Monday, April 19, 2010

Peter Thomas' Spy '60s Crime Jazz

Jerry Cotton — FBI's Top Man
Peter Thomas
All Score Media / Chris' Soundtrack Corner

Anyone who was around for the first round of retro spy soundtrack reissues in the late '90s will tell you that one of the best releases was Crippled Dick Hot Wax's collection of Jerry Cotton music, simply titled
100% Cotton. It's a 2CD kaleidoscope of Peter Thomas' eccentric crime jazz — swinging big band numbers peppered with scat vocals, wailing organ and crash-bam-boom sound effects.

So, what the heck is
Jerry Cotton — FBI's Top Man? Well, with 100% Cotton out of print, All Score Media and Chris' Soundtrack Corner have seen fit to put "FBI's Top Man" back in action with a 28-track single CD sampler. It borrows cover art from one of the original LP releases from the '60s and adds some rarities to sweeten the deal.

Who is this G-man — Jerry Cotton? Like Hollywood's Derek Flint and Matt Helm, this German creation was an opportunistic response to the spy craze sparked by James Bond. There were eight Jerry Cotton movies made in five short years ('65-'69). Frankly, they weren't up to the standards of the 007 series or even the Flint and Helm flicks, and have rarely been seen since outside of Germany.

But these barely b-movies have great jazz scores by Peter Thomas, who also scored the Edgar Wallace "krimi" potboilers, the sci-fi TV show
Space Patrol (aka Raumpatrouille) and later paranormal cult classic Chariots of the Gods? and sexploitation flicks.

Thomas' Cotton soundtracks tend to have more in common with Henry Mancini's swinging crime jazz scores for
The Pink Panther movies than John Barry's bombastic 007 scores, but that generalization hardly does them justice. They're completely unique, bizarre, amusing and infectiously hummable. Thomas' giddy hustle-bustle arrangements call to mind an era of relative innocence when a blend of brassy instrumentation and early rock 'n' roll energy made crime-busting sound like carnival thrill-ride.

Interestingly, this reissue appears to be timed to take advantage of a new German-made Jerry Cotton movie (see fourth video below) that seems to poke fun at the original series while delivering the sort of sexy, violent high-octane thrills that modern movie audiences expect these days.

Review originally published at

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