London's Burning started out life in 1986 as a feature length one of TV drama by Jack Rosenthal and directed by Les Blair. Set at the fictional London fire station, Blackwall, and following the lives - both personal and professional - of Blue Watch, the film was blackly comic with realistic dialogue and realistic dangers. ITV swiftly commissioned the one off as a regular series and Rosenthal handed over the writing reins to the likes of Minder's Tony Hoare and Anita Bronson.
A staple of Sunday night television (I knew it was school in the morning when I heard London's Burning's theme tune and I'm not ashamed to admit the dangers Blue Watch faced fighting fires each week utterly terrified me and brought me out in a cold sweat as a child!) London's Burning ran for an impressive fourteen years from series one in 1988 through to the fourteenth series in 2002. Unfortunately, it's fair to say the quality had petered out by the mid 90s, with the original writers and much of the cast long gone along with the realistic laddish humour of camaraderie and high drama giving way to soap opera style storytelling and shock tactics. But I still have fond memories of the early series and the characters it introduced, a motley crew with a gallery of amusing nicknames like Bayleaf, Vaseline, Sicknote and Charisma - the latter so called of course because he had none! Recently I've been rewatching some of the earlier stuff, thanks to picking up the box set Jack Rosenthal at ITV on DVD, which in turn got me picking up the first series not long after. It's fun to compare it to Sky One's new drama The Smoke, which also concerns itself with the day to day life of a London fire crew. However, for all The Smoke's high energy and glossy visuals it has nothing on the natural charm of its forerunner.
But back to that theme tune that would painfully remind me of school the following morning.
Who was behind it? Why, these two actually...
Simon Brint (1960-2011) and Rowland Rivron were musicians and comedians who, as the wildly and inappropriately named musical duo 'Raw Sex' appeared in and provided the music for French and Saunders and much of the Comic Strip Presents series.
Comedy aside, London's Burning proved - if it were ever really in doubt of course (which it wasn't really) - that they were proper musicians.