With the exception of the ladies and gentlemen at TeamRock, Alan Partridge can be considered as one of Britain’s most fearless broadcasters.
The Norfolk-based divorced father-of-two was subject of a BBC reality show I’m Alan Partridge, which ran for two series between 1997 and 2002. During the intimate look at his often troubled life, the show featured perennial classics by the likes of Thin Lizzy, Queen and reggae trio Sting.
Here are the best 12 songs from that five-year televisual era.
QUEEN – Killer Queen (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974) In_ A Room With An Alan, buoyed by the excitement of a pending meeting with BBC boss Tony Hayers, Partridge bellows the words to Queen’s 1974 single Killer Queen at Linton Travel Tavern receptionist Susan’s face: “Guaranteed to blow your mind_… classic Queen”.
WINGS – Jet (Band On The Run, 1973) In the same episode, dejected and humilated by his disastrous meeting with Hayers, Partridge returns to his hotel room. He puts Wings’ 1974 single on his stereo and makes an ill-judged leap from his bed to the mini-bar, earning himself a black eye. “It says much about the enduring appeal of jet engine technology that Paul felt inspired to write this song some 43 years after they were invented,” Partridge would later tell The Guardian. “I’m a big fan of both jets and Jet.”
THIN LIZZY – Thunder And Lightning (Thunder and Lightning, 1983) This “nice thick slice of Thin Lizzy” was an unlikely choice of Valentine’s Day radio dedication from Alan to his “tireless PA Lynn, 50, who is as diligent and hard-working a creature that ever graced this world we call… Earth.” It’s the only time Alan ever praises his long-suffering assistant, so there must something in Lizzy’s headbanging rampage about a pub fight that brings out the best in him.
STEELEYE SPAN – Gaudete (Below The Salt, 1972) Music plays a big part in Alan’s seduction technique. Having taken his receptionist Jill to a cracking owl sanctuary, he cranks up Steeleye’s a cappella take on the 16th century Christmas carol, singing along with gusto. “I learned the words to this in a Derby hotel room after the film crew I was with said they’d meet me in the bar before dinner but then didn’t,” Alan told the Guardian.” A genuinely fond memory, despite the idiots.”
SHIRLEY BASSEY – Goldfinger (Goldfinger OST, 1968) Alan seldom seems happier than when he’s stomping along the hard shoulder of a busy A-road singing this all-time great Bond theme to himself on his way to the mini-mart (“Scaled down supermarket, fits inside a petrol station”) to buy 12 bottles of windscreen washer fluid and congratulate the attendant on a nice array of pasties (“I don’t want one, I’m just making smalltalk”).
BLUE ÖYSTER CULT – Don’t Fear The Reaper (Agents Of Fortune, 1976) BÖC’s moody late-night cowbell anthem is actually from the playlist of Alan’s troubled fellow Radio Norwich DJ, Dave Clifton. The title and lyrics must have held special resonance for poor Dave; by the time of the movie Alpha Papa he has visibly faced many destructive demons: “Cocaine, that was a trigger. Cocaine, prostitutes, bit of a cycle. Puking up the old luminous bile… I don’t know if you’ve ever done any horse?”
KATE BUSH – Wuthering Heights (The Kick Inside, 1978) Performing a Kate Bush medley for Comic Relief 1999 and on tour, as well as singing along to this historic number one with Travel Tavern receptionist Susan (who “sounds like a trapped boy”), Alan’s almost as big a Bush fan as alter ego Steve Coogan. He even tried to tempt the reclusive singer onstage for a Partridge duet; she declined, but admitted of Alan’s hilariously inappropriate medley: “It’s so nice to hear all those songs again.”
IRVING MARTIN & BRIAN DEE – Theme From Return Of The Saint (1978) Although Alan hero-worships Roger Moore, the original star of 1960s ITV spy thriller The Saint, it’s the strident theme tune from the Ian Ogilvy-fronted 1978 sequel that he chooses to crank up in his Lexus while his PA Lynn tends to her mother’s grave. Parked up in the cemetery, Alan blissfully loses himself in 10 minutes of frantic air-drumming before scooting off to watch a James Bondathon.
GARY NUMAN – Music For Chameleons (I, Assassin, 1982) “I leapt out of my seat, proud as punch,” admits Gary Numan, remembering the first time he saw the iconic sequence where Alan breaks out the air bass and pivots around his static home to this 1982 top 20 single; Alan is so lost in the moment he catches himself taking off the air bass and resting it in an air bass stand when the Inland Revenue arrive. “Alan Partridge playing one of my tracks was an absolutely brilliant moment,” affirmed Gary to GQ.
DENIS KING AND THE LONDON STRING CORALE – Galloping Home (1972) AKA the theme from Black Beauty, which Lynn plays as they prepare Alan’s room at the Travel Tavern for his farewell party. “It’s brilliant!” exclaims Alan, momentarily distracted from filling sanitary bags with Wotsits. However, in the Guardian he admits he doesn’t care for the vocalists: “You can almost hear them rolling their eyes and sniggering to each other, as if they think songs about horses are beneath them. Pretty unprofessional but there it is.” Sit back and feel the equestrian bombast.
THE POLICE – Roxanne (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978) In episode The Colour Of Alan, Alan spins Roxanne by white reggae enthusiasts The Police – or, as they’re now known, Sting. As the final notes of the band’s 1978 single fade out, the DJ muses on song’s protagonist before entering into an awkward conversation about a re-purposed electrical gift: “A song there about a prostitute. Doesn’t give her surname… Must give her a call – though the effects of 23 years on the game would not render her pleasurable to mine eye.”
BRIAN AND MICHAEL – Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs (1977) An irresistible, nostalgic acoustic strum from the brilliantly boringly-named duo about the painter LS Lowry and their childhood in 1930s Salford, which reached number one in 1978. It was triumphantly played out by Alan in his Norfolk Nights slot to cool the ardour of the “sex people” who earlier invited him to join their “sex festival”. As the song plays, Alan wistfully remembers the highlight of his day: beating a child at an arcade game.