Whenever one enjoys a few pints with chums of similar vintage the conversation inevitably turns to discussions of favourite TV themes of yesteryear. There are few titles that command hushed reverence, but Dudley Simpson’s theme to the 1970s Thames Television science-fiction series The Tomorrow People is one of them.

Simpson wrote prolifically during the seventies, providing stalwart service to Doctor Who, where he created wonderfully inventive incidental music for the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker eras. His work on Doctor Who often overshadows two other remarkable contributions to the genre: his bold title themes for Blake’s 7 and The Tomorrow People. As batting averages go, it’s a record that places him alongside the great signature tune composers, like Ron Grainer and Ronnie Hazelhurst.

Dudley Simpson’s haunting theme for the series bookends Trunk Records’ terrific new CD compilation The Tomorrow People – Original Television Music. It’s a fine piece of music, and one that’s not been satisfactorily represented on CD before. Previous recordings have, I think, been sourced straight from one of the episodes. Here you get to hear it in what is presumably its full 1’54” glory. Trunk's version has a beginning, a middle and an end! *

The rest of the CD is no less remarkable, although it does stretch the title “Music” somewhat. Only one or two of the other tracks would generally be referred to as music (examples would include Restless Relays, which features bleeps and syncopated rhythmic pulsing, interspersed with mechanical stings, and Way Out, which has swooping oscillations that make it sound like an odd alternate universe version of the Callan signature tune, with a bit of the tail end to the Doctor Who opening theme to wrap things up). The rest of the tracks might more accurately be described as atmospheres or - risking Pseud’s Corner - soundscapes.

In the sixties and seventies, it wasn’t uncommon for British TV series to use stock or library music rather than pay for new compositions each week. Most sixties episodes of Doctor Who were scored in this way, for example, as were series like The Prisoner and The Sweeney.

Most of the music from The Tomorrow People came from a single library record: Standard Music Library’s disc ESL 104, and it’s the contents of this 1969 disc that make up the bulk of Trunk’s new CD.

The Tomorrow People has often been accused of being a cheap ITV knock-off of Doctor Who, so it’s with some irony that we discover that ESL 104 was not, as the paperwork claims, composed by “Nikki St George” and “Li De La Russe”, but by a couple of employees of the BBC’s fabled Radiophonic Workshop moonlighting! The tracks were actually composed by Doctor Who veterans Brian Hodgson (“Nikki St George”) and the legendary Delia Derbyshire (“Li De La Russe”). Track titles like Delia’s Idea, Delia’s Dream, Delia’s Reverie and Delia’s Resolve were probably a bit of a giveaway!

The remaining tracks were composed by David Vorhous, an avant garde American composer who formed Camden Town’s Kalieaphon studio with Derbyshire and Hodgson, producing several landmark recordings for Island Records under the name White Noise.

The CD features Standard ESL 104 in its entirety, and in the same order, save for nine short variations of a theme called Oranges and Lemons, which weren’t used in the series.

Some of the tracks will be very familiar to anyone who remembers the show. They regularly turn up as sound effects for hyperspace, or the mysterious workings of an alien space ship. It’s a shame that the disc’s sleeve notes don’t make any attempt to pin down individual tracks to their use in the series. The booklet does note, though, that tracks from the disc were also used in Timeslip, and that Battle Theme (rumblings, punctuated with mechanic thumps) was also featured in the 1970 Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story Inferno.

In fact, Doctor Who fans will find much more to chew on than that! Four other tracks were also used in Inferno: Attack of the Alien Minds (a shrill, whistling track reminiscent of birdsong), Build Up To (low-key ambient dithering), Homeric Theme (a deep throbbing rumble, with moody accents) and Souls In Space (ethereal wind-like noises). Incidentally, Build Up To was also used in the Pertwee story Colony In Space.

The audio quality is quite reasonable, considering the age of the source recordings, and the multi-track nature of the material. Dynamic range is a little cramped, as you’d expect, but there’s little distortion, and only a smidgeon of tape hiss.

Most of the tracks are less than two minutes long, and some are only a few seconds long, so it should come as no surprise to find that the entire disc runs for just over thirty-one minutes. It’s a good length for casual listening: much more would start to drag.

Trunk Records’ focus is on selling this as a ground-breaking collection of early British electronica. The fact that it also happens to be music from The Tomorrow People just gives them a handy hook to peg it on. If it was a proper Tomorrow People album, it would surely feature the wonderfully-languid variations on Dudley Simpson’s theme that were regularly used to build menace. It’s unlikely that these tapes still exist, though, sadly.

The disc is modestly packaged, with a simple three-colour, four-page booklet. There are anecdotal sleeve notes that detail how the album came about, some of the history behind the original recordings, and short profiles of the four composers involved, but little else. The notes explain that they’d have liked to have offered a glossy booklet packed with stills from the series, but spent the budget on sourcing and licensing the music instead. Fair enough!

If you’re a fan of The Tomorrow People or Doctor Who, or if you enjoy the wonderful bleeps and gurgles created by the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, this album comes highly recommended. As a relative obscurity, pressed in limited numbers, now would be a good time to grab a copy. Otherwise you might have to - as the small print on the back of the sleeve says with some bitterness - “go to ebay where people try and sell illusive [sic] Trunk releases for loads of money and sometimes get lucky”!

Amazon are currently offering the disc for £7.99. At that price, there's really no excuse not to buy.


Track list:

1) The Tomorrow People Theme (Simpson)
2) Lure of the Space Goddess (Russe / St George)
3) Battle Theme (St George)
4) Homeric Theme (St George)
5) Greek Concrete (St George)
6) Attack of the Alien Minds (St George)
7) Gothic Submarines (Russe / St George)
8) Whirring Menace (St George)
9) Souls In Space (St George) 
10) Time Capsule (St George)
11) Restless Relays (Russe / St George)
12) Planetarium (Russe)
13) Wet Asteroid (St George)
14) Way Out (Russe)
15) Fresh Aire (Russe)
16) Delia's Theme (Russe)
17) Tentative Delia (Russe)
18) Delia's Idea (Russe)
19) Delia's Psychadelian Waltz (Russe)
20) Delia's Resolve (Russe)
21) Delia's Dream (Russe)
22) Delia's Reverie (Russe)
23) Delia's Fulfilment (Russe)
24) Build Up To (Vorhaus)
25) Snide Rhythms (Vorhaus)
26) The Tomorrow People Theme (Simpson)


Related Link: Review of Trunk Records' soundtrack for The Wicker Man


* I believe the full version of the track might have been released before, on a long-deleted Silva Screen compilation called The Man From UNCLE and Other Themes. I have a copy of this disc, but couldn't lay my hands on it for this review.










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