An old tune crops up in the strangest of places
Jetlagged. Back from a few days away in New York, an inspiration for this week’s off topic posting comes from this street scene taken on 6th Avenue on Sunday morning, when most sensible people were still in bed. The traffic made me think of Ratso’s outburst in Midnight Cowboy – ‘I’m walking here!’
I was introduced to Schlesinger’s film quite late, by my other half earlier this year in fact. The film was striking in many ways, not least of which, unfortunately was a musical surprise. I imagine everyone who grew up in the UK 35 years ago is equally ambushed when they watch Midnight Cowboy for the first time too. At least I could identify where I’d heard that music before, otherwise it would have been even more annoying. As it was, I got into trouble for talking about it too much and we had to pause our viewing.
For the record, it’s John Barry’s Florida Fantasy. The playful tune captures the sense of fun as Ratso imagines himself dispensing cocktails to throngs of admiring Florida women. If only I hadn’t grown up to the image of a duckling waggling its tail to the trill in the music instead. Let me explain. The music was already known to me as the theme from the long forgotten BBC Children’s TV nature and science programme, Wildtrack. Having not heard it, or even thought about it for over 30 years, it crashed back into my consciousness and I wasn’t able to erase the ear worm for days.
The musical ambush is like what it would be to hear the opening music from John Craven’s Newsround two-thirds of the way through Last Tango in Paris. What possessed the Wildtrack producer to pick that theme? Was it a deliberate ploy, or a happy coincidence like Godfrey Baseley happening on the Barwick Green music for The Archers?
As for Wildtrack itself, the programme would open in such a bizarre, relaxed manner, it was almost like its presenters Su Ingle and Tony Soper were having an affair. The opening credits and that music would fade and we’d see the two of them reclining on twin sun beds in a studio fake back garden, sipping at orange juice through a straw. It was as if they were trying oh so hard not to be Animal Magic.
I liked Wildtrack because it had an accessibility as all the wildlife they talked about related to the British Isles. But apart from the theme music and that opening sequence, I can remember very little about it other than the presenters once demonstrating some useless cutting edge technology. They were counting something dull on location – it may as well have been frogspawn or blades of grass for all I can remember – and entered the data into a computer. They then attached a device to an old-fashioned phone receiver in a red telephone box. Dialling a phone number (and they were dialling, not keying) transferred the data across to a computer in the BBC studio. When I first heard a computer modem about 15 years later, the sound instantly reminded me of that Wildtrack phone call. The viewers were supposed to think – ‘wow, this is ace computer technology!’
But as Su and Tony didn’t actually look at the information on the computer until they were back in the studio themselves, all I can remember thinking is ‘what a waste of a phone call that was!’ They might as well have waited and saved their 10p.
This blog post has become rather a ‘flow of consciousness’. Perhaps Midnight Cowboy’s forays into fantasy is infectious.
As Remembrance Sunday approaches – the next two posts will be First World War related, dealing with different experiences of disability.