Monday, 6 July 2015

Theme Time : Maggie Bell/Mike Moran - Taggart

Taggart the marvelous creation of writer Glenn Chandler that could be argued was the start of the genre 'Tartan Noir' began in 1983 and ran for an impressive 28 years before coming to a close in 2011.

But for me, the series had already ended in 1994 when the original star of the show, Mark McManus who played Chandler's titular DCI Jim Taggart, passed away. The show continued for 17 more years with a plethora of cast changes but it was never the same without McManus.

McManus was Taggart a hard bitten, no nonsense Glaswegian copper with a dour expression that suggested the damp dreich climate had long since firmly gripped his bones. In Taggart, Chandler had created one of crime drama - and indeed, one of TV itself - finest creations. But he would have been considerably less without McManus' depiction.

The writer took inspiration from his first ever boss at Woolworth's for the seen-it-all cynical Jim Taggart, as well as visiting Maryhill Cemetery for the names of his characters. The inspiration for the stories, including the BAFTA winning pilot episode Killer, came from real life crime stories which lent Taggart an air of unrelenting grim authenticity. 

Immensely popular across the UK, Taggart was a source of great pride and fascination in its native Scotland and Bill Paterson explained how, when filming anything in Glasgow, he realised it was easier to just say they were making Taggart because that was the universal by-word for television and readily accepted by the locals!

The theme tune suitably entitled No Mean City was written by Mike Moran (who had previously provided the theme to Granada's Strangers which features McManus as another dour Glaswegian 'tec) and sung by the gravelly voiced Maggie Bell who had form herself; having previously lent her vocals to '70s private investigator drama Hazell. A great song, it seems to conjure up Glasgow for me.

Taggart is currently being repeated from the start on the cable channel True Movies.

Also, have a thought for the obsessive fan who showed his love for the series and the great Jim Taggart/Mark McManus in tattoo art


  1. That tattoo is pretty grim!

    Taggart was one of those shows that just kept going and going till it had had the life sucked out of it. I have fond memories of watching it with my parents in the early 90s, but by the time it drew to an end it had become so hackneyed and pared back (each episode crammed an entire case into 45 minutes + ads) that about the only pleasure I got from it was recognising the various locations.

    Not sure if you'd seen it, but a fan mocked up a brilliant trailer for an animated Taggart prequel. Shame it's not real:

    1. I totally agree there mate, I did see some eps following Mark McManus' death but it just didn't seem to have the focus once the central character had gone. Then they killed off Jardine! Very strange. Yeah for me it ended in '94, still 28 mean feat ;)

      Cheers for that link - fantastic!

    2. The Jardine years are the ones I remember most vividly, though I do recall hearing that McManus had died and being pretty shocked. I know a lot of people feel it picked up when Alex Norton was brought in to play the somewhat Taggart-like Matt Burke, but it never really clicked for me... though perhaps that's because it was during that era that the episodes started to get shorter and shorter.