The Sound of TV with Neil Brand
- Brian Donaldson
- 4 December 2020
Enjoyable trip down all our memory lanes with theme tunes and idents galore
For broadcaster, composer and silent film accompanist Neil Brand, pop songs are not the only way we tap into our individual or collective pasts. Nostalgia and memory are just as profoundly accessed and nudged by TV theme tunes, jingles and adverts: even those cheeky broadcaster idents can propel us back to a time that feels safer than the here and now. There are pop historians who would inevitably challenge that assertion, but it's one that Brand sticks to with forthright determination through three thoroughly enjoyable parts of his Sound Of TV.
The opener is a total nostalgia-fest for anyone between the ages of 40 and 80 (aka the prime BBC Four demographic) with Brand effusing over the intro numbers of everything from Z-Cars to Coronation Street, and The Persuaders to Brideshead Revisited, with Game Of Thrones the only concession to contemporary tastes. But just what is it that makes some theme tunes inherently more memorable than others? Over the course of three hours, Brand asks this question of commentators such as Miranda Sawyer, composers like Carl Davis (his World At War work of the early 70s remains iconic) and Stranger Things' synth duo Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, and The Sopranos' auteur David Chase (such a sit-down helps to justify Brand's jaunts across the globe) who recalls the struggles he had with Frank Sinatra's people over the pivotal use of 'It Was A Very Good Year'.
The Sound Of TV is relatively easy on the brain and very pleasant in the ears, though it could be argued to lose its way in the middle third with the kind of analysis of adverts which has been done before in those 100 Greatest type countdowns. Plus there's a very curious sequence where our host is given his very own 'branded' theme tune. But Neil Brand is a convivial, enthusiastic and knowledgeable frontman (and surely catnip to Dead Ringers-style impersonators) as he puts his music where his mouth is by effortlessly replaying the tunes of all our pasts.
BBC Four, Friday 4 December, 9pm. Watch on BBC iPlayer.