There's a fundamantally silly side to the British psyche. You won't see it any clearer than in our ceaseless obsession with crafting rave bangers from samples nicked from primetime TV. I started thinking about this earlier this week, and realised that, off the top of my head, I could come up with at least 5 tracks from the 80s onwards that have shamelessly mixed mental drum patterns & gut punch bass with whatever the producer happened to have watched at teatime the night before.
I put it out to my Facebook; which rave tunes from whatever year have sampled UK TV? The rules, which I made up as I went along, were simple - the samples had to be from a UK TV show or advert, ideally they weren't allowed to be a knowing piece of 'isn't this crap' irony ala the mid-00s breakcore scene (although trying to remove all irony from a topic like this is almost impossible - there's that weird British sense of simultaniously taking the piss and being deadly serious that runs through loads of these tracks), and they couldn't have been made by the show itself (this disqualified the truly fucking hideous tune that Supermarket Sweep made). I wasn't prepared to get absolutely inundated with responses, but it turns out there's A LOT of this out there. Not only do we as a nation love TV theme tune rave, we've been banging it out for nearly 3 decades. Some of the tracks everyone seemed to know (Trumpton, the Magic Roundabout, News at Ten and Blockbusters came up a bunch of times) and some that were genuine underground surprises - more on those in a bit.
I've split them by genre and gathered them together in three playlists for your dubious listening pleasure. As a selection of tunes from 'cross the ages, this is a uniquely British affair- playlists where state sanctioned TV music is spiked with the insanity of hardcore, bland adverts are chopped over bleepy techno, Saturday night sitcoms are reframed as grime bangers, and pre-school nursery rhymes are bullied into jump up jungle. I can't imagine anyone from outside of the UK understanding what the hell is going on, but if you want an insight into our perverse mindset, this seem a good place to start. If it were a drink, it'd be Bovril with a dash of Scrumpy - mostly just wrong, but it definitely gets you there.
They are a reminder of something more; that we live in a slightly dotty country where our culture holds the banal in the same estimation as the extreme - these tracks aren't ironic pisstakes- when Horsepower put together the rave version of Black Beauty there was no sense they were mocking the original, more that they loved it, but felt it needed some 140bpm+ breakbeats to really fullfil it's potential. And whilst the final results fall all over the scale, from the cheesy, to the mournful, to the funny, to the triumphant, all of them are examples of producers trying to force the familiar into the future in the name of dancing hedonism. We're a weird, funnny, terrible, and genius place, and sometimes I love us.
Bleep Techno & Early House
Of all these early rave anthems, a couple are pretty self explanatory (The Timelords and Thunderbirds are pretty much nothing but sample, and the Timelords track stretches my rule of 'no irony' to breaking point), but a few bear closer examination. K Klass's Wildlife is a fine slice of Northern bleep techno - the tune it's knocking off comes from a 70s kid's nature show called Wild Track, and the results are amongst the most credible you'll hear on the playlist. Beats Workin's Sure Beats Working takes on former pop show The Old Grey Whistle Test theme tune, and is the sort of thing that used to get called Balearic back in the day. The Badman's Magic Style is one of the many tunes to sample The Magic Roundabout, but it does so with style, turning a chirpy, innocent piece of 60s kids TV music into a bleepy, mournful minor key meditation on lost youth (I may be reading a bit too much into it tbh). The prize has to go to Fortran 5 with JR Hartley, where they build a track round a sample nicked from that infuriatingly twee 'Fly Fishing' Yellow Pages advert that played forever in the 80s. Fortran turn JR into a weird phone pest over a beat that prefiguers 4 Hero's Mr Kirk's Nightmare, and I can't help but wish they'd done something similar with the grandad from the Werther's Original ad...
Playlist 1 contains... K Klass - Wildlife /The Badman - Magic Style / Fortran 5 - J.R. Hartley / Beats Working - Sure Beats Working / The Timelords - Doctorin the Tardis / Unknown producer - Thunderbirds Are Go
Hardcore, Jungle & Happy Hardcore
Would it surprise you to hear I got more nominations in the 91-95 category than any other? Blame cheap sample technology, blame the increasing youth of producers, blame proper face munting pills- whatever it was, the hardcore years are the golden (in the loosest sense of the term) years of TV sampling rave. Nothing was sacred, and it's weirder to find a popular soap opera or kids TV show from the early 90s that hasn't been turned into a 140bpm breakbeat banger than one that has. The thing is this stuff was being played by credible DJs - I vividly remember a rave tape where Grooverider dropped the Eastender's remix as if it were nothing (I think that was this by Payback, but I can't find an upload online), and I've stuck in a recording of Ellis Dee wheeling out Doctor G's version of the Blue Peter theme just to prove how accepted this sort of thing was. To be fair, there are some real stinkers in this lot, but some gems as well. I've kicked off with the Blockbuster's theme as it was the single most mentioned track I got, it;s got a proper video and everything, and it's a fine example of how sampling could subvert the drabness of early evening TV into something quite, quite different - rumour has it that Blockbuster presenter Bob Holness loved the track and thought it was hilarious. News At Ten is a genuine classic - there's nothing cheesy about those ominous strings and 'orrible synths. X Project's Walking in the Air is another killer - it seems unlikely that Aled Jones could be turned into a jungle smash out, but formy money it really works. There are a couple of cuts that just lift vocal samples and avoid the worst excesses of TV Sample Rave - Low Noise Block kicks off with some spluttering from Rik Mayall in the Young Ones, and You Don't Wanna Do It Like That works with Harry Enfield's catchphrase - looping a line that was repeated in school's throughout the country for most of the first half of the 90s. Horsepower's use of Black Beauty is just magnificent, and I won't hear anyone say different, and, at the other end of the spectrum, DJ Sy's 4/4 hardcore rendition of Match of the Day is a jack boot stomping madness that scares the shit out of me.
Skin Up - Blockbuster / X Project - Walking in the Air / Horsepower - Bolt / Hardcore Rhythm Team - Ragga Clash / Sons of Bungle - Rainbow / Ray Keith - News at Ten - Doctor G - WTF / Low Noise Block - Rave in the Bedroom / The Prodigy - Charly - Urban Hype - Trip to Trumpton / Overdraft - You Don't Wanna Do It Like That / Captain Scarlet - Attack of the Mysterons / DJ Sy - Striker
Garage & Grime
Wiley's Del Boy was the track that got me thinking about all this - I love the fact that he's so into Only Fools & Horses that he remade the rhythm a bunch of times, including putting out one of his specctral, beatless 'Devil's Mix' versions. Bound 4 Da Reload is staright fire - I remember how many people wanted to slag it off when it came out, but was there ever a TV theme tune so perfectly suited to be turned into a nasty, scratchy UKG assault? In contrast, Oxidde & Neutrino's attempt to take a second bite of the cherry with their version of The Bill is all about diminshing returns. Tbh, if they'd sacked off the lumbering Bill samples it would have made an alright little roller. Countdown was rinsed by almost all grime DJs. It was also used as a go-to by UK Hip Hop fans to illustrate why grime was shit (I remember the arguments I used to have). Those same fans were also trying to claim that Braintax and Jehst were the future of music. Lol. You can see them at Skepta shows now, trying to look like they've always been on it. Ratpack's Weakest Link makes it into this catagory as it was made way after their early 90s peak, but it;'s nice to see that even when they were embracing bass wubs they didn't lose sight of what made them great i.e. nutty samples and Everson Allen shout/singing. Biggest prize goes to Deekline's Crimestoppers, for taking an unintentionally hilarious drug prevention tune and simply sticking it over a 2 stepped up version of Flat Beat - minimum effort, maximum result.
Young Guns - Countdown / Oxide & Neutrino / Bound 4 Da Reload / Wiley - Del Boy / Deekline - Crimestoppers / Ratpack -Weakest Link / Oxide & Neutrino - The Bill
I've obviously missed out loads of tracks here - I feel like the mid 00s Northern bassline scene must have churned out some classics - so feel free to hit me up in the comments with some suggestions. As ever, shout out to everyone who helped me compile this post - there were about 40 people who made suggestions, big up all of you.