“Untamed World”: Top TV Theme

Unless you were a nature nerd in the late 1960s to mid-1970s, chances are you have never heard Mort Garson‘s mysterious and exotic instrumental theme for the CTV television series, Untamed World.

“Untamed World Theme”     Mort Garson     196?

Uncanny emulation of steel drums that is/are undergirded by a percolating, undulating rhythm track — but what about those flute sounds, are those electronic, too?  Ditto with the reverberating drum you hear in the final seconds of the opening theme.

I am hardly the only one, as it turns out, to have been entranced by this 60-second composition, as the comments attached to this YouTube video clip attest:

  • “Growing up in the late 60’s, this was one of my favourite TV shows of all time. After all these decades, I still remember the tune nearly note-perfect. Thanks so much for posting, and bringing back such wonderful memories!”
  • “That song has been ruling my world for 35 years!”
  • “thank you for posting. been wanting to hear it a long time big childhood memories. maybe a little creepy sounding but great to hear it again after 40 yrs or so”
  • “thx so much for posting this. Haven’t heard this for years…gave me goosebumps!!! what a simple wonderful thing from childhood. thx for the memories”
  • “Ok raise your hand if you & your brother used to do weird jungle dances to this song.”
  • “I feel like crying. Huge memories of my childhood!”
  • “One of the best music intros for a tv show of all time”
  • “Genius indeed, but that opening, especially when one was a little kid, was 1000% SCARY!!!!! :O”
  • “Sensational musical theme!”
  • “THANK YOU! I remembered everything about this intro but could not for the life of me remember the name of the show! I remember my mom and dad watching this in the mid-1980s…I think either on Saturday or Sunday nights. I guess it must have been in re-runs by that time.”
  • “yeh something eerie about it for sure…..”
  • “Yes, it’s been exactly the same for me. So great to hear this again.”
  • “This song always makes me want to run naked through the forest.”
  • “Fantastic, trippy ’70s graphics and a great “tribal”-sounding theme that makes you wanna dance wildly around the living room. So glad to hear and see this again after many, many years – thank you!”
  • “Oh, those were the days. Life was simple then, watching an old B&W Zenith TV with 2 channels, and the other choice was usually some religious show. Being 6 yo I chose the animals.”
  • “Love the awesome wipes!” [technical term]
  • “one of those songs that sticks to your brain after all those years….up there with Rocket Robin Hood and Ultraman…”
  • “I always thought this was traditional African music It is computer generated”

YouTube contributor, Warren Jay, rightfully chides the program’s producers:

  • “Just look at those untamed Africans and Balinese.”

One Canadian contributor to IMDB’s jazz impressions as a lad:

  • “Sundays at 5:00 on CTV were a time of wonder and discovery.  The fields with their chaff-like growths blowing in the wind signaled the start of a highly informative and haunting half-hour documentary.  The thin straight lines speeding in a single direction, albeit staggered, brought us the silhouettes of images (offset by pink, orange, red, and teal backgrounds) that would have been lost in time if not for a YouTube account.  And then the announcer, one Alan Small, would finish off almost every episode with “the Untamed World.”  I remember being scared half out of my wits by, yet strangely drawn to, these simple images (all of which repeated in the outro accompanied by five others) and Mort Garson’s haunting theme, but now that fear seems just silly and ridiculous.”

Produced by Canadian Television (CTV), Untamed World was shown regularly between January and August 1969, according to IMDB, and then went into syndication – broadcast in the US through the mid-1970s and beyond, perhaps.

Fifty years or so ago, Billboard would report in its December 28, 1968 edition, under the banner TV Doings:

Mort Garson scoring 26 half-hour Untamed World shows for Metromedia, utilizing an electronic synthesizer.

Behold Untamed World‘s equally intoxicating outro theme:

Untamed World Outro Theme     Mort Garson     1967?

Mort Garson’s Mother Earth’s Plantasia vs. Stevie Wonder’s Secret Life of Plants

“Full, warm, beautiful mood music especially composed to aid in the growing of your plants,” Garson’s conceptual and all-electronic Mother Earth’s Plantasia from 1976 would predate Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants by three years.  Mother Earth’s Plantasia sells for an easy three figures at auction.

Nino & April’s Pop Steel Drums

In 1966 brother and sister duo, Nino Tempo & April Stevens, left Atco for White Whale, a label then enjoying commercial success with The Turtles.  White White demonstrated their eagerness to do business with Nino and April by allowing them complete artistic freedom in the recording studio. “All Strung Out,” the title track of their White Whale debut LP, also reached #26 on the Billboard‘s pop singles chart.

All Strung Out - Nino & April

This song – which was originally offered to the Righteous Brothers as the follow-up single to their huge hit, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” – was recorded at Hollywood’s Gold Star studios by legendary recording engineers, Larry Levine and Stan Ross, along with the usual top-notch support from some of LA’s finest session musicians.  Hear the final mix yourself in this (mimed) performance on TV’s Lloyd Thaxton Show in the summer of 1966.  Interesting to note that Vinnie Barbarino enjoyed a hit cover version in 1977 under the title, “All Strung Out on You.”

How surprising to learn that one of the album’s tracks, “Alone Alone” – a song brimming with obvious hit potential – was never released as a single:

“Alone Alone”     Nino Tempo & April Stevens     1966

Very effective use of steel drums on the instrumental riff that opens and closes the song.   Tune was written by John Dalton & Gary Montgomery – produced by Nino Tempo.

Six Degrees of Syd Nathan

Sometimes it seems as if just about everyone has passed through Syd Nathan’s King Records at some point in their career, even if just for one or two singles.  April Stevens,  as it turns out, released two singles on King in 1953 that were also issued in the UK on Parlophone (future home of The Beatles):  [1] “C’est Si Bon” b/w “Soft Warm Lips”; and  [2] “How Could Red Riding Hood (Have Been So Very Good)” b/w “You Said You’d Do It (Are You Gonna).”  Those two singles, however, were preceded by April’s King debut – “Hot Tamale” b/w “Treat Me Nice.”  Fascinating to discover that one of two unissued tracks in King’s vaults is “Wanting You,” a fantastic dance track that April later recorded for MGM in 1967 and that was originally (now, hold onto your hats) an Oscar Hammerstein song from the 1928 operetta, The New Moon!  Sadly, “Wanting You” didn’t burn up the charts, although it was later vindicated as a classic track of the UK Northern Soul music scene.

April Stevens - 1953 King EP