Friday, 6 January 2012

Songs you didn't know you didn't know 5

Some TV themes today.

You probably all know that the theme to Monty Python is actually called The Liberty Bell, a march by John Philip Sousa. I bet you also know that the music used for Formula 1 on TV is The Chain by Fleetwood Mac and that the BBC's Top Gear theme is Jessica by the Allman Brothers Band. You might be aware that the Ski Sunday theme is called Pop goes Bach by Sam Fonteyn and that the tune used for BBC cricket coverage is Soul Limbo by Booker T and the MGs. And you may recognise the theme to the Snooker coverage as Drag Racer by the Doug Wood Band and the theme to sports show Superstars as Heavy Action by Johnny Pearson. The opening titles for Wimbledon are Light and Tuneful by Keith Prowse and the closing music is Sporting Occasion by Arnold Steck.

But did you know these?

The Mastermind theme is actually called Approaching Menace and was written by Neil Richardson.

The theme to The Old Grey Whistle Test was called Stone Fox Chase, written by Charlie McCoy and Kenny Buttrey and was made famous by their band Area Code 615.

The theme to the US series Taxi was a very laid back slab of electric piano jazz by Bob James called Angela:

And one of the most iconic British TV themes of all time isn't called Black Beauty but is actually Galloping Home, written by Denis King and performed by the London String Chorale. Ever heard the whole thing? Well, here it is.

Of course, many themes are written especially for the shows they open. The theme to Coronation Street was written especially for the show by Eric Spear and the mournful cornet solo was played by Ronnie Hunt who was paid £6 for his troubles. He found the experience frustrating as Spear insisted on many takes before obtaining the sound that he wanted by playing very close to the microphone.

Compare that to the story of David Dundas (of Blue Jeans fame) who wrote the original four note theme for Channel 4. Called Fourscore, the theme was used between 1982 to 1992 and Dundas got a royalty of £3.50 every time. That added up to around £1000 per week and so, over the 10 years, he earned over half a million pounds from it. Each of those four notes earned him a staggering £130,000! At the time, it was the shortest music composition ever copyrighted.

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