January 13, 2009

"The Devil's Gallop"

I received Philip Norman's John Lennon: The Life as a Christmas gift, and despite having read a couple of other Lennon biographies (as well as numerous books on the Beatles, including Norman's own Shout: The Beatles in Their Generation), I am enjoying it thus far. And I'm learning new things about a topic I thought I'd already exhausted. Chapter three includes the following passage:

From John's earliest childhood, his response to music was instant and visceral. In 1946, just before his sixth birthday, the BBC Light Programme started the nightly fifteen-minute adventures of Dick Barton, Special Agent, and Austerity forerunner to James Bond, introduced by a melodramatic theme tune called "The Devil's Gallop." Mimi recalled how deathly white John's face always went each evening at 6:45 as its frantic strains echoed through the house. (Norman, p. 42)

John posing outside 251 Menlove Avenue (Mendips)

So, here is an early musical imprint (as played by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain) on John Winston Lennon (and therefore, the world):

John and Mimi


Gunnar and Sherry said...

That's a great post! That tune seems so familiar. Must be because I watched (and still watch) so many Loony Tunes cartoons. I believe Monty Python used that tune sometimes, also. I dig the ukelele orchestra. Is there such a thing as a bass ukelele or is that an accoustic bass guitar?

Chris said...

Thanks! Yes, it does have a Looney Tunes/Python "vibe" to it. The only other version I could find was done by a full symphony orchestra, but I got the sense that the theme was originally played on a ukulele (perhaps one of the reasons young Lennon was so riveted by it). My guess would be that it is a an acoustic bass guitar.

gilligan said...

It got me trying to think of any Lennon compositions which sounded similar and perhaps subconsciously spurred by the Devil's Gallop... the strumming on "Girl" maybe? Or maybe the "galloping" portion of "No Reply"?

Maybe not. It's fun to speculate nonetheless.

Chris said...


I thought I heard faint echoes of "And Your Bird Can Sing," with its guitar line.

Blognor Regis said...

That's all very well but surely "The Devil's Gallop" place in history was truly sealed when I used it as the soundtrack for this epic production.


Re songs which obviously inspired Beatles songs, doubtless everybody knows of Bad Penny Blues

Blognor Regis said...

Argh, my link got truncated.

Try this instead.

Chris you have incoming mail btw. Hopefully it's the Devil's Gallop and not the Devil's Haircut.

Chris said...

Ha! Thanks, Mark, I appreciate that.

I hadn't heard of "Bad Penny Blues." It never made it stateside, as far as I know. Besides the obvious "Lady Madonna" influence, it makes you wonder if it didn't influence the renaming of The Iveys just a bit.