Classic TV Themes 1: Kick Start
So, you may remember Kick Start, you may not. So for those not in the know,a quick overview. The TV show was effectively motorcycle trials on the television, hosted by the then Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves and usually at some location such as Easton Neston in Northamptonshire (complete with lake) and with a seasoned professional such as Mick Andrews or Jack Stites providing the expert punditry as the riders went around. The show became that popular there was even a junior version that also ran for many years too. Nowadays people tend to see motorcycle trials on Eurosport and usually in indoor arenas, far away from the mud and water of Easton Neston.
The show's success also resulted in an unofficial computer game: Kikstart released by Mastertronic in 1985 across a number of formats, with the Commodore 64 version being the original release of the game. The game even had a sequel in 1987 with the ability to make your own courses with the course designer. Both games on the Commodore were programmed by the legendary Shaun Southern, who freely admitted that the game was a homage to the TV programme, even down to a computerised cover version of the theme tune you went over gates, buses, logs and mud as well.
But what of that theme tune that accompanied the show? Well in my mind it's one of the iconic theme tunes on the telly from the 1980s, and one that seemed to somehow fit the introduction with the cartoon rider jumping over obstacles before riding the Kick Start logo as if it was one of the skip obstacles. What you may not know however is, like many famous theme tunes, the origins are much less about the BBC but more about plucking some obscure tune in to the limelight. It certainly was the case here.
So, the tune then: it's "Be My Boogie Woogie Baby" by the mysterious act Mr. Walkie Talkie. In the UK the single did get a release on the Polydor records label back in 1976, and I suspect once people had twigged it was the theme tune there may even have been a slight increase in demand for it. You should be able to get it reasonably cheaply mind you - I paid around £3 for mine in all. And just so you know what you're looking for, here it is - note that the UK release had a company sleeve at best or a plain sleeve - no picture sleeve.
The clue here is in the credits. Note the copyright is of German origin (Musikverlag Intersong GMBH) and it's claimed to be composed by Renate Vaplus, and arranged and produced by Drafi Deutscher. In fact on further investigation, both are one and the same - Drafi Deutscher. Drafi was of Sinti (Romany) origin and was born in Germany in 1946. His big hit during the 1960s was in the form of the German Schlager (entertainment) style song "Marmor, Stein und Eisen bricht" (translating to Marble, Stone and Iron Break).
Unfortunately, Drafi's earlier career as his own name was cut short due a conviction for public indecency (he urinated in public from a balcony whilst drunk) and so in the early 1970s he wrote under a considerable number of pen names, so no one at the time necessarily knew it was him. He had a good eye for a song though and later back as Drafi and as a songwriter had penned hits including the German number one and UK top ten hit "Belfast" for Boney M for example, as well as album tracks for the likes of Tony Christie. In fact there's around fifteen or so different aliases and pen names that Drafi wrote under.
In 1976, he was often using the alter ego Renate Vaplus to write songs with, hence the fact that the credit shows on the record above. In Germany the whole Mr. Walkie Talkie pseudonym was in fact three musicians, one of them being Drafi, and a whole album was released, which had some success not just in Germany but in the Benelux countries, the Netherlands in particular. It's a very European pop sound of its time, which makes it even more surprising that a UK show would select it as its theme, no matter how infectiously catchy it is. Here's the German picture sleeve (on the Philips label) for comparison:
It's also worth noting that the Kick Start theme tune rendition uses one of the first few four bars of the song (around 10 seconds in to the song till around 30 seconds) - with the drums at the end then fading to the motorbike noise as it accelerates away. This was I guess obviously to avoid the vocal lead that accompanies the instrumental lead and to make the starting instrumental part the catchy section which would stick in many people's heads (mine included) for many years to come.
I suspect however what the BBC didn't realise at the time though was the notoriety of the German TV appearances by Mr. Walkie Talkie at the time. The three of them including Drafi would play, but the studio would have another camera angle of three topless women dancing around (and in between black silhouetted shots of said women) - although reasonably normal for some German TV stations at the time, no doubt the likes of Mary Whitehouse in the UK would have been horrified at seeing scenes like that mind you.
Even more so, in the early 1980s the BBC's BBC Records arm released both a LP and a cassette called "Action Replay" which had the theme from their 1982 World Cup football coverage as well as a plethora of theme tunes. More information on Discogs here, but look at that track listing! Ski Sunday, Pot Black, the proper snooker theme Drag Racer, Kick Start, Frame of the Day (from the David Vine presented snooker era), the Show Jumping (usually from Hickstead), the old Darts theme and Sportsnight. Quality stuff.