When I started in the music business, I was dedicated to becoming a better player, both on guitar and piano. I would practice several hours a day, going over scales and various strength building exercises, learning chops and trying to improve my sight reading by reading old clarinet scores my dad had given me. I didn’t feel that my day was complete until I’d exhausted myself physically and mentally despite not earning a penny in the process.
It was around this time I met several people who were studying to become directors, producers, designers and writers for TV and Film. One day, one particular friend, who seemed to like what I did, called round and said that he’d been asked to put together a new BBC children’s programme which he was calling ‘The Sunday Gang’. It would be a mixture of stories, songs, moral tales and Bible stories with featured guests, puppets and singing presenters. Would I like to write the title music, be involved in doing the songs as well as playing live on set with a small band?
Hmmm, now let me think….. “We start in a months’ time”, he added, disappearing quickly to start casting the presenters.
As he was a good friend and it was a first for both of us, I didn’t realise at the time what an amazing opportunity this was. I had done one or two TV jobs before but never been asked to write all the music and M.D. a band for a series. When we next met in his office at the B.B.C., he asked me about the title music song and suggested a few thoughts. I said that I had an idea which was more of an instinctive reaction because I really didn’t. He then suggested that I play him my idea on the piano which was just down the hall. Gulp!
During the two-minute walk from his office to the studio piano, I wrote something in my head, nervously wondering if this was the way to do it and what would happen if it wasn’t. I sat down and said that I thought it should go like this. I started playing a bouncy little chord progression and immediately he started singing along with the melody, writing a couple of the opening lyrics, on the fly; ‘Knocking on Doors, Opening Windows, up and down and round”, while I genuinely made up the rest as we jammed along together. This miraculously became the opening and closing titles for the show and I sat back, praying I’d still remember it and wondering if all composing for TV was this straight forward.
We went on to record and broadcast several series of The Sunday Gang at TV Centre, London, and then BBC Manchester which for me lasted seven years. It was where I met my first and only wife who was one of the brilliant presenters and helped to buy our first house. I think had I really known the significance of such an incredible offer of work and what the impact might have been I would have been a great deal more respectful and certainly a lot more scared. Being confident, innocent and naïve served me well and I often look back wishing that things would be the same now.
‘Knocking on Doors, Opening Windows’ seemed to work from then on and to be a great piece of advice for the future especially when you have to knock several times to get any answer and the windows are either broken, fogged up or locked.
Always say YES and then panic! You may never get the chance again and ‘Almost, Possibly, Nearly or Perhaps’ don’t really cut it on your CV.