One of the most important aspects of any television production is a great theme tune, and the Anderson shows were blessed with some of the all-time greats! In anticipation of hearing many of them being performed live at the Stand by for Action! concert in Birmingham next April, we’re counting down our top ten favourite Anderson television show theme tunes!
#10 – Supercar
We’re taking to the skies with Mike Mercury to start this list, for the soaring Supercar theme by Barry Gray that accompanies the ‘Marvel of the Age’s journey through the air, under the sea and back into the sky! Although the more relaxed and jazzy second season version performed by the Mike Sammes Singers is not without its charms, we’re sticking with Mike Sammes’ original solo performance that accompanied the first season for the way that both performer and musicians encapsulate the drama and majesty of Supercar soaring through the heavens!
#9 – Space Precinct
Crispin Merrell’s theme for Space Precinct emphasises both the grandeur and danger of the world of Altor, with a relentless driving beat to reinforce the exciting action of the opening titles. The visuals may have been futuristic but the main theme helped keep the audience grounded by not sounding too sci-fi, while preparing them for another exciting adventure with the Precinct 88 team. The Space Precinct theme is also notable for being one of the few television shows to incorporate a police siren as a musical instrument within its own theme music; in fact, are there any others?
#8 – Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
A difficult one to pin down, but it had to make the list! The end titles song from Captain Scarlet comes in two flavours (original or Spectrum) but since both largely follow the same tune we can largely treat them with equal status on this ranking! Perhaps even better than the versions heard on television however is the instrumental cover version first released as a single in 1967, proving that whether it has vocals or not the Captain Scarlet theme is still one of the grooviest and coolest that 1960s television had to offer!
#7 – Fireball XL5
Although the closing titles song is far better known, the opening titles theme from Fireball XL5 deserves just as much recognition for helping make the build-up to the titular spacecraft’s launch both grand and almost unbearably tense! Once XL5 blasts away from her launch rail however the theme switches tone entirely to a more playful saxophone-based tune that perfectly encapsulates the era in which the series was made – and sets the stage for another exciting adventure in space with the XL5 crew.
#6 – UFO
Even if the opening title sequence doesn’t quite match the more serious (and often downright sombre) tone of the actual series that it accompanied, the UFO theme is still a very cool and funky piece of music that instantly catches the viewer’s attention. Heavy on the Hammond organ (and featuring some interesting drum and percussion work) the main theme for UFO would go on to also serve as something of a signature track for the SHADO organisation itself, with various pieces of incidental music based around the theme being heard throughout the series to underscore their activities.
#5 – Terrahawks
Richard Harvey’s score for Terrahawks has aged extremely well, with the opening and closing themes (largely the same basic melody but arranged in different ways) remaining particular highlights. The opening theme (which some have compared to the Star Wars theme) perfectly establishes the upbeat yet militaristic tone of the series, accompanied on screen by visuals that establish the format of the series and its major players every week. With a full orchestra behind it (as with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of the piece) it can sound even more epic than it does on television!
#4 – Stingray
Another series where the opening and closing title themes are totally different, but Stingray makes this list for its opening theme which forms part of one of the most exciting title sequences in television history! Heavily incorporating the drums which would become so synonymous with the show’s action, the main theme also finds brass and strings working in harmony to create an opening theme that promises the viewer non-stop adventure and excitement! Matched to the striking visuals of the opening titles and Commander Shore’s assurance that “anything can happen in the next half hour!”, the Stingray theme made you believe that he was absolute correct!
#3 – Space:1999 (Year One)
While it was difficult to not include Derek Wadsworth’s second season theme on this list, Barry Gray’s theme for the first season of Space:1999 ranks high for perfectly summing up the epic scale and grandeur that the show was originally aiming for; from the swelling drums that open the piece to the soaring strings that accompany shots of the Moon adrift in space. This is of course all supplemented by Vic Elms’ electric guitar solo, which somehow manages to be very 1970s and yet totally in keeping with the timeless nature of the rest of the theme all at the same time!
#2 – Joe 90
Much like the underrated series it hails from, the music of Joe 90 deserves to be recognised as some of the best ever composed for an Anderson series. The opening theme embraces the sophisticated technology of the B.I.G.R.A.T. by incorporating the machine’s sound effects into the actual rhythm of the music, while the closing theme is almost impossible to listen to without smiling as it builds from a single flute all the way up to a rousing crescendo – featuring more spectacular drum work! Vibrant, funky and bursting with positive energy, the opening and closing Joe 90 themes celebrate the spirit of the show in different ways – while also being phenomenal pieces of music in their own right!
#1 – Thunderbirds
It had to be, didn’t it? The Thunderbirds march has become one of the most iconic pieces of television music ever composed, perfectly encapsulating the drama and majesty of the series itself. From the initial stings of the countdown, through the chaotic action of the episode preview, and then into the rousing triumphant chords of the march itself, the Thunderbirds theme has everything that an Anderson theme should – so much so that it’s almost impossible to hear without memories of the series flooding to mind. As you might expect the theme sounds particularly amazing when brought to life by a full orchestra (and has been performed by many all over the world) and that’s what you’ll be able to experience at the concert!
We’re hoping to feature all of the above themes as part of the concert, and many more besides – so if you haven’t yet booked your ticket for the event, don’t leave it too late! In the meantime, how does this ranking compare to your own personal top ten Anderson theme tune selection? Let us know in the comments below!