31 May 2017

The Airwave Orchestra - Fourscore (I & II)

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1982

It's possibly hard for the "kids of today" to understand, but back in 1982 the launch of Channel 4 as a new British television station was an incredibly big deal. While Cable television had been an experimental concept since 1972 in the UK, it was decidedly early days for the format, and most of us only had access to three stations. The introduction of a commercial alternative fourth analogue station seemed both bold and different, and the extra choice felt almost unfathomable at first.

Channel 4's four note station ident was composed by David Dundas - or more appropriately Lord Dundas these days to us mere mortals - a man who was at the time probably best known for his seventies hit "Jeans On". While that particular single was a radio airplay staple for some time (and was later sampled by Fatboy Slim) it was the Channel 4 ident that really paid Dundas a fortune in royalties. It's widely reported that each time the station played his very simple jingle, he received £3.50 in royalties, an enviable deal that saw him earning £1,000 a week until the station changed its design in 1996. That and his "Jeans" related pay-outs must have seen him earning more than most musicians with chart LPs, even at that cash-rich time for the music industry. Blimey, and indeed, let's have an extra "blimey" for good measure.

Channel 4 initially ran numerous promotional films of its shows to advertise itself to curious new viewers, and an extended version of the theme called "Fourscore" ran in the background. Really, it's a pseudo-classical tune which bases itself around the four-note jingle, and is only really good for a couple of spins before it gets rather boring. Why Polydor felt the need to launch it as a single in its own right is anyone's guess, but copies are quite rare now so it clearly didn't sell well. The first week of Channel 4's broadcasts saw frenzied media coverage, so it's possible that the label thought anything associated with the station would pick up some sales (though thank God a Richard Whiteley Countdown spin-off single wasn't in the offing).

As for Dundas, while he was blessed with a £1,000 per week guaranteed income, he was by no means entirely idle, working as an actor and scoring music for numerous films, most notably for 1987's cult classic "Withnail and I".


Reimer said...

Thanks for this. Do read the jolly good chapter in Andy Beckett's 'Promised You A Miracle' about C4's roots and first few impactful years.

23 Daves said...

Thanks for the recommendation - I'll definitely look into that.

Ian Fryer said...

Thanks for uploading this - I actually have this single but you've saved me the trouble of digitising it. I especially like Fourscore 2, which was often used in the early days of Channel 4 in the gaps where ad-breaks should have been, but they hadn't been able to sell any.