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The Horrible Histories Songs

Matt Katz & Richie Webb
Published December 2017
By Tom Flint

The History Men

Karl Marx predicted that history would repeat itself as farce — but he never saw a role for expert pop parody!

Recording a broadcast-quality song for television would be a daunting task for most of us, especially if that song had to sound uncannily like a big-budget mainstream pop hit. For Matt Katz and Richie Webb, however, it’s quite literally all in a day’s work.

“The Horrible Histories song styles range from R&B to EDM through to classic rock, acoustic stuff and even some operetta type things,” explains Matt, who takes care of the production side of things. “For example, the Crassus song was a Dizzie Rascal send-up, Napoleon Bonaparte was Skrillex, Alfred The Great was Ed Sheeran, Mary Queen of Scots was a ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ soundalike, Boudicca was a Miley Cyrus ‘Wrecking Ball’-type thing, the Australia one was an ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ spoof, Charles II was Eminem, the Shakespeare one was in the style of REM’s ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It’, Dick Turpin was Adam and the Ants (right down to having two drum kits), Cleopatra was Lady Gaga, Queen Victoria was a Bollywood soundalike, and Charles Dickens was the Smiths, which was a great one to work out with that Jazz Chorus and thin, clean amp sound!

“Increasingly the songs are a pastiche of a specific track, and they are slightly less satisfying to do than a hybrid of an artist’s output or a genre. The Viking Song is an example of a generic power-rock ballad that any number of late ’80s bands might have done. It has overly reverbed snare drums and so on, but it’s not any particular song or band. Likewise, The Four Georges could be Boyzone, Westlife or any of those boy bands sitting on stools. It’s distilling something of the genre and a range of bands, rather than being specific. In contrast, Norman Style is a direct send-up of ‘Gangnam Style’ by Psy.”

The Writing Process

At the time of our interview, Matt and Richie had just finished working on Series 7 of Horrible Histories, which aired from the 15th June 2017 on CBBC. Their impressive list of credits also includes infant favourites Baby Jake and Teletubbies, as well as a huge number of audio productions for BBC Radio 4.

Richie Webb is the main composer behind the hit TV series Horrible Histories.Richie Webb is the main composer behind the hit TV series Horrible Histories.To date, 95 episodes of...

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Published December 2017