Friday, October 5, 2007

The day the music died

A dreadful quiet has fallen over the land.
Now, if you say something like "I can't do that - I own the company!" or if your boss asks you what you can possibly say to stop him sacking you and you say "sorry, dad", or if the newspaper vendor you've been criticising for not enunciating properly hands you a paper and it really is called the Morry Starret - there will only be eerie silence.
Ronnie Hazelhurst, master of the light ent sig tune and incidental jingle, has gone to the great variety revue special in the sky.
Hazelhurst wrote those little bursts of instrumental jollity - musical chuckles, I suppose you could call them - that went between the sketches on The Two Ronnies, things like the rum-te-tiddle-de-dum-de-diddle after the two men on the alottment, or the dubba-dubba-da-da, dubba-dubba-da-da, DUM at the end of twist-in-the-tail punchlines. As such, he helped define an era of light entertainment.
He also wrote entire themes. Like James Bernard, in-house composer at Hammer films, his method was to take the title and sing it until a tune automatically arrived to fit the syllables and scansion. Bernard pulled this off even with such daunting raw material as Dracula Has Risen From the Grave and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell but Hazelhurst was a comparable master, turning Last of the Summer Wine into a gentle lilting melody capturing exactly the tempo of the show (for better or worse) and achieving with his masterpiece The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin a tune which is not only perfect for the programme but which also actually rises on the word rise and falls on the word fall. Odder assignments included Sorry!, which makes evocative use of a peculiar synthesised miaowwing noise, and Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, which spells out the title of the show in morse code using only piccolos.
Needless to say, his kind of warmth and artistry no longer had any place in the kind of television where end credits sequences are talked over, disfigured by superimposed trailers and rarely last longer than fifteen seconds. But it was nice to learn that he and Cathy Dennis co-wrote a number two hit for S Club 7 in 2000. (Which incidentally, you'll have noticed, has now ceased being referred to as "the year 2000").
I would end on a joke, but the silence would be unbearable.

Ronnie Hazelhurst (1928 -2007)
(A tip of the hat to the Times obit for most of the facts)