Pettifer is one of Australia's most prolific and accomplished
editors of music for television and film, with a CV boasting
classics from The Flying Doctors to contemporary hits
such as The Secret Life of Us and the movie Romper
Stomper. We were delighted to speak exclusively with him
about his decade-long contribution to Neighbours...
is your background prior to Neighbours? How did you
get the job on the show?
Prior to my involvement in television I was a working musician
playing the pubs of Melbourne since school days. Eventually
I ended up working at Crawford Productions, where they were
making The Flying Doctors. I soon made my way into
the music department under the tutelage of John Clifford White.
John trained me as a music editor and then asked me to work
for him on the infamous Oz movie Romper Stomper starring
Russell Crowe, Jacqueline McKenzie and Daniel Pollock. I worked
with another guitarist, John Hewitt, to record the score and
songs for the film. We were John Clifford White's 'skinband'
the 'Oi' music. This cemented my love for film and television
music. John Clifford White had long been in music editor in
Melbourne, he had worked on Prisoner in its early days.
He did a fill in job for the then music editor of Neighbours,
Warren Pearson, who was moving on to do other things. When
John had finished his fill-in stint, he recommended me to
the producers of Neighbours and here I am still. I
think that was about 1992-93.
overseen multiple revamps of the Neighbours theme.
Was it daunting reinterpreting such an iconic piece of music,
and what elements do you think must remain unchanged?
Changing the theme for a show like that is murder. I actually
have only been involved in the last two changes. The first
major change [in 1992] was done by a Melbourne composer, Peter
Sullivan. The most important thing is the melody which sticks
like glue in everybody's memory. To change that would be a
big mistake. The chord progression can only be changed in
very miniscule ways as it effects how the melody runs. So
the only thing left to do was to attempt some kind of contemporary
first theme change I did [for the 1999 season] was a bit of
a rock-based version. I used the vocal talents of Paul Norton
and his wife Wendy Stapleton to achieve a rock duet feel.
I simplified the chords by taking out all the 'jazzier bits'
- altered notes. I also changed the key to suit Paul's voice
and also put it in the classic rock key of 'A'. The producers
of the show are very cautious when it comes to tampering with
things as iconic as the theme, the font of the title and opening
credits. Funnily enough, the editing of the theme over the
years has changed the run of the lyrics quite a lot.
most recent adaptation was arranged by Steve Wade, with vocals
by Janine Maunder. The brief for this was to be light and
breezy with a hint of the current hip-hop type elements in
the rhythm track. I think the female vocal is the most significant
step away from convention but it gives it a fresh and airy
closing themes are edited down for timing reasons in the UK.
What do you think of the BBC versions?
I have actually produced the edits on these and so I have
to say they're bloody good! I tried to retain the most recognisable
elements whilst sacrificing small sections that weren't as
intregral to the overall theme. There was a lot of instrumental
material in the original versions which was culled for the
sake of timing.
1996, there was talk of a new theme tune, I Love My Neighbours.
Was there any truth to the rumour?
This would be the first I've heard of it. It would have to
be pure speculation, which happens quite a lot.
incidental music is a big part of the show's character, affectionately
dubbed Music of Doom by everyone on our site. What
instruments do you use, and what do you think is the key to
making the music underscore the drama effectively?
Music of Doom? Cool, I call it Happy Sad! I
have created a few different packages of music for the show
over the years. The first package I composed used a mix of
real instruments such as piano, oboe, flute, saxophone, drums,
guitar and bass guitar. These were used as top-layers over
synthetic layers produced by samplers and other electronic
keyboards. More recently I have been relying more on samplers
and I perform the guitar and pianos myself. I still use a
bit of saxophone and flute for melodies.
music for drama such as Neighbours definitely requires
an understanding of the genre - you can't just make any old
music work. In more adult productions you can afford to be
more subtle and often music isn't used where it may be in
'G' [Australian daytime] drama. The most difficult thing is
to avoid changing the intention of the storyline. I have had
many conversations with producers over the years and it all
comes back to keeping the music accessible to the wide demographic
of the audience. Sometimes it is better to make it so you
don't actually notice the music and drift in and out of the
dialogue. Other times, when we feel the scene hasn't gone
as intended, we use the music to deliberately drag the audience
by their ears to the feeling we want for the moment. So sometimes
subtle and other times sledgehammer!
show uses a lot of popular music as underscores, too. How
is this selected?
Mostly I look for lyrics that tell a similar story to what
the scene is, failing that the mood and energy is what determines
can we expect for the new Neighbours CD album? How
did the compilation come about?
The Neighbours CD will contain a mix of well known
songs from the series that have punctuated storylines, a Kylie
rendition of The Locomotion, the theme, some Holly
Valance music, with artists such as Human Nature and Leah
Haywood. After years of virtually zero merchandising, the
good people at Grundy Television/FremantleMedia and Sony decided
it was time to do something about it. Sony were keen to market
some of their acts via the Neighbours badge and Grundy
felt the same about the songs that we have made especially
for the show.
composition for the show are you most proud of, and why?
I have a lot of favourites but I guess my favourite is a theme
called Gentle Love, as it has been the most recognisable
love theme [I produced] and also works as a sad theme. I like
the fact that depending on the pictures and story it goes
with, it actually seems to change its mood to suit. I think
I nailed [conveying] mixed emotions when I wrote this piece.
A 12 second version with saxophone was on high rotation as
an ad break [track] here in Australia. My favourite song written
for the show is Lie which was one of the first songs
I produced for Neighbours. Except of course for The
River of the Soul and Free As A River which were
fun tracks created for Dr. Karl's storylines.
hear some of Chris' compositions from the show, visit his
official website by clicking
by Billy and Stuart. Added on 25th March 2003