Tuesday, 26 August 2014

My Top Ten Songs Named After TV Programmes Of My Youth

Even though we only had three TV channels when I was a kid (four once I turned ten... although it took our TV a while to pick up C4), I did watch a hell of a lot of television. It seems strange now that the whole family would sit round and watch whatever was on, from duff quiz shows to Are You Being Served and 'Allo 'Allo (which we only watched because my dad used to work with Gordon Kaye, before he became famous).

Anyway, here are a bunch of songs named after the shows I watched when I was a lad. Some of these songs are much better than the shows that inspired them... others never could be.

I've avoided TV theme songs that also became chart hits - so you won't find Dennis Waterman's I Could Be So Good For You, Hey Hey We're The Monkees or Al Jarreau's Moonlighting, no matter how good they were. (Leo Sayer's Moonlighting would have made #11, in case you were wondering.)

10. Ed Sheeran - The A Team

So there comes a point in every middle-aged music blogger's life when he has to tackle the music wot da kidz are listening to these days. Though it's impossible not to be aware of Ed Sheeran, or this, his debut hit, I have to confess I included it here only because I loved The A Team as a kid. And you may find this impossible to believe... but this is actually the first time I've sat down and listened to the song in its entirety.

Having done so, while I don't think I'll be rushing out to buy the album, I was pleasantly surprised. One of my biggest complaints about modern pop music - or at least that which makes the increasingly irrelevant singles chart - is that it's not actually about anything. As regular readers of this blog will no doubt have guessed, I like lyrics. I like lyrics that tell stories or paint pictures or surprise me or make me laugh or think. Engaging lyrics will even drive me to buy records by artists whose musical stylings might otherwise leave me cold (step forward Eminem, Scroobius Pip, et. al.). And while Sheeran is hardly Jarvis Cocker, he has at least crafted a hit record that's about something and he uses words in an interesting and creative way.

Still, this would have been even better if Hannibal, Face, B.A. and Murdoch had dashed in to save Sheeran's tragic homeless junkie at the last minute. Just saying.

9. The Verve - Columbo

Taken from The Verve's somewhat lacklustre comeback album, Forth, I've no idea why this track is named after Peter Falk's scruffy detective.

Just one more thing... I heard rumours the other day of plans for a Columbo movie starring Mark Ruffalo (perfect casting). I hope he still has the cigar. (But you know he won't have.)

8. Palma Violets - Last of the Summer Wine

Every other week, the music press crowns a new band as the latest "saviours of indie". Palma Violets were given this accolade a year or so ago, and since then I've heard very little from them.

I've no idea why they chose to name this record after our famous local TV show (LOTSW was filmed, for many - many - years in the neighbouring village of Holmfirth). Lyrically there are no clues... actually, lyrically there's very little going on at all. The only line that seems remotely connectable is this:

Well, I'm loving the high road
I'll never ride alone again!

...which might, at a push, be a reference to the infamous racing bathtubs episode. But probably isn't.

7. Guillemots - Cats Eyes

C.A.T.S. Eyes was the rather duff sequel to The Gentle Touch in which Jill Gascoigne teamed up with Rosalyn Landor and Leslie Ash as a cut price British answer to Charlie's Angels. This delicate song by the Guillemots is almost good enough to make me forget it. 

6. The Libertines - What Became Of The Likely Lads?

Although the TV show was called Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? this is close enough for one of Columbo's cigars in my book. A song about a band splitting up just as they're on the verge of something great, which is what was happening to The Libertines as they released it... and also leads us neatly onto our next number...

5. The Rezillos - Top of the Pops

Pretty cast iron way of getting your record played on Top of the Pops... although the Rezillos promptly fell out after this cheeky gambit and failed to capitalise on their TOTP experience.

4. Ash - Kung Fu

Already featured highly in My Top Ten Martial Arts Songs, here it pays tribute to David Carradine, grasshopper. 

3. Dweeb - Scooby Doo

Forgotten Britpop classic from the late 90s that owes more than a little to the aforementioned Ash. This was their towering achievement, a perfect two minute blast of power-pop.

Scooby Doo was my favourite Hanna-Barbera cartoon as a kid. Until they brought in Scrappy, naturally... 

There is an even cooler song about Scooby, but as its title isn't the name of the show itself, I had to hand the prize to Dweeb. 

2. Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers (Jeux Sans Frontières)

I was never really a fan of It's A Knockout, as it was known in the UK, even as a little kid I thought it was all very silly. I much prefer Peter Gabriel's song in which he uses the ridiculous TV show as a metaphor for political idiocy. It's a wonderful pop record, with amusing lyrics, Kate Bush purring French backing vocals, an infectious whistling refrain and lyrics the BBC had to censor. ("Whistling tunes, we piss on the goons in the jungle" became "Whistling tunes we're kissing baboons in the jungle" for the single mix.)

1. The Divine Comedy - Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World

I used to love this show when I was a kid.
“Mysteries from the files of Arthur C Clarke, author of 2001 and inventor of the comm­unications satellite. Now living in retreat in Sri Lanka after a lifetime of science, space and writing, he ponders the riddles of this and other worlds”.
It was here I first found my love of UFOs, sea monsters, stone circles and, of course, the infamous Bigfoot film. I bought the series on DVD a few years ago and enjoyed it just as much on repeat viewing... although perhaps for slightly different reasons. There's one bit with an "eminent scientist" of the day, in the back of a taxi, giving his views on crop circles or the Loch Ness Monster or Egyptian reincarnation or somesuch... and frankly, it is the most astounding thing I have ever seen in my life. You would not believe the hairpiece he's wearing... I'm amazed ACC didn't want to investigate that.

Anyway, Neil Hannon was obviously a fan too, as demonstrated by this choice cut from his Victory For The Comic Muse album...
Do you remember that old T.V. show:
Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World?
Well, if ITV make a new series
They ought to come take a look at my girl

I don't understand her
She doesn't make any sense to me
I don't understand her
It's like she's speaking in Swahili.

Which songs remind you of your childhood TV addictions?


  1. Whenever I think of Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World I can help thinking of this episode of The Goodies...


    I particularly like his explanation for the Loch Ness Monster (just over 2 minutes in to this clip).

    1. Ha! Thanks, Rob, I'd never seen that clip before.

    2. Until yesterday, I'd probably only seen that episode once, when it was first shown on TV in the '80s, but whenever anyone mentions the Loch Ness Monster, I can't help thinking of a common or garden rhinoceros, floating on its back, balancing a tortoise on the end of a French stick. And whenever anyone mentions Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World, or if I just see a so-called expert talking about UFOs or Bigfoot (etc.) on TV, asking if they really exist, I usually hear Graeme Garden, doing a bad Arthur C Clarke impression, saying "Cobblers!"

  2. Also, 'Rainbow in the Dark' by Dio.

    1. I like the idea of Dark Rainbow. Zippy as a chainsaw-toothed psychopath; Jeffrey as a scary man child; Rod, Jane & Freddie as freakishly happy cult members; George as a suspiciously camp and predatorial pink hippo....

      ...erm... having thought about it, Rainbow just got a lot darker.

    2. There was also a bloody great big grizzly bear (Bungle) wandering around the studio in every episode. Plenty of room for horror there.

  3. Probably a cheat but as it's one of my all-time favourite shows I don't care: Clannad - Robin (The Hooded Man).

    1. Disallowed along with Denis Waterman.

  4. Am wondering if, like me, you had the Arthur C Clarke tie-in book, the one with the crystal skull on the cover?

  5. I was looking for best tv theme songs to play on my kitty party which and I am happy I found your article. It really helped me choosing the best song for the party and I hope everyone likes my collection.


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