September 19, 2018


Happy Birthday to David McCallum! Born on this day in Glasgow in 1933, McCallum is best known for his work in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.The Great EscapeThe Outer LimitsSapphire & SteelThe Invisible ManJAG, NCIS: New Orleans, and NCIS. In recent years, he has also lent his voice to a number of projects, including Ben 10The Replacements, and Batman projects. His first thriller novel, One a Crooked Man, was published in 2016! Spy Vibers are likely to know about McCallum's role as Illya in U.N.C.L.E., so I want to focus today on his lesser-know efforts- in the record industry! Music was a large part of David McCallum's upbringing and education, so it was actually serendipitous that his first character note in his U.N.C.L.E. script was that Illya kept a collection of Jazz records under his bed. Like many stars in the 1960s, McCallum recorded a number of albums that crossed between easy listening, pop, and rock. As a classically trained musician, he made arrangements of popular songs for oboe, French horn, strings, guitar, and drums. McCallum also conducted and contributed his own compositions. Four LPs were made for Capital Records between 1966-1968. Speaking to Record Collector Magazine, McCallum said, : "Well, 'Communication' was just a 50's type novelty record, with me talking over the music.  The follow-up was 'In The Garden, Under The Tree', which came from a film called 'Three Bites Of The Apple.'  It was meant to be a comedy with a lot of funny things in it, but the studio took it upon themselves to recut it and make it into a romantic picture." McCallum was then asked to take on LP projects. "MGM came to me and said, with the success of 'U.N.C.L.E.', you ought to sing a whole album of songs. I said, I'm an actor, not a singer.  They said, well, just read the telephone book or something and we'll put music to it. I found that somewhat reprehensible, and suggested that I could do some orchestral arrangements of contemporary pop songs, using woodwind with four French horns as a back up, and rhythm. The idea was to do it with straight orchestral instruments and no guitar or amplification. They gave the idea to David Axelrod at Capitol, who passed it onto H.P. Barnum, the arranger there, who was involved in Motown and rock. When I arrived at the studio they had the finest musicians sitting there, and you can see it was going to be full rock." Asked if he minded the modern instrumentation, McCallum said. "No, it was great fun doing it.  My father was touring America with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the time, and he came along to a couple of those sessions. The whole period was very exciting. I'm still listening to those [Pop] songs now. That early '60's music is unique and very expressive of the emergence of the whole rock thing that followed. The toughest thing was the selection of the music." And speaking of that exciting period, McCallum's father was a noted classical violinist (look for David Sr's 78s on Parlophone) who played on some famous tracks from the SGT Pepper sessions with The Beatles! David McCallum released four LPs, a number of singles and EPs, and various narration albums- including works by H.P. Lovecraft and Ambrose Bierce. Spy Vibers might enjoy the German compilation of instrumental tracks, Solo Für I.L.L.Y.A., which sported a cool grid of McCallum images originally included as a bonus with the promo pressing of A Bit More of Me (1967) in a sheet of 15 photos (also used partially on the EMI House on Breckenridge Lane '68 sleeve below). You can still find his second record, A Bit More of Me, on CD, and other albums are available as MP3 downloads at Amazon and on iTunes. By the way, Val McCallum, son of David and Jill Ireland, has carried on the family tradition by working as a touring musician with major acts and contributing to soundtracks. Below: various record sleeve designs (I love the cover of "McCallum" from 1967) and the recently-sampled song, 'The Edge', from A Bit More of Me (1966). More McCallum info at Discogs, the Fans From U.N.C.L.E. website. Related links: Spy Vibe Radio: Man From U.N.C.L.E.Robert Vaughn R.I.P.1966 Pep SpiesUNCLE FashionsUNCLE Island MusicGerman UNCLEMcCallum HullabalooNew McCallum NovelNotes From UNCLE EventUNCLE SchoolAgente Secreto ComicsDer Mann Von UNCLEJapanese UNCLE editionsUNCLE GunUNCLE Turns 50UK ComicsUNCLE MangaU.N.C.L.E. ComicsEnjoy!

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