The World Of Gardeners' World

Sometimes, despite what you might have read, it's been surprisingly difficult to find certain once-ubiquitous examples of retro iconography on the Internet. Until recently, you'd have searched in vain for any footage of Crow And Alice from You And Me, or any photographs of Number One magazine gossip columnist Lola Lush, or a recording of the original theme song from The Amazing Adventures Of Morph. Of course, all of the above have since put in an appearance, and you can find the full story behind that disappearing-from-history Morph song in Top Of The Box. I would also like to take this opportunity to strenuously deny any and all rumours that I was especially pleased to see Lola Lush again.

Sorry, where was I? Oh right, yes. Part of the reason why all of the above and more are now 'out there' was that one of my earlier attempts at a blog was specifically dedicated to smoking out copies of things that were conspicuous by their online absence. This isn't necessarily mentioned out of self-congratulation, by the way, as one of the first things that I managed to turn up was a Rolf Harris single. Something that I'm slightly more pleased to have found in retrospect, though, was the original Gardeners' World theme.

Some of you are no doubt about to point out to me that they're still using that sappy tweedle-eedle acoustic guitar thing, so why would anyone have needed to look that hard for it in the first place? Well, they only started using that one in the late eighties. Prior to that, Gardeners' World was heralded by a ludicrously over-the top cascade of sweeping strings that suggested anything but tranquil to-camera pieces on how to check your vegetable patch for wireworm. What's more, it was instantly familiar to an audience that went way beyond that of Gardeners' World itself. Not that they necessarily have matters under that much control these days, but BBC2 used to have a huge problem with live coverage overrunning, particularly when it came to snooker. Their solution was usually to simply shunt the schedule back by the requisite number of minutes, meaning that when you tuned in for Alexei Sayle's Stuff or Cool It! or whatever, you would have to sit through what seemed like several centuries of Bob Flowerdew and Gay Search inspecting herbaceous borders before what you actually wanted to see came on. Needless to say, the end theme of Gardeners' World wasn't exactly in the top ten of anyone who'd had to set their video for Comrade Dad.

Still, despite all that it was actually a rather exciting piece of music, calling to mind a bustling garden fete rather than newspaper 'Review' section-friendly allotment-tilling, and it was rather surprising to find that it wasn't online in any form. So I asked, and within minutes of the post going up, Chris Hughes of TV Cream had got in touch to say that he had a recording of it. Then someone else got in touch to say they had a slightly different version. And then someone got in touch to say they had a radically different version. Yes, the Gardeners' World theme - apparently more correctly and appropriately known as Green Fingers - had gone through a germination and flowering process all of its own. And here is a handy back-of-seed-packet style guide to cultivating your very own Gardeners' World theme music.

Apparently, when Gardener's World first appeared in the BBC2 schedules in 1968, it was introduced by a long-forgotten solo clarinet piece; which, if solo clarinet pieces for TV shows from around that time are anything to go by, can probably stay long-forgotten. A couple of years later, in came Green Fingers, though it was initially essayed as an almost unrecognisable reed-dominated quasi-baroque waltz with jazzy touches. Sounding like it would be much more at home introducing an early Radio 4 sitcom, you'd have to listen closely to notice that it even was the same tune, and while it may have been nice and flowery it was hardly going to attract the attention of the casual viewer. Nor indeed the frustration of the viewer who was having to wait for Oh In Colour. Clearly a rethink was in order.

In the early seventies, Green Fingers found itself on the recieving end of a fairly radical landscaping. Uprooted into 4/4, it was re-interpreted by a string section with 'pop' backing who attacked it at a ferocious pace with scant regard for the safety of the viewing public, calling to mind Mr Bilton from Chigley careering around the grounds of Winkstead Hall in a turbo-charged motorised lawnmower. Yet while the alarming musical overemphasis is already in evidence, it's still just not quite haphazard enough, and what's more it concludes with a frankly unnecessary bit of anti-climactic piano improvisation with way too many notes in. You can't have a build-up like that and not resolve it properly, and so by the middle of the decade...

The definitive reading of Green Fingers takes everything up a key with a small but vital increase in tempo, and what's more is played with such formidable force that you can't help but wonder if the closing bit of over-elaborate extemporisation came about because the violinist simply couldn't stop. And if that's not the sound of a trip to the local garden centre to stock up on seedlings, ornaments and ice lollies that they never seemed to sell anywhere else, then frankly nobody knows what is. Meanwhile, if you want to point out that there was also this acoustic Gardeners' World theme that hasn't been mentioned here for some reason, I will personally insert seven minutes of it into the start of every episode of Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle for you.