Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the associations of music

Take any British person my age or thereabouts, and play them Booker T and the MGs' Soul Limbo. They will immediately think of cricket. Play them Fleetwood Mac's The Chain, starting at 3:00. Their first thought will be of motor racing. Play them the aria Nessum Dorma, and they'll think of 1990, and the football World Cup.
This came up recently in discussion between the LA and I. I still can't stand Nessun Dorma, because of its overplaying during the World Cup of 1990. The LA pointed out that in the US, it's more likely to be something akin to Gary Glitter which is associated with sporting events... which led to my remembering the one hit the Timelords had, back in the late 1980s, which came about the way it did because the Doctor Who theme was in 3/4 time.
This led to my doing some searching for the Doctor Who theme, and learning that the 1980s theme (decent, and reminiscent of my childhood even though I never watched Doctor Who) was in fact not the original theme, but a reperformance using synthesisers. The current theme, of course, is another re-do. The original theme, however, is utterly wonderful. I can well believe that a mother wrote to the Radio Times complaining that it had terrified her son; it's still exceedingly spooky, even today. When taking into account its genesis, it's an astounding piece of work; it was hand-assembled, note by note, and mixed down by means of multiple almost-synchronised tape players, with each line having been put together with lots of razorblade and stickytape use. Compsed in 1963, it still sounds like the future. Reportedly, the composer's reaction on hearing it for the first time was "Did I really write that?"


  1. Ah yes the wonder days of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Where it really was sellotape and whatever you could think of to make a sound.

    Thinking of Fleetwood Mac, I never did find out where Pete Green and his lady went when they left this town - I sold him several books in the shop where I was.

  2. I can't listen to a certain Sousa march without thinking of Monty Python, and I had no idea it was the Eagles that was used as the theme to HHGTTG.

    On sports related tv shows nowadays that I manage not to avoid, I recognize loops from the latest Sony loop libraries.


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