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Comment > You've Changed Your Tune! by Rhys

Neighbours' theme song is perhaps one of the most recognisable musical scores ever composed. Tony Hatch who wrote the melody and his wife at the time - singer, Jackie Trent, who wrote the lyrics (pictured right) are still listed in the programme's production credits to this day - despite the four variations of their original composition that have topped and tailed Neighbours episodes since. In 1985, Hatch wrote the original version of "Neighbours" while Trent produced accompanying lyrics. Previously, Hatch had been responsible for composing the theme songs to Crossroads, Emmerdale Farm, The World at War, Sportsnight and M*A*S*H, among others. But, it's undoubtedly the "Neighbours music", as it is affectionately known, that has become his most famous composition.

Neighbours first aired in March 1985 in Australia, episode one opening with an electric piano rendition of the original opening variation. Following episodes right up until 1990 opened with the familiar chorus of:

# Neighbours, everybody needs good Neighbours
With a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend
Neighbours, should be there for one another
That's when good Neighbours become good friends #

The deep-voiced artist, whose voice provided the lyrics was Australian actor and singer, Barry Crocker. Tony Hatch had composed a longer variation on a TV-version of the theme, suitable for use as a closing credits accompaniment. Yet, the Channel Seven transmitted episodes never used the full version of this closing theme, opting to shorten some of the chords heard after such climaxes as "...a better day..."; "...footstep away..." and "...perfect blend...." - which managed to skim around ten seconds off the full length version. In 1986, however, when Neighbours went to air on TEN, that channel used the full uncut television version for the first time. From now, until 1992, Neighbours would close each day to the sound of:

# Neighbours, everybody needs good Neighbours
Just a friendly wave each morning, helps to make a better day
Neighbours, need to get to know each other
Next door is only a footstep away
Neighbours, everybody needs good Neighbours
With a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend
Neighbours, should be there for one another
That's when good Neighbours become good friends #

Version one of the theme song is now regarded by most people, viewers and non-viewers alike, as the "proper" Neighbours theme - i.e. suggesting that all versions since then have been inferior to it. This is, of course, a matter of personal opinion, but there's little doubt that the original rendition evokes true golden memories of "classic Neighbours". British fans, for example, who have been watching the show since its early days will recall the dramatic climax of an episode, perhaps involving a perm-haired Kylie Minogue, quickly cutting into the gentle, yet hauntingly anonymous strains of Barry Crocker's voice and the monotonous "B-D-A" and "B-D-G" piano chords.

By 1989, many traces of "old Neighbours" had disappeared. Scott, Charlene, Jane and Mike had gone, as had Daphne, Mrs Mangel and Gail. Perhaps in light of this, it was decided that an updated version of the theme tune would be launched. Barry Crocker again provided the voice, but although the new version retained the same lyrics as the previous one, the tempo was noticeably faster and the accompanying instruments were revised with less emphasis on the repetitive piano chords used for the first version but a greater sense of the dramatic employed. In truth, Neighbours were trying to modernise a theme tune that was pretty impossible to modernize. Without starting afresh and reworking the song's melody, there was little they could do to add some much needed zest to the theme as it stood. Which, perhaps, is why version two of the theme sounds a little disjointed. Barry Crocker appears to struggle to keep up at times, while the overall pace allows little room to fully deliver the lyrics as they were intended. However, this version of the theme tune remains the ultimate favourite of many fans, including me. Perhaps it's the knowledge that Neighbours was desperately trying to modernize its brand image in the only way it knew how, or that the dramatic rise as Crocker belts out # a footstep awaaaaaay.... # as the closing credits backdrop changed to the grainy shot of No.24 Ramsay Street, evokes memories in many fans. The opening song received the same treatment as the closing theme - but by 1990, it was decided to drop the tradition opening titles sequence in favour of the Neighbours logo board and Grundy diamond device only. To accompany this edit, an old 20-second-or-so piano melody from the 1980s was employed. Yet, after only a few weeks this was replaced with Barry Crocker-sung version:

# Neighbours, everybody needs good Neighbours #

By 1992, the powers that be concluded the music was in desperate need of changing and thus employed the talents of native music supremo, Peter Sullivan, in re-arranging the song from scratch. The result was a definite step away from the first two versions, with the re-arranging of the lyrics, including omitting some, being the most surprising alteration. Similarly, the younger, more pleasurable sounds of Greg Hind's voice and deliberate hints of jazz in the music made this a theme that epitomizes Neighbours of the 1990s. This version of the theme song debuted at the beginning of episode 1681 in 1992, in Australia. After two years of shortened opening themes, there was a welcome return to a longer music piece. Here lay the first indications of the lyrics' re-arrangement:

# Neighbours, everybody needs good Neighbours
That's when good Neighbours become good friends #

Preceding the first words was a new seven-note bar that would remain as a standard "Neighbours piece" through 2001. This piece also made it to the closing theme, preceding the first words, but following on from a reflective two-second jingling sound, originally, suitably, accompanying the scrolling Neighbours logo. The closing theme now ran as follows:

# Neighbours, everybody needs good Neighbours
With a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend
Neighbours, should be there for one another
That's when good Neighbours become good friends
Oooh, Neighbours, should be there for one another
That's when good Neighbours become good friends #

A short, melodic interlude was adopted between both versus of # Neighbours, should be there... # and this has remained the standard format for the two full-TV versions of closing theme that have followed.

In late 1994, episodes broadcast in Australia received brand new opening titles to reflect the change of characters at the time - most notable being the introduction of the Kennedy family. The new titles were 36 seconds long - over 13 seconds longer than the previous opening theme, thus a new arrangement was needed to accompany. Rather than record a brand new song to fit the time-limit, the programme's music director, Chris Pettifer, took the full closing theme and edited it to fit the 36 second titles. The new opening theme ran:

# Neighbours, everybody needs good Neighbours
With a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend
That's when good Neighbours become good friends #

BBC Television, broadcasting Neighbours in the UK had decided that their policy of keeping closing credits' lengths relative to each particular programmes' length would now be adopted on Neighbours broadcasts. Thus, early in 1995, the BBC asked for specially edited closing credits to be sent from Grundy's in Australia, complete with shortened theme song to accompany. Grundy's sent over their new opening theme developed for Australian broadcasts a few months previously, albeit with the familiar finale bar added on, which traditionally accompanied the Grundy spinning-diamond device on Neighbours episodes.

Lasting until the 1998 season finale episode, the third incarnation of "Neighbours" remains the longest serving version so far. 1999 episodes opened with a new rendition - the first version to have been overseen by Chris Pettifer. However, just like the 1989 theme was a modernized version of the original; the 1999 theme, it's fair to say, is little more than a slight re-jigging of the 1992 theme song. Pettifer removed some of the more "positive" notes, replacing them with "negative" ones, and lessened the jazz influence to give the overall song a slightly more gritty, rock-based effect. Despite these changes, however, little nods to the previous version made it through the transition, including the seven note bar used as an opening for the previous theme, now employed at various stages throughout the new opening and closing themes, as well as the jingly notes, now used at the very end of the closing song. The lyrics remained unaltered in the closing theme, save for the addition of a repetitive # That's when good Neighbours, become good Neighbours become good friends # being used throughout 1999 and the early part of 2000, before being dropped. The opening theme, however, reverted to 23 seconds in length, and a new arrangement resulted in:

# Neighbours, should be there for another
That's when good Neighbours become good friends #

Husband and wife team Paul Norton and Wendy Stapleton (soon to appear in Neighbours as Nina Tucker's mother, Trixie) provided the vocals - although poor Wendy could barely be heard under the loud strains of her husband. In truth, version four mirrors version two in that an attempt to modernize the original version of a particular theme didn't pay off. And, just as the 1989 theme was replaced in 1992 with an all new version; a similar happening occurred in 2002 with the 1999 rendition.

This time, third party involvement has ensured the success of this, the current theme. Steve Wade, best known as a member of famous Aussie group, The Little River Band, oversaw the overall arrangement, which differs little from the previous two, while Melbournian singer, Janine Maunder, provides a female lead voice for the first time ever. Lyrics remain unchanged on both opening and closing songs, with the main change being the adoption of a repetitive chord set-up for the first time since versions one and two of the theme, providing a definite undertone for the entire song, and allowing such climaxes as "...find the perfect blend..." to adopt the more traditional three note strain before breaking into "Neighbours, should be there...". BBC transimissions have continued to use an edited version of the closing song, still omitting the familiar "Neighbours, should be there for another" lyrics which many consider to be an integral part of the theme. But, it's fair to say that the current song has been very well received. It succeeds, largely because it's managed to adopt so many characteristics of the original theme song, but being a brand new song in its own right, using many elements apparent in modern and popular music, which appeals to a wide cross-section of the viewing audience. Interestingly, the current opening titles' sequence was produced to specifically work in harmony with the current opening theme, in that the shots used change depending on the beat and point in the music, and not depending on their content - i.e. Nina's foot and the Ramsay Street sign get twice the air-time in the sequence that characters such as Lou and Karl do.


So what's next for this, the most famous of television theme songs? The music has at several times been voted the most recognized television theme of all time by many an internet poll, which only further justifies its undoubted popularity. These days, its lyrics are regarded with affection, as opposed to being considered realistic or contemporary. Though, it's quite comical to note that a leading MP used the Neighbours lyrics as the basis for a talk he gave in Parliament regarding anti-social behaviour, some years ago. It's also well known that hospitals have used the Neighbours theme on many occasions to soothe babies in the womb, and further used it post-birth as a reminder to the little one of a time when it was safe and secure! It's doubtful the theme song would have retained its nostalgic and almost retro qualities had the lyrics or melody been altered significantly at any point in its history. In 1996, rumours circulated that the theme song had been revised to accommodate a new Neighbours catchphrase - "I Love My Neighbours" - supposedly part of the bid to revamp the show in 1995-1996. Thankfully, the change never occurred, and two versions later, the theme song still retains lyrics originally written by Jackie Trent, and there's no doubting the melody is still "Neighbours"! As Chris Pettifer himself explains, there's very little alteration one can make to the melody without the song being significantly different. As it stands, it's fair to say that two versions of it have now been used. 'Melody one' can be applied to versions one and two of the theme; while versions three, four and five have used a near identical melody, which we'll call 'melody two'. Perhaps, in a few years' time, 'melody three' may be created, if it's at all possible to squeeze another one out of the Neighbours tune! Or, we may see a return to the original melody for a new rendition of the original song. One thing remains certain, however. Neighbours' theme tune could never be anything but the familiar Neighbours song we've grown to love since 1985. And, fortunately, it seems Chris Pettifer and the powers that be have the same opinion, too!

You can download audio clips of the theme tunes mentioned in both Real Player and MP3 format in our Multimedia section.

There is a guide to some of the music used on the show in our Sounds Of Erinsborough section.