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.)