“The ‘Neighbours’ theme song is part of the Australian psyche, up there with the Mojos jingles like ‘C’mon Aussie C’mon’ and ‘You Oughta Be Congratulated,’” says screen composer Antony Partos, who has won awards for “Redfern Now”, “Mabo”, “Rake” and “The Slap”.
“It works on two levels – it’s ear candy, and it’s also been around for so long that it’s reinforced as part of Australian folklore.”
The theme song made an impact even before it launched in 1985.
Its original title, “Ramsay Street,” was changed when successful British husband and wife songwriting team Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch opted for “Neighbours” to avoid comparisons with Coronation Street. They added the line ‘That’s when good neighbours become good friends.’
The song also made waves when the series was axed in February.
Its UK broadcaster Channel 5, which supplied most of its funding, reported that as daily UK viewership plunged from up to ten million to just 1.2 million, ad revenue was £5 million (A$8.77 million) shy of production costs.
To try and reverse the decision, fans got the original Barry Crocker version to No.1 on the UK iTunes chart.
Crocker was aged 86, the second oldest artist to top a UK chart, after Captain Tom Moore who was 99 years and 11 months when his “You’ll Never Walk Alone” reached No.1 in 2020.
Crocker’s version originally reached No.83 in 1988 and remained on the British chart for five weeks.
The song was written in Sydney where Hatch and Trent were based in 1982.
Reg Grundy Productions asked the pair to pitch for a new series, set in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Erinsborough.
They wrote and recorded the song in a day.
Hatch rang Crocker at home that night at 10 p.m.: “What are you doing? We’ve just written the theme we are going to submit for a soap they’re talking about doing.”
Crocker immediately went over and nailed the vocals in an hour.
Trent remembered: “It was on the producer’s desk by 10 a.m. the following morning.”
It was on a pile with other submissions. TV producer Reg Grundy fell for it immediately.
“Fine, we’ll record it properly now,” Hatch said.
“Don’t touch it, I love it the way it is,” Grundy insisted.
There have been nine versions through the years, as producers tried to modernise it or adapted to the varying length of screen credits.
Crocker’s original version, widely considered the best, aired between 1985 and 1989, with an awkward faster rendition used between 1989 and 1992.
There was a jazzier rewrite with Greg Hind (1992-1998), and a rocked-up version with electric guitar by husband and wife Paul Norton and Wendy Stapleton (1999—2001).
Between 1992-1998, it underwent a rewrite with a more jazzy inflection by singer Greg Hind.
Female renditions were tried with Janine Maunder (2002—2007) and Sandra de Jong (2007— 2013).
In February 2013 the “Neighbours” Remixed competition encouraged singers to upload their versions of the new theme to be voted by fans.
Australia’s Stephanie Angelini and the UK’s Daniel Boys tied (2013—2014).
Garth Ploog (2015-2020) brought back the original melody and Bonnie Anderson’s version was used between 2020 and 2021.
“It was really an honour to be asked to do this. Honestly, I got emotional,” Anderson said.
The lyric was famously quoted in the House of Commons by UK shadow chancellor John Smith during a debate on economic policy, sung by Muslim students at an August 2005 protest rally when hijabs were banned at an Australian school, sampled in Lily Allen’s “Fuck You”, and sung by actor Seth Rogen in a TVC in April 2014 for his film “Bad Neighbours” in Australia.
Trent and Hatch themselves had a personal life worthy of a “Neighbours” storyline.
They started an affair when Hatch was married to his first wife, and many of their early hit songs were secretly cooing their love for each other.
After Sydney, they moved to a villa in Minorca, one of the Balearic Islands.
During her 54th birthday party, they had a blazing row before guests, and he announced he was leaving Trent for her best friend Maggie Clough.
They divorced in 2002 and Trent passed away aged 74 in 2015 after a long battle with cancer.