Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – Rentaghost


If you grew up in the late 1970s or early 80s, today’s theme tune is sure to be burned forever into your brain cells.

Which, luckily, is no bad thing, ‘cos it’s a belter.

Rentaghost, created by writer Bob Block, was a BBC kids’ comedy that ran for nine seasons between 1976 and 1984. The show’s original premise was centred around an agency set up by the newly deceased Fred Mumford (Anthony Jackson) who felt he had wasted his life and so wanted to be more useful and achieve something worthwhile in death.

So he set out to recruit other ghosts who had been losers while alive so that the could hire themselves out to clients for a variety of unusual jobs (not too dissimilar, minus the supernatural angle, to the original premise of The Goodies). However the only ghosts he can persuade to join him are Timothy Claypole (Michael Staniforth), a  medieval court jester, and Hubert Davenport (Michael Darbyshire), a rather delicate and effeminate Victorian gentleman.

Now, depending on how old you are, you’ll have very different memories of Rentaghost. In the early days, for the first four seasons, the show stuck fairly close to the original formula, based around the three original stars and their long-suffering landlords, Harold and Ethel Meaker (Edward Brayshaw and Ann Emery, who is the sister of legendary British comedian Dick Emery).

However, Darbyshire died in 1979 and Jackson decided not to return for season five, leaving Staniforth as the only original ghost star. Veteran Scots actress Molly Weir, who had previously appeared as guest ghost Hazel the McWitch, was added to the full-time cast, as was a pre-Coronation Street Sue Nicholls as Nadia Popov, a dutch ghost with chronic hayfever who “teleported” whenever she sneezed, and a pantomime horse brought to life by Timothy Claypole.

 The cast change also marked a shift in the style of the show, with more of a focus on the Meakers and the problems the ghosts caused them, and the type of humour. From being  what was, by kids’ TV standards, a quite clever and slightly dark comedy, it became a lot more camp and pantomime-like, with increasingly over-the-top acting and ridiculously contrived “jokes”.

By the end of its nine-year run, the show was a pale, ghastly imitation of the original, viewed with the contempt and derision it deserved.

The theme tune, however, was wonderful from start to finish. It was written and performed by star Staniforth.

Interestingly… hmmm, I always say “interestingly” before I present a fact like the one I am about to, though I have to admit that I sometimes wonder if I am the only person in the world who finds this sort of stuff of interest…

Where was I..? Oh yes. Interestingly, however, the original lyrics had to be rewritten early in the show’s life, apparently because – ironically, given the show was about ghosts – Beeb bosses didn’t like direct references to the occult. Thus references to the likes of “poltergeists”, “at your party have a seance” and “ESP” were replaced with, respectively, “freaks and fools”, “at your party be a smarty” and “mystery”.

You’ll see what i mean if you compare the following. First up, the original version of the song used in the opening titles (which is the first verse of the complete Rentaghost theme song):

And here is the rest of the original version of the theme song, which was used in the closing titles:

Now, compare those lyrics with the rewritten version in this video, which has the opening titles followed by a pasted-together version of the full altered theme tune:

If you can’t be bothered spotting all the differences, here’s a handy colour-coded guide for you.

Original lyrics:

If your mansion house needs haunting, just call — Rentaghost.
We’ve got spooks and ghouls and poltergeists at Rentaghost.
Hear the Phantom of the Opera sing a haunting melody.
Remember what you see is not ESP but … Rentaghost.

At your party have a seance and hire Rentaghost.
We dig medium-sized tables here at Rentaghost.
You can let our spirits move you, and for fun play ghostman’s knock,
Because we aim to shock, we hope you knees will knock — that’s Rentaghost.

Well it’s hardly scientific but it’s really quite horrific,
It’s the spirit of the thing that counts for you.
To be a great manifestation, a phenomenal sensation,
Get scared to death, become a ghost, too — ooh!

We are extraordinary fellas here at Rentaghost.
To be another Uri Geller come to Rrrrrrrentaghost.
For a biography, we’ve ghost writers,
And not forgetting a ghost script.
An apparition quipped from deep inside a crypt — Ring Rentaghost.
An apparition quipped from deep inside a crypt — Ring Rentaghost.
(Manic laughter)

Rewritten lyrics:

If your mansion house needs haunting, just call — Rentaghost.
We’ve got spooks and ghouls and freaks and fools at Rentaghost.
Hear the Phantom of the Opera sing a haunting melody.
Remember what you see is not a mystery but … Rentaghost!

At your party be a smarty and hire Rentaghost.
If you want a fright climb the spooky heights with Rentaghost.
You can let our spirits move you, and for fun play ghostman’s knock
Because we aim to shock, we hope you knees will knock — that’s Rentaghost.

Let me say the most terrific simple ghosts (not scientific!)
May be supernatural ghoulies of the day.
Heavy footsteps in your attic means a spectre telepathic
Is descending just to spirit you away (Ya-a-ay!)

We are extraordinary fellas here at Rentaghost.
To be another Uri Geller come to RRRRentaghost.
For a biography we’ve ghost writers,
And not forgetting a ghost script.
An apparition quipped from deep inside a crypt — Ring Rentaghost.
An apparition quipped from deep inside a crypt — Ring Rentaghost.
(Manic laughter)

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2 Comments

Filed under Classic TV, Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day, TV Themes

2 responses to “Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – Rentaghost

  1. This sounds great, I do wish it had come to Australia.

  2. i love classic operatic arias and Phantom Of The Opera is one of the best musical ~`~

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