TVS TUNESMITH [Radio Times article] 31.1.63

Starting off a year when Grainer exhibited a wide variety of composing styles from sound collages to big band to electronic with rhythms that swung from frantic to laid back was this Radio Times article by Philip Blake about "the man who writes theme music to measure". 

A number of Grainers most popular  TV tunes are mentioned including  some that are virtually unknown today like "No Wreath For the General", "Six Proud Walkers", "Its A Square World", "Oliver Twist" and "The Old Curiosity Shop". 

The write-up then goes on to list his scores for the films "A Kind Of Loving", "Some People", "Dock Brief" and "We Joined The Navy" and intriguingly a developing stage musical called "The King Of Spades".

There is a paragraph where "the hallmark of a Grainer themes  ingenious instrumentation" is explored revealing that for the long lost "Six Proud Walkers" series he "used a small jazz section with a solo from Tubby Hayes" for "Maigret" "a French street musician's accordion" and for another non archived series "Oliver Twist" "a penny whistle and a tiny calliope organ" - neither instrument used in The Eagles recording of that particular tune. 

There is also some background detail on the "Steptoe and Son" theme that "was originally written to fit a length of film of a horse and cart moving at a certain tempo". 

The article ends with reference to Grainer appearing in an episode of  "It's A Square World" "heavily disguised as a Japanese violinist -'playing as a matter of fact a Chinese violin'. 

THE LAUNCHING [1963 broadcast date unknown]

Documentary illustrating the various processes involved in having a new business registered on the British Stock Exchange. [1]

SHOPPING DAY [1963 broadcast date unknown]

Documentary revealing the many daily activities of a large grocery selling organisation and its warehouses, packing stations and research laboratories. [2] 

THE MOUSE ON THE MOON film [7.5.63]

In the 1962 documentary "The Titans" relations between superpowers USA and USSR were examined. "Mouse" take a satirical look at the same subject as the Prime Minister of the worlds smallest country Grand Fenwick - 5 miles by 3 7/8 - attempts to extract a large loan from the USA government for a non existent rocket to the moon project with the real motive being to use the money to install a castle hot water system.

Grainer's quirky opening credits theme makes use of ticking clocks, upset bottles, the steam organ from the "Some People" song, a flute, a calypso rhythm and a brass band.

"Mouse On The Moon" Wikipedia Article

THE RUNNING MAN [unknown release date May 1963]

When the most lasting memory of a film is how scrawny Laurence Harvey's beach physique was in 1963 it is not a good sign but Grainer's opening titles music is nothing if not kinetic. LOUD tympani drums, flighty bongos, hysterical jazz flute and claustrophobic trumpets, arrangement ideas that were later incorporated in a much more disciplined fashion in his far superior "The Finest Hours", "The Prisoner" and "Only When I Larf" themes.

Alan Bates has a not very demanding support role as a taxation investigator while veteran soundtrack composer William Alywyn wrote all the incidental music.

THE KINGS BREAKFAST short film [Cannes Film Festival 9 - 23 May 63]

The king of an unnamed country is annoyed because butter wasn't available for spreading on his morning toast. His staff try to find him some and eventually they do. 

Not the most profound plots but somehow the combination of pioneering British female film director and choreographer Wendy Toye, satirical cartoonist turned set designer Ronald Searle and composer Grainer turned this whimsical, some would say trite,  royalty watching two minute poem by A A Milne into a 28 minute slapstick, ballet and mime featurette invited for screening at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.

Grainers frantic Klezmar via Spike Jones and the City Slickers style score is perhaps a look back to his Allen Brothers and June cabaret days.

Colour photos taken on the set give a good guide to what a remastered version of the film would look like

Samples of "The Kings Breakfast" drawings and photos

The BFI database list of characters for this mini musical show the poem was expanded to other ideas and story lines relating to interpersonal relations within a castle environment. There is no Master of the King's Music, Magician, Chamberlain, Gym Instructor, Serpent Player, Musician [several] or "Tweeney" in the original text but there is in this version.

In his 1990 biography of Ronald Searle writer and broadcaster Russell Davies devotes several paragraphs to a previous Toye / Searle musical special " On the Twelfth Day [of Christmas]" [1953] a chaotic Monty Python like literal illustrating of the lyrics to the traditional Christmas carol with numerous instances of Searle's twisted visual imagination and a still very valid anti - consumerism message. [3]

This mini- musical with its 28 minute continuous Grainer score is passed over with one sentence "In the summer [1962] Toye's team came to Paris to discuss designs for a new film "The Kings Breakfast" shot at Shepperton Studios that autumn" [4]

Producer Jack le Vien was so impressed by Grainer's music for "Breakfast" he offered him the soundtrack for the 1964 Winston Churchill documentary "The Finest Hours" [5]


An interesting example of the quality of fully realised music written by Grainer for a TV project before and after a director cuts it for their own purposes. Issued as an EP in both mono and stereo the contrast between the studio recordings of melodic highlights from the original score and the  broadcast sound of what was used in the documentary is considerable. It is difficult at times to recognise many of the compositions in their video placement as an irritating voice-over persistently destroys any sense of melodic structure. 

The documentary was re-issued as a dvd with sharp visuals and clear audio remastering under the name "Awesome Giants Of Steam" in 2004.


30 minute documentary that concentrated solely on Ron Grainer his working methods and sources of inspiration "in an effort to discover how he approaches his work and what tricks, if any, he has up his sleeve. Also present will be a studio orchestra of 15 musicians ready to demonstrate that theme music has a considerable effect on the viewer although this may be partly subconscious". [6]

Because it is a documentary this program is not listed on 
the Lost UK TV Shows Search Engine so it is not known if an archived copy still exists. 

THE CARETAKER [Berlin Film Festival June 63]

An enigmatic Harold Pinter examination of the shifting relationships between three loners. A man who is squatting in a cluttered room in an abandoned house, his possibly mentally disturbed brother and a street tramp offered a bed in exchange for house sitting duties. Nothing much happens onscreen as far as a story goes but there are hints something of significance to the wider community is being examined.

Following 1962's "A Kind of Loving" Grainer's second full soundtrack score for a screenplay starring Alan Bates was controversial. No musical instruments were used only sound effects positioned so as to increase not decrease the dramatic tension. This was one of the reasons the film initially had difficulty finding a distributor. Grainer's "Giants Of Steam" experience with the Radiophonic Workshop would have helped him with this commission.

Forced to be bankrolled by its writer. director, producer and three actors because the unusual subject matter and production choices scared potential distributors away the film budget also had to have extra financing by showbiz friends such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Noel Coward and Peter Sellers.

Nevertheless Director Clive Donner achieved the formidable task of visually expanding the Harold Pinter play to the wide screen without losing the sense of confinement so important to the stories emotional impact and the movie consequently won a Silver Bear award at the 1963 Berlin International Film Festival. [7]  

THE HOME MADE CAR [Berlin Film Festival June 63]

Twenty Seven minute dialogue free short about a man who restores, in his home garage and a local service station station workshop, a vintage blue 1923 Morris Oxford car from parts he found in a scrap yard

Rejected in favour of a rival in a flashy sports car the man eventually wins the heart of his beautiful neighbour and forms an alliance with the mischievous neighborhood child who almost sabotaged the project.

Financed by BP Petroleum and often used as a colour TV test pattern in the lead up to the BBC 2 transmissions the bulk of the score is suitably metallic cool jazz based on Grainer's "Mexican Marmalade" composition. [8] 

There is a passing reference to the "Steptoe and Son" theme in a sequence where some of the home mechanics hard found bits and pieces have to be rescued from a rag and bone man.

Long held in affectionate regard by British audiences it is currently available for UK limited viewing at the BFI Screen Online website or for purchase as a high definition colour remaster in a DVD collection called "Lunch Hour". 

link to "The Home Made Car" DVD

"Car" was awarded the Silver Bear Award for best short film at the 1963 Berlin Film Festival [9]

PANORAMA [Documentary TV series theme] 23.9.63

A brief article in the UK Daily Express newspaper of 23 September 1963 [p14] stated "The BBCs top news magazine 'Panorama' would be returning tonight with a new signature tune ... written by "Steptoe"'s composer Ron Grainer [and] recorded by a fourteen piece orchestra". 

No reference to this information appears in the offcial BBC history of the Panorama theme.

By the 17th November 1969 when Panorama was first broadcast in colour Grainers theme had been replaced by an excerpt from the Fourth Movement of Rachmaninoff's First Symphony. 

According to the BBC history in 1971 the current theme was adopted. It is based around an intense rift used in the intro to the  romantic Francis Lai song 'Aujourd'hui C'est Toi' as used in the movie "A Man and a Woman"[1966].

DR WHO [BBC 23.11.63]

"I suppose" Ron Grainer said a trifle wistfully "more people know me for Dr Who then anything else" [10] Five decades later the observation still hold true. 

In recent years Radiophonic Workshop employee Delia Derbyshire has been given belated acclaim for her electronic setting of Grainers anchor melody and score but research into the themes history reveals it was very much a one off group effort between Grainer, Derbyshire and engineer Dick Mills. 

Producer Veity Lambert is quoted in a 1963 newspaper article as telling the BBCs Radiophonic Workshop she initially wanted "a new sound ...  way out and catchy" for a new space series she was producing. [11]

For the signature tune Lambert wanted Les Structures Sonores a French experimental music group that amplified the sound of stroking glass rods of various sizes set in a steel base but this was objected to by the BBC TV Music department for financial reasons and the group itself pleaded a full schedule so the job was offered to the Radiophonic Workshop. [12]

The person in charge of the workshop Desmond Briscoe insisted the job be given to Ron Grainer. The newspaper paper article goes on to say "He [Grainer] went to work at his Putney home and three weeks later came back with the required notes written on music manuscript paper". [13]

This information is interesting as a three week meditation on the project seems to disprove the common Internet statement that Grainer didn't think much of the brief but just jotted down a basic tune on a scrap of paper more or less on the spot and left it to others to arrange. 

Brit Movie film enthusiast Gerald Lovell wrote a letter to Grainer in June 1980 containing various questions about his work. Although a copy of the questions was not kept Grainers reply was and in it on the apparent subject of the Dr Who theme Grainers reply was "Yes I was asked to make it completely electronic but I was also specifically asked to make it melodic not just weird effects" and "In the usual way on manuscript paper but with the sound colours for each line defined". 

A recent YouTube live performance video by Les Structures Sonores suggests Grainer and  Derbshire deliberately tried to incorporate the dynamics of the groups unusual harmonic language in the final arrangment of the theme.

In 2011 a London Science Fiction exhibition called "Out Of This World" featured what was claimed to be the original Dr Who manuscript. Photos reproduced online show it spread over two pages and 44 staves the second page covered in detailed dynamics and sound colouring technical notations that only become apparent when this through glass at a side angle image is enhanced by Photoshop embossing.

A not surprising discovery as Grainer had been working earlier in the year with the Radiophonic Workshop on the "Giants of Steam" documentary so probably learnt the basic techniques of arranging for electronic music with that project.

History of the Dr Who Theme

Mark Ayers from the BBC told the editor that he investigated the exhibition document and he believes it was for the disco version. He said no one in the BBC knows where the original Dr Who manuscript score is currently located. 

Popular music is well known for its generational theme songs and there seems to have been a particular rift "in the air" in the early 1960s which various musicians tuned into and adapted for their own projects. 

At the 1963 Cannes Film Festival a movie version of William Golding's book "Lord of the Flies" was shown. Raymond Leppard [born the same day as Grainer - 11 August] wrote a minimalist chant for Golding's lost choir boys to sing. "Kyrie, Kyrie, Kyrie Ellison" [Lord have mercy] This is similar to the mantra of Grainers tune and could be heard as a slow prelude to the more active Dr Who fugue [Time Lord have mercy?].

In 1957 Arthur C Clark published a short story about the discovery of a fundamental note pattern that mesmerized the listener

"Gilbert was sure that a great melody or a hit tune made its impression because in some way it fitted with the fundamental electrical rhythms going on in the brain. One analogy he used "its like a Yale key going into a lock. The two patterns have got to fit before anything happens". [13]

Maybe the Dr Who theme has its broad appeal because it uses such a tonal sequence. 

DESERT ISLAND DISCS [BBC Radio broadcast 25.11.63] [14]

A 30 minute talk and juke box play program that is listed online as "not currently available" which is disappointing as judging by the "available" episodes the format did seem to encourage the featured artist to share considerable autobiographical detail along with their music favourites.

As a working composer Grainer's listening likes would probably change on a daily basis but in the time frame of this list he appears to have been most attracted to Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar and his "Spring Season" recording. A photo of Grainer from around 1963 shows him playing the sitar a radical instrument for a Western session muso to take up at that time and several years before the rapidly evolving 1960s British pop music scene discovered it.

Grainer's remaining selections as broadcast were a quick overview of  Western "serious" music from Gregorian chants to modern jazz:

"The Play Of Daniel Overture" - Medieval Mystery Play 

  New York Pro Musica

"Brandenburg Concerto No 4 in G " - J S Bach 
  Stuttgattgart Chamber Orchestra

"Piano Quintets in F Minor" - Johannes Brahms 
  Borodin Quartet

"Green" from Ariettes Oubliees - Claude Debussy 
  Orchestra de la Suisse Romande

"La Flute Enchantee" from "Scheherazade" - Maurice Ravel 
  Maggie Teyte & Gerald Moore

"Symphonies of Wind Instruments" - Ivor Stravinsky 

 Eastman Symphonic Wind Ensemble

"Flamenco Sketches" 
 Charlie Parker's Reboppers  

Castaway Favourite

"Spring Season" 
  Ravi Shankar 

In this program Grainer gave his favourite book as "Techniques and Civilisation" by Louis Munford and his favourite luxury as a flame opal. 

1963 References
[01]  RonGrainer.org 
[02]  RonGrainer.org 
[03] Russell Davies "Ronald Searle" p109 /110 
[04] Russell Davies "Ronald Searle" p140 
[05] "Move Over Rodgers" Australian Womens Weekly 5th August 1964 p9

[06] Evening Times Glasgow 25.5.1963 p4
[07]  http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/443431/index.html  the caretaker berlin silver bear award 
[08] http://www.oldclassiccar.co.uk/forum/phpbb/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=6766 Mexican Marmalade
[09] http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/1351292/index.html home made car silver bear award
[10] "The Music Man" The Age Melbourne 17 June 1966 p2
[11] "Veritys Tune Is Way Out -  Of This World" Daily Mirror 7.12.63 p12 
[12] "Special Sound" Louis Niebur. Oxford University Press 2010 p97
[13] Arthur C Clark "The Ultimate Melody" 1957
[14] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p009y531