Friday, February 15, 2008

I Could Be So Good For You

In Minder, Dennis Waterman played Terry, a boxer who had done some time in prison. George Cole played Arthur Daley, a used car salesman and importer/exporter who employed Terry as a bodyguard. Together they made up one of the best on-screen partnerships of the '80s and spent almost every episode wheeling and dealing or, in Terry's case, ducking and diving like all good stereotypical East End chaps.

Like many of my favourite programmes, one of the best things about Minder was the theme tune. If a list of the greatest television theme tunes of all time, Minder would be at number one (or possibly number two, behind Grandstand. But hang on, there's the Diff'rent Strokes theme too. I clearly didn't think this through).

As a child, my bedtime was nine o'clock. Unfortunately, this also happened to be the exact time that Minder started. Through my bedroom floor, I would hear the muffled strains of the piano kicking in, followed by some funky bass, a horn section and a nice bit of pub singing. I Could Be So Good For You. Oh, how I loved that song.

Finally, the time came when I was considered old enough to watch Minder. The first time I actually heard the theme tune in all its glory was simply wonderful. I felt like one of those elderly people who get a new hearing aid and walk around saying, "it's amazing! I could hear a pin drop!" I was inspired to learn every word and can still do a good rendition today. But I'll restrain myself for now.

Nothing else particularly happened in the opening sequence. The two characters just walked around a car, glaring menacingly at each other. With a song like that, the producers correctly decided that nothing else was needed (although I did love the motion-stop method later on in the sequence that just screamed early era Only Fools And Horses - clearly, they don't make them like that anymore).

I had previously only seen George Cole in the St. Trinian's films that Channel Four always used to broadcast during holiday afternoons. He played Flash Harry in those movies, a character not unlike Arthur Daley. I was therefore quite confused when I first watched Minder, because I couldn't understand why he wasn't being chased around by a gang of feisty girls in school uniform. However, I soon came to appreciate the comedy of Arthur Daley and it was not long before I was addicted.

My obsession for all things Minder grew even more over the years. Thankfully, there was a lot of merchandise to satisfy me. Firstly, I received the Minder computer game for my ZX Spectrum one Christmas.

In those days, almost every television show had a computer game spin-off (and was usually made by DK Tronics too). To be honest, the Minder game wasn't a patch on something like Bullseye (which used a primitive light gun to fire the darts) or Yogi Bear And The Greed Monster (full use of all seven colours), but it did have two things in its favour.

Firstly, a simply fantastic loading screen. The game, like all Spectrum games, loaded from a cassette tape and usually took around ten minutes to complete the process. Game developers attempted different ways to make the loading process more interesting. Some were more successful than others. Nigel Mansell's Grand Prix, for example, simply put a stopwatch on screen. Minder was way better than that. During the loading sequence, the title gradually turned red until it looked like this:

Then, the second amusement kicked in once the game had fully loaded. A very basic (worse than a mono ringtone) rendition of I Could Be So Good For You. I could have cried.

In fact, I think I did.

Unfortunately, the game itself could not live up to expectation (either that or I was just unable to play it properly) and it was soon retired to the shelf, then later a box under the stairs where it still remains today.

My next piece of merchandise was the Arthur Daley book:

However, there was not enough Dennis Waterman in it for my liking so it was soon placed on top of the cupboard next to my mother's hefty Farmhouse Kitchen tome (although I did re-discover it years later and found that it made highly enjoyable toilet reading).

Of course, no Minder completist's collection was complete without the two 7" singles released by Waterman and Cole. The first (and most famous) was the full vocal mix of I Could Be So Good For You. The second was a Christmas single called What Are We Gonna Get For 'Er Indoors? It was a superbly crafted two-way duet about the difficulties in deciding what to buy for your wife at Christmas. They even performed it on a Christmas special of Top Of The Pops. The lyrics were performed entirely in character too:

Arthur: I've got a lovely furry coat.
I could tell 'er it's mink.
Terry: Nah, she'll suss it's skunk,
'cos it don't half pen and ink.
Arthur: It doesn't
Terry: It does.
Arthur: Who'd know
Terry: I would.

Simply wonderful.

I was mortified when Dennis Waterman quit the show in the early '90s. His replacement, Gary Webster (later of Family Affairs and a film about a group of gamblers who play high-stakes Monopoly with real houses and money), was good enough but not up to the high-standard previously set. Plus, they turned the theme tune into a hard rocking riff. However, the new opening sequence did contain one of my favourite visual jokes - Webster getting distracted by a couple of attractive ladies in short skirts.

That was enough to keep me watching until the show was finally cancelled in 1994.

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