Did you enjoy watching a good police-themed drama on TV back in the 60s? If so, did you prefer the gentle approach of Dixon of Dock Green, or the grittier reality of Z Cars?
From 1955 to 1978, Jack Warner played the role of Constable George Dixon in Dixon of Dock Green.
He was a typical “bobby on the beat” who dealt with petty crime on the streets of London using good old-fashioned common sense.
Then, in 1962, Z Cars burst onto our TV screens for the first time, offering an altogether harsher image of life as a uniformed policeman in the north of England.
Set in the fictional town of Newtown in Lancashire, the series centred on the Z Division of the local constabulary and the pairs of police officers who patrolled the area in cars, an initiative in the real-world police force known as “Crime Patrol”.
The stars of the show included Stratford Johns, Frank Windsor, Joseph Brady, James Ellis, and Brian Blessed, but the cars used in the series became stars in their own right – the Ford Zephyr Mk2 and Mk3, and the Ford Zodiac.
Interestingly, the Mk3 models used in the series were daffodil yellow in colour, giving them an extra dimension on screen in the days of black and white filming.
BD to Z-Victor One
From 1962 all the way through to the final episode in 1978, James Ellis played PC Bert Lynch (promoted to Inspector by the end of the series) and from 1962 to 1965, Brian Blessed played PC “Fancy” Smith – a character that more than a few ladies in the Spring Chicken Community remember having a crush on:
I loved Z Cars… had a bit of a crush on Fancy Smith!
Other main characters included DCI Charlie Barlow and DS John Watt who went on to star in the spin-off series Softly, Softly, before the arrival of The Sweeney in 1975 made the once gritty Z Cars appear outdated.
“BD to Z-Victor One” was a frequently used line that fans of the series remember to this day, but even those who’ve long-since forgotten the faces of crews Z-Victor One and Z-Victor Two can still hum the theme tune!
The Z Cars theme tune was a traditional folk song from Liverpool known as “Johnny Todd” and, according to Spring Chicken Facebook followers, it was a popular choice for primary school music lessons in the area.
We were taught the words to the tune at my primary school in the 60s. Loved it.
“I remember learning to play the tune on the recorder at primary school. Happy days!”
An instrumental version went all the way to No.8 in the UK singles chart in 1962, and to this day it remains the official anthem of Everton FC, and the walk-out music for Watford FC, but the final word on the nostalgic tune that brings back memories of a time when the nation respected the word of a policeman must go to this Facebook comment:
Whistling the Z Cars theme tune is part of the police selection process.