TME > Audio > Tributes Discography

The Theme Tune

We have broken this discography down into categories, and most versions of the theme tune have fallen compliantly into groups. There are, however, assorted versions that refuse to be lumped together: reggae versions, rock versions, surfin' versions and even an accordion version. Ye gods. This is the novelty themes page - prepare to be quietly amazed!

1973 - Don Harper's Homo Electronicus

Don Harper's Homo Electronicus: World of Sport
7" vinyl single, November 1973
Columbia DB 9023 *

A. World of Sport
B. "Dr. Who" Theme

* Howe's Transendental Toybox also lists an alternate version of this record: EMI 923. Since Columbia and EMI were one and the same company, we suspect that pre-release documentation exists both for the master label and sub-label release, with the reported EMI record code of 923 extended to DB 9023 for its eventual release on Columbia. Certainly no EMI release has been found by TME.

--> Compilation releases

Australian composer, violinist and jazz artist Don Jackson had already associated himself with Doctor Who in 1968, producing 32 minutes of incidental music for the Season 6 story The Invasion, under his regular pseudonym of Don Harper. Commissioned specially by director Douglas Camfield (who had a three-year-old grudge against regular composer Dudley Simpson), Jackson prepared atmospheric tracks for repeated use in the serial (cheekily asking Simpson for scoring advice). The most distinctive piece was that composed for the UNIT battle sequences, with an organ piping out a cheerful melody over a fast percussion rhythm - music that has become symbolic of classic UNIT action from this era.

Jackson's unusual music - which has been called both "excellent" (The Television Companion, 1998) and "awful" (The Pocket Essential Doctor Who, 2000) - was written for a collection of acoustic and electronic instruments and performed by The Don Harper Ensemble, who would later go under the name of Don Harper's Homo Electronicus to release the World of Sport TV theme (composed specially for ITV) on Columbia Records, backed with their own experimental arrangement of the Doctor Who theme. Beginning with a solely-electronic rendition, the band quickly relax themselves into a thoroughly laid-back and groovy arrangement of the main chords, while the melody echoes and distorts into a jazzy freestyle tune. The record was incredibly difficult to find for many decades, but the nutty B-side was preserved on the complication CD Who is Dr Who in 2000.

1981 - Blam Blam Blam

Blam Blam Blam: Don't Fight It, Marsha, It's Bigger Than Both Of Us
New Zealand 7" vinyl single, December 1981
Propeller Records K8425 (REV 14)

A. Don't Fight It, Marsha, It's Bigger Than Both Of Us
B1. Dr Who
B2. Cachunga, Cachunga

Produced by Doug Rogers, Paul Streekstra and Blam Blam Blam
Recorded at Harlequin Studios, Auckland
Cover by Sauna Enterprises

--> Compilation Releases

The Auckland-based Blam Blam Blam appeared from the ashes of the three-piece band in the avant-punk-theatre act The Plague, who released a single for Ripper Records as The Whizz Kids (Occupational Hazard, 1980) before drummer Ian Gilroy was replaced by Don McGlashan. An invitation to record for Propeller Records' Class of 81 compilation in March 1981 led to a contract and a four-track EP, titled simply Blam Blam Blam, which, to the surprise of many, charted almost immediately and sat in the Top 40 for several months. Their next single, There is No Depression in New Zealand (July 1981), became the theme of the anti-Springbok tour protests and was sung up and down the country, turning gold a month after release. After briefly becoming a four-piece band for the recording of their 1982 album Luxury Length (joined by vocalist Dick Driver), the band were involved in a near-tragic van crash with Tim Mahon suffering permanent loss of smell. The crash effectively meant the end of the band, although they reformed briefly in 1984 to record the live Blam Blam Blam Story for Propeller.

Dr Who, one of two B-sides to the successful Don't Fight It, Marsha single in 1981 (a track numerously released on New Zealand compilation albums and issued as a Blam Blam Blam CD single in 1992, with live bonus tracks), is credited to Bailey and Control - a curious fact because it is nothing more than a re-arranged recording of the Grainer/Chappell-copyrighted Doctor Who theme. (It is possible that Bailey is/was simply a credit assigned to all cover versions in New Zealand.) Performed by some rumbling, crashing percussion, a pulsing bass and a screaming electric guitar, this 2'19" rendition sounds like an extended version of the Doctor Who theme in live performances of Pink Floyd's One Of These Days, and it is probable that Blam Blam Blam used it as a novelty track to pad-out their live sets (as did Orbital in 1999) and recorded it for prosperity without too much attention to detail. That the track fades in and out (over the familiar bass rhythm) might even suggest that the theme was originally included in a live medley of Blam material. It is, however, the most basic track on the single, with Don't Fight It, Marsha and Cachunga, Cachunga both featuring keyboard synths and advanced melodies - Dr Who plays through the main theme and middle section twice before falling into a drum solo and ending on a simple reprise of the bass-riff.

1982 - Romero

Romero: Simply Music
12" vinyl LP, 1982
SRT Productions Ltd CL001 (X/82/CUS 1360)

SIDE ONE

1. Tocata [sic]
2. Nut Rocker
3. The Birdie Song
4. Star Wars
5. Cavatina
6. “Western Medley”

SIDE TWO

1. Dr. Who
2. Telstar
3. “Hooked On Classic Medley”
4. Annie’s Song
5. “Patriotic Medley”

--> Sleevenotes / Television appearance (clip)

This arrangement of the theme tune begins with the TARDIS take-off effect, followed by a drum beat and electronic blips clearly inspired by the Mankind disco version. But when John Romeo takes the stand with his accordion, it truly is an outstandingly dodgy performance indeed. He alternates between playing a repetative and simple motif (of two chords) and the main melody itself, which is augmented by the odd high-pitched beep and the continuing drum beat. After two and a half minutes, the track swerves unstoppingly into ‘Telstar’, in the sequenced melodious style of those horrible instrumental cover-albums like ‘Hooked on Classics’, and the track trundles on for another three minutes before fading away into a swirling wind effect.

Alarmingly, Romero actually performed this on television: a clip resurfaced twenty-three years later on the BBC documentary Things You Need to Know About Doctor Who (tx: BBC2 19/3/05), taken from Romero's appearance on either Opportunity Knocks or Rising Stars. John Culshaw could find nothing to say about it; no jokes were really necessary.

Romero spent the early years of his life based in Watford, learning his trade as an entertainer around the London clubs. In 1980, John moved to Clacton-on-Sea and in 2000 he moved to Eastbourne. During the past thirty years he has won the British Accordion Championships, appeared twice on national UK television, entertained on several cruise ships, was entertainment's co-ordinator for a large holiday site in Clacton and worked hundreds of clubs, pubs, hotels and restaurants. He is still performing on the accordion today...

1984 - Doctor Pablo & the Dub Syndicate

Doctor Pablo & the Dub Syndicate: North of the River Thames
12" vinyl LP, 1984

1. Man Of Mystery
2. Dr. Who?
3. Pressurized
4. Tribute
5. A Taste Of Honey
6. North Of The River Thames
7. Red Sea
8. We Like It Hot

--> Additional releases

Doctor Pablo's North of The River Thames is cheekily named after Pablo's East of the River Nile, and is the work of Pete Stroud from Bourne End on Thames. Dr. Who? is a reggae remix of the theme tune, all laid back and groovy. And yes, you read that correctly, this is Doctor Who in a reggae style. According to the sleevenotes of the 1998 CD reissue, it is "an absolute killer version of Ron Grainer's theme tune for the now cult TV sci-fi show, which is still played out in the dance hall today not least in the dub set of DJ Andy Weatherall". (We're now wondering who Andy Weatherall is, and whether he ever released a record...)

The theme is indeed brilliant, proving once again that Ron Grainer's simple melody can morph to almost any style and rhythm without sounding out of place.

1992 - TV Wonder

Various Artists: Groeten uit Arnhem
Dutch compilation CD, 1992
Waaghals WR02

featuring Get Smart / Doctor Who TV Wonder

Seemingly a compilation of tracks by local bands searching for record deals, this amateurish CD includes one of the most curious of Doctor Who tributes. Beginning with "Get Smart" (the theme to a spoof spy show from America), TV Wonder (pictured, right) seague the track into a rough version of the Doctor Who theme, performed with bass, percussion and a couple of keyboards. Only the first section of the melody is used, repeated for approximately two minutes, until it dissolves into a 15-second sample of Roberta Tovey's 1965 novelty single Who's Who, echoed and crackly. Neither Ron Grainer, Malcolm Lockyer or Roberta Tovey are credited.

Their energetic performace, so excellently captured (compared to some pretty lifeless recordings by the likes of Hu and Lambert) is enchantingly simple and spontaneous. The merge from a dramatic chord to an echoey sample of Who's Who, which cuts out abruptly and reverbs into nothingness, is definately worth hearing.

1994 - Future Legend Allstars

Various Artists: TV Themes from the 60s - Volume 2
CD / 12" Vinyl / Cassette, 1994
Future Legend Records FLEGCD 2

In October 2001 the album was re-released on CD-R, having only been available on cassette for some time. Copies were provided on blank discs as a special deal with the release of Cult Themes from the '80s.

1.
The Saint Ministry of Ska
2.
Bad Bad Girl Moonchild
3.
Casino Royale Adventures Of Parsley
4.
Joe 90 Summer
5.
Dr Who Future Legend Allstars
6.
The Icpress File Box Office Poison
7.
The Munsters Summer
8.
Dangerman Ministry Of Ska
9.
Captain Scarlet Adventures Of Parsley
10.
Barbarella Earthling Scum
11.
Thunderball Jo Sharp
12.
All Too Much Box Office Poison


--> Press Release / Additional releases

The 'Cult Themes' albums were produced by Russell Writer, who claims to have used his own innovative production style on the Doctor Who theme. "My own band Box Office Poison were pencilled in to record Dr. Who," he told TME in May 2000, "but because we had already done 2 tracks for the album it would be too dominant to do three. As the drummer of B.O.P. I had already laid down a basic beat. At the time I had about 4 different people doing work experience at the record company so I decided to experiment with the idea of getting each to play a version of Dr. Who. I would only let them hear the track once or twice maximum and then they had to play on the keyboards a sound of their choice the tune.

"Andre who was also in the group Moonchild (featured on the album) played a rough piano version. I then turned that track off and Steve the next person up (just an office worker) played his version without knowing what Andre had played. He played more of a bass line riff on the track. I then did the same process with Helen and she did various bits and pieces. Finally Lucy who was an opera singer came in. She couldn’t play an instrument so I got her to wail over the top of the track. After doing this a few times she got a sore throat and asked for a glass of water. She started to gargle to clear her throat. I then had an off the wall idea to have her gargle along with the track which she did. I then took hold of the track and added some punk cello, timpani and finally rattling teacups as an extra percussion track."

Various Cult TV fan clubs were contacted about the releases, including a Doctor Who society, who Russell remembers as remarking that " ... the innovative nature of the show and our music went well together and if Dr. Who came back this century it would be the best version to use." If you were that fan, you need a slap. This might be the worst version of the theme ever recorded: none of the instruments keep the same time (or, in some cases, the same key) and the recording is a jumbled mess from start to finish. The only saving grace is the opera singer, an idea that pays homage to the Star Trek theme and that was later recorded for BBC2's 1999 Doctor Who Night.

1999 - Fourplay



Tim Hollo - viola, violin and vocals
Lara Goodridge - violin and vocals
Peter Hollo - cello and vocals
Veren Grigorov - viola and vocals
Chris Emerson - viola and vocals
Fourplay: Catgut Ya' Tongue?
Australian CD, 1999

1.
Theme from Dr Who Ron Grainer
2.
Corrosion Peter Hollo/Chris Emerson
3.
Grace Jeff Buckley
4.
My Baby Just Cares for Me Nina Simone
5.
The 2 of Us Suede
6.
Enter Sandman Metallica
7.
Theme from The Simpsons Danny Elfman
8.
Sabotage The Beastie Boys
9.
The Ocean/Black Dog Led Zeppelin
10.
The Sweetest Perfection Depeche Mode
11.
Languid, Yet Peter Hollo

The Sydney-based band FourPlay started life as a classical string quartet, originally made up of friends from the Australian Youth Orchestra. Blurring the boundaries between classical and rock music, they began playing rock covers for friends and in early 1995 transformed themselves into an electric string quartet. Embarking upon tours and receiving immediate requests for recording spots, their sets have included covers of songs by the Beastie Boys, the Beatles, Depeche Mode, Metallica, Suede and the Velvet Underground, some contemporary classical music, and originals inspired by the different types of underground electronic, indie and avant-garde music. Catgut Ya' Tongue was their first album, recorded at Velvet Sound in Pitt St., Sydney.

Peter Hollo explained to TME in June 2001 that the motive behind the recording was simple. "I love Dr Who (as popular here in Australia as it is in the UK no doubt, and it's very sad it's not on TV any more) and the theme is a killa." Did Fourplay base their 1996 arrangement on a particular TV version? "I don't like the more recent ones as much. I suspect our version is most directly inspired by the original, or the one from the Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker years. I know that one cuts off a bar in the relative-major-key section - but it's not the one we were listening to! I just went "Hey, let's do this, isn't that how it went?" and we all said "yup ok"." To the suggestion that Doctor Who was perhaps a little-known cult show these days, Hollo replied "People like it- sometimes they don't know it but on the whole they do - it's not really that underground y'know!"

Catgut Ya' Tongue? has thus far survived six pressings, with sales of over 850 in the first five weeks of release - quite an achievement for a string quartet CD available chiefly via mail order. CD colours changed with each initial pressing, in order to distinguish their rarity - the first 1,000 CDs were predominately yellow, the second 1,000 silver and black, the third pressing (of 2,000) red and blue, and the fourth, fifth and sixth pressings (of 1,000 each) orange and purple. Theme From Dr Who continues to be performed live, merging into Corrosion as on the album, and Fourplay, who have since released a second CD, a remix album (sadly not featuring Dr Who) and survived several member changes, are currently planning more live dates around the globe. Check the official site, www.fourplay.com.au, for details.

2001 - The Wetsuits



Clyde Bramley - Guitar
Stephen "Bones" Martin - Guitar
Katrina Amiss - Keyboards
Jon Schofield - Bass
Marcus Schintler - Drums

Dave Wray - Saxophone on Dr Who and Little Storping
Produced by The Wetsuits April - August 2001
Recorded at Studio Charles and Big Jesus Burger Studio, Sydney
The Wetsuits: The Golden Tones of the Wetsuits
Australian CD, September 2001
WET001 distributed by Didgeridoo Records (Aus and UK) and DWM Music (USA)

1.
Flight Plan
2.
Out of Limits
3.
Safari - So Good
4.
A Shot in the Dark
5.
Doctor Who Theme
6.
Little Storping
7.
Foggy Morning
8.
Dangerman Theme aka High Wire
9.
Casino Moon
10.
Man of Mystery
11.
Department S Theme
12.
Callan Theme

The Golden Tones of The Wetsuits is the debut album from this Sydney band, formed in 1996 primarily to perform classics of the '60's surf instrumental idiom. Since then the band has broadened its scope to include original tunes and versions of its favourite TV and movie themes. The album is full of cool surfing tunes with twangy electric guitar drenched in echoey warbles, but their version of Doctor Who is very laid back: an electric guitar and bass pluck out the bass line while the hammond-esque organ plays the melody, mixed with space sound effects. Occasionally a saxophone wails in the background, but the tune plods on for 2 and a half minutes without really going anywhere. Perhaps it deserves a kinder review than this, but we were really hoping for a surfing version; the actual recording sounds horribly like the synthesised versions by Neil Norman!

2002 - Reverend Bizarre

Various Artists: Not of this Eath
4LPs / 3CDs (plus Italian/English book), 2002
Black Widow BWR059

featuring Pyramids of Mars Reverend Bizarre

Hailing from the industrial town of Lohja, the Finnish Reverend Bizarre have presented their combination of painfully slow and heavy guitar riffage with the clean vocals of founder Albert Witchfinder since the mid-90s. Pyramids of Mars - a grunge rock version of the Doctor Who theme - was originally recorded and released on a promo-only CD-R in 1999 (pictured right; details of which can be found on the promotional-only releases page).

The track was recorded anew, however, with greater emphasis on special effects and additional instruments, for a compilation of science-fiction inspired music published by Black Widow. 41 bands contributed to the release, each picking a sci-fi movie or series that had inspired them and either covering the theme tune or composing an entirely new song about it. A book was specially written in both Italian and English, discussing the influence of science fiction on literature, music, movies and culture in general, and became the packaging for the dulexe 3 CD or 4 LP set, available through specialist stores in Italy, Germany and the US.

In an online interview, Witchfinder was asked whether the band considered themselves Doctor Who fans: "I guess we might be if that show was ever on Finnish TV. I just have a few episodes on VHS. I bought years ago this compilation of a few episodes entitled 'Pyramids of Mars', with the great and insane Tom Baker as the Doctor and I became fan of it. I also liked the theme already before I saw any episodes. Our version of it is a tribute to Tom Baker and the song itself. I guess this one video tape is all there has ever been in Finland of Doctor Who, except a few books that were published in the late 70s. I got a few episodes from Russ Smith, a few of them with a different Doctor. I have to say I love the episodes with Baker but I don't care about that other guy. We are fans of a few other British 'sci-fi' shows though: Sapphire and Steel and especially The Prisoner."

Then, in 2003, Alfred Witchfinder announced a special commercial release of Slice of Doom. This would weave together both versions of the demo, including the original version of Pyramids of Mars, and include bonus tracks in the shape of recordings made for commercial compilations, many of which had ultimately gone unreleased. This album - known as Slice of Doom Revisited - was released in Finland in 2004 (PsycheDOOMelic PSY 012, pictured left), though it is not actually clear whether this was a genuine commercial release or simply another Reverend Bizarre promo.

2005 - Ye Gods!

Ye Gods!: Le Banditos Avec Les Mullét
CD, December 2005
Sold by the band after live shows and via their website

1.
Yelysses
2.
Ulysses 31
3.
Le Banditos Avec Les Mullét
4.
Dr Who
5.
Baron St Jean £2.39 From Aldi
6.
Now I’m Here
7.
Ye Gods!
8.
Dawn Said
9.
I Loves You, I F@%&* You, I Buys You Chips
10.
Flash
11.
Le Banditos A La Stratt

This CD was recorded by an unsigned band in Bristol and sold at their gigs, or via their website (for a mere £5 plus p&p). Bassist Cherrance Metal, drummer Topher Icecry, guitarists Dave Against the Machine and Stratt Williams and producer James Childs, who mixed this album in his Los Angeles studio, create a magnificent rock version of Doctor Who, with a thumping version of the bass line and distorted guitars carrying the melody. Unlike earlier rock versions of the theme (see above) this has a great energy to it, and is excellently produced - they sound like the White Stripes! - surpassing even Mitch Benn's rock version (from one of his radio shows, widely distributed in mp3 format) as the most enthusiastic recording yet.

From the band's website (along with the image of Tom):