Confessions of a Newsnight insider
- 2 Jan 08, 01:10 PM
A great theme, by George
The thunderous drum roll at the beginning of the Newsnight theme tune is a call to arms. Or rather, a call to ears and eyeballs - yours.
It demands your attention, and - together with an arresting headline - provides some dramatic punctuation that makes it clear this isn’t a continuation of the Graham Norton Show.
The music was written by George Fenton, a man whose distinguished musical range spans movies like Gandhi, The Madness of King George and Groundhog Day.
He also had a bit part years ago in Emmerdale Farm. (Where did it all go wrong?!)
The original version of the Newsnight theme was recorded at Lime Grove’s television music studio, a few roads away from us in London’s verdant Shepherd’s Bush. It was remixed in the mid-90s to, erm, sex it up a bit: turning the electric guitar up to 11, giving it more stereo oomph for the coming digital age.
(Rock’n’roll mythology has it that our esteemed Editor, Peter, played guitar on a further remix last year.)
The French horns carry the tune in an innovative musical line-up that few composers outside of the Beach Boys’ in-house genius Brian Wilson would get away with. (Wilson combines a French horn with a harmonica in the intro to God Only Knows.)
In a quirky twist of television fate, the music studio where the Newsnight theme was remixed is now home to CBeebies and CBBC, the BBC’s offerings for younger viewers. But Newsnight’s youthful connections don’t stop there.
The studio that Newsnight comes from nightly was once home to kids’ weekend jollities such as Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, Saturday Superstore and Going Live. Imagine it: our Emily purveying serious journalism only inches away from where Keith Chegwin used to giggle his guts off!
Sometimes when I traipse the long corridor back from the studio to the office after Newsnight has finished, I fancy I can hear the ghostly pleas of Noel Edmonds demanding a chance to break free of Swap Shop and present a grown-ups’ quiz show featuring an inaudible banker.
Or maybe it’s Fenton’s masterpiece still ringing in my ears.
The tension of the timpani roll at the beginning and the brooding Newsnight theme that follows imply a world in turmoil. But the musical resolution with the horns riding high at the end says, it might be a dark world out there but Emily’s done her level best to help you make sense of it.
Don’t have nightmares...