Monday, 11 June 2012

Things I listen to in the car; but shouldn't.


Yes, I'm bloody well going to do it. I'm going to make my first post in aaaagges almost completely irrelevant and potentially extremely embarrassing. The sort of feature that one might submit if he wishes to become a complete laughing stock amidst the automotive fraternity, and find himself lambasted, castigated, a social pariah with nowhere to turn to for redemption.

It doesn't even especially link to the unfeasibly awesome Tomy Turbo Cockpit featured in the above image, that I wanted so badly when I was 5 (er, and 25). It does, though, relate to the bridge between childhood and adulthood. You see, It turns out that, deep within the track listing of my (not especially good) Olympus M:Robe MP3 player, the one on which I store random music I've accumulated (but never wanted to buy on CD to listen to properly) to play in the car, I have a number of theme tunes to kids TV shows. Maybe I haven't grown up, or I somehow need them as some familiar link to my childhood?

Or maybe they're just brilliant tunes? You decide.

Let's start with something familiar; Thundercats.

True story: When I was at primary school and Thundercats first appeared on Childrens BBC, my Dad owned a Ford Sierra. A Ghia, no less. And that Sierra had a Sunroof. This, in my mind, with its fertile imagination and propensity for fantasy, made it slightly like the Thundertank, which had a big open-air section at the back. Based on this small point I set about establishing a Thundercats Club for those whos Dads car had a sunroof. Alas, I would prove to be the only member that club would ever have; not because my Dad was unique in owning a sunroof, more because all the other kids thought I was an idiot.

Anyway. Back to the tune:  (Embed fail. Balls!)

You'll note it's the end theme I've gone for; the vocals are replaced by an indulgent lead guitar solo of a quite unbelievable ROCKness for an animated series. Seriously, this is cartoon guitar noodling par excellence. Good percussion, too, and plenty of funk going on in the bassline.

Yet there's an underlying cheesiness that I totally dig; it sounds slightly like there's some kind of studio orchestra in there, the kind of band who'd do the walk-on music for the Wogan show.

In fact, ROCK!!!!!ness aside, it actually sounds tangentially related to the next tune; again an end title sequence. This time, from the almighty Superted.

'Kin A, Man! OK, this is quite ferociously dated, but it's brilliant! The vocals are fabulous despite being obviously atrocious, and admittedly it concludes with an abysmal stunted rapid-fire pronunciation of SUPRTD that they could surely never have imagined they'd get away with. But on the plus side, you have that filmic, soaring string section, that rolling percussion and gleefully wandering bassline, and even the crass, Mumsy vocals at least seem like they're making an effort.

Seriously, when this tune comes on immediately after Supersonic by Oasis and before Sussudio by Phil Collins, it makes me want to kick the accelerator and just blast the hell past whatever is dawdling in front of me; safe in the knowledge that I'm probably the only person in Europe driving to the Superted closing theme.

But there are kids TV themes that genuinely could have been legitimate pieces of music in their own right. Obvious example; the theme to Prince Valiant.

OK; truth is that this was actually edited from a full length single, called Where The Truth Lies, by a group called Exchange. And further truth is that the cartoon theme version is a lot better than the full length one, which rather drags on a bit. And, in actual fact, the song itself is possibly a little too Nicklebackesque for its own good. All of which read as if I don't actually like it at all, and what on Earth am I doing writing about it for, anyway?

Well, because it's excellent! Looked at in singularity as a mere theme song, it stands up rather more favourably.  Those unaware of the full-length track might reasonably opine that one hell of a lot of work went into producing it, and it certainly lends a welcome sense of modernity to a medieval-themed cartoon show. Again, when this plays in the car immediately after Prince Igor by Warren G, it brings a welcome wave of irreverence over the cabin. Especially after the barrage of "Motherfuckers" that spilled from young Warrens' potty-mouth.

But, it all pails into insignificance when compared with the one finest, yet most obscure kids TV theme ever committed to celluloid. Chances are, you've never heard of it. It's purely instrumental and very possibly the darkest, most sombre chord sequence ever to issue from Childrens BBC. In fact, the series it accompanied masqueraded as a kids' program, but I have yet to meet anybody at all that this series didn't scare the hell out of.

The series was Moondial.

The theme was this:


I remember, when I was 8 and this series was first broadcast, my parents had just fitted a set of new pendant light fittings on the living room ceiling, and, bang on cue, at the dramatic apogee of a particularly harrowing episode, the lights went off and all six light bulbs were spat at the floor just feet from the sofa I was cowering behind.

Today, though, if this track comes on through the car stereo, it blends in well with any Pink Floyd, Brian Eno or Aphex Twin that might have been playing up to then.

I'm now going to leave it wide open to anybody reading to add their own suggestions of kids TV themes that are actually worth listening to. I wanted to include the theme to the series "Mud", staring a young Brooke Kinsella, but I can't find it anywhere. I'm not talking merely about excellent themes as there are millions of them (off the top of my head; Potsworth and Company, Toxic Crusaders, Cities Of Gold, The Racoons, Count Duckula, What's That Noise? And Many, Many More), but ones that actually fit among a regular drive-time music compilation without standing out like a sore thumb.

Get to it!

Top image brazenly stolen from