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
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.
2. The Vicar Of Dibley
TITLE: The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23)
COMPOSED BY: Howard Goodall
SUNG BY: Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford
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!
TITLE: Love Is Like A Butterfly
SUNG BY: Clare Torry
LYRICS: Dolly Parton
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
TITLE: What Does He see In Me?
COMPOSED BY: Charles Hart
SUNG BY: Emma Wray
LYRICS: Charles Hart
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.
TITLE: Serious Profession
COMPOSED BY: Omar
SUNG BY: 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?