Neil Richardson, composer of Mastermind theme tune, dies aged 80

  • 21 October 2010
Mastermind chair.

Photo: Brian Ritchie/BBC

Neil Richardson, the English composer and arranger most well-known for writing the piece of music used as the theme tune to TV quiz show Mastermind, has died. He was 80.

The iconic theme, which is suitably titled 'Approaching Menace', has been used on the flagship BBC quiz show from its inception in 1972 to the present day. That's a full 38 years of striking terror into the heart of contestants, who you would think probably have enough to get nervous about facing up to prospect of potential humiliation on national television, without an equally terrifying piece of music to help them on their way to very public heart failure.

The potential for suspense that a well-chosen piece of mood music can have on the already tense atmosphere of a TV quiz is something the makers of The Weakest Link clearly kept in mind. An extract of just a couple of seconds of each theme is enough to shatter the nerves of most pub quiz teams.

Like much music used on TV, it was originally composed as a piece of library music - music composed and recorded for use in various projects which does not require a commissioning fee. Compilations of library music are often used by TV producers and filmmakers looking to add music to their project economically.

Mastermind is one of the longest-running, serious and most challenging of TV quiz shows. The iconic status earned by the show has led to it being satirised in sketches by The Two Ronnies, Smith & Jones and others.

Mastermind theme tune

The Weakest Link theme tune

The Two Ronnies - Mastermind sketch

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