Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Philadelphia’s “Move Closer To Your World” has some new fans this week, thanks to a viral video.
Welcome to the latest installation of “Public Access,” where CityLab shares its favorite videos—old and new, serious and nutty—that tell a story about place.
On Monday, a two-minute-long video featuring an Philadelphians on their absolute worst behavior went viral. Sure, the crashes, fights, and fires are the main draw, but it’s the music that brings it all together.
The tune—a rousing brass-heavy opening hook preceding a groovy proto-disco vocal passage (and, in the extended version, an awesome set of key changes)—is called “Move Closer To Your World.” For real local broadcast journalism fans, it’s the definitive, spine-tingling banger that has pumped viewers up for THE NEWS since the 1970s—as the nearly 30-minute supercut of opening montages embedded above proves.
Written by Al Ham in 1972, the jingle is most associated with Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV’s Action News and—by extension—endures as part of the city’s identity. The Roots, Philadelphia’s most celebrated musical group today, has sampled the song in concert and on The Tonight Show. But “Move Closer To Your World”’s mighty reach extends far beyond the Delaware River Region.
Ham’s business acumen was as sharp as his composing skills. Under his Mayoham company, the song was picked up by news affiliates across the country and eventually around the world. So were other news-specific tracks of his—but none were as successful as “MCTYW.” Other versions of the song were released over the years, including an extended version with lyrics performed by the Hillside Singers, a group that featured Ham’s wife and daughter.
If you grew up in cities like Buffalo, New York, where the tune heralded WKBW’s Eyewitness News for decades, a few seconds of “MCTYW” is likely to summon a Proustian reverie. It’s nothing short of a perfect song for the evening news from the Anchorman era. It’s fast, dramatic, vaguely ridiculous, and leaves you hanging on for more just as the anchor team appears on screen. News affiliates in other cities (besides Scranton’s WNEP-TV) have since moved on, but not Channel 6. If Action News ever dropped its signature anthem, expect a Philly-style violent backlash not unlike some of the stuff you’ll see in that viral video.