Many classic Gerry Anderson shows of the 1960s and 1970s ended with a theme song that was usually completely different from the opening title theme at the beginning of the show! For this list, we’re celebrating the very best of these songs – and we’re keeping to a very strict definition of ‘song’ in that it must feature a vocalist singing lyrics. Thus you’ll find no Thunderbirds, Joe 90, UFO or Space:1999 on this list; they’re all fabulous theme tunes, but they’re not theme songs!
With that little tutorial out of the way, it’s time to dig out those discs of classic Anderson theme songs for one more spin – and to decide once and for all which is the best!
#5 – Supercar – Mike Sammes
Supercar opened and closed with the same theme song, which for the first season featured solo vocals from Mike Sammes. The song lets you know right from the start that Supercar itself is the most awesome thing the world has ever seen and then hammers the point home with gusto, with only one of the show’s characters even getting a mention – but only briefly! Sammes’ performance coupled with the graceful majesty of the backing track perfectly captured the sense of adventure and excitement that the show was looking to achieve – and sixty years after it was first recorded the song has lost none of its magic.
For the second season however the song was re-recorded (with minor changes to the lyrics) by the Mike Sammes Singers, and although the later version has a nice jazzy swing to it that fits the slightly more juvenile tone of the show’s final episodes it lacks the soaring majesty of the original. Both are great in different ways, but sometimes it’s better not to mess with perfection – and the replacement of the first season Supercar theme is definitely a good example of that!
#4 – Aqua Marina – Gary Miller
The Stingray opening titles are rightly praised as a masterpiece of exciting editing that perfect encapsulate what the show is all about, but the end titles are almost as well remembered. Unlike the action-packed opening though, the end titles offer a love song to one specific character; the voiceless Marina, often mis-remembered as Aqua Marina thanks to this song.
Sung by Gary Miller, with much swooning and soaring from background singer Joan Brown, Aqua Marina is a beautiful and sometimes melancholy piece that perfectly underscore the end credits visuals. These also hint that the lyrics of the song reflect specifically Troy’s thoughts and feelings on his underwater friend, which is reinforced when he sings it to her during his dream sequence in Raptures of the Deep!
Gary Miller would soon find himself asked to record the end titles song for the next Anderson production, Thunderbirds – but this would ultimately go unused until the penultimate episode of the series, Ricochet! Miller’s song Flying High was dropped in favor of another version of the Thunderbirds march instrumental, which was probably for the best; Flying High strays just the wrong side of cheesy and isn’t really a tonally appropriate note to end every episode of a series on – unlike Aqua Marina!
#3 – Captain Scarlet – The Spectrum
The Captain Scarlet end titles song went through several revisions before the show was launched on television, but even then it wasn’t safe! The version heard on the first fourteen episodes was largely instrumental, with occasional spooky vocals from Barry Gray himself, but this would be replaced for the final eighteen with a full song from real-life pop group the Spectrum. This song would follow largely the same tune as its predecessor, but now featured the group singing with delightfully ghoulish glee about all the terrible things the Mysterons will do to Captain Scarlet as part of their War of Nerves against the Earth.
The Spectrum were already well established in their own right before they were hired to perform the Captain Scarlet song, although it’s doubtful that they would even have been on the Andersons’ radar had they stuck to their original name of Group Five. Surprisingly their rendition of the Captain Scarlet song did not see an official release during the original run of the show but the group were often to be found in Spectrum uniforms to promote the series.
There’s definitely a very 1960s sounds to the Captain Scarlet theme song, but much like the television series itself it also retains a rather timeless quality that still has the power to hook new listeners. The original Barry Gray track is perfectly fine, but it’s not hard to see why the version performed by The Spectrum is more closely associated with the series!
#2 – Avenues and Alleyways – Tony Christie
At 52 episodes The Protectors was one of the longest-running Gerry Anderson series, but is today perhaps best remembered for its end title song. Sung by Tony Christie, the song Avenues and Alleyways was written by Mitch Murray and Peter Callander and reached #37 on the UK singles chart when it was released in 1973.
The song remains an iconic slice of 70s sound, and received something of a revival in the early 2000s. It was featured in the 2000 British gangster movie Love, Honour and Obey (along with the #1 slot on this list!) and then re-released in 2005 following a successful re-release of Christie’s Is This the Way to Amarillo?. This re-release saw Avenues and Alleyways exceed its 1973 performance, as this time it got to #26!
With the exception of Terrahawks broadcasts in the U.S. (which replaced the end titles theme with Kate Kestrel’s Living in the 21st Century) The Protectors was the last time a song was used on the closing titles of an Anderson series, but the sheer gusto and bravado of Avenues and Alleyways saw the Gerry Anderson theme song go out on an unbeatable high!
#1 – Fireball – Don Spencer
Fireball XL5 may often seem like a forgotten series, but the end titles song remains one of the most famous elements of the show that even today is still remembered with reverent nostalgia. The song feels like a combination of the more heroic elements of the Supercar theme coupled with the romance of Aqua Marina, along with an irresistable wanderlust all its own. Although the version heard on television only runs for two verses four were originally written, but most cover versions stick to three. Speaking of, the song is likely to be the most covered of all the Gerry Anderson theme songs, although we’ve not checked – there are far too many to go through!
As fitting as the song is for the television series, Fireball takes the top spot on this list because it perfectly and beautifully sums up the hopes and dreams of the generation who saw it on first broadcast; a generation living through the imagination and excitement of the space race, and the seemingly limitless possibilities that this giant leap for the stars offered. As if that weren’t enough, the song is often used on Anderson-related shows and documentaries as the one piece of music that seems to sum up his entire career – and it’s hard to think of anything more fitting.
Do you agree with this list? Would you have given the top spot to another song, or are you a bit miffed that Four Feather Falls and The Secret Service didn’t get an airing? Let us know in the comments below!