The theme tune to Desmond’s

Waaay back in the late 1980s, there was a comedy show called “Desmond’s”, following a family running a barber’s shop in Peckham. It aired from 1989 until the death of the lead actor, Norman Beaton, in 1994.

It would come to no surprise (to both of my regular readers anyway) that I was a fan of the theme tune, and of course, it’s one of the things that stood out to me. I loved it, and it was one of my favourite parts of the programme. It was one of those theme tunes that should have been released as a single, but it wasn’t.

Every year or so, I’d do a quick Google to see if a proper copy, or even an extended version of the theme had been leaked anywhere. Nope. The only things that ever turned up were just off-air, or off DVD recordings. Nothing more than the 45 seconds used at the start of the programme, and the instrumental bit used in the credits at the end. I came to the conclusion that it was only ever used on the programme, especially as it was co-written by the creator, Trix Worrell.

I think I went though one of these search things most recently anout a year ago, when for absolutely no reason, the theme started to be used in an advert for butter. This rekindled my love for the theme, and got me thinking, there had to be an “official” version. As the show ended in 1994, it’s unlikely that it would still exist some 26ish years later, and it certainly sounded better quality than it just being ripped from a copy of the programme.

Once again, I searched high and low (or rather, I searched Youtube), and found nothing. What’s even weirder, is that the full episodes that had been uploaded to Youtube now had the theme tune removed. How very, very odd. Considering that its only use outside of Desmonds was on a butter advert, it seemed very odd that it would just suddenly disappear like that. Obviously someone still owns the copyright to the song, so it could have just been that they didn’t want it on youtube, but why would they object to the theme being on there, but still allowing the rest of the episode to survive? It seemed clear that someone else had the rights to the song now, than what they did when Desmond’s was recorded. Were they planning a re-release?

Again, the trail went cold. No song, no videos on Youtube (except for poor quality versions), no more butter advert, and no release. I put it to the back of my mind. It was never going to see the light of day. A quarter of a century had gone by.

Now, I’ve been holed up for the past 4 weeks, thanks to an operation on my foot. I’ve barely been able to move off the sofa for a month, so I’ve became acquainted with an old friend called “Television”. Tonight (or yesterday by the time this makes it “to air”), I was watching The Chase, and the butter advert made a reappaearance. Just out of complete boredom, I flung “Don’t Scratch My Soca” into Google. Up came a result for Bandcamp. It was 3 minutes long. I didn’t expect much, just a fan remix or something like that. Imagine my surprise when, not only was it the proper version used on Desmond’s, it had a second verse! This was the moment I’d waited over 30 years for. All of the bits were there… the main theme, the bit they fade out when the episode starts, the end theme, and of course, that never-heard second verse. Daddykins, who happened to be enjoying The Chase, didn’t quite understand my excitement, as I fumbled with the remote, pausing his enjoyment of the afore-mentioned tea-time quiz show.

The track was released on June 21st, so only 9 days ago. Not only was it available as a free MP3, it’s possible to actually purchase it on vinyl (at the time of typing). A very small number were produced. 100 in colured vinyl, 200 in black vinyl, and a few white label test pressings. Well, I had to go for the coloured vinyl. I only ordered it today, so obviously, it hasn’t turned up yet. Might be a couple of weeks. Might be sooner. No doubt I’ll update when I have the record in my grasp.

Should you wish to hear the full theme, or even chance your arm at getting a vinyl copy, you can click here. Now, to give my fingers a rest, as typing this all into my phone hasn’t been the most comfortable experience.

EXTENSION: The theme was also written and produced by John Collins, and released under his “Local Records” label, which explains how / why the master recording survives. And, of course, it’s also available on Spotify

I asked some of the questionson the Local Records website too, such as when it was recorded, why it wasn’t released until now, etc.

Repressed childhood memories #186

Picture if you will. The year is 1988. I sit in school, in Mrs. Dawson’s class, staring out of the window, paying very little to no attention to what is flowing from the afore-mentioned teachers’ mouth, instead he stars across the playground, watching two birds peck away at the remains of another dead bird, when all of a sudden, the classroom doors bang. It’s the caretaker, and behind him he’s pulling the school telly! Of course, it’s a Rumbelows one, on wheels. The class erupts with excitement as she pulls out an ancient VHS tape out of her desk drawer.

This will be the only time in the entire school day that the class will have her full undivided attention.

“If you’re good, I’ll let you hear the music”, she says, bribing the class into facing the front, as she struggles to get the sun visor across the top of the telly in place, as it collapses hilariously at least once. Of course, we’ll hear the music because Mrs Dawson only knew one button, and that was the Play button.

In goes the tape, and she presses play. There they are. For me, the highlight of computer animation at the time. Yes, four spinning ITV logos.

We could have been waiting for a programme on making cardboard boxes (to be honest, we probably were), but as long as I got to see (and hear) that, I was content.

These “Schools” TV shows were always broadcast in the morning, so when you were off poorly, it’d be a special treat to actually see that animation on your own telly. And, of course, I’d be sat there with the tape recorder, grabbing as much as I could.. Sometimes you’d get more of the track than before, as the gap in between each program was different

At the time, we thought that this music and countdown clock was there to help teachers queue the programme up for the class. While this may be partially right, there was also a much more mundane reason. These were the days before the national curriculum, and different areas were allowed to show different programmes, meaning that one region could show a 14-minute programme, and the rest of the country could be watching a 12-minute programme, so for that extra two minutes, the rest of the country will see an extra two minutes of the spinning ITVs while they wait for that region to catch up. On very rare occasions, they would play the full track, if there was an especially long wait between regions.

I remember getting this on audio tape, and I played it that much, the tape snapped. The music was surely lost to obscurity. This animation ran every school morning from 1987 until 1993. By then, the national curriculum was fully in place, and eventually there was no need for long breaks between programmes.

In 2002, I made a brief post about this animation and a site I’d discovered which had far too much technical detail about this. Sadly, the site no longer exists.

However, I did manage to find out who did the music. It was by someone named James Aldenham. Except it wasn’t, because that name was a pseudonym for Brian Bennett, the bloke out of The Shadows. It turns out that both of the pieces of music were released on CD, and due to their rarity, were stupidly expensive. They were on the “Music House” label.

“The Journey”, which is the long bit of music was released on “Atmosphere 12 MHA-!2)” and “Just a Minute”, unsurprisingly, the countdown clock music was on “That’s Entertainment (MHE-15)”

And, thanks to eBay, at under a fiver each, I have them both. Another part of my musical journey (pardon the pun) over.

EDIT 5/7/17: Here’s a little bit of extra information for those playing along at home. For the entirety of its run, both tracks were only ever aired in mono. During the initial introduction when the schools broadcast started for that day, the first minute of “The Journey” would always be played, before fading out to the clock. This recording was of a fixed length, and the audio was taken from the left channel track, and every other broadcast would be played from the right.

The reason for this, is that the left channel had slightly less instrumentation around the intro, so it could be made to sound more “peaceful” to start the day.