I have always been an avid fan of The Dandy. Even to this date, I get given the Dandy and Beano annuals for my birthday having once said to my girls; “Birthdays are never the same without a decent annual!”.
I had just started writing music for a variety of TV productions and through a friendship with the lovely and talented Richard Everett, I met the producers of The Mr Men TV series. They were rewriting and remaking new episodes to include the Little Miss characters, replacing Arthur Lowe’s reassuring narration and using John Alderton and Pauline Collins instead.
They asked Richard and I to write a few character songs and in turn I got to write the opening and closing titles as well as all the incidental music, I wasn’t sure at the time how this all worked but we set to and put together a small library of songs and music so they could add it to the animation. It was only later I realised this was a nice little number that gave me money by way of royalties. I must do more of these!
Flicks Films, who were the production company, were also in discussion with DC Thompson, the Behemoth Publishers based in Dundee and owners of The Dandy and Beano comics. Flicks had been commissioned to write a new series called Bananaman who had featured in The Dandy and who they felt worthy of separate mention by way of a new TV animated show.
I stood in a line of one and asked if I could do the music. At the time there didn’t appear to be anyone else around so I got the gig.
As with the Mister Men, I was asked to write a library of works rather than write to picture. I got a list of various moods, grooves, styles and fillers and started writing the title music.
Home studios were distant dreams only possible with a starting price of £100k moving steadily upwards. My budget for this certainly wasn’t anywhere close to those figures, so I got myself a sturdy cassette four track machine, a keyboard and lots of manuscript paper. Within a short time, I had the Bananaman theme written and sketched. The gear I had was only useful for basic ideas and nothing I recorded was in any way usable. But at least I got an idea.
Hiring what was then the state-of-the-art sampling keyboard and synthesisers, I went into the studios in Brewer Street, Soho, and started recording all the parts, one by one, to create this library for Eric, who was Bananaman. I think most of the incidental stuff came on the fly and I sort of made things up as I went along, checking the list, using my Topline sketches, the in-house piano and creating more sounds, noises and effects around the fire escape outside and the bathroom inside. Within a couple of days, I had enough to please the clients and offer them a variety of tracks that would fit most comedy and dramatic moods on my list. So armed with a bulging ¼” Master tape, I strolled around the corner to Wardour Street and delivered my first solo animation series. And then waited. I didn’t know at the time, but The Goodies: Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie and Graham Garden would be voicing the characters lending serious credibility to my eclectic score and adding further legendary status to the project.
The joy of seeing the first broadcast on TV was something you never really forget. Nor the second or third. But to have a series like Bananaman run for twenty years was quite unimaginable and very rewarding.
It was when both my girls were at University and the discussion came up about what each of their parents did. “Oh, mine’s a Solicitor, Well, mine’s a Brain Surgeon. That’s nothing, mine is a Sea Admiral. Jem, Ames, what does your Dad do?”
“Well, he wrote Bananaman!” Needless to say, I became a legend alongside Eric and The Goodies.
Thank you Bananaman. You were, and still are, The Legend!