Sep 07


FT + Popular129 comments • 10,019 views

#338, 29th September 1973

How to evaluate a theme tune from a TV programme I’ve never seen? All I have is the name and this track. I asked my Dad if he remembered a show called Van Der Valk, which would have been popular around when I was born. “Yes!” I felt hopeful. “It had a very good theme song.” Ah. He told me it was about a Dutch detective and returned to his chess problem.

It is a good theme song, stately in general and rousing in particular (is that a zither I hear, busying itself in the background?). It doesn’t sing to me of Holland, or puzzles of detection – in fact there’s something oddly generic about its themeyness. It might as happily sit behind the credits to a wistful sitcom of middle age, or a bumptious country house drama, as behind a policier. Perhaps that’s why it got to number one.

Off to YouTube! The credit sequence helps a bit – van der Valk is steely-eyed under a shock of blonde hair, observing the goings-on of Amsterdam (LOOK VIEWERS IT’S AMSTERDAM) with a hard-won detachment. The flourish mid-way works well too, the self-satisfied beauty of old Europe hiding (no doubt) a weekly cesspit of corruption. Well, now I have a profile to fit the suspect’s name though I’m little closer to establishing a motive (for purchase).

(I started listening to the charts just as the era when TV themes got singles releases was ending – I can just about remember The Life And Times Of David Lloyd George and one of my first 7″ singles was the 1980 re-recording of the Dr Who theme (did not chart). Themes in the Top 40 feels like quite a likeable element in the popscape, especially given my romantic view of the charts as a kind of bazaar for pop culture concerns, but then I didn’t have to live with them.)



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  1. 91
    intothefireuk on 24 Sep 2007 #

    Also worthy of mention – in the charts at the same time as this and missing out narrowly on at least a number 2 slot the debut of one David Essex with the mighty dubtastic ‘Rock On’ which IIRC featured on the soundtrack LP of ‘That’ll Be The Day’ without actually featuring in the excellent film of the same name.

  2. 92
    Marcello Carlin on 25 Sep 2007 #

    Number three for two weeks, firstly behind Donny and Wizzard, and secondly behind Wizzard and the rudely gatecrashing Sweet.

  3. 93
    Billy Smart on 28 Sep 2007 #

    If any Popular readers are feeling rich at the moment and are fired with unquenchable curiosity about the show, I see that Network release an 11 DVD box set – ‘The Complete Van Der Valk’ (“features all 5 series plus specials”) – next month. It retails at £99.99.

  4. 94
    Waldo on 29 Sep 2007 #

    That’s “unquenchable tragedy” I think, Billy, my boy…

  5. 95
    Erithian on 10 Oct 2007 #

    That documentary ranking the 20th century PMs was repeated on BBC4 last night, and I managed to note most of the music used. In some cases I didn’t recognise it, so maybe someone who’s less of an ignoramus than me on classical music can help out – it’s on again in the wee small hours of Friday morning if you want to record it!

    Salisbury: Men of Harlech, played by a Boer War-style military band
    Balfour: Karelia Suite – Sibelius
    Campbell-Bannerman: didn’t recognise it at all!
    Asquith: ditto
    Lloyd George: ditto
    Bonar Law: ditto
    Baldwin: Rhapsody in Blue – Gershwin
    MacDonald: Song of the Dawn – Paul Whiteman
    Chamberlain: God Bless You Mr Chamberlain (can’t identify the singer – an unironic music-hall tribute from the time of the Munich agreement)
    Churchill: Jupiter, from the Planets Suite – Holst
    Attlee: see Campbell-Bannerman
    Eden: ?? – a sax-based instrumental, like a less demented Lord Rockingham’s XI
    Macmillan: Theme from “A Summer Place” – Percy Faith
    Douglas-Home: You Really Got Me – The Kinks
    Wilson: Reflections Of My Life – Marmalade
    Heath: ?? – a piano piece played by Heath himself.
    Callaghan: Let’s Stick Together – Roxy Music
    Thatcher: She’s Got Balls – AC/DC (!!)
    Major: Things Can Only Get Better – D:Ream (!)
    Blair: Roll With It (and Supersonic) – Oasis

    They didn’t cover Brown, since it’s too soon to rank him and they were concentrating on the 20th century anyway, but after the events of last weekend I had Roy Orbison’s “Running Scared” going through my head…

  6. 96
    Marcello Carlin on 10 Oct 2007 #

    “Let Me Think About It,” surely?

  7. 97

    i think the sibelius deserves a bit of a (!) also — exactly how active was balfour in finnish agitation for independence?

  8. 98
    Billy Smart on 10 Oct 2007 #

    It would take some researching ability to come up with a suitable tune for Bonar Law – six months in 1923!

    Last year’s much-delayed ITV Harold Wilson documentary used ‘The Rise & Fall of Flingel Bunt’ by The Shadows as ‘Harold’s Theme’, which worked really well.

  9. 99
    Marcello Carlin on 10 Oct 2007 #

    For Bonar Law they could have used “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” – Bessie Smith’s recording came out in 1923.

  10. 100

    “Nobody Knows You When You’re Bonar Law”

  11. 101
    Erithian on 10 Oct 2007 #

    I could be embarrassingly wrong about the Sibelius – it was a classical piece that was used as a TV current affairs theme, and it wasn’t Nantucket Sleighride!

    My colleague who’s a 60s radio comedy fan tells me Bona Law was a legal practice featured in “Round the Horne”.

    And another thread crashes through the 100-posts barrier!

  12. 102
    mike on 10 Oct 2007 #

    HORNE: Will you take my case?

    JULIAN: Well, it depends on what it is. We’ve got a criminal practice that takes up most of our time.

    HORNE: Yes, but apart from that – I need lega1 advice.

    SANDY: Ooh – isn’t he bold?

  13. 103
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    It wouldn’t count as his theme, being from 1969, but Alexandria Good Time by Robin Gibb mentions Bonar Law – Robin being something of a history buff. Sadly for BL, it was on the flip of the exceedingly rare withdrawn version of Saved By The Bell. So instead of being tagged to a pan-European number one, no one’s ever heard the forgotten PM’s only mention in pop. Apart from the ‘lucky’ fellow who paid something daft like 500 quid for it on ebay.

  14. 104
    Jonathan Bogart on 23 Sep 2008 #

    Marcello @ 99 xpost – Bit late for a correction, but Bessie Smith’s NLYWYDAO was recorded in ’29. (Wikipedia is wrong.) The song appears to have been written in ’23, which may be the source of the confusion.

  15. 105
    DJ Punctum on 23 Sep 2008 #


    Wikipedia USELESSpedia morelike!

  16. 106
    tim davidge on 20 Apr 2009 #

    In his entry for The Shadows’ “Wonderful Land”, Tom pegs the number as evoking “a Sixties that ended up…not happening”. It’s a claim one might make for “Eye Level”, with reference to Europe in the Seventies. A calm, prosperous, European future beckoned. From this distance (middle-age now, mid-teens then), it evokes more the end of an era.

  17. 107
    Eekabear on 26 Apr 2009 #

    I wonder if anyone can help? I have christmas lyrics in my head whenever I hear ‘Eye Level’ and I hope to god I heard them and didn’t make them up… does anyone else recognise these lyrics that go along with the main theme of Eye Level? If so, please let me know where they came from…

    “Ring a bell, bang a drum,
    Sing Happy Christmas Day
    For the Lord Jesus Christ is born
    Ring a bell, bang a drum,
    Sing happy, happy blessed morn”

  18. 108
    Elsie Bee on 26 Dec 2009 #

    (Eye Level Carol)

    There were shepherds in the fields
    Who were watching their sheep
    The night was cold
    But the skies were clear
    An angel told them that Christ was born
    And he lay in a village near

    “Ring a bell, bang a drum,
    Sing Happy Christmas morn
    For the Lord Jesus Christ is born
    Ring a bell, bang a drum,
    Sing happy, happy, happy
    Happy blessed morn”

    Off went the shepherds
    Hurrying fast
    They went along the Bethlehem way
    There with the baby
    Was Mary and Joseph
    He was lying in a manger’s hay

    “Ring a bell, bang a drum,
    Sing Happy Christmas morn
    For the Lord Jesus Christ is born
    Ring a bell, bang a drum,
    Sing happy, happy, happy
    Happy blessed morn”

    This to the shepherds was a wonderful sight
    Here on earth
    was the Newborn King
    High in the heavens
    Was a glorious star
    And they heard many angels sing

    “Ring a bell, bang a drum,
    Sing Happy Christmas morn
    For the Lord Jesus Christ is born
    Ring a bell, bang a drum,
    Sing happy, happy, happy
    Happy blessed morn”

  19. 109
    Elsie Bee on 26 Dec 2009 #

    It is very addictive… my friend’s kids sang it at their school service last week and it’s still floating in my head!

  20. 110
    Billy Smart on 6 Apr 2010 #

    That Network 11-disc box set is now £18 on Amazon, and I’ve been watching it for professional television studies purposes. There’s an unforgettable moment in the 1972 series. A corpse is dragged out of the canal. Van Der Valk examines the body. “Expensive shirt. Well manicured hands. It appears our dead friend was a homosexual” he informs Inspector Kroon. A few minutes later, we get a montage of the two policemen making enquiries in various Amsterdam gay bars, to the sound of ‘Eye Level’ specially arranged for wah-wah and xylophone…

  21. 111
    AndyPandy on 6 Apr 2010 #

    Erithian @101
    You were right about Sibelius and his “Karelia Suite” if it was the piece used by a current affairs programme I think the programme was “This Week” which used the Intermezzo from it.
    My dad used to have a “Favourite TV Themes” album in the early 70s with that theme on it – he’d bought it mainly for “The Oneiden Line” theme (which was incidentally from “Spartacus” by Khachaturian).

  22. 112
    Paul Diedrich on 14 Jul 2010 #

    This is my favorite version of “Eye level”. Our local radio station used to play it during the morning rush. I was never able to buy a copy of it. I tried at my local music store one week and was told that it was not released yet. The next week, I was told it was out of print. I even considered trying to buy the rights to it just to publish it again! I didn’t even know it was the theme for a TV program. I still don’t have this. If it is on a CD somewhere, I’d sure like to know so I can buy it!

  23. 113
    Chelovek na lune on 7 Oct 2010 #

    #6 (somewhat belatedly). How reassuring. My first thought on hearing this (for the very first time, right now) was “blimey, this makes me think of the theme from `Crown Court'”- which I used to love watching as a very wee kid, usually at my grandma’s. in the late 80s. Now I see…

    Who’dave thought it. I quite like this, as far as TV themes go.

  24. 114
    Anj on 4 Dec 2010 #

    My Dad wrote the lyrics to ‘Ring a bell’ He was a Vicar and my Mum recorded the track. She was a teacher and this was written for her school at the time. This was about 35 years ago. I still sing it in my head too

  25. 115
    Bernard Johns on 4 Jan 2011 #

    Eye Level Carol : Nos 107, 108
    From Canon Bernard Johns, Chepstow. GB
    It was I who wrote the words of the Carol set to Eye Level, for the Marlborough Road Infants School Cardiff Christmas Presentation about 1980, the year Eye Level theme was first released (I think). The words quoted in 108 are not quite accurate:

    Now there were shepherds in the fields who were keeping their sheep
    The night was cold but the sky was clear
    An angel he told them Messiah was born
    And he lay in the village near.

    Ring a bell, bang a drum, sing Happy Christmas Day
    For the Lord Jesus Christ is born;
    Ring a bell, bang a drum, sing Happy, Happy blessed morn.

    Off went the shepherds, two three and four
    It was along the Bethlehem way
    There was the baby with Mary his mother
    Wrapped warm in the new-mown hay.

    Ring a bell…

    This to the shepherds was a wonderful sight
    For here on earth was their new-born king,
    High in the heavens was a glorious sound
    And they heard many angels sing.
    Ring a bell…

  26. 116
    Jimmy the Swede on 4 Jan 2011 #

    Way to go, Bernard!!

  27. 117
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Oct 2011 #

    Johnnie Walker gave this a spin on yesterday’s SOTS during the Pink Floyd Special, in which a certain album from 1973 was extensively discussed. Mention of Van der Valk there came none. Johnnie introduced it by saying that.. “and this was in the singles chart in 1973”. Afterwards, Johnnie simply gave the name of the piece and the performing orchestra, adding “that brought back a lot of memories”. What a bloody capital bloke!

  28. 118
    Waldo on 1 Jan 2012 #

    My initial contribution to this thread (Sep ’07) mentioned my attraction back in the day to Joanna Dunham, who played Van der Valk’s wife. An absolutely lovely and classy woman. Whilst allowing myself the guity pleasure of an old episode of “Sykes” the other day, I watched as Eric turned up in a doctors’ waiting room with the ever-sneering Mr Brown (“Fotheringay” to many of us) and the bloke who played the bent jockey in “Hi-Di-Hi” before being called in to see the doctor. This turns out to be the aforementioned Joanna and Sykes is immediately smitten. The script then sinks into a very childish storyline involving Eric feigning illness so as to get a home visit from the delightful lady doctor. He also has one or two Walter Mitty dreams involving a brave Eric coming to the aid of Joanna in distress. Hattie, meanwhile, simply stands to one side muttering “Oh, Er-ikkk!” every five minutes, which is all she does every week anyway, of course.

    I sat through all this with a smile on my face. Firstly, nodding sagely that the twelve year-old Waldo had zeroed in on Joanna all those years ago, and secondly, my opinion being re-enforced as to how Van der Valk managed to snare such a srummy wife in the first place.

    Happy Days! (and Happy New Year, everyone!)

  29. 119
    Conrad on 4 Jan 2012 #

    Joanna was indeed lovely, although technically a scrummy “second” wife, Arlette being played by a different actress in the first series

  30. 120
    Waldo on 4 Jan 2012 #

    I am grateful for this, Conrad. Barry Foster must have zeroed in on Joanna too, then!!

  31. 121
    Lazarus on 5 Jan 2012 #

    Re: the earlier posts about the tune being set to lyrics, that was also done in the eighties to advertise Oranjeboom lager (which I saw in a Maidstone pub only a year or two ago).

    And apologies if this has been commented on already, but I don’t think there’s been a (purely) instrumental Number One since, has there?

  32. 122
    Mark G on 5 Jan 2012 #

    “since” = Bunny action though.

    I will limit my reply to “there was at least one, it got to number one for two hours or thereabouts…”

    Actually, after a quick skim through, I reckon I found one in 1999.

  33. 123
    Jimmy the Swede on 6 Jan 2012 #

    Lazarus – The first track Mark is referring to is explained at comment # 76 on the “December ’63 (Oh What A Night)” thread back in 1976.

  34. 124
    Lena on 29 Oct 2013 #

    I was helping to invent New Pop late one night: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/the-dancing-dead-bobby-boris-pickett.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  35. 125
    Lena on 29 Oct 2013 #

    Slade are apolitical? Hmmmm….:http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/getting-to-everyone-slade-my-friend-stan.html Merci for reading, tout le monde!

  36. 126
    Lena on 31 Oct 2013 #

    Tina knows darn well where her home is: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/root-down-ike-and-tina-turner-nutbush.html Ta for reading, everybody!

  37. 127
    Lazarus on 27 Dec 2014 #

    Sad news for the Swede and others – RIP Mrs Van der Valk


  38. 128
    Jimmy the Swede on 28 Dec 2014 #

    #127 – Thanks for this, Laz. Yes, RIP Joanna indeed. Beautiful and classy all day long.

  39. 129
    Billy on 22 Jan 2017 #

    Seems that Jan Stoeckart who wrote this died last week. Reading about him I discovered that he was sued for plagiarism for his theme for ‘Callan’ and lost. More significantly the case led to a change in the admissibility of similar evidence in UK court cases. http://www.itssolastcentury.co.uk/lounge/Television_Shows/Callan/Theme_Tune.php

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