Top 25 musical EastEnders facts

This year marks the 25th anniversary of EastEnders since it first aired in 1985.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of EastEnders since it first aired in 1985.  To celebrate the landmark and in honour of the live episode airing tonight, PRS for Music has looked into some top musical facts about one of our favourite soaps of all time…

Simon May composed the EastEnders theme music. He also wrote Nick Berry's (Simon Wicks) hit number 'Every Loser Wins'.

The theme tune airs for 24 seconds (48 seconds per episode). Played back to back since the programme first aired (3,940 episodes) it would play consecutively for 18.76 days.

PRS for Music has 99 different recordings of the EastEnders theme tune registered on its system, featuring a diverse collection of artistes: From steel bands to marching bands and Richard Clayderman to comedians Leigh Francis, Harry Hill and Bill Bailey. There's even a Welsh language version by Clychau called Lleisiau’r Gweunyd.

The 9 ‘duff duff’ drum beats have become an iconic part of the programme.  Simon May’s brief was for something distinctive and melodic. ‘They wanted something with a hook so that if people heard the theme tune when they were out in the garden, they'd come into the house to watch the show.’

Three singles have been released off the back of the theme tune:

  1. “Anyone Can Fall in Love" recorded in 1986 by EastEnders cast member Anita Dobson (Angie Watts), and produced by her husband, Queen guitarist Brian May. It reached number four in the charts.
  2. "Glory Be" a hymn performed on the BBC's Songs of Praise in 1988
  3. "I'll Always Believe in You" another vocal version released by Sharon Benson in 1993.
  4. The theme tune has been remixed twice from the original version.
  5. 1993, a jazzed up version was aired which proved unpopular with viewers and was replaced with the original version just 11 months later.
  6. From 7 September 2009, the theme tune was rescored by Simon May to include stronger drum beats and more background percussion
  7. In 2008, a survey by PRS for Music in conjunction with Saros Research, revealed that the EastEnders theme was more recognisable than the national anthem "God Save the Queen”
  8. The theme tune was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award in 1985 for Best TV Theme and in 1987 it won the Television and Radio Industries Club Award for Best TV Theme Music
  9. EastEnders has been regularly broadcast in up to 73 countries around the world including Australia, New Zealand, US and Canada, South Korea and South Africa. EastEnders is also shown on the British Forces Broadcasting Service's main TV channel taking it to places like Afghanistan, Belize and on board HMS ships across the world.
  10. Eastenders has spurred a host of musical stars.  Some of the cast that have made the leap from soap star to pop star include:
  11. Nick Berry 
    Played: Simon Wicks 1985-1990 
    Biggest hit: Every Loser Wins (No 1 in 1986)
  12. Anita Dobson 
    Played: Angie Watts 1985-1988 
    Biggest hit: Anyone can fall in love (No 4 in 1986)
  13. Aidan Brosnan 
    Played: Sean Maguire 1993 
    Biggest hit: Good Day (No 12 in 1996)
  14. Martine McCutcheon 
    Played: Tiffany Mitchell 1995-1998 
    Biggest hit: Perfect Moment (No 1 in 1999)
  15. Michele Gayle
    Played: Hattie Tavernier 1990-1993                   
    Biggest hit: "Sweetness" (Number 4, September 1994)

The chords used are diatonic, with no chromatic alterations.  The main melody is scored for a piano, which has been described as having a "pub sing-a-long feel" to it. 

The tune is also doubled by a whistle, and there are two rhythmic permeations, a dotted crotchet-quaver moving the music forward, and a two-quaver hand-clap on the fourth beat of every other bar. In the remixed version it was rescored to include stronger drum beats and more background percussion.

Simon May says of the piece ‘Initially I wrote something I thought would match the programme. The producers hated every aspect of it, but that made it easy, because all I had to do was the polar opposite of what I'd written before.’

Effort number two hit the spot, with the composer tapping into the cosmopolitan mix of the show's characters to write an upbeat theme to balance the gritty story lines.

‘I subliminally put in a sitar and gave it a bit of a West Indian feel,’ he reveals. ‘You won't hear that now, but it was there. Then there's the whistle at the end that encapsulates the warmth of the Cockney characters that we all meet in life.’

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