The theme song that goes harder than it has any business going.
July 31, 2022 10:06 AM   Subscribe

The Thomas the Tank Engine Theme Is Unironically Really Good.
posted by mhoye (25 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Probably just my ADHD but this is a little too deconstructed for me to be able to follow.
posted by bz at 10:17 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


It does seem to require viewers to have a basic-to-middling grasp of music theory, and it doesn't help that he goes at breakneck speed.

(BTW here's the NSFW-language video he mentions at the end. At first I thought this was sweary outtakes of George riffing while recording the show's narration, but then I realized I'd heard a bunch of it before from his standup specials. Apparently somebody has done a lot of work to splice it into the actual show's narration to make this video. They did a fantastic job and it's hilarious!)
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:33 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


I enjoyed this even if I don't understand a lot of the music theory. That ending really stood out for me as sounding like rag times.
posted by Zumbador at 11:00 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I don't know why this is so hard to believe. Great musicians always bring their A game, even when they're making children's music. I wouldn't know about the jazz careers of Bob Dorough and Blossom Dearie if I hadn't encountered them first on Schoolhouse Rock. And as a Gen X'er who grew up in the 1970s, there are lots of musicians, such as Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, Judy Collins, and Buffy Sainte Marie, whom I encountered first as guests on Sesame Street.
posted by jonp72 at 11:09 AM on July 31 [14 favorites]


I feel like the video is missing something. Why do so many songs' lyrics/vocals fit so well into the structure of that song?
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:44 AM on July 31


Gen X will also appreciate the theme song for Underdog

Which however didn't become a template for other songs (not as harmonically complicated?)
posted by Schmucko at 12:36 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


It does seem to require viewers to have a basic-to-middling grasp of music theory, and it doesn't help that he goes at breakneck speed.

As a childless person who took college theory and harmony about 30 years ago I was unfamiliar with the theme song but right there with the analysis. On the other hand the slightly-out-of-tune aspect of all of it also hurt my head a bit, so it evens out.

Having heard it, though, I would 100% expect a piano player with a sense of humor to sneak this tune in to a set in much the same way I heard a stride/ragtime piano player in a hotel lounge sort of setting segue into the Super Mario Brothers theme, earning a laugh and a tip from me.
posted by fedward at 1:04 PM on July 31



I don't know why this is so hard to believe. Great musicians always bring their A game, even when they're making children's music


I came in to say precisely this. People look at children's media and expect that it's going to be terrible, when the people making it are often professionals who like and want to be doing a good job. Writing and performing for children is still getting paid to do your art, and artists like both getting paid and doing their art, so why wouldn't they do a good job?

I think there are two things going on:
1) The cynical expectation that children's media sucks because a lot of it does (for example, much of the media that only exists to sell toys)
1a) Despite the fact that not every piece of adult media is a masterpiece...
2) The idea that children's media sucks because the adult does not like it (despite not being the audience it's made for)

And when a song is good and we like it, as adults, that confounds both expectations-- this is supposed to suck because it's for kids...and it doesn't? Unpossible! and so you get these explainers.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:11 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


I feel like I'm undergoing some sort of Berenstain Bears phenomenon here, because I don't remember this song a bit, but I do remember a remarkably inane theme song with equally inane lyrics: "They're two, they're four, they're six, they're eight, shunting trucks and hauling freight/Red and green and brown and blue, they're the really useful crew..." that went on to sum up each engine's main character trait in a line apiece... "Toby - well, let's say, he's square." A later variant of the show?
posted by Daily Alice at 1:50 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Yep, that was the theme song for the later seasons (I think Season 8 on?). The one analysed above is the original (and far superior) version.
posted by Paragon at 2:17 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


It suddenly hit me why the first three chords, that he plays at 1:53, sounded so familiar, and in retrospect I'm surprised he never brings up that they're the same ones as in Duke Ellington's Take the A Train (appropriately enough). So yeah, I'd say that there's fair precedent for that particular set of chord changes.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:18 PM on July 31 [13 favorites]


Royksopps happy up here has a strong TtTE theme vibe, I can see a dance rework of the theme coming out similarly.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:50 PM on July 31


You forgot Lena Horne, jonp72 (sorry, formative Sesame Street memory).
posted by atomicstone at 4:48 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


It was on American tv when my kid was young, as part of Shining Time Station, and we loved Ringo Starr as the presenter, and the Juke Box Band. I still sing Red River Valley sometimes.
posted by theora55 at 5:03 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Gen X will also appreciate the theme song for Underdog

Wu-Tang remembers.
posted by jonp72 at 5:43 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Uh, yeah, he's bullshitting, the theme music to Thomas the Tank Engine is not genius.

Ultimate Skyrim is genius.
posted by ovvl at 8:59 PM on July 31


Greg_Ace: it's not just you. I've never knowingly heard the Thomas theme before but A Train is the first thing that came to my mind too. There's no way that's a coincidence, even if the Beatles song was the stated inspiration.
posted by ctmf at 11:43 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


I don't know why this is so hard to believe. Great musicians always bring their A game, even when they're making children's music
Maybe this goes double for children's music about trains? Anyway - talking of which - the theme for Ivor the Engine calls out for some analysis, at least if you are my "of a certain age". Ivor the Engine was one of the great creations of Oliver Postgate's Smallfilms - with theme composed by Vernon Elliott - who also did the music for The Clangers and Noggin the Nog.
posted by rongorongo at 3:11 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


As a longtime fan of Thomas the Dank Engine and related memes, thanks for posting this!
posted by chaiyai at 3:36 AM on August 1


I never watched Thomas the Tank Engine--I'm just a few years too old. The theme from my childhood that will always be remembered as far better than it had any right to be was Adventures of the Gummi Bears. The show was nothing special, but the theme song was the kind that gets stuck in your head forever. Alicia Keys agrees.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:23 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


I remember this guy from when he dissected my favorite Bill Wurtz tune.
posted by neuracnu at 7:33 AM on August 1


than it had any right to be was Adventures of the Gummi Bears yt .

Cartoon theme songs have always ruled, even the sorry shows: Merry Melodies, Sesame Street, Captain Caveman, Pole Position, GI Joe (every version rules as an opener), MASK, GEM, Transformers, Adventures of Phineas and Ferb, DinoSaucers, SpongeBob, The Loud House. It's fitting that the one by They Might Be Giants is kind of subpar (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse). That's how high the theme song quality bar is. Even Dora the Explorer's Theme Song is pretty good. The songs inside the show are often questionable, but the theme songs are great.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:09 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


No love for the Raccoons? That seemed at the stronger end of the US stuff, my heart belongs to the Euro cartoons, especially Dogtanian but there's also Cities of Gold, Ulysses, etc.
posted by biffa at 12:15 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


As a longtime fan of Thomas the Dank Engine and related memes, thanks for posting this!

I immediately heard “Damn, son, where did ya find this?” in my head.
posted by stannate at 6:49 PM on August 1


I'm really enjoying the rest of this guy's channel...I wish I could favorite this post twice! Thanks, mhoye.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:17 PM on August 2


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