Music to hide behind the sofa to

The return of the UK’s favourite time-traveller, Doctor Who, to our screens this weekend, is likely to remind people from my generation of their childhood, afternoons spent hiding behind the sofa while the Doctor takes on the Cybermen or the Daleks.

We usually didn’t even have to wait for the inevitable confrontation between our hero and his enemy before hiding behind cushions. Usually, all we needed to hear was this music…


This bit of 1960’s musical electronica, written by composer Ron Grainer, arranged and realised by BBC Radiophonic Workshop genius Delia Derbyshire, is probably responsible for striking fear and trepidation into the hearts of many under 11s over the years. Probably more so than the wobbly sets and dodgy low-budget special effects ever were.

But some may not know that making kids hide behind the sofa seemed to be, maybe unwittingly, a speciality of Grainer and his TV theme work.

The other thing to hide behind the sofa to back in 1979 was another Grainer composition, this…


A series of short stories with twists, Tales of the Unexpected was staple programming in the Sunday ITV schedule in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Hearing this theme music was either a sign that you had probably stayed up too late, your cue to go and have a bath, or go to your room and do something else altogether more happy and childlike.

It seemed to be designed to strike fear into the hearts of innocents, from Grainer’s gently teasing theme tune, to the title sequence with the silhouetted dancing woman, flames, guns, tarot cards and voodoo mask shit, and Roald Dahl’s creepy fireside intro to the story sat in that leather high-backed chair. Even Anglia’s gallant knight on horseback seemed positively sinister, heralding the entry into the bizzare, scary and (frequently) low-budget world of Tales of the Unexpected.

Today it seems almost irrational that these pieces of music should have had such power at the time, but maybe that’s the skill in someone like Ron Grainer, who died 20 years ago this month, to set the tone and create such powerful assciations in our minds.

Even now, both pieces of music make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and bring back vivid childhood memories, and it’s not just me, right? What TV music were you apprehensive, scared or downright terrified of?

Huggers Leaves BBC FM&T

It’s reported that Erik Huggers is on the move from Auntie to Intel

I’d linked to a rather good article he’d penned in a post I’d made a couple of months ago on Net Neutrality.

Maybe Ed Vaizey’s opinions on Net Neutrality and the advent of BT Content Connect have made Erik think now is not the time to be in the content business?

Now, being a CTO-type currently at a loose end, running BBC FM&T might be just my bag, however a) Auntie, in her wisdom has seperated the “product side” (i.e. public facing content such as iPlayer) from the “technology side” (possibly a sensible decision as long as they don’t turn it all into an unmanageable hydra), meaning they don’t need a new boss of FM&T, and b) I don’t think I look anywhere near enough like Hugh Grant to pull it off.

Auntie Beeb on Net Neutrality

Earlier this week Andy D suggested that I might be listening to too much Radio 4.

I don’t necessarily think that’s been a bad thing, as that means I caught a couple of items on Net Neutrality. Indeed, the Beeb seems to be showing increasing interest in this area, and wouldn’t you, if there was something which threatened your editorial freedom?

Imagine for a minute that Sky Broadband subscribers got ultra fast access to Sky News (and other News Corp) content, while poor old Auntie (among other content providers) got packet-shaped, throttled and capped to a crawl? Now you’ll see what the fuss is about.

Anyway, Radio 4 has recently discussed Net Neutrality on two occasions in the past few weeks.

Firstly during the long-running consumer affairs programme “You and Yours“, on the 7th October, there was a brief discussion (will open a link to BBC iPlayer) which included comments from ISOC’s Leslie Daigle.

This week, on Monday 17th October, there was a further segment on the subject (iPlayer link) in the “Click On” programme – fast forward to around the 17 minute mark – which contains the fantastic quote of “Put three geeks together in a room and you’ll get four definitions of Net Neutrality”.

I’m not sure if that says more about the issue, or more about the geeks. 🙂

There’s also a rather nice BBC blog article from Erik Huggers (Director, BBC FM&T) which incorporates and sums up nicely elements from both the above articles, including that despite the appearance of freedom of choice and competition in the UK consumer broadband market, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, due to triple-play lock-ins or the sheer aggro factor.

The closing paragraph talks about “thin-end-of-the-wedge” concerns about this gradually creeping in through the backdoor if the regulators don’t use tools in their power to manage this contentious issue.

While the BBC, as a major content player, do have a vested interest in preserving their editorial freedom and equal opportunity to distribute their content, there’s a lot of sense behind it too.