In September 1981, BBC1 premiered a new sitcom. Although from an already respected writer, the programme elicited little excitement, and the viewing public were largely ambivalent. But that sitcom was different to any other, and in the 30 years since, it has notched up almost 70 episodes of its own (including numerous celebrated specials), spawned a spin-off and a prequel, given life some of the best-loved characters and catchphrases in British television - and made an icon out of one of the dodgiest cars ever produced in Britain, the Reliant Regal Supervan.
It was 8:30pm when the Only Fools And Horses title sequence played out to the nation for the first time. But on that late summer evening, Tuesday 8th September, it was not the familiar "Hooky Street" refrain that we know and love; the title sequence was a much faster, upbeat saxophone jingle, far more characteristic of an American sitcom than a British one:
That first theme tune, by veteran BBC composer Ronnie Hazlehurst, won't be familiar to many viewers. Although the show's creator, John Sullivan, had written the Hooky Street song we now know, the BBC opted to use Hazlehurst's jingle in Series 1. When a second was commissioned, Sullivan convinced Auntie of her mistake - and the rest is history. But what of the original tune? Well, it's been largely lost: a montage in that very first episode contains it, and some TV repeats of that first series use the original title sequence too, but many others - including the DVD releases - have been re-edited to include the more well-known song instead.
And it is, of course, the jaunty Hooky Street - written and sung by John Sullivan, the creator and sole writer of Only Fools And Horses - that GOLD have picked to celebrate what was in 2004 voted Britain's Best Sitcom, alongisde a specially commissioned dance, The Lovely Jubbly. We're not quite sure what Uncle Albert would make of it, but you can bet it'd have started "During the war..."
Published: Saturday 17th September 2011