The Music of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The Music of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

3 Conversations

Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.

An excellent history of the Guide, in all its myriad incarnations, can be read at A History of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. There have been several versions of 'The Guide': the radio series, two LPs, various cassettes, CDs, books and stage plays, a TV series and, more recently, a film. This Entry tells the story of the music from the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's various incarnations (except for the towel; the towel wasn't musical).

For many of us, the music of the radio series, LPs, TV series and motion picture have leapt into our head at some point. Whether humming Pink Floyd in a lift or singing 'Vote Beeblebrox' in the shower, it's nothing to be ashamed of.

First, a note on the names given to the different radio series. In order, each radio series was named (for release):

  1. Primary Phase
  2. Secondary Phase
  3. Tertiary Phase
  4. Quandary Phase
  5. Quintessential Phase

Journey of the Sorcerer

The most recognisable piece of music from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is, of course, the signature tune. The 'Journey of the Sorcerer' was composed by Bernie Leadon (once a member of The Eagles and now a conductor). It was performed by the band - with David Bromberg playing violin and strings performed by the Royal Martian Orchestra - for their 1975 album One of These Nights. This version was only used for the five radio series (1978 - 2005).

The original Eagles recording of 'Journey' was six minutes and 39 seconds long. It had roughly four banjo sections with three 'themed' sections separating them. The first banjo section and, following on from this, first of the 'themed' sections were used as the opening theme for all 26 episodes (or 'Fits' as they were known) of the radio series. They were also used for every other version of the 'Guide' to date.

In 'Fit the First' (the first episode of the first radio series), the first banjo and 'themed' sections were used over the credits. However, from 'Fit the Second' onwards the second banjo and 'themed' sections were used over the credits. This remained the case for all versions of the programme until the 2005 film.

Of course, this wasn't the only version of 'Journey'. Tim Souster1 arranged and performed three and-a-bit versions (for the two LPs and TV series). Mark Ayres also covered one of Souster's versions. And there was another cover - of a different Souster arrangement - by an as yet unknown artist (well, to this Researcher, anyway). That's not forgetting Joby Talbot's full orchestral version for the 2005 motion picture.

There remains one version which hasn't been released: the Philip Pope arrangement used for the last three radio series. It was performed by Eagles tribute group The Illegal Eagles, because the BBC could only use the original 'Journey' commercially for the Primary and Secondary Phases. The corporation deemed it too costly to negotiate for its use in the latter three series.

So, with the exception of the Tertiary Phase (and the further exception of the US), these series were commercially released with the new Illegal Eagles version of the theme. The longest 'clean' version available is at the end of the last episode ('Fit the 26th'), where all but the opening banjo bars are played.

The Radio Series

In 1978, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series was first broadcast through a series of incoherent time-warps to a rather unsuspecting Radio 4 audience. Over time, of course, it became a hit and spawned books, vinyl records etc. Anyway, the music used in this radio series came from all kinds of places - mainly Douglas Adams' own record collection).

Paddy Kingsland (of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop) provided music and radiophonic effects for 'Fit the First', and 'Fit the Seventh' through to 'Fit the 12th'. Despite the fact that he composed some music for the first episode (otherwise known as the pilot), some 'stock' music was used.

Before the second episode was finished, Kingsland was transferred to the BBC Schools Department, where he stayed until the end of the first series. So, for 'Fit the Second' through to 'Fit the Sixth', Dick Mills (also of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop) provided radiophonic effects.

Due to the nature of the BBC, it may not come as much of a surprise to know that Mills had provided sound effects for Doctor Who since the early 1970s; Kingsland would provide music for Doctor Who from about 1980; and in 1979 Adams was the script editor for Doctor Who. Indeed, Adams would later write Life, the Universe and Everything with the never-produced Doctor Who and the Krikketmen in mind.

As many fans may happily recall, the end of the first radio series (and the TV series) was accompanied by Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World'. In a way it worked better with the TV series, alongside a vision of a peaceful, prehistoric Earth whose trees were being set alight by the Golgafrinchans to avoid an impending recession.

For reference, here's a just about complete list of music used in the Primary Phase2 (in no particular order):

The EaglesJourney of the Sorcerer­
Terry RileyPoppy Nogood and the Phantom BandA Rainbow in Curved Air
György LigetiLontano

A Modern Mass for the Dead
Robert Fripp & Brian EnoOver Fire Island
Wind on Water
Another Green World
Evening Star
Patrick MorazCachaca­
Gruppe BetweenKotakomben
Einstieg (LP)
Stomu YamashtaSpace ThemeYamashta
Jean Michel JarreOxygene­
­That's EntertainmentThe Band Wagon (1953, MGM)
Absolute ElsewhereMiracles of the GodsIn Search of Ancient Gods (LP release from TV special)
Iso TomitaThe Engulfed CathedralSnowflakes are Dancing

Three songs aren't mentioned in the above table: Richard Strauss'  Also Sprach Zarathustra, the Beatles' 'Rock and Roll Music', and Pink Floyd's 'Shine on you Crazy Diamond'. They were used during 'Fit the Third', not long after the Heart of Gold and its crew had landed on Magrathea. During this scene, Marvin hums 'Shine on you Crazy Diamond' and Arthur comments that the 'robot can hum like Pink Floyd'. Marvin then offers to play some rock and roll, which he does, in the form of the Beatles song. Later, when Zaphod begins to make his speech on entering the lost world of Magrathea, Marvin hums Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Due to the costliness of copyright agreements on the songs by the Beatles and Pink Floyd, none of the radio series' commercial releases have included this scene, although it is available online. The scene was recreated in the LP (details below).

By the second radio series, it was decided that Kingsland should provide all music and radiophonic effects, which enabled the narration music to fit Peter Jones' narrative - although the stock music had suited this purpose, more by chance than by design. A good example of this are the bouncing and stretching effects featured in one piece of narration regarding 'tendrils'.

When Hitchhiker's returned to BBC Radio 4 for the Tertiary Phase, the arrangements for music composition were similar to those of the Secondary Phase. However, instead of Kingsland providing all incidental music, the task of composer was handed to Paul 'Wix' Wickens.

Among his pieces of narration music was a section about the mattresses and ratchet screwdriver fruits. In some ways it sounds similar to the banjo mid-sections of 'Journey' (although the main tune itself wasn't actually performed).

Not all of the music in the final three radio series was provided by Wickens, though. Only during broadcast, the original Eagles version of 'Journey' was kept as the signature tune. And on the CD release, as previously mentioned, a Pope arrangement was used.

Pope also composed and performed the 'Krikkit Song' for the 'Fit the Fifteenth' (episode three of the Tertiary Phase). Used in the information programme about the planet of Krikkit, it was performed in the style of a folk song and demonstrated the lack of awareness which the people of Krikkit had about the greater universe beyond their own immediate surroundings.

Original Records

When, in 1979, Original Records decided to do a double-album of Hitchhiker's, it realised the theme and music from the original radio series could no longer be used due to copyright issues. To that end, the firm enlisted the services of the late Souster and Kingsland.

Together, the two men created a rather coherent-sounding universe. Souster composed most of the music, with Kingsland composing various passages and once again contributing sound effects (most of which were re-used and remixed from the radio series).

Souster reworked the theme tune, turning it into a fully fledged electronic piece. In essence, he took the first minute and-a-half of the original Eagles version and replaced the strings with the now-familiar synthesised brass. (Incidentally, an album of some of Souster's other work, entitled Electric Brass, was released in 1999, five years after his death.)

In place of The Eagles' electric guitar-like effects, Souster used synthesised and electronic effects.

To accompany the new opening theme, the sections of 'Journey' used over the radio series credits (the second banjo and 'themed' sections) were arranged to form 'Journey's End' (Journey of the Sorcerer), used in the first record after the destruction of the computer bank on Magrathea. Unlike Souster's (and Ayres') later versions of 'Journey', 'Journey's End' didn't conclude with a slower reprise of the last five notes (for the melody) of the second 'themed' section. Instead, it used a synthesised thing (for lack of a better word) similar to the closing thing in the LP's opening theme.

This 1979 version of the theme is frequently accredited to Kingsland. But to this Researcher's knowledge he's never arranged, performed or produced a full version of 'Journey of the Sorcerer'.

This opening sequence (one minute and 20 seconds) was used for the opening titles of the 1981 TV series, to accompany the incredibly cheesy graphics (yes, the ones with the golden astronaut designed by the late Doug Burd).

It was also remixed for the second LP in 1980 (The Restaurant at the End of the Universe). This version was in turn mixed with the closing music from the second LP for the late-1990s CD This is Science Fiction (Disc 2, Track 17). This version also featured on the 1983 BBC Records release Spaced Out - BBC Space Themes.

When the Hitchhikers TV series was being wrapped up, Souster was asked to do yet another version of 'Journey of the Sorcerer'. This version was based more on the Eagles one, with some differences. For instance, at the end of the 'credits' section, a small part of the music is slowed down and repeated to create a 'finale'. Rather unfortunately, the first half of this version wasn't used in the TV series, only the second half. However, in the DVD of the TV series which was released in 2001, the first half can be heard in the main menu of both discs.

This was Souster's final version of the theme. It was released as the a-side of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV Theme Music, a very rare record indeed.

The b-side of this contained various 'goodies', two of which were sourced from the second LP, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The first of these was Jones' 'Disaster Area Narration' (minus the incidental music) and Souster's 'Reg Nullify in Concert3' (an extended version of the one which was used on the record):

You are my everything
You're everywhere.

These last two verses were 'optional' and didn't appear on the record.

The classic Disaster Area song 'Only the End of the World Again' was also on the TV theme record. It was a much-expanded and much louder version of some of the background music from the second LP. This new version featured Adams playing one of the guitars (left-handed, of course). Naturally, the song was produced by none other than Hotblack Desiato.

The following is the complete track-listing from the first record (some track times are inaccurate - eg, 'Journey of the Sorcerer' actually lasts about ten seconds longer):

Side One

  1. 'Journey of the Sorcerer' (B Leadon) 1.12
  2. 'The Guide Speaks' (Music, T Souster, 1.40) 3.04
  3. 'None at all' (Music, T Souster, 0.59) 1.42
  4. 'Gargleblaster Sonata' (Music, T Souster, 1.08) 2.17
  5. 'I Don't Like Thursdays' (Music, T Souster, 0.43) 5.58
  6. 'Vogon Constructor Fleets' (Music, P Kinglsand, 0.46) 2.50
  7. 'The Babel Fish' (Music, P Kingsland, 1.48) 2.50
  8. 'Micturations of a Vogon' (Music, T Souster, 1.13) 3.09

Side Two

  1. 'A Short History of the Earth' (Music, T Souster, 2.02) 3.05
  2. 'The Big One' (Music, T Souster, 1.51) 1.51
  3. 'Unease by the Sea' (Music, T Souster, 2.20) 2.20
  4. 'Heart of Gold' (Music, T Souster, 0.30) 0.48
  5. 'Infinitely Improbable' (Music, T Souster, 2.08) 4.01
  6. 'Song of the Mindless Jerks' (Music, T Souster, 0.57) 3.50
  7. 'Waveband on the Run' (Music, P Kingsland, 0.53) 4.48

Side Three

  1. 'Yore Kind of Music' (Music, T Souster, 2.23) 3.50
  2. 'Consolation No. 1' (Music, T Souster, 0.58) 1.00
  3. 'Out to Lunch' (Music, P Kingsland, 1.20) 2.56
  4. 'Consolation No. 2' (Music, T Souster, 0.25) 1.51
  5. 'Whale Song No. 1' (Music, T Souster, 0.35) 2.23
  6. 'Whale Song No. 2' (Music, T Souster, 0.58) 2.00
  7. 'Pink Planet' (Music, T Souster, 0.59) 1.31
  8. 'Biro Gyro' (Music, T Souster, 2.40) 2.40
  9. 'Double Sunset' (Music, T Souster, 0.48) 3.04
  10. 'The Dolphin's Farewell' (Music, T Souster, 1.24) 1.43
  11. 'Factory Floor' (Music, T Souster, 0.11) 0.31

Side Four

  1. 'The Earth, Mk. 2' (2.28)
  2. 'Tell us Why' (Music, T Souster, 1.15) 5.13
  3. 'Aubade' (Music, T Souster, 0.21) 1.44
  4. 'The Answer' (Music, T Souster, 0.12) 1.35
  5. 'The Messiah' (Music, T Souster, 1.07) 3.28
  6. 'Is There a Lifestyle After Death?' (Music, T Souster, 2.25) 6.55
  7. 'Arms of the Law' (3.14)
  8. 'Journey's End (Journey of the Sorcerer)' (B Leadon) 1.17

Side three featured a new version of the cut Magrathea scene from 'Fit the Third' of the original radio series (mentioned above). To avoid the copyright concerns that would later necessitate the editing-out of this scene from all commercial releases of the radio series, Souster synthesised a piece of music that was similar to the Pink Floyd song featured in the original radio series (in doing so, he made Arthur's comment that Marvin could hum like Pink Floyd more accurate). Souster also created a synthesised version of Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra to accompany Zaphod's 'Entering Magrathea' speech.

And now follows the complete track-listing from the second record (as above, some track times may be inaccurate):

Side One

  1. 'Journey of the Sorcerer' (B Leadon) 1.10
  2. 'The Story so Far' (Music, P Kingsland, T Souster) 5.27
  3. 'Breakfast at Milliways' (Music, P Kingsland, T Souster) 4.41
  4. 'Disaster Area' (Music, T Souster) 2.44
  5. 'Reg Nullify in Concert' (Music, T Souster) 1.14
  6. 'Apocalypse When?' (Music T Souster) 8.15
  7. 'Big Black Cars' (Music, T Souster) 3.39
  8. 'How are we for Time?' (Music, T Souster) 1.07
  9. 'Ins and outs of the Universe' (Music, T Souster) 3.41

Side Two

  1. 'Is There Life After Lunch?' (Music, T Souster) 4.49
  2. 'Empty Vessels' (Music, T Souster) 4.00
  3. ''B'-Ark up the Wrong Tree' (Music, T Souster) 7.18
  4. 'Poetic Circles' (Music, T Souster) 6.38
  5. 'Origin of the Species' (Music, P Kingsland, T Souster) 5.35

The TV Series

In 1980, production started on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV series, with Alan JW Bell as director. Adams originally wanted someone other than Kingsland (probably Souster) to provide the music, but Bell insisted on him. However, Souster did still make a contribution, with his 1979 arrangement of 'Journey' featured in the opening titles. And the second half of his 'TV Theme Music' arrangement was used over the closing titles.

The incidental music for the TV series was done in true Kingsland style; some similar to his music for the LPs, some not. Fans of Doctor Who will recognise some of the Magrathea scenes as being freakishly similar to Kingsland's own music for the 1980 - 1981 Doctor Who episodes Logopolis and Castrovalva.

Die-hard fans of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop most likely own two of Kingsland's pieces for the TV series, as they were included on the 1983 release The Soundhouse: Music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Featured on this album are pieces, 'The Whale' (track five) and 'Brighton Pier' (track 14), that are very typically Kingsland.

At the end of the final episode of the TV series, after the credits, there's one final scene of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy itself floating away into space. To accompany this, a 'grand' version of 'Journey' was used. No specific credit was given (it was probably arranged by Kingsland).

The Marvin Records

Ah, the Marvin records. Just getting them or listening to them is something of an achievement these days. It's been said that the entire concept of the Marvin records came from a discussion between Adams, Souster and Stephen Moore. One of them suggested making a record with Marvin droning rather than singing, and the other two agreed. There were two records, and they caused many a listener to cry both tears of joy and sadness.

To find out more about this subject, read The Songs of Marvin the Paranoid Android. It's highly recommended.

So, in 1981 the first Marvin record, 'Marvin the Paranoid Android', was released. It featured 'Marvin' (side a), in which Marvin is very depressed, and 'Metal Man' (side b), in which Marvin is very depressed, yet still manages to save a ship and its crew from a black hole.

Soon after, the second record, 'Reasons to be Miserable', was released, branded as a double b-side. This one featured 'Reasons to be Miserable', in which our heroically depressed android does everything from feeding fishes to wishing to be a calculator. There was also the ever-popular 'Marvin, I Love You', in which a certain incredibly depressed robot finds out that a recording has been stored in his databanks by a female of an as-yet-unknown species who loves him.

This second one featured a logo of Marvin holding a record with 'Depressive Discs' written underneath, carrying the words:

For further details of how bad life can be, write to: The Marvin Depreciation Society, 2 Whitechurch Lane, London E1.

The lyrics for these two records were written by Adams, Moore and John Sinclair. Sinclair produced it for Sarm Productions, and presumably Souster composed and performed the music. The records were released by Polydor; the codes were POSP 261 for the first record and POSP 333 for the second.

The 'Making of' Documentary

When the TV series was first released on video in the early 1990s, a special 'Making of' documentary was commissioned. It was written and directed by Kevin Davies (who, a decade earlier, had helped Ron Lord with his legendary Guide animations). The music was composed and produced by Ayres 4. The pair had worked together in the same year on the Doctor Who documentary 30 Years of Doctor Who (otherwise known as More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS).

Ayres' music for this documentary was a reflection of his versatility, with pieces similar to the music Kingsland had composed 12 years before. There was also a well-orchestrated finale featuring a banjo, various synthesisers, and numerous examples of Mark-Wing Davey's remarkable knowledge of profanities. For the opening titles, Ayres, having also been hired for 'Sound Design', extended and edited Souster's 1979 version of 'Journey', adding various effects in the process for use with the opening titles.

Commercial Releases of 'Journey of the Sorcerer'

By 1996, Ayres had become a 'regular' at Silva Screen Records (it had released all three of his Doctor Who scores, as well as some others). He was now called upon to arrange and produce a new version of 'Journey' for the Silva Screen release The Cult Files: Re-Opened. Ayres, who'd once been a classmate of none other than the late Souster, revived Souster's 'TV Theme Music' arrangement. He extended it from Souster's two minutes and 55 seconds to four minutes 22 seconds, and performed it with more acoustic-sounding instruments.

For instance, his banjos and violins sounded acoustic, rather than synthesised. However, he kept Souster's electronic effects (creating similar ones in such a way as to make them sound 'hollower' and 'sparser') and percussive rhythm.

In 1996, another version was featured on The No. 1 Sci-Fi Album which is possibly an Ayres arrangement5. This version roughly follows Souster's first arrangement of the theme until the end of the first banjo and 'themed' sections, whereupon it diverges and is a mixture of the original Eagles version and TV Theme Music/Ayres versions.

Here's a complete chronology of 'Journey of the Sorcerer' and its various releases:

YearArtist (Composer/Arranger)Alternative title (if any)AlbumDuration
1975The Eagles with David Bromberg and the Royal Martian Orchestra (B Leadon)­One of These Nights6.39
1979Tim Souster (T Souster)'Journey of the Sorcerer'
Journey's End
The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy1.20
1980Tim Souster (T Souster)­The Restaurant at the End of the Universe1.12
1980Tim Souster (T Souster)The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Theme Music - Journey of the SorcererThe Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV Theme Music2.55
1981Uncredited, poss. Paddy Kingsland"Finale"The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy0.24
1996Mark Ayres (M Ayres)
Based on T Souster, 1980 (2)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Journey of the SorcererThe Cult Files: Re-Opened
Various Silva Screen and International Releases
1997Uncredited, poss. Mark Ayres
Based on T Souster, 1979
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyThe No. 1 Sci-Fi Album4.17
2004The Illegal Eagles (P Wickens)­The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Tertiary, Quandary and Quintessential Phases
2005Uncredited orchestra (J Talbot)­The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Original Soundtrack1.15

The Motion Picture

The 2005 motion picture The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy spent decades in planning - it had gone through years of development hell. Apart from a brilliant cast and some even more brilliant Guide animations (thank you, Shynola), there was Joby Talbot's music. Talbot, formerly of the band Divine Comedy, was hired as composer for the film. He successfully combined synthesised elements (similar to Souster's and Kingsland's music) with orchestral sections precision to make a brave man weep.

One of the most memorable scenes was the very first one - the opening titles of dolphins singing, swimming and dancing. Sung by Hillary Summers, Kemi Ominiyi and the R'SVP Voices, 'So Long & Thanks for all the Fish' showed the dolphins' last hurrah (and nod of appreciation to humans) before they left the Earth by their own means. The opening and closing titles versions were written by composer Talbot, conductor Christopher Austin and director Garth Jennings, over a dire lack of coffee and even more worrying lack of biscuits.

Included on the soundtrack album of the movie are two 'bonus' tracks: 'Reasons to be Miserable (His Name is Marvin)' and 'Vote Beeblebrox'. 'Reasons to be Miserable' is, essentially, a re-recording of one of the classic Marvin songs, 'sung' by Stephen Fry (murmured possibly being a better word) and with completely different, yet matching, music by Bang Bang Club and Keith Cox.

1A respected contemporary and avant-garde composer.2This information comes from the original radio series script book.3Click on the link for the complete lyrics.4Ayres is probably best known for his work with Doctor Who - he's been a prominent figure in musical Who circles since his first score in 1988. He's since begun restoring the BBC Radiophonic Workshop archives and many past Doctor Who adventures as part of the Restoration Team.5There's no credit to any specific artist on the CD, and Ayres' website says he did do some arrangements for this CD. But this is only a guess.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by


Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more