I didn't own a Commodore 64 back in the day being a ZX Spectrum aficionado. I had a few glimpses as Adrian Singh, who ended up being Sinclair User's Mr Poke (that was the nickname THEY gave him), had a group of mates who were all 64 owners, borrowed one his mates, Dewey, when he went on holiday for a week. I couldn't see past the blocky graphics and dismissed it. Then, one day in the computer shop we all hung out in, they loaded up the 64 version of 'Ghosts'n'Goblins' and had it on almost constant demo. The music was fantastic and the smooth scrolling and extra colour it had compared to the Spectrum made me, just for a while, a little bit jealous for not owning one as well as a Speccy.
At the very beginning of 1987 I started working at Ocean Software. I was introduced to various people, some I'd heard of (the Spectrum blokes) and some I'd not (all the 64 crew). So I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Collier, John Meegan, Alan Shortt, Simon Butler, Zach Townsend, Jane Lowe, Andy Sleigh, Colin Porsche & Martin Galway. Later employees included John & Rik Palmer & Martin Galway's replacement Jonathan Dunn.
I worked just down the corridor from Martin Galway's (then later Jon Dunn's) music room. A room right at the bottom end of Ocean's 'dungeon' in 6 Central Street. The room was shut off from everyone else, supposedly to keep the music being composed within from annoying everyone else. There was a huge window in it with a big blind up which was drawn 80% of the time, to stop all of us poking our faces in and annoying Martin or Jon.
Now, this room wasn't sound proofed at all, you could hear everything, and Martin & Jon didn't work with the sound down. It was LOUD! So while everyone was going about their business there was always this background noise, the same little bit of music playing over and over again and then it would change slightly, played over and over again. Then you would hear the next bit and the tune would get longer and longer. And 9 times out of 10 the music you were hearing was being composed on the Commodore 64. I heard the Commodore 64 tunes to 'Wizball', 'Daley Thompson's Olympic Challenge', 'Combat School', 'Platoon' & 'Athena' amongst others being written in that room.
You were also aware of the Games Testers. They would have to load the latest versions of games and play them to death, trying to find any bugs or parts of the game that were impossible or too easy to do. They also had to test the hundreds of supposedly faulty tapes that were returned back to the mythical 'Mr Yates' at Ocean. Spectrum & Amstrad games didn't have loading music. The Commodore 64 did. And I would hear these loading tunes over and over AND over again. I didn't really take any notice. It was all part of the hustle and bustle of being downstairs at 'Ocean'. Many machines making all sorts of noises and music at the same time. It sounded just a like an arcade for the most. You grew used to it.
Then I didn't see a real Commodore 64 game for years. I was a Spectrum boy. No need to! I got into retro games again about 18 months ago and got myself a real Commodore 64. I tried loading some of the Ocean & Imagine games, games I'd seen being made, just to see what they looked like. Then the music came on! Hearing the Commodore 64 Ocean loading music and in game tunes for the first time in years I was instantly transported back in time to my time at Ocean. They had all ingrained themselves into my head. I knew them all instantly after I heard the first few notes. Then while having a go at some of the games I'd see my name in the built in high score tables! I'd forgotten I'd been put in them. The programmers usually filled in the high score table with all our names and the player would then have to beat one of our fictional high scores in order to get their name in.
So, my point is the REAL soundtrack to my time working at Ocean, when I was 16 to 19 years old was not the tunes from the Spectrum games, the sound was too weedy to sink in, but the big fat sounds of the SID chip in the Commodore 64. The work of Martin Galway and Jon Dunn , which I had the honour of hearing being composed, really did leave a big impression on me and if I ever want to be transported back to the dungeons of 6 Central Street I maybe load 'Gryzor' or 'Wizball' on the C64. The first time I heard that loading music since 1988 at home a few months ago, it sent a shiver down my spine, I could smell the coffee and cigarettes and the odd unwashed programmer and a warm comfortable feeling came over me, reminding me of one of the best and exciting jobs I ever had.
Here's some screen grabs from video footage of what was Martin Galway's and then Jon Dunn's music room. These are from when Keith Chegwin was making an insert for a kids TV show and was filmed on the 8th July 1988: