Saturday, 28 December 2013

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Vaseline Intensive Care Hand Lotion - Music By De Wolfe (1983)

So, what's this 80's ad doing here? Well, it's an interesting example of how the music from a classic horror movie can turn up in the strangest of places. See if you recognise it...

Yes, it's Paul Ferris' score for Witchfinder General being used to sell Vaseline Intensive Care Hand Lotion. On the face of it this might seem pretty bizarre, but there's a bit of a story to this one...

Upon completion of his score in 1968, Ferris offered the publishing and recording rights to the De Wolfe music library, one of several such outfits specialising in supplying ready made background, incidental and even theme music to television and film producers. Royalties to composers would be automatically paid out as library recordings were utilised, so for Paul Ferris the deal was probably a way of ensuring his music would continue to bring him some kind of revenue. After all, this low-budget horror film might well disappear without trace after its initial release...

Witchfinder General would, of course attain classic status as the years passed, and Ferris' score is one of Brit-Horror's finest. However, back in 1983 some advertising agency must have come across the music on a library album called Strange Location.

 Image from

On seeing this TV ad I thought it was some obscure piece of classical music I had not yet come across. It was only a few years later, when Witchfinder General eventually turned on on TVS' Friday Night Fright slot that the source of this sweeping theme became clear. It also started me on an exploration into the delights of the music library...

Along with Chappell, KPM, Bruton and others, De Wolfe were (and remain) one of the leaders in their field. As an example, the company's music can be heard all over Monty Python's Flying Circus, and the film Monty Python And The Holy Grail even carries the credit "Music by De Wolfe".

This resource of tens-of-thousands of recordings would also provide theme tunes to shows as diverse as Man About The House, Roobarb, Crown Court and Farmhouse Kitchen, whilst De Wolfe would also score a surprise UK number one hit in 1973 with a piece entitled Eye Level, when it was adopted as the theme to Dutch-set detective series Van Der Valk.

Then there's The Gonk, memorably employed by George A. Romero as the Zombies shuffle around the shopping mall in Dawn Of The Dead. That's another De Wolfe piece, as is Left Bank No. 2, used to accompany the gallery of pictures sent in by young viewers to the BBC's Vision On. For those of a certain age, the De Wolfe library has formed a very large part of the soundtrack to our lives.

The Witchfinder General soundtrack is now, finally available on CD from De Wolfe Music here.

Also recommended is Top Dog, a collection of 26 of De Wolfe's best known pieces, particularly to UK viewers - available here.

More info on British production music libraries and their discographies can be found at the fantastic

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