Friday, 26 July 2013

Theme Time : Harry South - The Sweeney

Inspired by my friend Cait's review of The Sweeney (you can read it on her blog) today's theme time will focus on that classic show's theme, one of the most easily identifiable TV themes ever from Harry South

Here's the bombastic opening theme which scores of schoolkids back in the day (those allowed to stay up late that is) would sing along in playgrounds up and down the country as "The Sween-eeeeey! The Sween-eeeey! Dat-dat-dah-dah-dah-dah-du-dooby-doo! The Sween-eeeey! The Sween-eeeey!" etc etc 

You knew instantly what to expect from that opening theme and titles. A world of casual violence, racism and sexism (a world otherwise known as the 1970s) as our heroes chase down 'big tickles' from snouts and scumbags in The Smoke.

However 50 minutes later and you realised that often all was not right with the world, and never would be. South's melancholic score that played the show out really hits the right note. The vibrancy and hope of the opening has been quashed to reveal the good guys don't always win - or at least not as they'd have liked - and that tomorrow's another shitty day, with only a hangover and the liquid concrete coffee from the squad's vending machine to sustain you. It's actually the version I prefer more

Lastly, South's original full theme - complete with mad jazzed up middle section!

Phew, Dennis Waterman didn't sing da feem toon this time around!

Harry South (1929-1990) was a familiar name in the world of TV and film in the 70s and 80s, his style of jazz often going hand in hand with the more seamier world of entertainment with sexploitation films such as Can You Keep It Up For A Week? and School For Sex and London set dramas such as The Chinese Detective (another police series) and the excellent cardsharp drama Big Deal


  1. I do like the theme music for The Sweeney - John's actually got it set as his phone ringtone now so I get to hear it several times a week! ;-)

    I think I prefer the end credit music more as well.

  2. South appears to use the technique employed in other theme tunes which employs the rhythm of the programme title. In this case one hears something akin to ' The Sweeney, The Sweeney!...God damn it The Sweeney are coming' repeated as the main. No doubt South has other phrases in mind for the fill...but I guess thats his business.

    1. Yes indeed! There's a theory that the best TV themes employ that as it seems to lodge in the mind more as a result. Ronnie Hazlehurst did it with Last of the Summer Wine, Mike Post with The A-Team and Hill Street Blues...