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Blue Peter Theme Tunes throughout the years 1958 to present

Blue Peter Theme Tunes throughout the years 1958 to present

The Signature Tune on Blue Peter has been a hornpipe playing Barnacle Bill, a popular sailor's song. The first opening titles had a Blue Peter flag lowered onto a ship. From 2008 onwards, the tune became Sailor's Hornpipe and from 2011 onward has become a mix of them both.

History of the TuneEdit

The opening tune, Barnacle Bill, was composed by Ashworth Hope (1880-1962) and has been used ever since Blue Peter began back in 1958.

The opening theme has been updated several times. The following is a list of all the versions of the Blue Peter signature tune, "Barnacle Bill" that have been used on the show :

  • Sidney Torch & The New Century Orchestra: October 1958 to January 1979
  • Mike Oldfield: January 1979 to June 1989 (see "Blue Peter" (Mike Oldfield single))
  • Simon Brint: September 1989 to September 1992
  • Simon Brint: September 1992 to September 1994
  • The Yes/No People: September 1994 to August 1999
  • David Arnold and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra: September 1999 to June 2004
  • Nial Brown: September 2004 to December 2006
  • Dave Cooke: January 2007 to June 2007
  • Dave Cooke & Blue Peter Music Makers September 2007 to June 2008
  • Dobs Vye: September 2008 – June 2011
  • Banks & Wag: September 2011

The debut of a new version of the famous theme tune "Barnacle Bill" is sometimes accompanied with an introduction by the presenters at the time explaining the reasons behind the new rendition. Mike Oldfield appeared on the programme around 1979, and his version of the theme tune was so popular with viewers that the producers decided to record it for use as a permanent theme.

Despite a new rendition of the theme music being introduced in 2004, a further new version was arranged by Murray Gold and recorded in 2006, as part of a viewers' competition, with prize winners taking part in the final orchestral recording. Viewers were told that this new version of the theme would be used when the series returned from its summer break in September 2006; however, for unknown reasons, this was not the case, save for excerpts being used as incidental music. Instead, when the September 2006 series began, a slightly shortened version of the 2004 arrangement was used, with the opening bars removed. Between January and June 2007, Dave Cooke re-arranged the theme tune, although it was confirmed that Murray Gold's new arrangement would be used from the new series in September 2007, to coincide with the programme's 50th anniversary celebrations. However, the version that ultimately aired bears little resemblance to either the original Murray Gold/Music Makers recording or any previous recording of the theme.

Nearly as famous as the opening music is the closing theme, called "Drum and Fife" by W. Burns which has been re-arranged in line with the various versions of the opening signature tune. However, during the period 1999–2004, a shorter version of the opening tune was used to close the programme. The editor at the time, Steve Hocking, said that he was happy for the same tune to be used at the beginning and end of each broadcast, but in recent years the traditional finale tune has returned, with Nial Brown rearranging the closing tune from 2004 to 2006, and Dave Cooke doing so as of January 2007. From September 2007 to June 2008 the closing theme was slightly extended and rearranged, once again by Dave Cooke.

For the start of the September 2008 series "Barnacle Bill" was dropped as the signature tune after nearly fifty years of use and replaced by an arrangement of the very similar traditional dance tune "Sailors Hornpipe". On 14 October (the same week as the 50th anniversary) the opening arrangement of the tune was reworked to include elements of "Barnacle Bill" once again. The closing theme for 2008 is the same as opening signature tune.

In September 2011, the series returned to using "Barnacle Bill" though with the opening bars and drum roll omitted and the traditional closing signature tune not used.