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For the impatient, a loading tune is simply a piece of music that plays while a video game loads.

For those who want a more precise, if annoyingly nostalgia soaked definition, I will continue.

When I think loading tune, I think C64 loading tune. There are two reasons.

  1. A loading tune requires time to play. A cassette based loading routine gives you plenty of time.
  2. A loading tune also needs a decent sound chip. The C64's sound chip - SID - was pure analogue heaven.

When the C64's games developers were well into their stride, games used up most/all the computer's memory and took a long time to load (about 6/7 minutes for me). This is when the loading tune became most prevalent. You could have the most kick-ass raster effect flickering away, but that wouldn't pass the time.

Rather than having a unique tune for every game, publishers tended to use the same one across all of their titles, changing it every few months.

The loading tune was the pride of place for any musician. Much like a DVD copyright warning when you play your discs, you HAD to listen to the arrangement until the game had loaded.

The tunes were 'album' tracks to ingame 'single' tracks. No arcade style tunes, no 2-channel wonders leaving a spare channel for FX. They typically had a long intro, a suitably extravagant main section, and then a few fadeable minutes, to account for the different times for each game to load.

If you played the same game (or at least the same publisher's games) fanatically enough, the same tune would be slowly etched onto a piece of memory real estate.

Due to my submission to Ocean's marketing in the late eighties my chosen track is Martin Galway's Ocean Loader.

I am not aware of my friends' Spectrums and Amstrads having loading tunes. I know that it was rare to have any kind of tune while an Amiga grinded a game disk away. And of course the SNES and Megadrive etc didn't even load full stop. It is quite bizarre to occasionally witness a PlayStation display 'LOADING' while fail to use its sound chip to fill the silence.

The closest I got to the style of a traditional loading tune was the music for cracktros on the Amiga. But with the temptation to skip the music with the left mouse button who knows how many listeners the composer ever got?

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