11 May 2016

Norman and the Invaders - Night Train To Surbiton/ The Likely Lads

Label: United Artists
Year of Release: 1965

Strange as it possibly seems from today's perspective, a lot of TV themes throughout the fifties to late sixties ended up getting released as singles, even without the existence of BBC Records and Tapes to take gambles on their commercial viability. Some theme tunes, such as that of "Doctor Who", were so striking that obviously the decision made sense. In other cases, it's hard to hear where the broader appeal lay. 

"Night Train To Surbiton" is, logically enough, the theme to a missing-believed-wiped six-part thriller drama from 1965 starring Peter Jones and Nicholas Parsons. Revolving around two businessmen getting themselves caught up in a murder mystery while spending a weekend away, the  series is remembered by some as being eerie and gripping, but... that's literally all the information I have (unless you want me to pull all the casting and crew information off IMDb, but you can do that for yourselves, surely?) The theme tune itself sounds more like something from a television Western than a crime drama, and shorn of all context it's hard to understand why. It's not completely impossible that it was a piece of music which was appropriated in a manner the composer (Norman Percival) hadn't originally intended. 

The B-side needs little introduction, but then again, maybe it does. This, after all, is not the theme from "Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads", but the theme from "The Likely Lads", so you can curb your expectations and stop expecting a bleary-eyed, beery-bellied mournful singalong about the onset of middle age and the Newcastle slum clearances (and you YouTube video owners can stop calling the WHTTLL theme "The Theme From The Likely Lads" as well, BECAUSE TECHNICALLY IT'S NOT. Specifics are important, damnit!) That said, I'm not actually sure this is the original theme as such either - it seems like a cover version with a very heavy Mr Bloe styled harmonica section, like some sort of "Last of the Summer Wine" and "Likely Lads" mash-up. Somebody ring Channel 4 now, there's probably an appalling series in that idea, but one which would nonetheless be guaranteed bucketloads of media coverage.


Anonymous said...

You've made my day

This is a very hard to find single, many many thanks

Greetings Albert

23 Daves said...

No problem, Albert. I do realise that it is scarce, but seemingly not that collectible... I think I picked this copy up for around a fiver, so I either got lucky or it's just not much in demand. That said, TV themes rarely are unless they have some cult value.

Tim Worthington said...

As possibly the only person in the universe who prefers The Likely Lads to Whatever Happened To, I was delighted to see (and hear) this... I had no idea it even existed!

VanceMan said...

Cooler pair of songs than I was imagining. Thanks for rescuing these from the bin.

23 Daves said...

Well, this is a turn-up. When I found this, my first thoughts were:

1. This is not likely to be of much interest to anyone. Even Tim Worthington is bound to have at least two copies.
2. Hold it in reserve for a bit, it might be a good one to upload when discoveries are getting a bit slow.

Which shows how wrong I can be, but I'm glad people are getting something out of it!

Andrew said...

You're right about it not being the original version of the tv theme, as broadcast, but it's a nice cover all the same. Thanks. Good find, and I tend to agree with your speculation that the harmonica player was possibly Harry Pitch.

brucster99 said...

Actually, "Night Train To Surbiton" is pretty cool! It isn't even listed on Discogs! Tut tut!!