Delia Derbyshire: A Study in Coolness


Delia Derbyshire is the coolest person who ever lived. We all wish we could be as cool as Delia Derbyshire, but we can't, and that's just how it is. We have to accept it about ourselves.
        First things first: Delia Derbyshire's name was Delia Derbyshire. There are few things I love more than a good alliteration, and the most charming alliterations tend to be alliterative names. Once I was bored a few months ago and decided to look through all my Facebook friends and count how many people I know have alliterative names. It was a pathetic number: like, twelve. And of all those twelve, no name came even remotely close to being as lovely as Delia Derbyshire, the loveliest alliterative name there ever was. I kind of feel like changing all my Internet passwords to deliaderbyshire or maybe deliaderbyshire with a number in it. These days, you usually need a number.
       Delia Derbyshire's job was "electronic music pioneer." She is from the adorably Britishly-named town of "Coventry," and was employed by the extremely cool-sounding "BBC Radiophonic Workshop." Think about the name of your job, and then compare it to "the BBC Radiophonic Workshop." Congratulations. Delia Derbyshire has outcooled you yet again. 

Delia Derbyshire wrote the Doctor Who theme song, so how's that for an excellent and whimsical contribution to society? I've never watched an episode of Doctor Who- I'm averse to anything that's science fiction or fantasy or whatever; I like REAL LIFE- but I'm big into this theme song. Listening to the Doctor Who theme song as if it were actual music is really great for: walking home drunk, walking home from the gym in January, walking while you are holding something in either hand so you have to keep your iPod in your bag but don't feel like listening to an album in full, lying in grass, and days when you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. 
          This past January was the peak "listening to the Doctor Who theme song as if it were actual music" phase of my life. In January I was mostly working on a novel, so I wrote a bunch of parts into it about my female lead (the alliteratively-named Samantha Silver) being really into Delia Derbyshire too. Here are some paragraphs about it: 

Never one to indulge anyone else in their own bullshit, Sam ignored him. She made a weird rapid movement and knocked her phone and a bottle of Aspirin off the end table. When the Aspirin hit the floor something wet from the floor that had already been there splashed her foot. She didn't pretend it didn't happen because it obviously happened; she just didn't care. She didn't care what the wet thing that splashed her foot was: probably water, worst case scenario beer, but everything tended to just be water.
         She'd planned on changing into more of a party outfit but didn't feel like it anymore. It seemed too high-impact and like she might fall asleep in the middle of doing it, so she wore what she was already wearing, pale jeans and a black and white striped boatneck t-shirt that looked like what she imagined as a child when she imagined "what French people wear." She checked a thousand times for her keys everywhere despite their undeniably being carabined to her carabiner. She walked instead of taking the streetcar because she wanted to squeeze in more "Doctor Who theme song listening time." 
        The Doctor Who theme song was composed by a woman named Delia Derbyshire; it was her favorite song. She wished she was Delia Derbyshire, a woman named Delia Derbyshire who composed the Doctor Who theme song- such a cool name, such a cool legacy to leave. She was terrified to think, whenever she let herself think of it, that she couldn't just sit in a room smoking pot and drinking beers for the rest of her life. One day, she'd have to actually do something.
        She wished she was Delia Derbyshire, she wished she could just be dead and have written the Doctor Who theme song and she would have done it, it would all be over, and she'd never have to think of it again.  

Here are some cool Delia Derbyshire song titles: London Lemons, Restless Relays, Planetarium, Delia's Psychadelian Waltz, Tentative Delia, Delia's Idea, Delia's Reverie, Delia's Fulfillment, Delia's Dream. 

She had a sort of Joan Didion-y thing going on. 

She was in a band called White Noise. They put out an album called An Electric Storm in 1968, and it's incredible. When you think of it as coming out the same year as The White Album, it makes the Beatles seem like they were behind the times, really stale.  
        My favorite song on Electric Storm is called Firebird. It's a Norwegian Wood, thematically- some songs are, i.e. 4th Time Around by Bob Dylan & There She Goes Again by the Velvet Underground. They are all about women leaving, the idea of flying, as in: leaving and never coming back. Norwegian Woods are great for when you feel like engaging with Norwegian Wood-style themes but are burnt out on actual Norwegian Wood for whatever reason. I don't know, that's a thing that happens to me.
        A long time ago, I used to write stories about a girl named Lucy, who liked to ask people: "What's the Norwegian Wood of you?"- but then I got burnt out on Lucy, and burnt out on thinking about things like "What's the Norwegian Wood of you?"- I mean, I don't think it's going to hinder your self-actualization process if you never figure out your Norwegian Wood. It's just not that necessary.
         But, if you accidentally happen into figuring out your Norwegian Wood just by living, well, that's nothing to scoff at. Firebird is easily mine. 


  1. I love the enthusiasm of this blog, and you're absolutely right Delia Derbyshire is one of the coolest people EVER. However, for your novel, Delia didn't compose the theme, that was Ron Grainer - Delia took the music and made it something INCREDIBLE, which Ron always acknowledged. Also, the lady in the spotty headscarf is not Delia Derbyshire, it's another electronic music pioner, Suzanne Ciani :)

  2. This is really a nice and informative, containing all information and also has a great impact on the new technology. Thanks for sharing it

  3. I enjoy how one of my favorite novels, White Noise by Don Delillo, another double-D alliteration, jibe with my new obsession for Delia.