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Children's Television Themes From A Parallel Dimension

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'Children's Television Themes From A Parallel Dimension' by Steve Christie's wRong

Blog post by Steve Christie, engineer and session musician at Vintage Keys Studio

I released CTVTFAPD on the 13th October 2003, and with a band of female musicians (apart from me) I played a couple of low-key, but well attended gigs to promote it. 

 L to R: Claire Small, Erica Longley, Leigh Jerwood and Steve Christie

L to R: Claire Small, Erica Longley, Leigh Jerwood and Steve Christie

Over the next few years it achieved some kind of funny cult status - in the heyday of MySpace it was all over the place, and I had some random phonecalls from the likes of Brian Cant and Toni Arthur (of Playaway fame) who were very interested.   In 2007, I was invited by Stuart Maconie's Freak Show to go on with my band and play some tracks live... sadly, I didn't have an actual band at the time, it was just me being a multi-tracker, but it was nice that it was being noticed nevertheless.

The album has recently gone onto iTunes and to coincide with this slightly polished, edited and remixed version (the original DIRTY version is still available on stevechristie.bandcamp.com) I thought I would write a bit about how the record came to be,  how it was made, who played on it, and what, and how, and include some of the short promo films we made at the time (see below.)  Several customers have asked for a vinyl version - one day when I have saved up...  I did have a limited edition of just 2 7" EPs made once, but they have since vanished.  

 

CONCEPTION

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In the winter of 2002 I bought two Pelham puppet Wombles from an antique shop and placed them, drunk-looking, against a wall.   I imagined what it would have been like if the Wombles had actually been a load of child-unfriendly alcoholics, and I came up with a spoof tv theme for it called 'The Winos'... (I didn't ever finish that one)  Many of my childhood memories of television programmes were tinged with fear, as there was a lot to be scared of in 1970s kids tv programming. With all this in mind, 'Children's Television Themes From A Parallel Dimension' was born and I set to work putting together some silly pretend tv show titles and a synopsis of each.

COMPOSITION

Aside from a couple of tracks, namely 'Creative Play' (written in 1990 when I was 14 - and performed in a school production in 1991, much to most people's horror) and 'Skipping Club' (written and recorded 1988 in the school's music room with an Akai 4000D reel to reel and an Aiwa cassette deck wired up back to front) all of the other music for this album was written in a very short space of time in June 2003.   I came up with the majority of the music, with Dave Purse of Betika contributing the music to 'Firebird', 'Biscuits and Hurt', 'Hundreds, Tens and Units' and 'Bloons.'  Much of the flute music (e.g. 'Witches Mildren' and 'Lucy and the Sundial') was inspired by listening to Claire Small playing and practising around the house.  'Witches Mildren' in particular was fiendishly hard to play on the flute, but Claire managed it with ease.  Listen to the Witches Mildren 12 inch extended remix (track 41 on iTunes remaster) which was a later mix produced for a proposed EP on Regale Records that sadly didn't happen. 

 

For some of the tunes, they are direct pastiches of extant material - such as 'Stop It! Shut Up! and Listen!' which is a take on 'Stop! Look! and Listen!', and the obvious 'Playgroup'.... A HORSE? WITH A HANDBAG!

RECORDING

The majority of tracking, and all the mixing and mastering was done at my home studio, near Esso in Fawley, Southampton.

 Steve and Claire at Dodo Studio, Fawley, 2003

Steve and Claire at Dodo Studio, Fawley, 2003

Basic tracks for 'Biscuits That Hurt' and 'Grandfattylonglegs' were recorded at Dave Purse's nan's house in Burley, New Forest (where we had previously recorded Betika's 'Head Smashed In By The Boy/Girl Thing' album)

 

Here is a list of the equipment I used:

VS1680 Digital Audio Workstation
Fostex 812
PC with Windows 98 running Cubase  (Dave used Emagic Logic)
Rogers Upright Piano
Hammond M102 (played at half speed on some tracks so as to sound faster on replay - namely 'Tomorrow Pylons') 
Revox B77 (for tape echo)
Mason and Hamelin Reed Organ (circa 1885)
Roland RD500 
Pearl 5 piece drumkit
Roland U20 PCM synth with cards
Akai S01 and S20 samplers with mellotron and chamberlin samples
Fender Strat
Tokai Bass
Fender Gemini Acoustic
Leslie speaker (cut from an old hammond organ with a tree saw and wired up to the Hammond M102)
MFB Synth Lite (midi) - a very versatile little monosynth - listen to 'Smack and Learn' - that is all done on this synth, a la Wendy Carlos
Stentor Cello
Lamy Violin (called Trevor) 
Novation Bass Station
Yairi Classical Guitar (c. 1970)
Broken Chime Bars
Biscuit Tin
Biscuits and Drawing Pins rustled in the hand
Glockenspiel
 
Aside from the bits I played, Claire Small played  all the flute parts, apart from Rose Hooper who played on, and co-wrote 'Human Biology'
Carolyn Evans played the Oboe
Dave Purse played guitar, drums, bass , trumpet or keys on 'Firebird', 'Things Aint What They Used To Be', 'Biscuits That Hurt', 'Grandfattylonglegs' and computer on 'Bloons' and 'Hundreds, Tens and Units'
Cadland Junior School said 'YEAHHHHHHHHHH' on 'Whats the Matter' 
Colin and Jan provided the studio.
 

TRACKLISTING and PROGRAM SYNOPSES

Do you remember the good old days? when the sun was always shining, and after school you'd dash home to catch the latest episode of Danny Byron, The Tomorrow Pylons,Grand fatty long legs, or the classic Nannygoat Of The North?

No? Neither do I.

A Trip Down Damaged Memory Lane

Steve Christie, a multi-instrumentalist, composer and sound engineer and wRong, his team of talented musicians present a new 40 track collection of television themes that could have existed during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, but didn't. Living off authentic boxed air from each year in question, the boys (ok, and girls) went to a studio back in time, and created some beautiful sounds out of analogue tape and synthesizers, cellos and kitchenware.

"Children's Television Themes..." - a melodious journey through the uncharted regions of TV's subconscious archives.

 

What they have said of CTVTFAPD...

"Really fab - my fave was probably 'Headscarf'." - 
Robert Popper, of BBC TV's "Look Around You"

"One of the most original pieces of classic Englishness in pop it's been my pleasure to hear in a long time" - 
Mike Alway, of El Graphic.

"I love it! just my cup of tea, and totally up my street, i adore these esoteric, cheesy, lounge, library sounds, i can't enough of it" - 
Mr Scott

WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE SYNOPSIS FOR EACH TV THEME, AND SOME HAVE ACCOMPANYING VIDEOS.  THE FULL ALBUM CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE FROM STEVECHRISTIE.BANDCAMP.COM or Streamed on Spotify etc. 

1. Playgroup (1976) 

For many people, this show was probably the first thing they remember seeing on television. Do you remember it? Bad. Encouraged voyeurism amongst younger viewers. Children should be quiet.

2. The Tomorrow Pylons (1972)
A trio of kids read in the paper that there will be pylons in the woods near their home tomorrow, and sure enough, the next day pylons appear, but who is responsible? A six part series from 1972 featuring Janet Reigns, Torta O'Grady, Damien Lamphart, and a whole host of early BBC special video effects. Very dull and very boring.

3. Peter And The Clown (1977) 
Peter is being bullied, and is so miserable that he bunks off school one rainy morning, and visits the fairground. There he meets Amazing Bill the clown - together they embark on a series of adventures where they teach Peter's adversaries a lesson by frightening them with knives. A mini-series from OTV's late seventies education programme "Stop It! Shut Up! and Listen!"

4. Smack And Learn (1978)

An educational programme for 7-11 year olds about the Dewey Decimal Index and behaviour codes in libraries - if you talk in the library you will get a big smack with a slipper! "Read quietly Children, or Fat Mrs Reynolds will get you! Shhh!"

 

 
5. Headscarf (1969)
Rhona's dad left when she was six, and since then her and her mum had been living in near poverty in a miserable flat in a small coastal village near Brighton. Rhona walks home from school one day to find her mum's plastic headscarf blowing about, and all sorts of horrible thoughts go through her head… will she ever see her mum again? Hoped to have been lost for many years, this classic from 1969 was recently unearthed from a landfill site near Aylesbury.

 

6. Perishing Kids (1975)
Short mid-seventies series made by the newly formed Thames Productions. The local sweet shop is plagued by light-fingered children - the shopkeeper's son gets even with his sparrowhawk.

7. Danny Byron (1976)
All the girls love Danny - he can click his fingers better than all the other guys - romance, love and letdowns in an after-school Percussion Club. "You are watching aren't you?" - yes we most certainly are!

8. Shoes Of A Stork (1982) 
Cartoon made by the award winning Cosworth Hall company, about a baby-delivering, tax dodging stork with bunions - had a vast collection of handy shoes for all occasions, and many off-shore bank accounts. Music by Play Group's Eric Griffiths.

9. Beak* (1977)

Factual programme which had a successful run from 1977 to 1980. You could learn anything and everything from this fun show, provided you could read semaphore code. Had a few sets of presenters, all of which were mute and waved their arms in fury trying to communicate to the viewers. Many will remember the stop-frame animated opening titles featuring pens, string, pylons and free school milk.

10. Vet Rescue (1983)

A live-action drama centred around the A&E ward of a London Hospital for injured vets. A particularly nasty episode featured a man who had been slapped by a ferocious albatross.

11. Pebble Mill At Once! (1982)

Technically not a Children's show, but it will be remembered for the days when you were faking a stomach upset lying on the sofa with your bed sheets.

12. Sparrow's End (1980)

Nobody liked Gareth the Sparrow, because he was different from the rest of the birds. A very sad cartoon narrated by Tim Brooke-Shields. Did a lot for the gay bird movement of the early eighties - many Sparrows came out of the closet as a result of this.

13. Grandpa (1983)

Program about an old fool played by Clive Dull - a bad caretaker took all his money, but he still didn't mind, just so long as he could walk that walk and talk that talk! "Things may be bad, but make sure you stay happy kids, and keep 'em swinging!"

14. Lucy And The Sundial (1984)

Lucy's adventures of time travel, mystery, ghosts and Phillip.

15. Hundreds, Tens and Units** (1972)

A short mathematical theme created by the BBC Radiology Workshop.

16. Human Biology Is Fun and Embarrassing!*** (1977)

Fred Harrass and Sheilagh Gilbert giving children frank information on their bodies and all of the weird and wonderful things they could do. The cigarette episode was particularly memorable.

17. Jamie And The Prog Rock Dog Detectives (1976)

Jamie and Tennyson the Dog's cartoon adventures in the land of cartoon drugs and alco-pops. Featured Drunken Stanley the Binge-Monger.

18. One By One The Animals Die (1983-2003)
The title speaks for itself - a vet's practice in Highgate, London opened its doors for this highly popular show, with the ups and downs of a pet euthanasia department.

 

 

19. Play It Safe with Frisby The Duck (1980)

Brian Rigsby, with his high-arched glasses and eyes like Church windows, showing you the smells of domestic accidents with burning wire, rubber and a fine feathered side-kick with scary wings.

20. Children's Film Foundation Opening Titles (1969)

This piece was used for all the opening shots of the series of films made for kids in the late 60s/early 70s. Classics like "Brown Pew", "Jimmy the Bull" and "Waking Up Mummified" would not have been the same without the great swinging music, as supplied by Max Winkel. 

21. Glove Puppet Mouse(1971)

A program full of cardboard, glue, feathers and seaweed - thrown onto a table in a heap. Spaced out tree-dweller Joe Richards played the bald beardy presenter "Yappy". Characters included Glove Puppet Mouse, Glove Puppet Mammoth, the Great Albatross, and not forgetting - Whale. Such was the working practices back in 1971, the entire series of 13 episodes was filmed in one day, and at the very end, "Yappy" killed everyone in the studio, and then himself.

22. Creative Play (1973)

A series created and presented by some balds, with some humourous sketches and songs - "always time for the party hats". A great show to lift your spirits. Whether you're with friends, or on your own - don't have nightmares.

23. The Saturday Custard Pie Cucumber (1980)

The weekend is here! Hooray! Chuck a custard pie!… no, better still, let's aim this Ford Cortina at the Off-licence and go for a smash and grab!

24. Me' Dad, 'Ee's A Murderer (1985)

"My mother, who's a Police Detective" said the little girl in the classroom, every single episode - little Johnny's dad was a murderer, and his brother Albert kept the dead in bin-bags in the cellar as fertiliser for his special mushrooms. All Johnny wanted was a little fluffy dog, but his sister kept skinning them to wear as jumpers. Our Albert had big fluffy eyebrows.

25. Firebird* (1986) 
Here we have the theme from a Japanese cartoon about a futuristic 2- dimensional warlord - loving the women! Fighting against evil! Strength of a bear, courage of a lino! [lion - ed]


26. Grand Fatty Long Legs (1970)

Grand Fatty was a cartoon daddy longlegs dog, very fat and round, could barely fly - but mummy, daddy and little ratty long legs dog all took turns in throwing him into the air, or pumping him up full of hydrogen, anything to help him become airborne. In the last episode he burst and died.

27. Biscuits That Hurt** (1977)

Biscuits that hurt, Clothes That hurt, Pillows that hurt - a science program for primary age children, investigating the best way to live a safe and healthy life. Don't put shrapnel into your biscuits - Johnny Spalls demonstrates why.

28. What's The Matter? (1983)

Marc Bowlan presented this classic kids panel game, where a young child was placed in the centre of the studio, and made to cry by Frightening Pelican. The red and the blue teams then had to guess what was wrong. The more the teams got wrong, the more the child cried, and the more the Pelican laughed with wicked delight!

29. Skipping Club (1978)

Beginning with the ident from "British Bang Productions", here is the chime-bar extravaganza that accompanied the sports warm-up show. Showing you all the great exercises, but not actually ever getting down to any sport because the warm up was so tough. "It's a tough game, son, so best not take part, eh?"

30. Dendrology Club (1973)

The study of trees was big business in 1973, so much so that a really fascinating quiz-show was developed. Cliff Michaelmore presented.

31. Hair In A Bun (1971)

A group of ageing shop-assistants with hair in buns scream at the local hooligans who attempt to dress their shop-dummies in the most ridiculous outfits! Ha ha ha!

32. Hey Look! That's My Dentist! (1981)

Christopher Parris tours the country ready to pounce on someone from his mobile pink dentist's surgery towed by a bicycle. Could it be you this week? The opening titles featured his mum who he had buried under floorboards at his house, and week by week his dad would keep trying to give her a kiss, but Christopher always managed to interject with the words to the theme song, and the dad would look very angry and chase him down the street.

33. Bloons** (1979)

Another from the Radiology Workshop, this series had a group of children playing, but being secretly hunted by wolves.

34. Witches Mildren (1976)

Creepy woman presenter from 1973's "Creative Play" produced this show for kids all about modern witchcraft! Get your free pentangle and scourge on the front of this week's Television Times!

35. Nuts, Bolts and Screws (1972)

A BBC Birmingham programme that showed close up industrial shots of automated factory machines making various items. To add a bit of interest, the machines' different parts talked to each other. The end result was always pleasing.

36. Stop It, Shut Up, and Listen! (1973) 

Opening sequence that accompanied many different mini-series. This one featured a cartoon of a man with crazy rainbow eyes. 

37. Roy's Bouncy Castle (1969)

Silent out-takes from Hammer Horror films were edited together to form this weird 5 minute show for kids.

38. Things Aint What They Used To Be (1982)

An old man who fought in both wars who bored everyone senseless by saying "you don't know you're born", and "they don't make 'em like that anymore". Kids would get aggrevated and set fire to his garden.

39. The Boy With The Luminous Pants (1983)

Ghost tale which sent many a shiver down your back as you ate your spaghetti shapes on toast - one of the first programmes to be shown as part of Children's OTV.

40. The End (1975)

Thames Productions' ident brings this transmission to a close. Don't forget to switch off.

 

Now you have read all about it... why not have a listen?