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Ten British TV Comedy Theme Songs We Sang Along To

The first post of 2015! yay! I hope everyone’s new year has got off to an amazing start.

One of the best things about growing up in Britain is the multitude of comedy shows that this country has produced over the years, many of which have gone on to become classics and are well known all over the world. As much as I enjoy sitcoms, comedy shows, and stand-up from any country – just as long as it’s funny – nothing beats the British sense of humour, which explains why I love so many of our sitcoms. Only Fools And Horses, Fawlty Towers, One Foot In The Grave, Keeping Up Appearances – all fantastic!

However with many shows, it’s not just the show, the characters and the actors that are memorable, but most come complete with intros, opening and closing credits and theme tunes that stick in your mind. They’ll having you singing along with the beginning and end of each show, and it’ll probably have you singing the theme song for days. I still can’t get some of these theme songs out of my head years later!

So I’ve compiled a list of ten of the most memorable theme songs from British comedy series. There are a few comedies here that have been locked away in the ‘long lost’ vault but they’ve thankfully been found and I’m sure they’ll have you going, “Oh yeah! I remember that!” And for those of you who noticed that some of your favourite theme tunes were not mentioned in Ten TV Show Theme Tunes We Loved Singing Along To, just remember there’ll be plenty more lists cropping up in the future!

1. Dear John

TITLE: Dear John

COMPOSED BY: John Sullivan (show’s writer) and Ronnie Hazelhurst

SUNG BY: Joan Baxter

YEAR: 1986

No, not the film with the delicious Channing Tatum, but the seriously underrated BBC sitcom of the 1980’s starring the late Ralph Bates as a divorcé who joins a club for the divorced and separated in the hope of making friends and finding love. Much of the humour comes from the bunch of oddballs he befriends. The Americans did a remake of this series which lasted four series but I much prefer the British version. Sorry!

Dear John is a comedy which is very dear to my heart and brings back lots of memories, not just of the show but of my childhood and the eighties in general. I recently came across some comments which stated that the theme song for Dear John was probably the most depressing and dreary of all the theme songs out there. Well now that they mention it, I suppose it is. But then when you think that the show is about a divorced man who has lost everything to his ex-wife after she ran off with his best friend and now has to live in a tiny bedsit, well we couldn’t have a theme tune that got us up and dancing now, could we? The song fits in with the ethos of the show. Because it has a 1920s feel to it, I assumed that it was a really old song but it was actually written by the show’s creator John ‘Only Fools’ Sullivan.

Fantastic song!

2. The Vicar Of Dibley

TITLE: The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23)

COMPOSED BY: Howard Goodall

SUNG BY: Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

YEAR: 1994

How I love this comedy! Beginning in 1994, Dawn French is amazing as the female vicar who takes over a parish church in the heart of a rural community – and finds that many of her new parishioners have more than a few eccentricities between them. I watched the trailer for the show and thought it looked quite funny – I wasn’t wrong and I wasn’t disappointed!

When you think about The Vicar of Dibley, you think about three things: the stunning countryside; the barmy characters, and that distinctive theme tune, The Lord is my Shepherd by Howard Goodall, who has also worked on the themes for Blackadder, The Borrowers, Red Dwarf, and Mr Bean among many others. The theme song was based around Psalm 23 and was performed by the choir of Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral. Originally Goodall had composed this song as a serious piece of church choral music – it hadn’t initially been intended for use as the theme of a hit comedy show. But more than twenty years later, viewers can see that the enchanting theme song fits in beautifully with the series.

Oh, just remembered a fourth thing: the joke between Alice and Geraldine at the end of every episode!

3. Butterflies

TITLE: Love Is Like A Butterfly

SUNG BY: Clare Torry

LYRICS: Dolly Parton

YEAR: 1974

This show was a bit before my time so I don’t remember it the first time round but I do remember watching Butterflies when it was repeated. It starred Wendy Craig and Geoffrey Palmer who were familiar faces to me, but then I saw a very young Nicholas Lyndhurst who was more than just a little familiar – he was ‘Rodders’ from Only Fools And Horses! Carla Lane’s classic sitcom focuses on a frustrated housewife and her male companion, whose friendship borders on romance, and their will-they-won’t- they antics had viewers gripped.

I had already heard the song Love Is Like A Butterfly before I realised that it was also used as the theme song for Butterflies as it happens to be one of my mother’s favourite songs and she used to sing it all the time. It was a hit in 1974 for American country music legend Dolly Parton, although the version that was used for the opening credits was recorded by British singer Clare Torry, especially for Butterflies. This version was recorded with a band conducted by well-known BBC TV composer Ronnie Hazelhurst.

4. Birds Of A Feather

TITLE: What’ll I Do?

COMPOSED BY: Irving Berlin

SUNG BY:  Linda Robson and Pauline Quirke (from third series onwards)

LYRICS: Irving Berlin

YEAR: 1923

Twenty first century kids will know Birds Of A Feather as an ITV sitcom that’s in its second series. But of course old-timers like myself will remember when the show was first shown on the BBC back in the 1980s and continued until the late nineties. Sisters Sharon and Tracy live in Tracy’s rather luxurious home in Essex while both their husbands are in prison for armed robbery. Tracy’s devastated to be separated from her Darrell, while Sharon couldn’t care less that she’s away from her errant husband Chris. It might sound like all doom and gloom but it is actually hilarious – with the girls’ man-mad neighbour providing much of the entertainment. I never missed an episode of this sitcom when I was growing up.

The show used Irving Berlin’s wonderfully moving What’ll I Do as the theme tune for the first two series. From the third series onwards, a version sung by Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson, who play Sharon and Tracy, was used.

5. Bread

TITLE: Bread Theme Song

COMPOSED BY: David Mackay

SUNG BY: The Bread Cast

LYRICS: David Mackay

Carla Lane had another hit on her hands with this classic sitcom from the 1980s. This used to be on Sunday evenings but I’m pretty certain that some series may also have been broadcast during weekday nights.

The sit-com focuses on the trials and tribulations of the Boswell family and their efforts to muddle through life with very little money – which often resulted in underhand tactics. I thought Grandad was hilarious, and the contempt of the lady from the DSS for the Boswell family was amusing

The theme song was composed by David Mackay and featured the vocals of the cast of Bread.

6. Desmond’s

TITLE: Don’t Scratch My Soca

COMPOSED BY: John Collins

SUNG BY: Norman Beaton

LYRICS: Trix Worrell

This seriously funny comedy was set in a barber shop in Peckham, owned by a Caribbean family, the Ambroses. The shop was a place for many of the local. lively and interesting characters in the show to congregate and share stories. It reminds me of the area of North-West London where I grew up. The local barber shops seemed to be the meeting point for many of the menfolk in our town, and it was very evident that there were more friends and relatives in the  shop than paying customers and it was a place where many of the male members of the community gathered together, and it had something of a social club vibe.

The theme tune was very familiar to us when we were growing up – some of my classmates knew all the words to the song. It had a soca vibe which reflected the Ambrose family’s Trinidadian roots. It was very upbeat and uplifting which reflected the liveliness of the characters and the business of the shop. There was never a dull moment at Desmond’s!

7. Streets Apart

TITLE: Streets Apart

COMPOSED BY: David Mackay

SUNG BY: Neil Lockwood

LYRICS: David Mackay

YEAR: 1988

Sylvie and Bernie were childhood sweethearts who dated and drifted apart, taking different directions in life. They meet almost twenty years later and try to pick up where they left off… but it’s not easy when you’re now different people each with a different set of circumstances.

I love this comedy written by Adrienne Conway. Almost thirty years on, it’s still very watchable – but it makes me yearn for the 1980s! It had been a long time since I first watched the show, but as soon as I heard those opening bars of the theme, it was instantly recognizable and transported me back to my childhood. The lyrics for this tender theme tune are full of longing, wistfulness and second chances. And Neil Lockwood’s amazing vocals do this song justice.

8. Just Good Friends

TITLE: Just Good Friends

COMPOSED BY: Ronnie Hazelhurst

SUNG BY: Paul Nicholas

LYRICS: John Sullivan

YEAR: 1983

Would you seriously consider being friends with your ex? Especially after he jilted you at the alter? Well that’s exactly what Penny Warrender does after her former fiancé Vince Pinner comes back into her life again. The two decide to put the past behind them and become ‘just good friends’ – but the question is, can they ever be just that?

Another one of John Sullivan’s masterpieces, it starred Jan Francis and Paul Nicholas who were huge stars in England back in the 1980s. This sitcom was a firm favourite with my parents so they would regularly tune in, and I do have memories of watching the final ever episode. Nicholas was already an established theatre actor and agreed to do the vocals for the track, written by Sullivan.

9. Watching

TITLE: What Does He see In Me?

COMPOSED BY: Charles Hart

SUNG BY: Emma Wray

LYRICS: Charles Hart

YEAR: 1987

Merseyside couple Brenda and Malcolm are very much chalk and cheese. They come from different backgrounds, have different interests, and completely different personalities. The only thing they have in common is watching: Brenda watches people; Malcolm watches people. It’s no wonder their relationship is more off than on.

I loved watching (scuse the pun!) this sitcom back in the nineties and loved the theme tune which my sister and I used to sing (quite badly!) I think the lyrics are quite fitting for the show. It sums up the fact that Brenda and Malcolm are very different, aren’t exactly consumed with lust and passion, but love each other and belong together.

 

10. Chef

TITLE: Serious Profession

COMPOSED BY: Omar

SUNG BY: Omar

LYRICS: Omar

Now here’s a sitcom I used to watch but totally forgot about! If you think Gordon Ramsay’s got a mouth on him, wait til you meet acclaimed chef, Gareth Blackstock, who struggling to balance his home life with his wife Janice and the demands of running a top restaurant, often gives in to temper tantrums in the kitchen.

The theme tune to Chef! has got to be the coolest theme tune I’ve ever heard to accompany a television show. Funky and upbeat, it’s guaranteed to get you up and dancing, not just singing along. Although of course when it features the smooth vocals of soul superstar Omar, how could it be anything other than cool?

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2015 in Comedy Shows, Name That Tune!, TV Shows

 

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Comfort Food #14: Peach Melba

 

 

Summer is on it’s way out, and along with it some of my favourite fruits which I will not see for another year. Two fruits which I love and have been readily available these last few months are raspberries and peaches – two reasons to love Summer! Needless to say our refrigerator has been stuffed with these fruits, as well as other seasonal goodies, which I’ve put into puddings, fruit salad, or eaten them just as they are.

 

As both raspberries and peaches are the chief ingredients of a peach Melba, it wasn’t long before thoughts turned to this retro pud. As a child I was very familiar with peach Melbas because they were EVERYWHERE! Not only was my mum a huge peach fanatic, but it was also served up in restaurants and at dinner parties; featured in the recipe section of magazines, and appeared on cooking shows. Peach Melba was as common a dessert back in the ’80s as panna cotta is now.

 

But as with many of my childhood desserts, the dish which Nigella Lawson rightly describes as ‘summer on a plate’ went from being everywhere to disappearing without a trace. Even Baked Alaska made an appearance on The Great British Bake Off this week!

Peach Melba is such a delicious dessert which I hope (please, please!) counts towards your five-a-day. Peaches and raspberries are a gorgeous combination and it’s a great way to make use of the two fruits are  in abundance at the moment. It’s just a shame everyone’s forgotten about it!

 

SO WHAT IS PEACH MELBA?

The peach Melba is a simple, well-known, classic dessert. This creamy, cool, and fruity pud consists of vanilla ice-cream, peaches and a raspberry sauce – in some ways, a kind of ice-cream sundae.

 

THE HISTORY BEHIND THE DESSERT

The dessert was first created in the 1890s. it’s something of an international dessert because it was created in London by a French chef – Georges Auguste Escoffier – in honour of the Australian opera singer Nellie Melba who this dish is named after. Incidentally Melba toast is also named after her.

The original peach Melba is believed to have been poached, skinned, and sliced before being sprinkled with sugar and cooled. This was then placed onto vanilla ice-cream and then drizzled with a sweet, seedless raspberry sauce. Escoffier insisted that the dessert should be served in a silver dish.

 

But the version we are more familiar with sees the peach halved before being poached in a sugar syrup.

WHEN WAS IT POPULAR?

I know Peach Melba was all the rage in the 1980s when I was growing up until about the early ’90s. I’m sure it must have been very popular in the preceding decades to but it’s hard to determine when it was at it’s most popular as there’s so little information available.

 

DECLINE IN POPULARITY

It’s not known why this dessert isn’t as popular now as it once was. It’s just simple gone out of fashion just as clothes and hairstyles often do.  It could be that it has quite an old-fashioned image or perhaps it’s considered to be too simplistic and has been ousted by more seemingly sophisticated desserts which everyone now has more of a taste for.

THE LEGACY LIVES ON…

Peach Melba isn’t altogether ‘off the menu.’ Some chefs have revamped the humble Peach Melba for the twenty-first century in terms of appearance and ingredients so it’s shaken off it’s retro image. The combination of peaches and raspberries is still very much used in cooking, which isn’t a surprise because the flavours and colours work so well together. So even though the actual dessert isn’t so common now, the flavour profile is still very much evident, and the fact that any dish containing peaches and raspberries is referred to as ‘Peach Melba’ indicates that this classic pud still continues to live on albeit in a different form. So now we have Peach Melba cheesecakes, trifles, pies, tarts, tortes, ice-creams, roulades, martinis, smoothies, sorbets and even a Peach Melba… Baked Alaska!

 

So if you’d like to set your senses alight to the fabulous flavours and textures of a Peach Melba, here’s a recipe for Nigella Lawson’s take on this pud for you to try.

 

INGREDIENTS:

for the peaches

  • 750 ml water
  • 700 grams caster sugar
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 vanilla pod (split lengthways)
  • 8 peaches

for the raspberry sauce

  • 375 grams raspberries
  • 25 grams icing sugar
  • juice of ½ lemon

to serve

  • 1 large tub vanilla ice cream

METHOD:

  1. Put the water, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla pod into a wide saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Bring the pan to the boil and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes, then turn the pan down to a fast simmer.
  3. Cut the peaches in half, and, if the stones come out easily remove them, if not, then you can get them out later.
  4. Poach the peach halves in the sugar syrup for about 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on the ripeness of the fruit.
  5. Test the cut side with the sharp point of a knife to see if they are soft, and then remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  6. When all the peaches are poached, peel off their skins and let them cool (and remove any remaining stones).
  7. If you are making them a day in advance, let the poaching syrup cool and then pour into a dish with the peaches.
  8. Otherwise just bag up the syrup and freeze it for the next time you poach peaches.
  9. To make the raspberry sauce, liquidize the raspberries, icing sugar and lemon juice in a blender or else a processor.
  10. Sieve to remove the pips and pour this fantastically hued puree into a jug.
  11. To assemble the peach melba, allow two peach halves per person and sit them on each plate alongside a scoop or two of ice cream.
  12. Spoon the raspberry sauce over each one, and put the remaining puce-tinted red sauce in a jug for people to add themselves at the table.

 

 
 

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