It’s all about the opening and closing theme music tonight on BBC Four.
“You hear a theme tune that you haven’t heard since you were a child and it brings back a flood of memories.” – Segun Akinola, composer
There have been many great themes over the years and Britain has given television some of the best with scores from Tony Hatch, Simon May, Johnny Patrick, Ronnie Hazlehurst, Jack Parnell and UK based Australian composer Ron Grainer bringing viewers to the TV set in the sixties, seventies and eighties.
Tonight composer Neil Brand begins the first of a three-part exploration of the world of music compositions for television.
Neil looks at the enduring power of the television theme tune, and the way in which it has acted as the ‘nation’s jukebox’ for over 60 years. He begins on the streets of an iconic television landmark, ITV’s Coronation Street, where he encounters a brass band playing the show’s long-standing theme music, composed by Eric Spear, who also gave the UK its first serial theme for The Grove Family on the Beeb. The programme features a classic interview with the late Eric Spear from 1965 on his greatest creation.
Following a brief stop in the soap opera world, he meets composer Simon May, creator of the EastEnders theme tune. Neil shows how our deep connection to theme tunes starts with childhood and revisits some of his own bygone favourites such as the folk tunes of Bagpuss composers, Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner.
He also travels to the streets of Merseyside to celebrate the endurance of the theme from Z Cars and explores the cop/detective genre themes of 60s legend, John Astley. Viewers will discover the little-known world of library music through collector Jonny Trunk and learn how tunes from library records went on to brand such long-loved staples as Mastermind and Grandstand.
Finally, Neil travels to the US to talk with Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, to uncover how its orchestrated theme is a homage to classic TV of the past and visits the studio of Ramin Djawadi, the composer behind the epic sound of one of today’s biggest blockbuster series, Game Of Thrones.
The Sound of TV with Neil Brand, BBC Four at 9pm