The first episode of ‘Darling Buds’ delivered an audience of more than eighteen million viewers, a record for the first episode of any series before or since. What’s more, it held that audience throughout series one. ITV had a huge hit on its hands and there was no hesitation in commissioning series two and three.
When we were setting up the first series of The Darling Buds of May in 1986, we talked a great deal about how we would commission the music for the series. A shortlist of experienced television composers was agreed and approached to submit ideas. As one of the producers, I was first to hear them and was puzzled. Not that there was anything wrong musically I hasten to add, but I thought they had missed the point. Yes, the series was rural and buccolic and it was this that had apparently inspired their compositions.
Perhaps because I had worked on the project for nearly three years, I saw The Darling Buds of May from a rather different perspective. To me it was above all and indisputably romantic – not just in the love story of Mariette and Charley the tax inspector, but also the enduring love affair between Pop and Ma, so beautifully played by David Jason and Pam Ferris.
I decided to enter an idea of my own anonymously, written as a song with words drawn from H.E.Bates’ original novels. All the submissions – without any indication of the composers – were put before the Executive Producer at ITV who was asked to choose. The rest is history, together with the Ivor Novello Award for Best TV Theme tune, which sits on my piano to this day. You may know the tune, but I doubt you’ve ever seen or heard the words, although the complete song, “Perfick”, was recorded by David Jason for an adaptation on Radio Four of H.E.’s last book,“A Little of What You Fancy,” which we never got round to making for television.