Features: Interview with Tony Flynn (Theme Arranger)

 

In late 2003, Tony Flynn kindly agreed to answer some questions about his work on the series. We are grateful to him for sharing his time with us.

 

How did you get into writing / arranging for television?

 

As a teenager, like every other guitarist I wanted to become a rock/pop-star and perform on stage. I decided I was far too shy to do anything like that and looked into the art of scoring music to picture.

 

First, I started to read magazines and journals for actors. This gave lots of information on who was producing or directing what programme. This is how it all started for me, mind you the very first commissions where mainly student films on a shoestring or virtually no budget.

 

Did you listen to any of the previous arrangements used in the programme?

 

I listened to the original theme.

 

Can you tell me something about how you came to arrange the music for Crossroads?

 

Juliet May, the director for the first block of episodes rang me to say that she had put my name forward for the job. I know Juliet very well. We've worked together on quite a few things in the past: "The Treasure Seekers" a period drama for Carlton TV, "Delta Wave" a children's sci-fi drama for ITV, and more recently "Dalzliel & Pascoe". I believe she has recently finished work on the second Dawn French series "Wild West" for BBC2.

 

Were there any conditions set down by Carlton as to how the music should sound?

 

When they approached me with the brief they asked for a rocky teenager version of the original with attitude...

 

There were about five other composers (I think) being considered for this gig so I knew I had to get it right. I was constantly ringing them up asking for sheet music and the original recording and after I'd sent my pitch I was always asking for a progress report, and whether they were any nearer to coming to a decision about the composer. When Juliet rang me up to say I'd got the job it took a while to sink in but I thought "This is quite a responsibility so get it right!"

 

They called me down to the office in the West End and one thing they wanted was for it to sound sexy. For this reason the producer suggested putting in a saxophone but I said that would probably make it sound too "eighties" - If we stick to guitars it will stand the test of time. Of course, Mcartney's version was quite "rocky" but fell into the category of a semi-ballad and what they said at the beginning was that they wanted the programme to be up-beat and appeal to teenagers as well as ermm...well, older people!

 

Tony Adams said that when the music was played at the press-launch everyone cheered! Was it a conscious decision to make it an instantly recognisable arrangement?

 

The guidelines where to stick to the original melody. Believe me, every composer (including myself) pitching for that programme wanted their own composition down as "the new Crossroads theme". Alas, Tony Hatch wrote what I think is the best and most definitive theme for a soap.

 

I know I'm being biased, having done the arrangement, but if I had nothing to do with it and was asked "What's your favourite soap theme?" It would still have been Crossroads. I remember as a kid catching the odd episode between tea-time and going out to play football in the street. I always got it stuck in my head thinking "Is that a harmonica or an oboe?" The tune is a bit melancholy but because of the steady back-beat it felt up rather than down. I loved it!

 

Could you talk us through the process involved in producing the music?

 

Well, in this case the music was already there so first of all I had to decide on the tempo and the key to play it in. Once this was decided I would lay down the basic chord progressions on acoustic guitar, then the percussion, then the bass and so on. This, at first was all recorded using just my guitars and sampled instruments ( a bit like synthesisers ).

 

Next I hired a bass player to lay down the bass track, and then a guitarist to re-do the melody. Even though I'm a guitarist, hiring someone else for some of the guitar work, including the bass, creates a different energy and makes the whole thing more dynamic. Having said this, the drums are the original samples generated from my computer, so what you hear are my pinkies hitting a midi keyboard - not a real drum kit.

 

How many different arrangements did you do before selecting the final version?

 

I sent them about five different versions. One with "Spanish guitar" - funnily enough they went for my first effort!

 

I think you said in the "Comeback" documentary that your mum was very happy when you told her you'd got Crossroads. Did she enjoy the modern version?

 

My mum was always a bit of a soap junkie and she'd always have an opinion about one character or another, saying "Oh they didn't cast him very well" or "The first opening scenes in Emmerdale were much more effective than the new ones" and stuff like that. She died about two years ago of cancer, but I know she was extremely proud of me, and yes - she did enjoy the modern version.

 

What other themes have you been involved with - in the past, present or future?

 

Shortly after Crossroads I scored the music for "Dalziel & Pascoe". This was the first time I used an orchestra. "The Tomorrow People" was an early nineties sci-fi series with almost wall to wall music! The royalties were good, but it certainly wore my fingers down a bit! "The Treasure Seekers" was a feature film I did for ITV (Carlton) that starred John Sessions and Gina McKee. This was followed by another ITV film - "The Canterville Ghost" and starred Ian Richardson, Rick Mayal and Celia Imrie.

 

I've also been involved with the two BAFTA winning children's comedy series "Microsoap" and "Custer's last stand-up" and later this year I'll be scoring for another children's series "Intergalactic Patrick". I love doing kid's stuff. The music is always varied in style, very eclectic so you never get stuck with strings or guitar etc. There's always plenty of room for the imagination...

 

 

Our heart-felt thanks go to Tony for giving up his valuable time to answer our questions.

 

The text here is © Tony Flynn and Crossroads 2001.

 

The images on this page come from "Crossroads: The Comeback" which is © Carlton Television.

 

 

Tony Flynn – Responsible for the new theme arrangement for Crossroads 2001

 

“A rocky teenage version… with attitude”

 

Just a few of the demos sent to Carlton

 

… to be sifted and sorted. Even the “Country and Western” version!

 

Tony created five different versions.

 

Tony hired a guitarist to perform the melody

 

… but its his “pinkies” on the drums

 

Dalziel & Pascoe, The Tomorrow People and Microsoap are some of the other shows that Tony has worked on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other examples of Tony’s work are available on his website. CLICK HERE to visit his official site.