Artist: Rob Hubbard

by on 30th October 2016


Years Active: 1985 – Present


This article comes from our good friends over at Weird Retro, who kindly allowed us to reproduce it here…

Rob Hubbard could well be one of the most prolific British music composers of the 1980s. His music could be heard coming out of bedrooms all over the country, as young 80s Brits spent hours on end listening to his music. His work was ground-breaking, as he pushed the boundaries of what was possible with the technology of the time. Producing some of the most innovative and memorable music of the period. Never heard of him? Well, if you were a kid in the 80s and you owned a home computer, and in particular a Commodore 64, Rob Hubbard’s music was the soundtrack to your gaming life. Some of the biggest computer games of those glory days of home computing featured Rob Hubbard music. Kids (I was one of them) started to recognise his name on games, and would be swayed into buying them based on it having a Hubbard soundtrack. He took the capabilities of the already innovative Commodore 64 SID chip, and pushed it to places no-one thought possible.

Rob Hubbard was born in Hull in the 1950s, and started playing music at the tender age of 7. His love of music took him to college, and he spent much of his early adult life playing bands, in clubs, as well as arranging and transcribing music. Interested in the emerging hobbyist home computing culture, Rob taught himself to programming on the Commodore 64. He wrote some educational software to teach music and a game. He sent the game off, but it was never published. He approached Gremlin Graphics, and what came out of it was, people liked the music he was creating. So Ron decided to concentrate on that, and let other people worry about making the games. His first piece was for the Gremlin Graphics game Thing On A Spring in 1985, followed closely by Mastertronic’s Action Biker. And thus a legend was born. Rob remained a freelance composer, working on a number of games that became big hits and went on to become classics of retro gaming.

Some of Rob Hubbard’s most renowned compositions are for Monty On The Run (1985), International Karate (1986) and the classic Commando (1985). Monty On The Run was the third instalment of the highly successful Monty Mole series of game, by Gremlin Graphics. The music that Rob created for the game was inspired by the Devil’s Galop, a piece composed by Charles Williams. Which became famous as the theme tune to the radio serial Dick Barton: Special Agent from 1948 to 1951. With International Karate the inspiration came from the track Forbidden Colours, from Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack to the 1983 film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.

When it came to the music for the game Commando, Rob managed to create a classic piece of 8-bit game music in a short time, and under exceptional circumstances. Released by Elite Systems in 1985, the music is one that Rob is often remembered for, but was the piece that he produced in the quickest time. He was called down to Birmingham at a moment’s notice, and when he got there Rob and the team spent the day in the pub. The development team went home leaving Rob back in the office around 10pm. With a little Casio keyboard and some score paper to scribble on (shown on the right) he composed the game music. At around 5am Rob had finished doing the game music, and moved on to create the sound-effects for the game. By the time the team started to roll in around 8am, Rob was done. Music and sound-effects for the game in the bag. He was home back in Hull in less than 24 hours, having been in the pub, stayed up all night, and produced the classic soundtrack to one of the most highly regarded computer games of the 80s.

(Rich Sharp Wilson)


Rob Hubbard was awarded an honorary doctorate from Abertay University in November 2016, having also received a licentiate diploma from the London College Of Music earlier the same year. He also composed most of the music for the 2014 documentary movie Bedroom To Billions. He is also set to appear in another gaming documentary, The Button Bashers, in 2017.

(Hull Music Archive)