Remixing a City's Soundtrack


Remix culture is omnivorous. Ulysses, for example, was remixed by one Robert Gogan to make it "more accessible." But the same process can be applied to culture at the exact opposite end of the high-low spectrum. In place of Dublin, we have another rowdy, patriotic city: Philadelphia. In place of Joyce's novel, we have Al Hamm's theme music to the city's beloved 6ABC Action News theme. And in place of Robert Gogan, we have DJ Sega:

Philadelphia binds itself tightly to the Action News theme. Action News launched in Philly in 1970 to compete with rival Eyewitness News; Action News featured younger anchors and used shorter story packages, allowing it fit more news into one show. At first, it used a theme performed by local Temple University's Brass Band, but, in 1972, jingle writer Al Hamm's Move Closer to Your World debuted:

Hamm's theme sounds like the format: it's young, fast-moving, and more than a little breezy. It also just resonates with... seventiesness. There are singers, for one, crooning chorally about how "tomorrows are forever." A -- there's no other word for it -- groovy bass line chugs along under the light acoustic rock middle section. And the beginning and end even boast a fanfare ... which is accompanied by a choir.

And the theme has remained the same since 1972. ABC6 no longer uses the full-on "singing hippies" version, but the fanfare and drum-break ending appear on every broadcast, and are audible throughout the Delaware Valley at 4:30am, 5am, 6am, 4pm, 5pm, 5:30pm, 6pm, and 11pm.

At the turn of the last decade, the station tried replacing the theme with a cover performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Viewers rebelled; within a few days, the old Hamm version returned. And now that version has been brought, happily, into the digital age with this remix.

So maybe this Action News remix reminds us that local TV news brands endure; the regional broadcast, after all, remains the country's most popular source for news. And maybe it demonstrates that remix culture continues apace, gobbling up every culturally significant work it can get its hand on (as it should, and as it always has).

Or maybe I'm just biased. This Phillies fan and native Delaware Valley denizen has set his ringtone -- and thus his morning alarm clock -- to the tuneful din of singing hippies, beckoning me to move closer to my world.

Joyce via @ayjay; Action News via @euphonos

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Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

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