A NUTTY NUT
NEWS NETWORK EXCLUSIVE
(Text by Mike David)
Here are two brief but insightful audio interviews with the popular
composer and conductor, the late Ronnie Hazlehurst. Well known for
his theme tunes for numerous British sitcoms, these interviews
concentrate on Ronnie's Laurel and Hardy connection.
We'll hear Ronnie talk about how he met with Hal Roach Studio's
musical director Marvin Hatley to straighten out copyright issues
related to Laurel and Hardy background music. He also discusses how
he worked on the then recent "Laurel and Hardy Music Box, Volume
Before concluding, Ronnie reveals his official title with BBC
The two interviews were taped in 1984 and 1990 by the Nutty Nut News
Network Show's roving reporter, Steve Wichrowski, Jr.
From The Times
October 3, 2007
Composer of theme tunes for many of Britain’s best-known sitcoms
Ronnie Hazlehurst’s music will forever be associated with the heyday
of the British sitcom. It has been described unkindly by its critics
as “plinky plunky”, “fiddly twiddly” and “an aural dot-to-dot”.
Writers on sport or politics have been known to sum up particularly
silly mishaps by stating that they lacked only a Ronnie Hazlehurst
soundtrack. The satirical puppet show Spitting Image once featured
the Hazlehurst Requiem: “My soul doth magnify the Lord (tiddley-pom)
/ And praise my salvation (dum dum)”. But if his work lacked
gravitas, it more than made up for it in memorability; it persists
in the subconscious of everyone who grew up watching television in
the 1970s and 1980s.
Born in Manchester, Hazlehurst first tried to make his living as a
trumpet player, and after some session work for the BBC in London he
joined the corporation in 1961 as an arranger and conductor,
eventually becoming Light Entertainment Musical Director.
He first created incidental music for The Likely Lads and The Liver
Birds, and a tune for It’s a Knockout. He worked often for small
fees, greater responsibility arriving relatively late in 1971 when
he took charge of the orchestra for The Two Ronnies.
Over the next 15 years he composed theme music for many of the
programmes that comprised the golden age of British situation
comedy, including Are You Being Served?, Just Good Friends, To the
Manor Born, Yes Minister, Sorry! and Three Up, Two Down. He arranged
themes for other artists, including that to Carla Lane’s Butterflies
(1978) and Only Fools and Horses (1981) for John Sullivan.
Hazlehurst worked in other areas of light entertainment, too,
writing in 1977 one of his most memorable and, to many, irritating,
television themes — for Blankety Blank, hosted first by Terry Wogan.
In 1982 he wrote the theme music for the Wogan chat show.
Hazlehurst insisted that there was no particular genius to his
composing; he said he would merely sing the show’s title to himself
and then transcribe the results. It could turn out to be subtly
subversive: in 1973 the BBC complained that his composition for Last
of the Summer Wine sounded nothing like a comedy theme: could he not
at least speed it up? There was no time for a rewrite, however, as
the programme was due to air two days after the music was delivered.
The show became the longest-running comedy on British television,
and the theme tune probably the best-loved of all Hazlehurst’s
creations. Similarly, the theme for The Fall and Rise of Reginald
Perrin (1976) dips and ascends at the appropriate parts of the
phrase as it would if the title were sung, so that it seems, by
itself, strangely serious.
Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em (1973) broke his writing pattern, as the
producer Michael Mills insisted on a minimalist theme that would
spell out the programme’s name in morse code. Hazlehurst was allowed
only a piccolo, but after negotiation was allowed two. Only when
Sydney Lotterby took over for series three was a tuba added to this
extraordinarily sparse composition. Hazlehurst, who was paid just
£30 for his trouble, seemed to thrive on the tight deadlines and
scarcity of cash that pervaded his profession in the 1970s. “By the
time the filming was done, there was nothing in the budget left for
music,” he explained.
Hazlehurst had a long association with the Eurovision Song Contest,
on which he served as Britain’s musical director three times. In
1977 he conducted both the German disco troupe Silver Convention and
the British entry, Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran, performing Rock
Bottom. Dressed in a bowler and conducting with a brolly, Hazlehurst
helped the duo to second place. He also saw silver with Scott
Fitzgerald (1989), Live Report (1989) and Michael Ball (1992). He
conducted seven British entries and helped to build up a record for
best overall results of any country. Britain’s success ended after
Katrina and the Waves won the contest in 1997. Today interest in the
contest has, like the points tally, dropped away sharply. The
British sitcom has arguably experienced a similar decline.
In 1999 Hazlehurst received a gold badge award from the British
Academy of Composers and Songwriters.
He moved from Hendon to Guernsey ten years ago.
He is survived by his partner, Jean Fitzgerald, and by two sons from
his second marriage.
Ronnie Hazlehurst, musician and composer, was born in 1928. He died
after a stroke on October 1, 2007, aged 79
to read a BBC report on Ronnie and listen
to some of his most popular tunes.