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Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Monday, 19 January 2009

A bit of vibraphone nostalgia

Tony Hart with picture from The Gallery
With glitter and lentils a lot could be achieved

The late Tony Hart gave a generation of children enthusiasm for homemade art, but he also helped popularise a tune now used to tap into our sense of nostalgia.

Anyone who was a child in the 1970s will remember hearing Left Bank Two, although probably not the name.

Hearing it should conjure up images of blurred chalk-drawn sailing boats and landscapes rendered in leguminous media - all the magic of The Gallery on Vision On, on which Tony Hart, who died at the weekend, became a children's TV star.

A vibraphone tootles away while a brushed drum and a strummed acoustic guitar meander around in the background.

By comparison with Left Bank Two the average piece of shopping centre or elevator music sounds like thrash metal. As a piece of music it ambled along in sympathy with the cut-up card creations and intricate stencil work that flashed up in The Gallery, which also became a fixture of Hart's subsequent venture, Take Hart.

The piece was written and published in 1963, the work of a "Wayne Hill", also responsible for the award-winning theme to the 1960s TV series The Power Game.

It was recorded by anonymous session musicians in the Netherlands as library material for the British film and television music company De Wolfe. The session musicians were dubbed the Noveltones.

"They were just given names to give it some authenticity," says Frank Barretta, senior music consultant at De Wolfe.

The track would have been sent to the BBC on a promotional record, and having been chosen for a programme De Wolfe would then supply a broadcast version on magnetic tape.

There quite a move now towards folk music, going back to real instruments - some of our kids stuff has got an organic feel to it
Frank Barretta
De Wolfe

But for its appearance in Vision On, the music would have disappeared into relative obscurity, used occasionally but with no significance for the listener.

De Wolfe also supplied two other pieces of gallery music for Vision On, Merry Ocarina, by Pierre Arvay, and Accroche-toi Caroline, by Claude Vasori.

And being cheap and accessible library music with an emotional appeal, Left Bank Two has been used many times over the years, particularly on adverts.

"It's a natural reference to something with pictures or paintings. There is a certain demographic who would recognise it. It has been used on campaigns for cars, directly aimed at people of a certain age."

Distinctive pieces

An advert a couple of years back for a company called Picture Loans used Left Bank Two. A woman is negotiating a 25,000 loan while her husband hovers and her son searches for his lost scooter. The tootlings of the song provide a subliminal link with the "picture" of the firm's title.

Volkswagen is among the other firms to use the piece.

Of course Left Bank Two was not the only distinctive piece to run over The Gallery section of Hart's programmes.

Vision On also used the syrupy guitars of Cavatina, and the slightly odd Gurney Slade theme. Later shows used Water Buffalo and Marguerite.

And of course if a children's show theme was picked today it would sound very different - altogether less easy listening for starters.

"There is quite a move now towards folk music, going back to real instruments - some of our kids stuff has got an organic feel to it."

Some of your comments:

Vision On was full of hoopy tunes, but people only ever seem to remember the gallery theme. The Vision On theme itself was a very 70's vocal/bongo-drum offering, while the end music was the tune used by Olga Korbutt in her legendary Olympic floor routine. Each of the regular features on the programme had its own tune. I remember in particular: "The Burbles" - (clocks that spoke in speech bubbles), the little girl with her tortoise, the digging man, and who could forget - the Prof!
Kelly Mouser, Upminster

I am in my late forties and only had to listen to that tune for a few nano-seconds before I was back in my first home, wearing shorts and eating my tea watching Vision On on a black and white TV. Such is the power of music to resurrect long forgotten memories!
William, Oxford

The piece is also used in the Playstation 3 game 'Little Big Planet'. Perhaps it gives a hint to some early influences felt by the games developers from the late great Tony?
Damian, Brighton

I grew up watching Take Hart, I now have a five year old and she would love it. There is a TV show now called Mr Maker, which is in the same mode, but Take Hart was great and Tony Hart seems to have had a great way with showing kids how to make stuff. Me and My sister tried every week to get one of our painting on the show, but never managed it. TV has changed a lot since than but it really was a great show. As for the music, I'd love that as a ring tone, very mellow.
Simon, Manchester

Ah - pure magic, an ear massage.
Alex, Swansea

I would love to see a re-run of Tony Hart's programmes, including the Adventures of Morph - the way he inspired creativity in young people (and older people, too, I suspect) was wonderful, and would be a counter balance to all the stress of SATS, GCSEs and the rest. Just what we need now!
Lindsay Kemp, Wainfleet, Lincs

This filled me a bit of sadness and nostalgia when I read that Tony Hart had died. Vision On was so distinctive with the Gallery music and lots of home made art. I can't help wondering if it harks back to a better time when kids could spell, add up and didn't need a PS3 or XBOX to keep themselves entertained.
Dick M, Liverpool

In the 90's we had a band - (Top Banana!... surely one of the best 5 piece pub bands in the North Chester region) - and we used to play this piece during the otherwise awkward silence during instrument changeovers. I say play, I never did quite master it... got the vibraphone sound perfectly, got most of the notes, just never quite got them in the right order. But everyone recognised it. Vision On was my absolute favourite programme in the mid seventies. Used to dream of having a picture up there in the Gallery.
Ditto Smith, Bedford

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