You only need to hear the first few notes to recognise the theme to the long-running British science-fiction television show, Doctor Who. But few know that this signature tune was written by a classically trained Australian composer.
Ron Grainer (11 August 1922 – 21 February 1981) was born in Atherton, Far North Queensland. He was something of a child prodigy, playing the piano at the age of two and giving concerts to the local community by the age of six.
Later, he studied music with Sir Eugene Goossens at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, but his studies were interrupted by the Second World War. After receiving an army disability pension Grainer returned to music and decided to concentrate on composition.
In 1952, Grainer moved to London with his wife Margot and her daughter. He found regular work as a pianist in light entertainment, included touring as part of the musical act The Alien Brothers and June. The act included him being hit on the head by the grand piano lid and then falling into the orchestra pit.
Despite this inauspicious start his talent was soon recognised. He made three appearances at the London Palladium and gained a reputation as a piano accompanist. It was during this period that he became involved in recording and was much in demand at BBC TV.
In this interview with Binny Lum, Grainer talks about his life and career in London and how he approached composing for television: