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There was a form of TV show that, from an early age, accompanied my Saturday afternoon escapades chasing criminals through the living room, out into the garden and through into the field. Whether a shoot out in the bank (the chicken run) or defending a village under siege from evil gangsters (the camp we made in the hedge down by the ditch), an afternoon of heroics was not complete without suitable imaginary action music accompanying our antics.

Without further ado, here are my top ten cop/action sound tracks.

10. Juliet Bravo

 

For some, their first police drama was Z-Cars. for others, Dixon of Dock Green. For me it was Juliet Bravo.

9. CHiPs

 

It had motorbikes, cops and California. Oh yeah!

8. T.J. Hooker

 

Even though it had Captain Kirk in it, I wanted to be Adrian Zmed. And my first TV crush (Penelope Pitstop aside): Heather Locklear!

7. Airwolf

 

How the hell we ever pretended to be Archangel, Stringfellow Hawke and Santini without a helicopter I have no idea, but we did…

6. The Professionals

Guns and Mullets Part I. It was rough and tough and British.

5. Knight Rider

This is here in tribute to my cool bro Seth, who had a real thing for KITT. And David Hasselhof.

4. Dempsey and Makepeace

Guns and Mullets Part II. I was absolutely and utterly in love with Glynis Barber. There’s nothing else to add.

3. Cagney and Lacey

Like Juliet Bravo, this was one of those rare things – a cop show to watch with your Mum – and one of the most memorable theme tunes of all.

2. Miami Vice

There had been nothing like this on TV when it appeared, with its glamour, guns, drugs and 80s squealing rock guitar.

1. A-Team

If there is one of these theme tunes that has stood the test of time, it is this one. 27 years after the last episode aired, you still here kids humming this one. And I was Hannibal. Seth, of course, was Face.

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From the moment we first start listening to music, we seem to take those we like particularly and build them into the story of who we are. It occurred to me in a moment of holiday reflection that actually, the tunes that were first added to the mental mix tape that is the eternal soundtrack of my life (latterly full of everything from Allegri to Lady Gaga to Heaven’s Basement) came from the cartoons that captivated me in my 70s and 80s childhood.

Whilst I loved the classics – Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny etc – there was a certain form of episodic cartoon that I looked forward to. Coming home from school, that sacred 90 minutes from 4pm to 5.30pm could throw up any one of a number of animated adventures that could enthral a young lad who spent too much time living in his head.

So here, without further ado, my run down of my top ten favourites.

10. The Perils of Penelope Pitstop 

I am sure I wasn’t the only one with a bit of a crush on Ms. Pitstop. And there was something about this tune that just stuck in the brain.

9. Scooby Doo

Daphne ran Penelope a close second. And let’s face it – this was a theme tune we all sang in the playground. Cos we were so cool.

8. Mysterious Cities of Gold

I could never get on with Mysterious Cities of Gold but somehow the tune snuck in and got stuck somewhere around the hippocampus. You have to wait a while to get past the blurb, but it’s worth it. Honest.

7. The Space Sentinels

Before we had a new-fangled Video Cassette Recorder, I remember sitting next to the telly and holding a microphone to the speaker for the duration of an episode. The mic was attached to one of those old flat tape recorders. I swore to anyone who would listen that it was as good as a video recorder (I was a deluded child) and made a point of regularly listening to that one episode over and over again. Oh yes. I was Hercules.

6. Transformers

I have always been a sci-fi geek. These were robots that became cars and planes and lorries. I mean, WTH? That was just too cool. We’d not seen the like – and that song. “Transformers! Robots in disguise…” This one’s for you, little bro.

5.  She-Ra

This one isn’t really worthy of number 5, but I remember it being a very annoying ear worm back in the day. She-Ra, Princess of Power is the sort of character you could imagine Leonard or Sheldon falling for. It also had an annoying winged pony and various cutesy animals in it (as well as lots of androcentric stereotyping of female characters in the fantasy genre). But hey… ‘She-Ra, She-Ra!’

4. Dangermouse

Just how cool was Dangermouse? It’s one of those shows that if I watched now, I am certain would be laden with cool humour and grown-up in-jokes. We’ve all worked with Baron Greenback – and we all know Penfold. Just sayin’.

3. He-Man

He-Man was the ultimate male warrior for all of us playground crusaders. Every playtime for years you would hear kids running around screaming ‘By the power of Grey Skull…’ (prob spelled ‘Gray Skull’ natch). With his cowering lion, one thrust of his sword skyward and he was transformed from the Prince of Eternia into He-Man. ‘I’ve have the powwerrr!’ None of us spotted that he was wearing pink.

2. Dogtanian and the Three Muskerhounds

As ear worms go, this one has the longevity of a cockroach. I’ve no idea when I last saw this on TV but sometimes it still gets into my head and won’t go away. Oh yes. Also, Laura fancied Dogtanian. I am not sure what that says about me. Or her.

1. Battle of the Planets

And finally, my favourite childhood theme of all time. Battle of the Planets! G-Force! Five  acting as one! Mark, Princess, Jason, Tiny and Keyop (the one that burbled)! Yep, I am sure the programme was nowhere near as good as the theme tune, which was a supremely cheesy 70s-style mash-up of action tunes, but when you hear those horns at the beginning… And as for Princess… *sigh*

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The latest series of Horrible Histories has been full of genius moments and memorable, mischievous songs. When it comes to music, between the classical and the metal I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for that 70s guitar sound. I’ve always loved John Denver and Simon and Garfunkel – and the more I see of Horrible Histories the more I think it’s aimed as much at parents of my generation as the kids.

This alternative take on the Viking story is a little different to their earlier rock-out version.

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Yeah, I know I am coming to this party a little later than everyone else, but wow.

Just wow. (If you can’t be bothered reading the text, just look at the video at the bottom.)

Mary Hvizda first walked into the Coalition Drum Shop (what an appropriate name!) a few years ago. Surprised that they let her play, employees recorded her the other day.  The results are something else and give hope to all of us who’ve hit 40 and are wondering what the next 25 years hold in prospect.

WKBT(News 8000) in La Crosse reported that 63-year old Mary Hvizda of Onalaska has been drumming since she was 15:

“I was having a lot of fun,” said Hvizda. “I really was.”

Her love for the drums started many years ago at the age of 15, when she was inspired by her brother to pick up a pair of sticks.

“He was a drummer and I thought I’d really love to play and drum, and that was my chance,” said Hvizda.

She joined the Chantells later that year. They were the first all-girl rock band in La Crosse — pioneers in a male-dominated industry.

“It really took a lot of tolerance with the customers, or other male musicians, to hang in there and to just keep going if they laughed at us or made fun of us,” said Hvizda.

She still plays her old cassette tapes from time to time, as a reminder of life on the road.

“It was like every weekend and sometimes it was like five nights a week, and all kind of locally you know, but I loved it,” said Hvizda.

But Chantells was just the beginning. During the next 25 years, she played in nearly a dozen bands, both in rock and country western.

Then, in about 1990, the band On the Road Again broke up. It would be the last group she’d play with.

“I couldn’t find no other bands to play with, and then I did quit,” said Hvizda.

Soon after, Hvizda sold her last drum set, but she never really lost her love for playing.

“I still kind of like to go to the music store and play a drum set, and then that’s it,” said Hvizda. “My music urge has been satisfied.”

Mary doesn’t have a computer and up until a few days ago, she had no idea what YouTube even was.

“It makes me proud to think that people still think I’m somewhat good and still think I’m still something they’re interested in watching,” said Hvizda.

As for the nickname, “Grandma Drummer” she said that may also take a little getting used to.

“It’s different,” said Hvizda. “I can’t get used to being called Grandma. I’ve never had children of my own and I never got married, but I am 63 and that is certainly grandma’s age,” she laughed.

Throughout her career, Hvizda only played at local bars and high school dances around La Crosse County. She said if there was anyone past or present that she’d love to play for, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn or Reba McEntire.

The Coalition Drum Store is giving Mary her very own electronic drum set. It will be delivered this Monday.

Simply brilliant.

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Noise.

It fills our lives. It is something that is so constant that I doubt any of us really experience true silence except perhaps on a few occasions in our lives. There is the daily burr that forms a soundtrack to our lives that we barely pay attention to any more. There are the phones chirruping away, cars passing, doors closing, papers shuffling, colleagues talking at the water cooler, footsteps in the corridor. The list is endless.

In more peaceful places there is still noise: the wind in the trees, birds singing, the sea on the shore, the rustle of grass as we walk. Even now, in this house, with no music playing, the windows double-glazed and with the heating currently off, I can hear the whirr of the computer’s fan and my fingers clicking on the keyboard (and what a joy it is to be typing on a real keyboard, not a laptop or a Blackberry). At other times there might be the creak of pipes or the sound of the house settling after the day or a distant siren howling through the town.

Interestingly, pretty much the world’s quietest place isn’t in the middle of nowhere at all. It is at Orfield Laboratories, in their anechoic chamber:

anechoic chamberAnechoic means echo free and this chamber is designed to completely absorb sound waves and create an experimental space in which there can be absolute silence. Somehow or other I suspect that I would end up being driven mad by the sound of the blood rushing in my ears!

Anyway, browsing Facebook, the feed of an old friend with whom I wish I kept in better touch flashed up a link to a blog: Noise – A human history. Starting Monday 18 March, this 30-part series will explore the role of sound in the past 100,000 years of human history As it says on the blog:

“Recorded on location around the world, it will take us from the shamanistic trance-music of our cave-dwelling ancestors, the babel of ancient Rome, the massacre of noisy cats in pre-revolutionary Paris, and the sonic assaults of trench warfare, right through to our struggle to find calm in the cacophony of a modern metropolis. This is not about sound in the abstract: it is about sound as a matter of life and death, pain and pleasure, feeling and intellect. People, and their past behaviours, are at the heart of it.”

Sound has always fascinated me – how we become attuned to some sounds and not to others, how music can bend our emotions, how people communicate, how we hear the world when we actually stop to listen. Something tells me that this series will be quite special.

Check it out – and those of you who enjoy quality radio, listen out for it.

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A few days ago I couldn’t help post up the Horrible Histories take on Vikings and their great soft rock ballad. This time it’s Dick Turpin who gets the rock history treatment – and did you know he was caught out by his handwriting? Nor did I!

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I admit to finding much of today’s children’s telly incomprehensible. My brother and sister-in-law, who have four scarily bright and funny kids, assure me that it is so much better than when we were younger.

For someone who holds a certain nostalgia for Mr Benn, Trumpton and Finger Mouse, I confess I find In The Night Garden beyond my ken, though The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom have an understated, calm charm.

However, one series that excels at sharing knowledge in a fun and mischievous way is CBBC’s Horrible Histories. It has a wickedly entertaining way of making history fun and accessible, often accompanied by tunes better than those pumped out by better-known acts.

Now, I absolutely know I am not the only one who has found myself in front of a laptop at 3am, having imbibed far too much wine and whisky, playing clips of favourite rock and metal. There is a standard format for such occasions. Both participants (there are usually two, occasionally three) open with a standard metal classic (Nightwish’s Storytime here or AC/DC’s Shoot To Thrill), before choosing more and more classic rock numbers until all semblance of sobriety is conquered by peace songs and revolutionary anthems (from the Dropkick Murphys etc).

To this exemplary canon has been added another clip which forms a part of the “must see, must hear” experience: the Horrible Histories team’s Viking song.

There are rock groups around the world that couldn’t do this – and its pastiche of Queen, symphonic metal and rock ballads is a gem.

Enjoy.

And more from the Horrible Histories crew in due course.

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