The world has gone mad since I last posted. And since my attempts to stop thinking about COVID-19 have only yielded more thinking about COVID-19, I thought I should try to channel that energy into creativity.

The idea for this post first came to me not long before I jetted off for an exciting adventure across Europe in 2019. I wanted to gather together some music that, to me, conveys images of travelling, and in style. I never finished writing it. But, now that we can’t do any travelling at all, it’s more important than ever to cling to those dreams and memories, which will help us maintain that passion, that joie de vivre, which will be so hard to come by in these difficult months.

As for the music itself, it’s mostly library music – music recorded as part of a production library that could be used in TV, film, and radio production in place of original composition. I adore this stuff. In the UK, there was a great library music “scene”, and a lot of the most popular pieces written during the 1960s and 1970s are still heard today as themes for major UK TV programs. And they can also be heard a lot in Spongebob SquarePants. Most of the tracks here come from the iconic KPM 1000 green-sleeve series. So, without further ado, I present Music To Travel By.

  1. “Fun in The Sun”, Neil Richardson

    This won’t be Neil Richardson’s last appearance in this list. He is a great master of lush, soaring strings which convey a very retro jet-set feel. “Fun In The Sun” is often also titled “Rio Magic” – a lot of library pieces have different titles, often a reflection of the context in which they became well known. In this case, “Rio Magic” is a shorter edit of “Fun In The Sun”, which I found very exciting upon discovering “Fun In The Sun”!! 30 more seconds of “Rio Magic” was everything I ever wanted. Incidentally, this piece can be heard on the soundtrack of OSS117: Lost In Rio.

  2. “Water Sports”, James Clarke

    I’m not sure exactly what water sports are so chill that they would have inspired such a leisurely composition. Perhaps the sort involving being perched on the edge of a rooftop infinity pool, trying to see how many cocktails you can drink before you fall in. This is probably the most elevator-muzak piece on this list as well – imagine yourself in a plushly carpeted lift, riding to the penthouse suite of the fanciest hotel in Las Vegas, and the final french horn flourish is the moment you flop onto the bed.

  3. “Prestige Production”, Neil Richardson
    Yes folks, it’s that man again! Like “Fun In The Sun”, “Prestige Production” also exists as a shorter edit called “The Riviera Affair”. And though I of course prefer the longer version, I think “The Riviera Affair” is a very appropriate title for what I imagine this piece to convey. Picture yourself in an open-top Ferrari 250GTO California, or Jaguar E-Type, speeding along one of those wonderful coast roads in southern Europe. Or perhaps quaffing champagne with the cream of European society at the Monaco Grand Prix? The possibilities are endless when Neil Richardson starts playing. Just ensure you are wearing a sports coat and a cravat at all times.
  4. “New Horizons”, Brian Bennett

    Yes, yes, I know it’s the theme from Channel 9 Cricket. But skip to 0:54 and you’ll understand. The entire middle section of this piece is a soaring ode to wonder. It captures the mystery, excitement, and nervousness of travel to unfamiliar places. And of course, it is all bookended by the brash confidence of the familiarity of home.

  5. “Penelope In France”, Barry Gray

    This one isn’t technically library music, though Barry Gray did borrow from his back catalogue very often when scoring later shows. Without me realising it at the time, my childhood obsession with Thunderbirds was sewing the seeds for what has become a lifelong love of soundtrack music, which itself developed into a love of Romantic composers like Rachmaninov. Barry Gray didn’t write much, other than his contributions to the worlds of Gerry Anderson. But it is wonderful music, and very evocative of the moods within the scripts. Between this suite of music and the sound of Babar, I knew what France was supposed to sound like before I even got there at last in 2018. The love, vibrance, mystery, and intrigue, of wonderful cities like Paris is all encapsulated in Gray’s music here. Indeed, when I was there in 2018, we were in a deserted Metro station, and the melancholy sound of a lone busker’s accordion echoed throughout the halls, with a tune very much like the one you’ll here in this video at 0:40.

Stay safe out there, readers.