Sep 07


FT + Popular131 comments • 11,482 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. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 127
    Lazarus on 27 Dec 2014 #

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


  8. 128
    Jimmy the Swede on 28 Dec 2014 #

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

  9. 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

  10. 130
    lonepilgrim2015 on 8 Oct 2019 #

    I vaguely remember watching VDV as a kid and being fascinated by Amsterdam. I enjoyed the theme tune but came to resent it bunging up the number 1 spot on TOTP. It then became a fixture at school concerts, piped out at frequencies that would set local dogs barking and smash glasses

  11. 131
    Gareth Parker on 30 May 2021 #

    Amiably jaunty and rousing in my opinion. I’ll go with a 7/10 here.

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