Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The PM Signature Tune

“It’s PM at 5 p.m.” For many years the opening announcement for Radio 4’s daily afternoon news magazine followed by the PM signature tune.

PM is unique amongst the station’s main news programmes (Today, The World at One, PM, The World Tonight) in having had a regular theme tune – a brief experiment on Today notwithstanding.

There’s an interesting article about PM on the Radio 4 website but I thought I’d add some information about the first and second versions of the theme.

PM started in April 1970 as part of the network’s response to Broadcasting in the Seventies – the BBC’s blueprint for change in the wake of the launch of Radios 1 to 4 in 1967 - which required Radio 4 to give more emphasis to news and current affairs. PM replaced a more light-hearted magazine programme called Home this Afternoon, a title it had acquired back on the Home Service in 1965. A typical line-up of features might include Anne Dunys, a 30s cabaret artist talking about her career, a report on people who have retired to Switzerland, a talk by gamekeeper and naturalist Walter Flesher and consideration as to whether corsets cause varicose veins – this particular programme went out in August 1969. So you can see how PM was a contrast to what had gone before, although in the early days it was less ‘newsy’ than it would become.

The original PM theme was composed by John Baker of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and is called Computers in Business. It had already been used to introduce News Time, a 15 minute news programme that went out on both Radios 1 & 2 at 7.30 p.m. each weekday.



News Time had started on the Light Programme in January 1967 and regular presenters included Tim Gudgin, the wonderfully-named Corbet Woodall (later a TV news reader who you may recognise if you’ve ever seen the Kitten Kong episode of The Goodies) and Derek Cooper who would go on to co-host PM with William Hardcastle. Regular Radio 4 listeners will know Derek as the long-running and original presenter of The Food Programme and he also provided the voiceovers for the filmed inserts on Tomorrow’s World.

The second PM theme was introduced in 1978, though the BBC website suggests this is from 1984 but I guess this is the date of the clip they use. Again the production team (editor in charge was Jenny Abramsky) went back to the Radiophonic Workshop, this time to commission Paddy Kingsland to compose it for them. Here’s Paddy talking to Gordon Clough about how he came up with the idea and put all the elements together:


This clip from PM in April 1980 is presented by Robert Williams and Janet Cohen:


2 comments:

Andy Brown said...

Wow! That brought memories flooding back of being a child at home waiting for my father to come home for dinner. Thank you! X

Unknown said...

Awesome! Thank you so much for posting these. Computers in Business: I was aged about 2 when PM started using that and yet everytime I hear it I have the clearest recollection of playing on mum and dads green dining room carpet, the smell (and taste) of mum's meat and potato pie wafting in from the kitchen, as mum listened to PM and we awaited dad's return from work at 6 for tea. The second tune is equally evocative; listening on the complete HiFi system I built from scratch as a teenager (using Practical Electronics circuits, VeroBoard, and housed in plywood 19" rack cases dad made) and marvelling at the sound of the theme in glorious stereo! I still have the Jan 1986 edition of PM, in full, on Cassette, when Michael Hesseltine resigned over Westland ...including the pips, the theme tune at the start and end, and the shipping forecast which followed! Still sad that they never brought the theme back after "temporarily" dropping it when the princess of Wales was killed. The 3rd tune was my least favourite, but still excellent. PM is still an institution in my house.

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