Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Theme Tunes

Old fashioned kid's tellyFunny how the music to certain TV shows sticks in your mind. I mean, we all have favourite ‘pop’ records. Music that provided the incidental backdrop to our first kiss, our first shag, our first civilian kill whilst piloting an Apache helicopter over Baghdad (oops, sorry, bit political; bit old news but always, always relevant).

But what about those favourite TV theme tunes that you used to hear as a kid and now remind you of happier and not-so happier times?

For me, I can’t listen to the theme tunes of Sesame Street, The Banana Splits or Hong Kong Phooey without thinking of long school summer holidays in the 1970’s. These shows seemed to be ubiquitous every summer. I don’t recall them being on at any other time of the year though surely they must have been. There was something about Sesame Street and The Banana Splits that was kind of special. I wasn’t really that aware of the world at the time. I knew America was another country but that was about it. Sesame Street and The Banana Splits made it seem a wonderfully warm and inviting place to be.

I mean, let’s face it, the American’s had all the best kids TV shows. Sorry and all that, but Rainbow and Pipkins were hardly in the same league, were they? If you pitted Big Bird and Octavia the ostrich against each other in a cage fight Big Bird would win even though he’s a hopeless pacifist. Octavia would get herself tangled up in her own strings purely down to the jerky way she half-walked half-floated over the ground.

And then there are the theme tunes that make me feel depressed.

Family Fortunes. Hart To Hart. Magnum PI.

Yes, even Magnum PI makes me feel a little bit depressed.

These shows were invariably broadcast on a Sunday evening in the 1980’s which, for me, meant school the next day. Secondary school. Big school. And not just school but “Games” first thing and that meant rugby which I absolutely loathed. And not only rugby but the horrible school communal showers afterwards which I also loathed (though am at pains to point out that nothing untoward ever happened to me in the boys’ showers at school, OK? Not ever. I’m hang-up free when it comes to nudity – just ask the young mums who visit my local park at lunchtime).

Hearing these theme tunes meant that bedtime was fast approaching and that meant sleep and a hastening of time passing. Monday morning was approaching all too quickly and the weekend was over.

And then there are the theme tunes that are truly special but for no special reason at all. Just odd slivers of memory that make no sense to anybody else but nevertheless remind you of how loved you were and how safe.

Rupert The Bear. I have this on my MP3 player. I used to watch this as a toddler at my Nan’s when we’d visit her every Wednesday. I think the show had originally been produced in the 1960’s and was probably going round the block for the fifth time when I used to watch it. Nevertheless it had me mesmerized and whenever I hear the music now I am instantly transported back to my Nan’s sitting room with the smell of beef stew wafting in from the kitchen and warm sunlight streaming in through the dining room window. I didn’t know much about the world but I knew it was all going to be OK.

*sigh*

Alas, I haven’t heard a piece of music in a long time that makes me feel that way. But it’s not the music that has changed, it’s me.

I look at my kids now – look at the TV shows they like; the ones they don’t – and wonder if they’ll have their own musical aide-mémoires when they are older.

I hope so. And I hope they’ll be for similar reasons.

Though maybe not the rugby thing. Or the showers. I could have lived without those.

Right. I’m off to the park. See you there.

Second bush on the right (that’s me).

;-)



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34 comments:

Marginalia said...

Not sure where you're going with this Steve. Are you blaming your childhood songs for your voyeurism?

There is treatment - a week's watching of "Embarrassing Bodies" whilst listening to Gary Glitter.

Steve said...

Marginalia: voyeurism? I was pretending to be a flasher in the park. I don't really do that, I hasten to add it's just that that was just the joke I was making... yeah? Oh forget it.

As for Gary, there are enough arseholes on Embarrassing Bodies without using rhyming slang.

Wanderlust said...

Sound has a really amazing ability to evoke emotions from long ago. I still remember the sound of my grandma's mantel clock. I haven't heard it in probably 40 years.

I used to watch Kimba the white lion while cuddled up on the family room floor (though I heard the track recently and it didn't do much for me). I remember being desperately into the on-again-off-again love story of the bionic man and woman! Haven't heard that theme song since the 70's.

Steve said...

Wanderlust: clocks - ticking and chiming - are very evocative memories from childhood. Possibly when we're younger and time seems to pass more slowly we're more aware of the sounds clocks make. Now I don't hear them and wonder where the hours go. As for the Bionic Man... that brings back happy memories of being at my grandparents too. I don't think we ever watched it at home - not sure why.

Suzanne said...

It's funny how music or a smell can transport you back to another time.
I used to love Hong Phooey, and Sesame Street ( sings...'one of these things is not like the other, three of these things are kinda the same'), oh no look what you have done!! ONE - ha ha ha ha - I love to count...
and as for Hart to Hart, I used to love watching that, I won't start with Bosley's words at the beginning, but I still blinkin know them!

Steve said...

Suzanne: "this is Mrs Aitch... she's goi-gous...!" If you follow the link it'll take you to a little Youtube video where you can enjoy that Hart-warming moment all over again...!

the fly in the web said...

Oh dear...I have to confess to remembering the voice of Larry the Lamb....and the terrible grocer who seems to have been a forerunner of Thatcher, come to think of it...I missed everything after that, I think...

Nota Bene said...

We are sad. Truly sad. We've been known to have whole evenings given over to watching YouTube videos of our favourite TV theme tunes. Mine are a bit older than yours. I don't know why. But we love Hawaii Five-O, The Protectors...yes they may not have been kids programmes, but were certainly programmes we watched as kids!

Dicky said...

Great post!

Depressing music on a Sunday night - "The South Bank Show." Even when I was an adult that bloody theme tune would remind me of being a kid. It was always on at about 10:45 on Sunday evenings, just in time for teenage bed.

I believe the theme tune to "Banana splits" was sung by a band called "The Dikies."

Steve said...

The fly in the web: oh Mr Ma-a-a-a-yor! Yes. Even I remember the trembling voice of that infernal lamb!

Nota Bene: sad? Sad? I'm kicking myself now for all those wasted evenings! Why didn't you tell me of this before?!

Dicky: The Dikies, eh? Great name! As for The South Bank Show... never watched it. Far too high brow for my parents.

Suzanne said...

Doh - It was Max not Bosley, I'm getting my Hart to Hart and my Charlies Angels mixed up - tut tut! Just watched the clip - gold!

Steve said...

Suzanne: how do you think I feel? I was a huge Charlie's Angels fan and not only that I watched the Hart To Hart clip when I composed the post earlier today and even I didn't pick up your mistake!

Gorilla Bananas said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention Thunderbirds - great music and a great cast of characters. You'd be perfect for a cameo role as Tintin's stalker who ends up getting his ears boxed by Brains.

Mark said...

I remember the theme tunes (and songs from) programmes like Camberwick Green and Chigley... the vice of Brain Cant and all that. And Captain Pugwash had a good theme tune too

Nana Go-Go said...

Nan`s are everything!Well done you for remembering, speaking as one who can remember the theme tune to `Watch With Mother`!(well, almost!)

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: I consider that an improvement on Joe 90 which is a nickname I once had at a school.

Mark: Brian Cant... now there's voice from my childhood. And Johnny Ball. And Floella Benjamin (who is still going and doesn't appear to have aged at all).

Nana Go-Go: Nan's reign surpreme. And quite rightly so.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Heck I must be levelling pegging age-wise with the Fly and a bit beyond Nota Bene and I know there's nearly a decade (less a week) between thee and me. Our family didn't have TV till I was 17, but there was a glorious time for a few months at my Gran's in Yorkshire, when I was exposed! To first time round Z Cars, Thunderbirds, and probably Larry the Lamb, though my dear departed remembers L the L so I guess Toy Town is older than me. I am completely lost when you and fellow followers discuss current programmes. I don't watch NZ tele. The likes of Downton Abbey are few and far between so there's not many themes lodging in my brain, but from the past I guess The Onedin Line theme is pretty memorable.

But really what jolts memories these days is pop music that evokes recent memories. A school trip to Samoa last year, had the group - with dad on board - busking a set of sweetness, as well as working up a fabulous sa-sa routine to Beyonce's Single Ladies. Hearing Mraz' "I'm Yours", or Train's "Hey Soul Sister" in the Supermarket makes me all nostalgic for the togetherness that group shared, before and in Samoa. I notice the same effect with some of the wild hip hop music that daughter and friends are choreographing breathtaking dance routines too. Hear the music-love the kids.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

PS Just noticed the other Thunderbirds fan - Gorilla Bananas must be another contemporary!

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: ah... The Onedin Line is very distinctive. And does anybody remember Flambards? It seemed to run and run forever and my mother loved it... I just remember it being a depressing WWI mini series about a bunch of toffs in a big house.

Music can unite us all and make us all 'feel', can't it?

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: we're all far older than other people think...!

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Oh gee, I've just realised we are corresponding in real time - like Facebook. I never go there... but this is kinda cool. I'm not IT savvy at all you understand.

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: see - we are real people! We both of us exist!

John Gray said...

what about that goddamm awful Robinson Crusoe theme?

oh and space 1999
now that was sexy!!!!

Suburbia said...

I reckon my Small Sprog will get that exact feeling of dread, he is really worried about playing Rugby and can't eat his breakfast on a Friday morning, poor thing.

Do you remember Hammy Hamsters Tales of the Riverbank?! Sweet tune!!

Being Me said...

Firstly, you owe me one hot latte (NOT a euphemism) because I just spilled mine a little bit reading that thing about the mums in the park at lunchtime.

Secondly, hold up a moment. You've named three of the best - Sesame Street (it's not nearly as good now as that original version), Hong Kong Phooey (number-one super-guy... awesome) and The BaNa-Na-Na, Na-nana-na Splits. All excellent. However, in your haste to turn your back on your home soil theme tunes, I won't have you leave out The Wombles.

Remember: you're a Womble. For shame.

Vicky said...

I have a CD called "Saturday Morning Favourites" or something like that and it has TV Themes of kids shows redone by modern musicians http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturday_Morning:_Cartoons%27_Greatest_Hits

the fly in the web said...

Noggin the Nog!
The Clangers!

It all comes back to me now...Sunday afternoons in the S.U. bar....

I think I'll go and lie down somewhere quiet.

Owen said...

I was wondering why that bush was moving about suspiciously... Between this post and your previous one about spies, did you see the story in the press yesterday about the Customs and Immigration head officer for South Florida who was arrested on child pornography charges ? No kidding, he was supposed to be investigating child pornographers and human traffickers, and here he was one of them... So, just watch what you do behind those bushes, or we'll send the border patrol to deal with you...

And what about the music in that show The Monkees ??? Now is that dating me ??? Well, I'll just catch that last train to Clarksville...

Steve said...

John: I quite liked the theme to Robinson Crusoe. It used to be on a Saturday morning before Tiswas. Well, it was in my house anyway.

Suburbia: the name rings a bell but I can't recall the tune. I don't think I'm going to try too hard. ;-)

Being Me: I hang my head in shame. You are right. The Wombles was excellent. The best 30 seconds of music ever. People say that about Mike Batt an awful lot apparently.

Vicky: ooh... one for my Christmas wishlist!

The fly in the web: you watched The Clangers in the S.U. bar? That's, like, totally hardcore, dude!

Owen: as... you just names one of my favourite tracks ever - Last Train To Clarksville. The Monkees theme is very distinctive but overplayed in my opinion. I'm more of a Daydream Believer.

TimeWarden said...

I guess most of our favourite theme tunes are going to be those we heard growing up. Mine include Freewheelers (opening and closing are different parts of the same piece, but very different in atmosphere!), Survivors (original 1975-7 series), Department S, UFO, Space: 1999 (first series), and, of course, Delia Derbyshire's radiophonic realisation of Ron Grainer's theme for you know Who!

London City Mum said...

Hmmmm... 'Dallas' for me. Not sure what message that sends out.

Aside from big hats, oil, flash cars, trashy story lines, and quite a lot of incestuous relationships.

But no wetsuits - whey hey!

LCM x

Steve said...

TimeWarden: Delia Derbyshire... what an absolutely great name. I can't recall Space 1999's theme... may have to YouTube it to remind myself.

LCM: no wetsuits? I knew there was a reason Dallas held no interest for me. ;-)

Rol said...

You're wrong about Octavia. She'd set Harlet on Big Bird. Hartley was One Mean Motherfucker.

Steve said...

Rol: goes like a rabbit from what I've been told...