Listen to the best TV theme tune ever: Jam For World In Action


For no real reason other than I love it, I’m posting the theme tune to Granada TV’s World In Action. For those outside the UK, World In Action was a British TV current affairs programme that ran from 1963-1998. It was renowned for its hard hitting, campaigning journalistic style and was normally on primetime at about 8pm.

The wonderful, evocative theme tune can be heard below, although it’s marred slightly by claims to its authorship. Producer Johnathon Weston was ‘given’ the composer credit, although Shawn Phillips insists that himself and Mick Weaver (on the organ) actually “improvised it on the spot”. Read more about World In Action here.

59 responses to Listen to the best TV theme tune ever: Jam For World In Action

  1. Paul Wren says:

    Quality – stands the test of time and so redolent of the early 1970’s for those of us who were around at the time. And there are some similarities to Mountain’s “Nantucket Sleighride” end section which was used on Weekend World as well.

    • Martin says:

      Shame those involved can’t bury the hatchet and get this released.
      There was another mid Sunday current affairs programme that was almost as good which I’ve never managed to identify, I think there was a learjet in the opening titles, and the music also featured in the “doombolt chase” kids adventure.

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  3. karl says:

    Would have loved to here what an electronic synthesized version would have sounded like. I’m a 42 year old man and after all these years I’ve finally got used to it because quite frankly the WIA theme was bloody depressing and disturbing. The B3 organ is not my favourite instrument by any stretch (probably connected to my aspergers).
    My favourite theme was from TV Eye. Now that was a theme. An upbeat punky piece that I used to wait for weekly.
    I hope Shawn and Mick get the credit they deserve though ;-)

  4. Huw Thomas says:

    The best TV theme tune ever is the original Thomas the Tank Engine theme, written by Junior Campbell and Mike O’Donnell. I am deadly serious.

  5. Rob Kirby says:

    Loads of TV music form 60s-80s that still does it for me – more and more of which is available somewhere or other, from Barry Gray’s work for the Anderson series to Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown music. However, can anyone tell me if one particular piece of music by Johnny Hawksworth has ever cropped up on CD? It was originally made available on a KPM library disc LP (KPM1001) and was part of a suite called “Frantic Fracas/The Eyelash/Boat to Begin”.

    I only found out what the track was actually called through someone at the BBC, some years ago now, kindly telling me what the cue was from the original log sheet, when I heard it on an episode of 60s Dr. Who playing in the background of a club scene. It cropped up a lot during the late 60s and I’d first encountered it sound-tracking one of those Shell info films that the BBC used to screen in the afternoon in the 70s – this one featuring powerboats chasing each other and jumping over reedbeds (it might have been the same episode featuring oil-derricks at work in a rather dry, dusty location). It’s a very evocative, fast-paced action track.

  6. Mark says:

    That’s a great theme. Used to have a soft spot too for The Rockford Files and even though I know it’s terrible, The Fall Guy.

  7. Mr. Stick says:

    US ears are not familiar with this… Until now, and at least two ears love it. This would be a great Record Store Day 10″. It’d move units, believe me.

  8. MiG says:

    Could this prompt anyone to give Shawn Phillips the SDE treatment? I’d pay for a 27 disk Shawn Phillips The Early Years box, as long as it comes with the vinyl of “Woman Mind”/”Stargazer” and maybe a couple of badges. “Contribution,” “Second Contribution” and “Collaboration” are extra specially essential and surely the tapes of the original proposed double (or was it triple?) LP exist?

  9. Tony Gubba says:

    Some great references and links. I lost classic from the 1980s on ITV comes across all Radiophonic… sad rainy day midweek pop

  10. Touch1980 says:

    Fantastic post & really interesting topics raised & stories told.

    This & Weekend World get my vote for best theme tune.

  11. Pieter van der Velde wzn says:

    I didn’t know this theme. I love Hammond organ so thank you for sharing this music. For me The Persuaders theme from John Barry has always been my favourite theme, though the All creatures great and small theme by Johnny Pearson always makes me feel good.

  12. Simon says:

    No takers for the brilliant theme tune for The Professionals?

  13. Mark Morb says:

    Fantastic piece of music….

    I run a small record label and about 7 years ago set out to see if I could tack down the master tapes and get this released as a vinyl EP.
    Needless to say this didn’t happen but I did manage to get some low quality versions of this from the original sessions (about 5 pieces including bridges and alternative versions).

    What I did manage to find out is that there’s apparently no session tape for the final version – although there is one for an earlier arrangement with multiple takes. The best instance of the “final” music used (opening, alt opening, EOP/SOP. Bridge and 3 minute closing) is a 15IPS mono reel and it’s a copy with quite a bit of hiss. It was composed by Jonathan Weston of the Jonathan Weston Organisation (named on the sheet music.) Published by Mercury Music which was Granada’s own publishing company, but nowadays all ITV’s music publishing is, however, subcontracted to EMI.

    All attempts to speak to anyone regarding releasing the contents of this tape were met with either no (or negative) response…the whole thing was a very infuriating process as I was willing to release this legitimately paying licensing etc. but there was absolutely no desire to even discuss it…


    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Interesting Mark. If you search on YouTube for the various versions there is plenty of comment from Shawn Phillips and Mick Weaver. Let’s just say they haven’t got good things to say about Weston who Phillips maintains had nothing to do with the composition of the song, but who has (so it is alleged) collected over £189,000 in royalties over the years!

      • Mark Morb says:

        Hi Paul,
        Yeah I was aware of the “discussion” around who actually composed this! Seems like Shawn has a good case,but that’s an argument I wanted to stay well clear of! However, in terms of obtaining the publishing rights, etc. that should have been straightforward as they are what they are, it’s purely down to the publishing companies involved having absolutely no interest whatsoever in doing small deals with independent labels, no idea why as they wouldn’t be losing any money, admittedly they wouldn’t make a lot either but all the work would be done by the licensee anyway. That’s why I take my hat off to Labels like Trunk and Finders Keepers who have manged to get some great music released , mostly through being in a situation where the original music publishing is still owned by the original composers (or their estate) and dealing with them direct (a situation I found myself in when trying to release the music from “Fingerbobs”, a case where Trunk successfully negotiated this and I have no problem with that as their releases are always top notch), but even in those situation it can take a huge amount of time and effort.

        • Paul Sinclair says:

          A real shame. Interesting to learn about your efforts. A ’70s compilation of original soundtracks (Sweeney, Weekend World, World In Action and some of the others that have been mentioned here) would be amazing. But from what you say unlikely.

  14. adam shaw says:

    And put Rick Wakemans Ask Aspel on the b side .

  15. adam shaw says:

    This your chance Paul .
    To make it the Xmas 2017 number 1 !!!

  16. Colin H says:

    One other vintage TV theme, specially recorded and certainly evocative of an era (along with two series-worth of incidental music), was the Pentangle’s theme for 1969-70 BBC series ‘Take Three Girls’. The (briefly) reformed band also recorded new incidental music for the 1982 (or thereabouts) follow-up series ‘Take Three Women’. The single ‘Light Flight’, touted as the theme to the series on release as a single in 1969, was actually a complete lyrical rewrite/musical expansion of the TV theme. It resulted in their only appearance on ‘Top Of The Pops’. The TV theme version was never released, though they did record a BBC radio session version at the time, which was included on Windsong’s ‘Live At The BBC’ single CD in the mid 90s.

  17. Paul English says:

    The Network DVD sets of World In Action (four in total) are well worth a purchase.

  18. Willy says:

    Another highly-recommended John Barry masterpiece-in-miniature is the almost forgotten theme from The Adventurer, with moog bass and Cold War and Venetian-y bits all present.

  19. Mark H says:

    World in Action is atmospheric indeed, but for sheer Britishness, I always found “A Sporting Occasion” to tick my boxes. More recognisable at 1.07 in.
    A belated HNY Paul and to all SDE readers.

  20. Paul Kent says:

    You’re all wrong. Everybody knows that the best TV theme tune of all time is, of course, ‘I Could Be So Good For You’ by Denis “Write The Theme Tune, Sing The Theme Tune” Waterman!

    • Trash says:

      Ha Ha – yes that is an awesome theme tune too, especially in its original ‘complete with lyrics’ format as opposed to the instrumental version that was used in later, Waterman-less’ series.

  21. Peter Muscutt says:

    Matt Berry (he of ‘The I.T. Crowd’ fame) sometimes covers this live when he does concerts. He also did a version of the theme tune to ‘Sorry!’ as well. Smashing chap as well.

  22. Straker says:

    How can this be the best, awesome as it is, when Dr Who, The Persuaders and The Tomorrow People exist?!?!?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      The Persuaders is very good!

      • Trash says:

        The Persuaders has to rate as my all-time favourite TV theme (and I love the serious too – kitsch value and all).

        WIA theme did spark a lot of memories. I’ve never heard this ‘extended’ version before though.

  23. Mark Gough says:

    Nice to hear this again, especially in full length guise. Indeed, a great theme tune.

    One I love and have never found the full version of is the Esso ‘Tiger’ theme that was used on their TV adverts in the 70’s and 80’s. Ben Liebrand wrote it. You can find it on youtube but only rips of the adverts, I am hoping a full length version exists somewhere.

  24. Mic Smith says:

    Another interesting point that hadn’t occurred to me is the drawing of the naked guy is very similar to the pose struck by Peter Gabriel on the picture label version of the 1977 single Modern Love complete with the second body made to appear as if he’s standing behind him….. I can imagine Gabriel being an avid watcher of WIA so it’s likely he was mimicking that image. I presume it is a well used image that existed long before World in Action but I wouldn’t know its origin.

  25. colm47 says:

    Yellow Pearl by the late great Phil Lynott on his anniversary would have been a nice choice.
    Top Of The Pops theme tune in the early 8os just to remind our younger readers!

    I always liked the theme tune for Arena and the floating bottle of water.
    I had forgotten that the music is by Brian Eno.

  26. Steven Roberts says:

    Yeah, World in Action is OK, I suppose, but Weekend World?

    Now *that’s* a theme tune!

  27. Jim Edwards says:

    Forgot to mention Mastermind, Sapphire & Steel and Tales of the Unexpected… Oh, the fear.

  28. Jim Edwards says:

    Craps! I have to go to bed and it’s only 7:30. As I ascend the staircase this is my entry soundtrack into darkness and outside noises… Cheers Paul, you bugger. I’m 44 and it still scares me shitless. Happy New Year mate. Let’s hope this year can be a happier place for all. Xx

  29. Colin H says:

    Great post, Paul! I thought you were more of an 80s pop guy? Books/covers etc… I too always found it rather scary or sinister as a child in the 70s – and the show always seemed grey and bleak. Of course, now it sounds like a terrific, intriguing piece of music. I’ve never heard anything else as interesting by Shawn Phillips, sadly.

    Partly, in retrospect, the grim feel of the show might have been to do with the palour of the film used in those outside broadcast reports on WIA, aside from the grim subjects – as opposed to the shiny, colourful ‘look’ of video used in studio-based situation comedies of the day, and TOTP, et al. I always thought, from around the same time, the nature programme ‘The World About Us’ was equally creepy and grim and forbidding, also because of the creepy music and title sequence, plus the OB grainy, rather dark ‘look’ of the programme. (I guess, looking back, rain forests are never going to be much of a sun trap.)

    As a general point, without checking the info, I think Shawn’s WIA theme was recorded in 1969 or thereabouts, and I wonder if the arpeggiated chords were influenced by the very clear descending/cyclical arpeggios phase the Beatles were going through at the time
    – Dear Prudence, I Want You, Here Comes The Sun, Because, etc., plus Cream’s ‘Badge’ co-written with George H.? I have a feeling that sound influenced a lot of pet – a pet theory being John McLaughlin’s fiendish-arpeggiated sound in the first Mahavishnu Orchestra (1971-73)…

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I have a healthy love for 60s and 70s too, although because my entire teenage years are trapped in the 1980s it’s always going to be hard to compete with that :)

      You might be on to something with your theory both re music and film stock. I remember hating World In Action when I was a kid, because of the scary music and gritty/grim content.

  30. Pete Anderson says:

    Still have a VHS tape of a World In Action special on U2 around the time of the Joshua Tree.

    • William M says:

      I have that too….U2 go back home to conquer Croke park. I always wondered how the lives of the kids lives highlighted in the show panned out.

  31. Howie says:

    Nantucket sleighride always reminds me of my Grandad, as a kid everything stopped when Brian Walden came on the telly. Fast forward it’s now my kids getting fed up when I put the news on.

  32. Willy says:

    I always thought it was ‘borrowed’ from J.S. Bach. Well there you go.

  33. Aaron says:

    always loved the “Jamie & The Magic Torch” theme myself!

  34. Kevin Barrett says:

    Yes I remember it well. I liked others, such as the theme from ‘Hazell’ but WIA was a great toon

  35. DaveM says:

    Well sinister in a good way. Assumed that it must have been part of some prog rock bands ‘suite’ on an album, but could never get the info back in the day. Ah, the innocent world (in Action) we lived in before the internet!

  36. Mic Smith says:

    Not heard that in years! Brings back lots of memories. I also like Weekend World theme which I watched every Sunday just to here the theme tune. (The final section of Mountain’s Nantucket Sleighride.)

  37. Simon Taylor says:

    I have this on my ipod theme tunes playlist. There’s so many good ones. We had those Cult Fiction Theme Tune cd’s that came out in the 90’s, always felt they missed a trick not featuring this one. Also Mountain’s Nantucket Sleighride for ITV’s Sunday Lunchtime political show, Weekend World, which is a stunner.

    But World in Action is a gem.

  38. Jay king says:

    Always scared me for some reason when i was young, reminded me of the phantom of the opera theme. And when it came on it meant i had to go to bed!!!

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Same here. Made the world seem a scary, depressing place.

      • dominic edwards says:

        Thank goodness you didn’t post a WIA & Panorama theme tune double bill, that would have tipped me over the edge & regressed me to a terrified 8 year old!

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