THE SOUND OF TV WITH NEIL BRAND (2020)
In the opening episode, Neil Brand looks at the enduring power of the television theme tune and the way in which it has acted as the ‘nation’s jukebox’ for over 60 years. On the streets of an iconic television landmark, Coronation Street, he encounters a brass band playing the music that has announced the start of each episode of the show since it began.
Following the trail of the soap opera world, he meets composer Simon May, creator of the EastEnders theme tune. Neil shows how our deep connection with TV music starts in childhood by revisiting some of his own bygone favorites and listening to the folk tunes of Bagpuss composers Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner.
He then travels to the streets of Merseyside to celebrate the endurance of the theme from Z Cars, and traces the cop/detective genre through the music of 60s legend John Astley. We discover the little-known world of library music with obsessive collector Jonny Trunk, seeing how tunes from library records went on to brand long-loved staples such as Mastermind and Grandstand.
Finally, Neil travels to the US to talk with Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, to uncover how its orchestrated theme music is a homage to classic TV of the past. Neil also visits the studio of Ramin Djawadi, the composer behind the epic sound of one of today’s biggest blockbuster series, Game of Thrones. (00:59:07)
Neil Brand looks at the impact of television music, this time not what was composed for the programmes themselves, but the music that surrounds them – jingles, idents and advertising, all of which play a huge part in our television memories.
Neil revisits the earliest days of BBC television, when the first-ever musical ident for Auntie was created in the 1950s, and when the spaces between programmes were filled with musical interludes such as the infamous potter’s wheel and, of course, the test card. Bob Stanley of cult band Saint Etienne explains the significance of this music to generations, surprisingly showing how long-forgotten test card tunes are sampled in huge-selling American hip-hop records.
With the advent of commercial television in the UK, ITV rivalled the BBC for airtime and lured viewers in with the new language of advertisements. But these had not yet reached the impact they had seen in the USA, the home of the TV jingle, where a 30-second tune could make or break a brand, as seen in the competing fortunes of Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
Flying west to Las Vegas, Neil meets the most successful jingle singer of all time, Linda November, the unseen voice behind thousands of TV spots and countless hours of high-rating television. He sees how short musical phrases known as stings evolved to brand an increasing range of TV channels in the more competitive world of multi-platform television. And finally, Neil hits the studio with maverick brand composers Jingle Punks to record a jingle that sums up the very heart of the series - Neil Brand himself. (00:59:05)
In television’s early years, specially composed music, otherwise known as the score, which had driven big-budget movies for decades, rarely featured. In this final episode of the series, we see how the importance of a TV score grew, from its origins in the 1960s and 1970s, to reach a peak in the big-budget world of premium cable content providers.
Neil Brand reveals that his first exposure to the impact of a score on television was in the documentaries of Jacques Cousteau, bringing adventure and drama to the natural world. He demonstrates how music has driven the success of BBC natural history programmes, talking with George Fenton, the film composer behind such landmarks as Blue Planet. Fenton was also pivotal in the development of music in TV drama, with his score for Jewel in the Crown. We learn how these breakthrough drama series competed with cinema in their scale and ambition.
We also meet some maverick creators of the TV score, including Roxy Music’s Andy MacKay, who wrote the songs that powered radical 70s drama Rock Follies, and David Chase, music buff and creator of The Sopranos. Neil gets to write his own score with Signature Tracks - the team behind some of the biggest successes of US reality TV such as Real Housewives and the Kardashian series.
Finally, we see how the television score has now been forced to compete with the movies in huge blockbuster series such as Stranger Things and Game of Thrones. (00:58:57)