NUMBER 1: WHITE HORSES
When I began to make this list, I had to winnow the tunes chosen down to fifty and kept changing my mind. These top three were easy to decide though. Any one of them could have been my Number 1.
This deserves the top spot because it’s a wonderful piece of music that instantly lifts my mood. It makes me feel it’s a Saturday morning and the day is full of youthful hope and possibility! The good associations have been cemented by the times the fabulous Readers Wifes have played this at Duckie. The show was one of those foreign children’s programmes that seemed to crop up all the time on British kids’ TV, badly dubbed and bearing a patina of the glamour of ‘Abroad’. How they made me itch to go there. Probably largely responsible for me studying modern languages at high school and at university.
This theme was written by Michael Carr (who also wrote ‘South of the Border, Down Mexico Way’) with Ben Nisbet and sung by ‘Jacky’ (Jackie Lee). It was a top ten hit in 1968, the year the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia and I started High School. Jackie Lee had another hit with the theme tune to ‘Rupert the Bear’ and sang backing vocals on Tom Jones’ ‘The Green Green Grass of Home’ and Engelbert Humperdick’s ‘Please, release Me’.
Number 2: Robinson Crusoe
I have loved Robert Mellin’s haunting music for this show all through the years since I first saw the show in the sixties and still listen often to the whole suite (ici) on the iPod.
It was another one of those badly dubbed European shows that seemed to me to have added exoticism. The idea of being marooned on a desert island held immense allure for me as a teenager. It would be an understatement to say that I enjoy my own company. I’d be a better Friday than a Crusoe though and the real island that Alexander Selkirk, the model for Defoe’s hero, was stranded upon was not in any way the tropical idyll you see here. It was a happy thing when I finally found the music on a CD back in the 90s because, until then, I used to drive friends mad trying to get them to hum the tune for me when I was drunk.
Number 3: The Avengers
It is barely possible to put a cigarette paper between My Top Three. This is a brilliant, brilliant theme tune and it was a marvellous show. It’s one of the late Sir Johnny Dankworth’s, his second appearance in this list of mine.
I can’t remember the very early shows when Patrick MacNee had a male sidekick but I can remember when the stalwart John Steed was accompanied by Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) and then by Emma Peel (Diana Rigg). My father used to get very worked up over Mrs Peel. I used to think that I must be heterosexual after all because she got me steamed up too but then I discovered that was just the kinky leather gear she wore. This show foregrounded a lot of transgressive imagery that struck a chord with even a much younger me. I saw Dame Diana on stage at the Old Vic a couple of years ago and she was electrifying.
Number 4: Doctor Who
I loved this show as a child (and I remember watching the very first episode) and I love it still.
This is one of the most instantly recognizable theme tunes ever, composed by Ron Grainer and a brilliant woman called Delia Derbyshire, mainstay of the ‘BBC Radiophonic Workshop’ realised the piece. Without benefit of synthesiser, she used found sounds on tape that she cut up, distorted, and spliced together. Bloody clever, hugely creative, and the result was a theme tune that was startlingly new and appropriately ethereal.
Number 5: The Addams Family
"Their house is a muse-um
Where people come to se-um
They really are a scre-um
The Addams Family..."
It was written and arranged by Vic Mizzy, featuring harpsichord, and finger-snaps as percussion. Lurch the butler (Ted Cassidy) growled individual words: ‘neat’, ‘sweet’ and ‘petite’.
My dad would allow us to sit up and watch this at 11.04 on a Friday night. Was it really 11.04 and why does that number stick in my head after nearly half a century? It was scary when I was a child but I adored it nevertheless or perhaps precisely because of the gothic horror tradition their comedy pastiched. I liked Gomez and Uncle Fester, but Morticia I adored. My baby sister had very long hair as a kid and my dad called her Cousin Itt for years.