Type Records YouTube playlist of Doctor Who incidental music

John Twells of the brilliant noise label, who has released a Doctor Who tribute album titled 'My Memories Of Gallifrey' under the name Xela, tells us about the early electronic explorations on the show's soundtrack.


Words by: Charlie Jones

Noise label Type Records is run by Brit-in-America John Twells, who also records under the name Xela. He’s recently put together an album as a tribute to the music from the Doctor Who eras he grew up watching. It’s called ‘My Memories Of Gallifrey’, and is out as a cassette now, so he told us a bit about the music from the TV show that means the most to him.

Doctor Who might have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years but it wasn’t always that way. When I was a nipper I developed a maligned obsession with the show (I was the youngest member of the Doctor Who Fan Club’s Walsall branch), and I was soaking it up at possibly its worst era. One thing that stuck with me from the very beginning was the music, and while the Radiophonic Workshop is pretty well covered at this point, some of my favourite bits have been totally overlooked in favour of the Workshop’s more vanguard early offerings.

These days, Paddy Kingsland is probably best known for his contributions to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series soundtrack, but his Doctor Who scores stand out for me as some of the best in the era. The regeneration one-two punch of Logopolis/Castrovalva was some of his best work, and while the scores aren’t online (they were never released on their own and are notoriously hard to acquire) this gives a good indication of the ghostly, ethereal tone his soundtracks elicit.

This selection from the Mawdryn Undead (another Peter Davison story) shows the depth of Kingsland’s compositions – I think I remember the music better than the stories themselves in the Davison era, but that might be because I was very young.

The Yamaha DX7 synthesizer has such a unique sound, and one which in my head will always be tied to early 80s Who. This selection of cues from The Two Doctors shows the eerie precision of the synthesizer and the odd atmospheres it created to fill in gaps in the narrative. The music was by Peter Howell, whose sound would characterize this era.

Possibly the weirdest/most eerie selection of the Davison/Howell era was this from Resurrection of the Daleks. A peculiar story backed up by incredibly unsettling synthesized pieces.

Colin Baker doesn’t have a lot of hardcore fans on his side, but his era was definitely the most peculiar of the entire Who canon, and Elizabeth Parker’s sizzling, metallic PPG Wave experiments capitalized on the unpredictable bizarre qualities of the Doctor at this time. Intense and deeply strange, this is the Radiophonic Workshop of my earliest television memories.

Private Chronology released Xela’s album ‘My Memories Of Gallifrey’ in June 2011

Buy Xela’s ‘My Memories Of Gallifrey’ here