I’m afraid this is another self-indulgent blog entry, so please bear with me.
If, like me, you grew up in the 1980s, or you are old enough to have children that did, I hope to take you on a trip down nostalgia lane, stirring warm fuzzy memories in your soul like reminiscent Ready Brek. If, however, you are older than 45 and childless (lucky sod), or younger than 25 (luckier sod), then you may struggle to relate to what follows. Nevertheless, I shall proceed regardless, and hope that I don’t alienate too many of my readers.
My wife and I were born almost equidistantly from the start of the 1980s – I arrived in early February 1980, and she popped out at the end of November 1979, so we were both just a little more than 5 weeks either side of this wonderful decade commencing. As a result, we did most of our growing up, albeit 200 miles apart, in the decade that brought us mullets, shell suits, and black Michael Jackson. It was a simpler, happier time, especially for any children who were yet to visit the Neverland ranch for a sleep-over (allegedly).
Ok, so the hair and fashion of the ‘80s were questionable (and I think we even knew this at the time, so there really was no excuse), but the music, television and films were often outstanding – I don’t care what anyone else says, Back To The Future is still the greatest film ever made.
And what better way to combine television and music, than with a great theme tune? In the 1980s, fantastic theme tunes were aplenty, and never more so than in the world of cartoons. When I tried, recently, to think of all the good cartoon theme tunes we had growing up during the ‘80s, I began to lose count, and a cursory glance into the dark world of Google and Youtube only widened the list.
I could just list all the great cartoon theme tunes that I remember from my formative years, but that would be too easy, and we’d still be here many hours later. So, as with my recent ranking of all the James Bond films, I’ve decided to provide a countdown of my favourite cartoon theme tunes from childhood. Despite there being loads of them, I have just about managed to limit the countdown to a top 10, but that does mean there will unfortunately be some notable omissions.
For example, any child of the 1980s will, when asked to name great cartoon themes of the era, almost undoubtedly proffer The Mysterious Cities of Gold at some point, and I therefore anticipated it being one of the first titles on my list. Unfortunately, having just re-visited the opening credits of this (frankly, very boring) cartoon, it turns out that our collective recollection of the standard of the theme tune, is wholly misguided. Go and check it out on Youtube now. Go on, I can wait….
…See? Terrible, isn’t it? I can only assume that there was subliminal mind control hidden somewhere in the show, because it is abundantly clear to me now, that both the show and the theme tune were truly awful. As such, it’s not going anywhere near my list.
Also, I’m being quite strict on keeping my countdown within the world of cartoons only. Fraggle Rock, for example, had a superb theme tune, but it wasn’t a cartoon. Then, there were ‘80s shows that couldn’t even pretend to be cartoons, like Round the Twist, Saved By The Bell, and the little known Pugwall’s Summer. Sure, they all had great intros, but they are immediately disqualified on account of not being even remotely cartoon-like. Perhaps I’ll do a different run-down of those another time.
But even restricting the list to purely cartoons, there are still going to be some great ones missing, so apologies if your personal favourite didn’t make the cut. Still, this is my blog, and my list, so tough. Get your own blog if you don’t like it.
- Pigeon Street
Pigeon Street is perhaps not the first cartoon that you would think of if you were compiling your own list, but the opening credits hold many happy childhood memories for me, and it was most likely the first cartoon I ever really watched properly. In fact, like all iconic shows, it was cut tragically short after just thirteen episodes, all of which aired in 1981 (before countless repeats were shown), so it really was the Fawlty Towers of its day. Only with considerably less comedy, a long-distance lorry driver called Clara, and a shit-load more pigeons. In fact, it shows how dear I hold this cartoon to my heart, because I bloody hate pigeons and it still made the list.
- The Raggy Dolls
Again, perhaps not a cartoon that would immediately spring to mind, but it ran for eight years and, if this were a countdown of the shows with the best intentions, The Raggy Dolls would win hands down. Quite admirably, it was intended to teach kids about tolerance, acceptance, and love towards those with physical disability, via the medium of a group of imperfect dolls that had been discarded. Prior to searching YouTube for the introduction, I honestly couldn’t name any of the characters bar the loveable ‘Sad Sack’, but I could still sing you the whole theme tune. Because it’s brilliant.
- Danger Mouse
Now, unlike The Mysterious Cities of Gold, this actually was a great show, but have you watched it back recently? I’m not entirely sure what Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall were smoking during the 1980s, but I suspect it was highly illegal, because some scenes in Danger Mouse were really messed up. And I don’t mean ‘just a little weird’, either; I mean ‘pink elephants on parade’ weird (you know, that scene in Dumbo), in that you probably shouldn’t watch it if you are alone and have been drinking, because it will freak you out. Still, this countdown is all about great theme tunes, and Danger Mouse had a corker.
Oh, and let’s clear this up once and for all – Penfold was a hamster.
- Count Duckula
Continuing with Cosgrove Hall and their apparent recreational drug use, one of the more obscure episodes of Danger Mouse featured a vegetarian vampire duck called Count Duckula. No, really. Such was the popularity of this minor character, he was granted his own spin off show in 1988, starring alongside his equally weird servants, Igor and Nanny (the latter surely being based on ‘Nursie’ from Blackadder II). As with Danger Mouse (and the BFG for that matter), this was David Jason at his voiceover best, and the theme tune is just fantastic.
- Inspector Gadget
Another cartoon where I’ll wager any child of the 80s could recollect and sing the theme tune with comparative ease. It’s like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, in that we all just know it. As with Danger Mouse, obvious comparisons could be drawn between this series (Inspector Gadget, not Fresh Prince) and the Bond films, which is presumably why I liked it so much. You cannot help but sympathise with the bumbling title character, despite his questionable parenting skills and the fact that his neglected daughter and their pet dog do all the sodding work. Still, it’s a great theme song.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Ah, the first (and I suspect only) title on my list, where my 5-year-old son will agree with me. I have to say, I really like the introductory rap for the latest Nickleodeon version of Turtles too, but the theme tune to the ‘80s version is utterly brilliant, and again I could still remember all the words when recently introducing young Ollie to his favourite show’s predecessor. Like with Girls Aloud (and the Spice Girls before them come to think of it), everyone has their ‘order’ of favouritism when discussing TMNT, except with the Turtles, it is actually the orange one that I like best.
Yes. Just… yes. Pay attention Lloyd-Webber: if you’re going to make a show about a load of cats who can talk, this is how you do it. Plus, I don’t know a single person who fancies Grizabella or Bombalurina (thanks, Google), but show me a man between the ages of 25-45 who doesn’t look at Cheetara and still utter a low, guttural, phwoar, and I will show you a liar.
Fortunately, the theme tune is every bit as good as the cartoon which followed it, even if the lyrics (on reflection) are woeful.
- Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds
Can you imagine a situation where the Japanese and Spanish work together, to turn a 19th Century French story (actually set in the 17th Century) into a cartoon about dogs? No? Well you can now. Everything about that opening sentence screams unmitigated disaster, but somehow this show was a success, and rightly so because it’s actually very good. The Japanese-Spaniard (Japaniard or Spanese?) partnership of Nippon (chortle) Animation, worked really well, and even better, they left the theme tune responsibilities to the Japanese – with a translation into English. I don’t think there has ever been a musical collaboration between these two nations, but I cannot imagine it would be anything other than horrendous.
Oh, and just to clarify, I do genuinely rate this as one of my favourite childhood theme tunes, it wasn’t just a cheap way to shoehorn in the title for this blog entry.
- Duck Tales
If someone approaches you and sings “Duck Tales” in your general direction, and you do not immediately feel the urge to respond with a “Woo-hoo!”, then there is something seriously wrong with you. Actually, if someone does do that, and you don’t know them, there is clearly something seriously wrong with them too, but you get the idea. This theme tune is catchier than syphilis and a helluva lot more fun (I imagine). It’s only because my favourite cartoon theme tune of all time is pop perfection, that Duck Tales is kept from the top spot.
Oh, and remember kids, don’t dive into a big room full of coins, as you WILL hurt yourself. Either change them into ‘folding’ money to soften the impact, or better still invest your savings into a financial institution. No one likes a show-off when it comes to money. Besides, surely that room could be put to better use? I might be over-thinking this.
- The Raccoons
Now, I’m cheating ever-so-slightly with my winner, because the music I refer to is actually over the end credits of this cartoon, rather than at the start, but “Run With Us” by Lisa Lougheed is not only an outstanding theme tune (and the one that everyone would associate with The Raccoons anyway), it’s just a great 80s song full-stop. I want it as my ringtone, so that when people phone me and I’m in public, men will want to be me, and women will want to be with me. If a woman hears “Run With Us” playing from a man’s phone, it’s like catnip to her, and she will immediately begin undressing. Such is the power of this track.
80s theme-tune brilliance, attached to an otherwise average cartoon about some highly questionable talking rodents and their pink-aardvark nemesis who, to be quite frank, has a nose that looks like a wonky penis.
So, there you have it.
In compiling this list, I have learned two important lessons. Firstly, they don’t make cartoon theme tunes like they used to (and I have two young boys, so I should know), which makes me sad. Secondly, and more importantly, I can apparently embed YouTube clips into my blog, which makes me very happy indeed. It’s not so much that it can be done, you understand, more that I managed to do it, without crying uncontrollably and asking for help.
Lastly, I have also discovered, with some dismay, that when it comes to cartoon theme tunes, my wife is an idiot. Not only did she berate me for including Pigeon Street in my countdown, but she’s apoplectic that I omitted The Mysterious Cities of Gold. In fact, to try and prove her point, she then insisted on singing the entire drab theme tune from memory, but this only made me dislike her more.
Don’t be surprised if the next entry is about our impending divorce.