these was Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman’s single “Kinky Boots,” originally released in 1964, and then rereleased in 1990, where heavy playtime on BBC Radio 1 by Simon Mayo helped it reach the top ten of the British Singles Chart. It was followed by a B-side, “Let’s Keep It Friendly.” But while singing did not come naturally to Macnee, who felt out of his depth and reportedly had to be tapped on the shoulder whenever it was his turn to sing (even a trip to the pub failed to loosen him up), Honor Blackman went on to release an entire solo album. Entitled Everything I’ve Got, it capitalised on her post-Cathy role as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, and there are more than a few Bond references scattered throughout the tracks. Blackman's sultry, smouldering delivery allowed her to add the an oddly sinister touch to her recordings. Post-Everything, Blackman’s recording career went quiet, until she resurfaced in 2009 with the single “The Star Who Fell From Grace.”

Like Blackman, Linda Thorson also went on to have a recording career, releasing singles “Here I Am,” “Better Than Losing You,” and “You Will Want Me,” amongst others. Even Diana Rigg recorded a pair of songs for her stage musical Jumpers, and performed vocals as part of her role in Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun. All of this is common knowledge to seasoned Avengers fans. But there is yet another Avenger who also made a foray into recording, the extent of which has remained relatively unknown.

Until now.

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In July, 2010, I happened to stumble across an eBay listing for a 45 single by none other than Gareth Hunt! Even though I have been collecting New Avengers memorabilia for many years, this item is one I have never encountered before. Even the rarest of the items in the various Dave Rogers series guides pop up occasionally, if only at extremely high prices. But this is an item I have never read about anywhere—not in a book, a magazine, or on a message board. Internet searches have proved fruitless. There is simply no record of this single anywhere, as far as I can tell (feel free to prove otherwise, if you’re able!). Therefore, the best I can do is refer to the record itself and make educated guesses as to its origin.

This much we do know. The record was produced in 1977 by Jonnathan Peel and Des Cox for Vivaley Productions, though searches on both men, and the production company, proved fruitless. The copyright, however, was attributed to Chrysalis Records, a British label active throughout the seventies and eighties (when Hunt would have been involved), before being sold to EMI in the nineties. Its website lists its focus today as “music publishing,” but while there is a decade-by-decade list of singles the company released (including some by David Bowie and Jethro Tull), it is by no means comprehensive enough to include a rarity such as this.

I have since only come across one other copy of the record, so I can only suppose that relatively few were pressed. A visitor kind enough to get in touch with the site has informed me that this record may have been released in South Africa in December 4, 1977, where, apparently, singles of this type were quite popular. Given that The New Avengers was screened in South Africa to considerable success, there would likely be interest in a record by Hunt. Whether or not it charted is unknown.

Hunt did mention that he was working on an album during his time filming The New Avengers in Canada, so these songs may perhaps be the result of those sessions. Press and fanzines from the eighties also mention him discussing songwriting and recording his own music, but none of these sessions appear to have been released.

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There’s little else to say, except to talk about the songs themselves. Hunt has (in my opinion) a very good voice and range. Both tracks are surprisingly mellow, and Hunt’s singing voice has just a touch of a lilt that brings to my mind Irish band Thin Lizzy (their voices, not the type of music, though I’d have loved to hear Hunt’s take on “Whiskey in the Jar”). My favourite, the A-side, is the fittingly nautical-themed (given Hunt’s Navy background) “Sail Away.” A whimsical little ditty, driven by a plucky acoustic guitar and endearingly lazy vocals by Hunt, who sounds more recognisably like himself, or at least how we’re used to hearing him, than on the B-side. The rhythm is particularly evocative, calling to mind the gentle peaks and troughs of riding the waves. At times, I confess, I half-expect Hunt to break into a rousing rendition of “Puff the Magic Dragon”—there are definite similarities that probably aren’t coincidental—but overall it’s a gorgeous track. The same informative visitor tells me that the tune was apparently also used by another artist in a song entitled "Butterfly."

The flip side is “We of All People,” a more straightforward love ballad, and less-distinctive than “Sail Away” as a result. Hunt is twangier and less-recognisable on this one, though part of this is due to the way the song is put together—his voice has been pushed to the background with the music playing over it, and this makes it difficult to hear. Regardless, it’s an enjoyable listen, and just as mellow.

But you can judge for yourselves. Both tracks are available here for download. Enjoy!

References

Lumley, Joanna. Stare Back and Smile: Memoirs. London, England: Viking, 1989.

TV Guide, October 22-28, 1977, pp. 2-6, Time Out!, Gordon Donaldson, Toronto, Ontario.

TV Times, December 9, 1976, pp. 14,15,16, Girls, Stop Chasing Me Says Avenger Gareth Hunt, Ken Roche, England.

Wikipedia

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In 1984, Hunt contributed Lollipops and Fish Fingers, a charity album for the benefit of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Contributions from numerous celebrities, such as Judi Dench, Felicity Kendall, Denis Waterman, and Petula Clark, are included on the album, all of which consist of children’s songs. Hunt contributes to two of the twenty-one tracks, singing the first, “God’s House”, solo, while “Bathtime Calypso” is a duet with Petula Clark.

As these are children’s songs, they don’t possess the same gravitas as “Sail Away” or “We of All People,” and a certain amount of silliness is to be expected. That said, Hunt is on fine form in both. “God’s House” provides Hunt with the opportunity to showcase rich, deep tones at the lower end of his register, and he’s clearly having fun in “Bathtime Calypso,” the silliness of which would have appealed to Hunt’s notorious sense of humour. Given that we have so few examples of Hunt’s music career, these two songs are another chance to appreciate his vocal talents.

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