Remembering Big George Webley

Musician, singer, composer, bandleader, family man and all-round decent bloke Big George Webley left us on May 7th. As a tribute, we’ve restored the video for his first single.

Perhaps best known to many as the creator of the title music for BBC TV’s satirical news quiz “Have I Got News For You” and also as the arranger of the title music for “The Office”, Big George Webley was one of those people you could hit it off with the minute you met him. Not only was he a fun character to be with, but he was brimming with ideas – ideas about music, art, culture, everything. He was a musician (having burned more than his fair share on midnight oil as a Bass-playing session musician in recording studios over the years), a song-writer, singer, arranger, columnist, radio broadcaster and general bon-viveur. He was also a genuine family man, too.

He takes the credit for much more than composing and arranging TV theme tunes; he worked with some of the biggest names in the music business as well as hosting a late-night radio show for BBC London for over 5 years. Before that he hosted the breakfast show for BBC Three Counties Radio in Milton Keynes – and has a Sony Award to show for it. George was always busy. Every time you met him he had plenty to tell you. He seemed always to be on the go.

Sadly, he died on Saturday May 7th. The news was a shock to all of us who knew him or had been acquianted with him.

Back in January 1984, the business I was involved with agreed with George to shoot and edit the video for his first single, “Tasty”, over a cold weekend in late January 1984. It was planned on the Saturday and shot on the Sunday. George’s on-screen persona for the shoot would be a wheeler-dealing cockney wide-boy who was always on the make and who lived life on a minute-by-minute basis. This was George throughout. He lived for the moment – and lived it to the full.

Shooting Big George's video for Tasty

Shooting the video for Big George Webley's "Tasty". (Picture: Steve Baker)

The video was shot on the professional BVU-SP format (based on 3/4″ U-Matic) using a Hitachi SK91 3-tube Broadcast TV camera and recording to a Sony BVU-150P recorder. We didn’t have the means to edit High-Band BVU-SP U-Matic video (and no budget to hire resources) so we copied the rushes to Low-Band U-Matic and performed a rapid edit of the pictures synched to an audio track supplied by George’s record company – Simple Records.

Digitising the U-Matic Master Tape

The video edit master sat in an archive box for over 25 years when we had the idea of digitising it into my Apple Mac and trying to correct the instabilities of a format that has, to be honest, held up pretty well. The only examples of this video to be found on YouTube etc have been digitised from ropey VHS copies, so it was worth doing properly.

The video had not long been digitised and re-synched when the news came through that George had died. The restored version is featured above.

Nice to have known you George – you’re a true inspiration to many, many people.

Shooting video for Big George Webley's "Tasty". (Image: Steve Baker)

Setting up the shot with George. That's me on camera! (Image: Steve Baker)

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