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July 9, 2009

The telephone keeps ringing, so I ripped it off the wall.

Rob @ 11:25 PM

A recent email to Off the Hook asked us about the opening theme music used for the show. It reminded me of when I tracked down a copy of the CD for my own collection, so I thought I'd share my research in case anyone else needs help finding it.

I'm not a hardcore record collector and any mistakes here are my own. I would appreciate any and all corrections or additional info!

The Off the Hook theme

The basis of the Off the Hook opening theme is the track "Much Worse" (Extended Mix) by Big Audio Dynamite, with Don Letts on vocals. This particular track was only released as a flipside to Big Audio Dynamite's "Just Play Music" 12" single in Europe. The single is out of print now, but it can be relatively easy to find secondhand.

It is worth noting that the theme used on the show is actually a custom-rearranged version of the "Much Worse" (Extended Mix) track. The theme starts with a few beats of a standard North American off-hook tone which quickly cuts to the music. The beginning of the "Much Worse" track (with some spoken lyrics before "the telephone keeps ringing" removed) is stitched together with some instrumental breaks from the middle off the track, and then faded out.

You can hear the entire original version of "Much Worse" (Extended Mix) played at the start of Part 2 of the May 12, 2004 edition of Off the Hook, followed by Emmanuel talking for a bit about his choice of theme music.

Release info
album cover

The track listing of the original single is:

Track 1 / Side A: Just Play Music (Extended Mix)
Track 2 / Side B: Much Worse (Extended Mix)

The single is a CBS records release from 1988. The catalog number of the 12" vinyl record is BAAD T4, and its barcode is 5099765162165.

A CD version of the single was also released. This is the version I currently own, and is probably what most casual non-vinylphile music collectors will be looking for today. To fill more time on the CD maxi-single, there is a bonus third track included: "The Bottom Line." The catalog number for this is CD BAAD 4, and the barcode is 5099765162127.


The album cover of the single displays the band name "BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE" along the top and the title "JUST PLAY MUSIC!" along the bottom in red letters on a black background. The center is split between two scratchy photos of men using telephones. The back cover features a black-and-white cartoon drawing of the band, with info in red text.

Dutch version

There were Dutch pressings of the single for which CBS Records used different catalog numbers; 651621 6 for the vinyl and 651621 3 for the CD. (Interestingly, it seems the Dutch version of the CD is a 3" MiniCD with adapter included, rather than the standard 5". Note that this version of the CD does not contain the bonus "The Bottom Line" track.) These are otherwise identical to the above releases, with the Extended Versions of "Just Play Music" and "Much Worse."

Incompatible versions

There are a couple of other releases which, while apparently similar to the above releases, would probably disappoint someone looking for the Off the Hook theme. One is a different 12" single of "Just Play Music," released in the US under the Columbia Records label. The cover of this release features a photo of a boombox instead of the phone men, and the slogan "TURN ON YOUR RADIO........" instead of the band name along the top. More importantly, this version does not contain "Much Worse" at all. In its place is a remix of "Just Play Music" by Greg Roberts. The catalog of this release is 44 07851.

To add further confusion, there is also a 7" vinyl single, which does have the "phone men" cover, but which does not contain the extended versions of the tracks. The standard non-extended version of "Much Worse" found here is missing instrumental breaks featured in the Off the Hook theme. The catalog number of this CBS release is 651621 7 or BAAD 4, and it can also be found as a Columbia release with catalog number 38-07955.

I hope this helps anyone looking for further info on the Off the Hook theme! Thanks for reading.

6 Responses to “The telephone keeps ringing, so I ripped it off the wall.”

  1. mike says:

    that is quite thorough, sir.

  2. Wadswerth says:

    Awesome post! Very informative.

    Thanks for all the info.

    Rock on and stay (Sic)!

  3. Rob says:

    My pleasure, Wadswerth! Thanks again for your interest.

  4. Aaron says:

    Thanks for the info! I'd always wondered about the theme song myself, especially after getting it stuck in my head! :)

  5. Chris says:

    Awesome. I'm going to track it down now. I love the off the hook theme song :) Thanks rob!

  6. Sidepocket says:

    The info provided in this system has been dumped into the trivial information recon section of my brain and now I am satisfied. Thanks! =D

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