One Song to the Tune of Another

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"One Song to the Tune of Another" was the first game played on the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and is still almost always played every other episode. It consists of panellists singing the lyrics of one song to the tune of another song, accompanied on the piano.

The four original panellists were adept at this game, and each took an individual turn. Since the death of Willie Rushton guest panellists have appeared, and the two team members occasionally sing together, presumably to compensate for the unsteadiness of a guest's voice. Guest panellists sometimes exhibit little or no musical talent, most notably Jeremy Hardy, whose dreadful attempts at singing are greatly anticipated by audiences, and this itself often makes for effective comedy.[1]

The panellists also sometimes impersonate a singer associated with one of the songs (usually the tune). In several episodes, Graeme Garden was given a song with a tune by Bob Dylan and not only impersonated him, but broke off into a harmonica solo. Notably "How much is that Doggy in the Window", to "Blowin' in the Wind".

The game has been played in several Christmas specials (requiring "One Carol to the Tune of Something Else" — in particular, singing "Silent Night" to the tune of "Tequila"), and a variant was played in the 2007 special Humph In Wonderland, in which panellists sang a Lewis Carroll poem to the tune of a song. Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden sang "Jabberwocky" to the tune of "Jerusalem", and Andy Hamilton and Rob Brydon sang "You Are Old, Father William" to the tune of "I Know Him So Well".

Occasionally, some of the panellists imitate backing singers for the panellist actually singing when there is a suitable gap in the song, such as one of the 2009 episodes hosted by Jack Dee, where Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden backed Tim Brooke-Taylor.

Some of the humour derives from the incongruity caused by differences between the songs involved. They may differ wildly in genre, structure, tempo, and time signature, but unlikely combinations have sometimes worked surprisingly well. Having the same metre helps. Examples include:

A contribution to the effectiveness of the rendition is made by the pianist (usually Colin Sell) who, given the uneven rhythm of the vocalists, often has a much more difficult task than is usually required from an accompanist.


Additional humour is derived from the manner in which the host introduces and explains the game. The concept is actually simple, and well described by the game's title, but the chairman claims it to be complex and proceeds to give a long-winded and complicated "simple" explanation, which differs each time the game is played. For example:

"The game works like this. The teams have in front of them the words but not the music of a song which is different from another song of which they have neither the music nor the words. The tune of this second song, which is quite unlike the first song both in words and music, will be played but without the words to which the teams will substitute the other words they have from the first song which obviously will have no tune because that's made way for the tune from the other song without its words.
"This might be hard to explain, so perhaps this alternative definition will help. Despite the title, each contestant will be allocated two songs, or words sung to music, but from one he will concentrate only on the lyrics while trying to disregard the tune, and from the other he will focus on the music while ignoring the words.
"I know what you are thinking, which one is which? Well the first, or one song, is the set of words sung to music which no longer has the tune, and the second, or another as we know it, is the tune to some words without the lyrics but retaining the music. All you have to do is put them together, in other words — literally — one song to the tune of another."[69]

In later episodes of ISIHAC, these monologues generally took the form of contorted analogies, ending with an extremely contrived and obvious joke at Colin Sell's expense. For example, from June 2006:

"A song is rather like a microscope. The vertical tube represents the tune, which carries the lenses, or words. These are assembled with precision to enable us to see the object, or hear the song. However, a song can be broken down into its component parts by separating the words from the tune, just as a microscope can have its lenses prised from the tube with pliers.
Now, I know what you're thinking, teams: wouldn't that be a case of wanton vandalism inflicted on a delicate instrument? (pause) At the piano, Colin Sell!"[69]

Internet-based fans have taken the silliness a step further, in true ISIHAC style, by playing the game in text-based media, such as USENET and email. Liberal use of punctuation can give readers a hint of how the metre is being applied to the lyrics.

Similar examples from elsewhere[edit]

Members of the Barmy Army, devoted fans of the English cricket team, are known to mock Australian cricketers and fans by singing the Australian national anthem to the tune of the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb", and vice versa.

The Australian television comedy programme The Money or the Gun featured a different artist performing "Stairway to Heaven" every week. The Beatnix performed it to the tune of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "Twist and Shout". The B-52s tribute band The Rock Lobsters performed Stairway to the tune of "Rock Lobster". Elvis impersonator Neil Pepper performed it to the tune of "Viva Las Vegas".

The Australian television comedy programme Spicks and Specks features a segment "Substitute", where a panelist sings a well-known tune substituting words from an unrelated text (usually a technical text like "Datsun 180B Service Manual" or "2004 Australian Government Tax Pack"), and the remaining team-mates attempt to guess the name of the song. The host, Adam Hills sang the Australian National Anthem to the tune of the Rock and Roll classic, Working Class Man, in one case accompanied by the latter's singer, Jimmy Barnes. In a 2008 stand up comedy tour, Hills performed the Dutch national anthem Het Wilhelmus to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody.

The Scared Weird Little Guys, an Australian comedy duo, perform a similar vein of songs weekly on The Cage, the breakfast show on Triple M in Melbourne and Sydney. In their segment, "Stump the Scardies", listeners email in suggestions of songs to sing in another tune and the duo get about five minutes preparation time — usually just enough to find the guitar chords and lyrics online. This segment occurs weekly at 0845 AEST on Tuesdays.

In 1989 "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*", the lyrics of "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" (theme from The Beverly Hillbillies) to the music of the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing".

A serious example of the principle behind this game was Cliff Richard's "Millennium Prayer", in which he sang the Lord's Prayer to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne" (the Clue team retaliated in the 1999 Christmas special by performing "Auld Lang Syne" to the tune of "Bachelor Boy" and vice versa). Also in recent popular culture bootlegging and bastard pop have taken is a step further, employing the practice of laying down vocals from one track over the music from another.

Both "The Star Spangled Banner" and "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" are both examples of taking a song and writing new lyrics for the tune.


  1. ^ Virtue, Graeme (04-12-2009). "Arts: Culture: Hardy har har". Sunday Herald.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ ISIHAC series 21 episode 1, broadcast 14 November 1992
  3. ^ ISIHAC series 23 episode 3, broadcast 11 June 1994
  4. ^ ISIHAC series 30 episode 5, broadcast 6 December 1997
  5. ^ a b ISIHAC series 54 episode 1, broadcast 27 December 2010
  6. ^ ISIHAC series 31 episode 3, broadcast 11 May 1998
  7. ^ a b ISIHAC series 41 episode 3, broadcast 2 June 2003
  8. ^ a b c d ISIHAC series 58 Christmas Special, broadcast 24 December 2012
  9. ^ a b ISIHAC series 60 episode 1, broadcast 11 November 2013
  10. ^ ISIHAC series 24 episode 5, broadcast 3 December 1994
  11. ^ a b ISIHAC series 63 episode 3, broadcast 27 July 2015
  12. ^ ISIHAC series 31 episode 5, broadcast Mon 25 May 1998
  13. ^ ISIHAC series 32 episode 3, broadcast 14 December 1998
  14. ^ ISIHAC series 34 episode 3, broadcast 22 November 1999
  15. ^ a b ISIHAC series 43 episode 1, broadcast 31 May 2004
  16. ^ ISIHAC series 49 episode 5, broadcast 2 July 2007
  17. ^ a b ISIHAC series 52 episode 3, broadcast 30 November 2009
  18. ^ ISIHAC series 57 episode 5, broadcast 23 July 2012
  19. ^ a b ISIHAC series 46 episode 1, broadcast 14 November 2005
  20. ^ ISIHAC series 47 episode 3, broadcast 5 June 2006
  21. ^ ISIHAC series 51 episode 2, broadcast 22 June 2009
  22. ^ a b ISIHAC series 55 episode 1, broadcast 27 Jun 2011
  23. ^ a b ISIHAC series 61 episode 1, broadcast 30 June 2014
  24. ^ a b ISIHAC series 20 episode 4, broadcast 13 June 1992
  25. ^ ISIHAC series 5 episode 6, broadcast 10 April 1977
  26. ^ ISIHAC series 25 episode 3, broadcast 10 June 1995
  27. ^ ISIHAC series 31 episode 5, broadcast Mon 25 May 1998
  28. ^ ISIHAC series 53 episode 1, broadcast 21 June 2010
  29. ^ a b ISIHAC series 60 episode 3, broadcast 25 November 2013
  30. ^ ISIHAC series 27 episode 1, broadcast 1 June 1996
  31. ^ ISIHAC series 22 episode 1, broadcast 3 November 1993
  32. ^ ISIHAC series 18 episode 5, broadcast 20 July 1991
  33. ^ ISIHAC series 23 episode 1, broadcast 28 May 1994
  34. ^ ISIHAC series 47 episode 1, broadcast 22 May 2006
  35. ^ ISIHAC series 50 episode 3, broadcast 26 November 2007
  36. ^ ISIHAC series 56 episode 1, broadcast 14 November 2011
  37. ^ ISIHAC series 52 episode 5, broadcast 14 December 2009
  38. ^ ISIHAC series 62 episode 1, broadcast 17 November 2014
  39. ^ a b ISIHAC series 67 episode 1, broadcast 26 June 2017
  40. ^ ISIHAC series 65 episode 1, broadcast 27 June 2016
  41. ^ ISIHAC series 47 episode 5 broadcast 19 June 2006
  42. ^ ISIHAC series 49 episode 3, broadcast 18 June 2007
  43. ^ ISIHAC series 50, episode 1, broadcast 12 November 2007
  44. ^ ISIHAC series 59 episode 5, broadcast 29 July 2013
  45. ^ ISIHAC series 64 episode 5, broadcast 28 December 2015
  46. ^ a b ISIHAC series 50 episode 5, broadcast 10 December 2007
  47. ^ ISIHAC series 66 episode 1, broadcast 14 November 2016
  48. ^ a b ISIHAC series 68 episode 5, broadcast 11 December 2017
  49. ^ ISIHAC series 13 episode 9, broadcast 20 September 1986
  50. ^ ISIHAC series 44 episode 3, broadcast 20 December 2004
  51. ^ ISIHAC series 51 episode 3, broadcast 29 June 2009
  52. ^ ISIHAC series 45 episode 3, broadcast 13 June 2005
  53. ^ ISIHAC series 57 episode 1, broadcast 25 June 2012
  54. ^ ISIHAC series 58 episode 1, broadcast 12 November 2012
  55. ^ a b ISIHAC series 65 episode 3, broadcast 11 July 2016
  56. ^ ISIHAC series 68 episode 3, broadcast 27 November 2017
  57. ^ ISIHAC series 38 episode 3, broadcast 26 November 2001
  58. ^ ISIHAC series 59 episode 3, broadcast 15 July 2013
  59. ^ ISIHAC series 63 episode 1, broadcast 13 July 2015
  60. ^ ISIHAC series 24 episode 1, broadcast 5 November 1994
  61. ^ ISIHAC series 55 episode 3, broadcast 11 July 2011
  62. ^ ISIHAC series 45 Edinburgh special, broadcast 1 September 2005
  63. ^ ISIHAC series 66 episode 3, broadcast 28 November 2016
  64. ^ ISIHAC series 68 episode 1, broadcast 13 November 2017
  65. ^ ISIHAC series 44 episode 1, broadcast 6 December 2004
  66. ^ ISIHAC series 46 episode 5, broadcast 19 December 2005
  67. ^ ISIHAC series 53 episode 3, broadcast 5 July 2010
  68. ^ ISIHAC series 58 episode 5, broadcast 10 December 2012
  69. ^ a b "The I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue Info Site - One Song to the Tune of Another Intros".