Throughout your life, one song has always been there for you. Whether you flopped a spelling test, got dumped in front of the entire school or had the Fruit Winder nicked from your lunchbox, one tune was ready to ease the pain, and reconnect you with universal truths of communality. The best thing was, you could hear this song every day if you wanted to. At 5.35pm on BBC One it would unfold, forcing you to search deep within your shared experiences for the meeting point where neighbours become good friends.
Neighbours, and its too-huge-for-words theme tune, turn thirty today, meaning it has spent the entire lifespan of Marvin from JLS spreading its promise of friendship to the masses. Composed by Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch, the song was so lit that when the programme makers heard it for the first time they immediately changed the name of the entire show from Ramsay Street to Neighbours, from which point it went on to be voted the world’s most recognisable TV theme. Yet the reality of this achievement is even greater: the neighbours theme tune was written and recorded in ONE DAY. That’s right. Hatch and Trent penned it, called in man like Barry Crocker to record the vocals, and it was on the producers desk by 10am the next morning. Truth.
Ultimately it is a pre-Simpsons paean to community, very much in keeping with the soap’s vibe which often favoured love, peace and Lou Carpenter over the darker inclinations of UK serials. This wasn’t always the case of course - you only need to re-watch Harold Bishop’s soliloquy in the lead up to his murder attempt on Paul Robinson to understand the spiritual depravities Erinsborough’s residents were capable of - yet bookended by a composition with positivity levels not even Arthur could challenge, Neighbours remained an institution of feel-good family values at heart.
Although much like any institution, the Neighbours theme tune has been forced to adapt. A lot has changed since the first episode of the soap in 1985: the Berlin Wall came down, 9/11 shook the world, and Steve Irwin was laid to rest by an eight foot stingray. Accordingly the Neighbours theme tune has evolved in order to survive, changing eight times in the last thirty years. To fully appreciate this sonic development, here is the evolution laid out.
Press play on the below video for a montage of the tracks, and scroll down to read our step-by-step guide to each version.
The one and only original cut. Barry Crocker’s vocal are tighter than George Osborne's fiscal policy. Check the pick up on the line: “Next door is only a foot step away”. Actually the more I listen to this version, the more it sounds like something Des O’Connor would sing at the end of a televised pantomime. This version charted in the UK at a record-breaking #84 and stayed their for 5 weeks. Big up.
Cast your mind to 1989. Barry is back and this time… he brought the bass. Fuck this version actually turns up, the snare kick is dropping like your grandad's knees at the bowling club Christmas party. Appropriately this was the theme tune for the era that saw Harold Bishop disappear into the sea like a Salvation Army mermaid. A darker sound for a darker show.
Joining the craze about thirty years late, 92 saw Neighbours take on a full jazz fusion cut. Our beloved Barry Crocker was savagely axed on lead vocals and replaced by the despicable Greg Hinds - who's probably actually quite a lovely bloke but out of Crocker loyalty it's my duty to hate him. Focusing on the music itself though, even a Crocker stan like myself must admit that the sax is absolutely dripping. I imagine Karl and Susan running a bath and opening a fresh bottle of Imperial Lather's 'Blissful Escape' range.
Turn of the century and it was time to diversify, namely by switching the setup to the unknown duo of Paul Norton and Wendy Stapleton - two names that sound like they may have been ripped from a local news story on a petition to change the colour of the recycling bins. I think you could consider this version Neighbour’s 808’s & Heartbreaks moment, a bold rejection of populist appeal in favour of a far more intimate approach.
Listen, I’m gonna be honest. I was trying to remain impartial as this is a piece of watertight #journalism, but this one right here is my jam. This is the sonic encapsulation of that nostalgic scrap of space time known as 'after school'. It is Boyd and Skye’s sexual awakening; it's when almost every character died in a plane crash; it's when the actor who played Joe Scully got fired and Lyn had to pretend he was on holiday; it's Toadie squirting ketchup on his peas; it's Dr Karl feverishly chasing a pig around his front garden.
Sorry, but I do not fucks with Channel 5.
And here we are, the modern day and Ramsey Street has gone all Lumineers "Ho Hey". To me it sounds jarring, but that’s probably for the best. It's time for a new generation of school kids to sling their rucksacks to the floor, neck a pint of Nesquik, put some trackie Bs on, smash a bowl of sugar puffs, hurl abuse at their mum, and forget about their SATS for a while.
Who knows what the next incarnation will sound like? Dancehall? Shoegaze? Vaporwave? It doesn’t really matter. The Neighbour’s theme tune is bigger than any of its regenerations. It is an idea that will outlive the television programme itself, a call to arms for the curtain twitchers, a cry for peace in a time of Eastenders' childhood murderers. It is the solidarity between Harold and Lou, it is the fierce loyalty of Paul Robinson, it is Susan’s forgiveness of Karl, it is the glint in Toadie’s eye, it's where good neighbours become good friends.
You can discuss your favourite Neighbours episodes with Angus on Twitter.