Sunday, 17 July 2016

Prince Encore

Prince was on the last day of his Act II tour of Europe when he appeared on BBC Radio 1 for a 'secret' show in the Broadcasting House Concert Hall. His 20 minute performance was part of that morning's Simon Bates show. The concert itself has been repeated on 6 Music and copies can be found online.

When Prince unexpectedly died in April I didn't realise I had my own recording of the one-off concert. However, I chanced upon the tape the other day when I was rummaging for some other archive material. As well as Prince's performance the tape contains the rest of Simon's show between 11.30 and 12.30; the concert started around noon.

So here for the first time in 23 years, since it aired on 7 September 1993, is Prince's energetic live set in context complete with a pleased-as-punch Simon Bates.   

A quick confession: my C90 did its tape turn bang in the middle of the set so I've spliced in that particular song from another source.

Footnote: the tape I was looking for, somewhat incongruously, was for a Victor Silvester programme, which I didn't, as it turned out, possess anyway. 

Monday, 4 July 2016

You're with Outlook

Today one of the BBC World Service's longest-running programmes celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. Outlook specialises in seeking out the human interest stories behind the news headlines. 

In today's live edition regular presenters Matthew Bannister and Jo Fidgen (pictured above) will celebrate "extraordinary people whose stories have inspired others around the world".

The original Outlook team (l-r) Colin Hamilton, John Tidmarsh,
Bob Reid and Sam Pollock

Launching on 4 July 1966 Outlook was different from other news programmes on the World Service at that time. The brainchild of the then Head of Talks and Features, Douglas Muggeridge, it was "a news, current affairs and magazine programme, with reports and features from around the world and star guest to chat live in the studio".

That first programme was presented by former BBC war correspondent Bob Reid who looked after the Monday and Tuesday editions until his death in 1971. On Wednesday Colin Hamilton was in charge, whilst John Tidmarsh took care of Thursdays and Fridays.    

In the early years Outlook was more news agenda-driven than it is now. The scheduling followed the pattern of two live 45-minute editions a day, one in the afternoon and one in the evening with a recorded 30-minute overnight edition added later. (Nowadays the single daily edition is usually recorded). The programme would typically start with two or three current news items and then a review of the press - initially with Sam Pollock then later with Conn Ryan, John Thompson and Nancy Wise. The remainder of the programme would be three or four features looking behind the news, often including an interview.  

London Calling June 1992

Outlook took on special significance to those captured and held hostage in Beirut. "Terry Waite, chained to a radiator for the best part of five years, between 1986 and 1991, one day heard his cousin John Waite presenting an edition: when this was revealed (by John McCarthy on his release), it was the first evidence that Terry had access to the radio. Outlook responded by putting out a special edition with Terry's favourite music, Bach's Tocata and Fugue in D minor".

John McCarthy would go on to join the Outlook team and present the midweek editions. Other regular presenters over the years have included Barbara Myers, Hugh Sykes, Mike Bullen, Heather Payton, Caroline Wyatt, Janet Trewin, Frank Partridge, Frederick Dove, Nicky Barranger, George Arney, Lucy Ash, Rajan Datar and the present team of Matthew Bannister, Jo Fidgen and recent recruit from LBC Petrie Hosken. (Barbara, Heather and Frederick were each with Outlook for just over 10 years, Matthew has presented for about eight years).

Outlook has evolved over the years and is unrecognisable from its original format. It was threatened with the chop in 2005 as the World Service adopted "a clearer role as a news and information provider". But it survived and flourishes with its promise of going  "around the globe through incredible personal stories".

In this Outlook montage you'll hear John Tidmarsh, including an interview from 1999 with Frederick Dove, Colin Hamilton, Barbara Myers, Frederick Dove, Heather Payton, John Waite, Caroline Wyatt, Lucy Ash and Matthew Bannister.  There are two theme tunes: the dramatic Hellraisers composed by Syd Dale that was used until the early 80s and then in the late 2000s an electronic tune I can't identify.   

John Tidmarsh

John Tidmarsh was Outlook's longest-serving presenter with a 32-year tenure. He brought a wealth of journalistic and presenting skills, as well as a sense of humour, to the programme.

He was born and raised in Surrey but his Army captain father moved around a bit so the Tidmarsh family moved first to North Wales before settling near Bristol. That's how come John found himself as a cub reporter, aged just 16, at the Western Daily Press towards the end of the war.

A year after hostilities ceased he joined the RAF for his National Service, getting his first opportunity to speak into a microphone as a radio operator on a Singapore posting.  On demob he was back at the Press and following the fortunes of Bristol Rovers. When the local hospital radio organised commentaries for the home games, John put his name forward and bagged his first broadcasting role.  
Word got back to the BBC West Region HQ about John's commentaries and they offered him the chance to do match reports into Sport in the West, though he was billed at the time as John Baldwin for fear that his WDP bosses cottoned on to his moonlighting. The adopted surname came from the newspaper's office in Baldwin Street, Bristol.

John was offered freelance work at the BBC West Region as a news reporter and presenter of The Week in the West.  He joined the staff in the early 50s organising coverage across the region for BBC Television News as well as contributing news items for the Light Programme's Radio Newsreel.

By 1956 John had made the move to London as a staff reporter based initially at Egton House. For the next decade he would shift between radio and TV work and between domestic and foreign reporting. His first overseas posting was as a UN correspondent in New York, later he reported from the Middle East, France, Algeria, Washington, India, Brussels and Vietnam, and even briefly worked out of Westminster; at one point being the BBC's Scottish Lobby correspondent.

For a while he was back in the UK on the telly as one of the presenters of the south east region news round-up Town and Around working alongside Nan Winton and John Ellison. Occasionally he would read the main TV news bulletins including the midday ones "when Corbett Woodall had overslept and failed to make it in on time". Meanwhile when BBC2 started in 1964 he and Gerald Priestland would work a two-handed presentation on the nightly Newsroom. But TV didn't really suit him at the time: "radio seemed to offer many more opportunities to someone like me with ambitions to work abroad."  

John Tidmarsh in the studio with Paul Eddington.
They had originally met in 1955 when Paul was in the BBC TV
production of Yellow Sands with John's wife Pat Pleasance
In 1966 John was offered the chance to launch Outlook, on the proviso he did so as a freelance. Initially working the back end of the week he spent the rest of the week over in Brussels as a BBC news stringer, and continued to commute for the next two years.

The initial format of Outlook was innovative for the time and John observed that "there were those who thought the programme format could not possibly work. Traditional thinking deplored the idea of having serious current affairs mixed up with magazine material and star guests".

On the subject of star guests John recalled the time when one didn't go to plan when Colin Hamilton was presenting:
"Our guest that day was the film actor David Niven. He'd hardly been introduced when Colin was handed a news flash saying that Egypt's President Sadat had been assassinated. For the rest of the programme David Niven hardly said a word. But afterwards he was very understanding and charming about it. I think he was fascinated seeing the world's number one radio station responding instantly to a huge and dramatic international event: the Newsroom, the Arabic Service, correspondents all round the world, all feeding us reports. David Niven, in fact, came back to the studio to be a guest some months later".

John didn't totally disappear from the domestic audience; he deputised for Jack de Manio on Today during 1968 and 1969, presented Newstime and World Quiz 69 both on Radio 2 and then Radio 4's evening News Desk (1974-6) as well as narrating a number of schools and further education programmes on both BBC radio and TV. In 1979 an old colleague from his days at Television News at Ally Pally, Colin Riach, asked him to present a BBC1 show he was now producing: Young Scientist of the Year. John presented the 1979, 1980 and 1981 series - look out for an edition on YouTube.

John continued to preside over Outlook for nearly thirty-two years until the programme was, in BBC parlance, "refreshed" and he was moved aside, though he continued with a series of major interviews for the next year or so. He left the BBC in 1998, ironically just a year after having received the OBE for service for broadcasting. 

Reflecting on his time with the World Service John remembered the words of a listener he'd met in the Prague, a Mrs Dachnikova, who'd experienced at first hand the 'Velvet Revolution' of 1989: "I just wanted to thank the BBC for all you did for us over the past forty years. We could not believe anything we heard on our own radio or the television or read in our newspapers. You told us what was really going on in the world. You gave us hope that one day things would change."

This is an extract from the edition of Outlook as heard on 1088kHz/276m on Friday 27 July 1974. John Tidmarsh interviews journalist Colin Legum about South African sport and apartheid and then introduces Steve Race with his Musical Atlas A to Z.

Colin Hamilton

Colin was a regular presenter on Outlook for 21 years. He'd spent his formative years in Africa, having moved there at an early age when his father, a BBC engineer, emigrated to Rhodesia. As a schoolboy in Salisbury he appeared in various productions, wrote weekly columns for The Livingstone Mail and Central African Post and, on leaving school, joined the Northern News in Lusaka.

His first radio appearance had been back in London during the war when he'd been in a Criterion Theatre stage show along with a number of older children, including Petula Clark, who sent messages to British troops. However, his first proper radio job was as an announcer with the South African Broadcasting Corporation before moving on to the Tanganyika Broadcasting Service as Swahili Programme Organiser - he'd learnt the language after six weeks day and night study on a mission station.

Colin in the studio with an unidentified guest
Moving to Kenya Colin became Senior Producer, African Services, Voice of Kenya and Acting Programme Organiser, English Service before returning to Britain to take up a television production course with the BBC. It was at that point, 1963, he was given the opportunity to join the roster of presenters on the Light Programme's daily magazine show Roundabout; he remained with the programme until 1968.

At the same time as Roundabout he was also putting in regular stints on Radio Luxembourg. The Evening News and Star of 28 September 1964 (left) records Colin as making a "whole series of weekend dashes between London and Luxembourg". A typical weekend's work was: "Finishing his job on Music and the Night programme at Luxembourg at three a.m., catching a plane at 7.30 a.m. and arriving in London at lunch time; then a rehearsal with the BBC's Roundabout programme at 5 p.m. Return to Luxembourg the following morning and on the air again the same evening."   

In 1966 Colin joined the launch team at Bush House for Outlook, initially looking after the Wednesday editions. He stayed with the programme for 21 years, a run only broken by a six-month spell in the early 80s with WKAT in Miami. For the World Service he also presented Exploring London, Pop Goes the Music, Records Round the World and Rhyme and Reason. Over on the Home Service, and then Radio 4, he presented the regional news bulletins for the South-East (1967-69). He also worked for the BFBS, and continued to do so when he left the BBC, on the music shows Top Twenty and Weekend for Two and later as a newsreader.   

It was in 2007 that he left London to emigrate to Mexico. Long having an interest in writing and travel he would join, and then chair, the Puerto Vallarta Writers Group. Last August friends and family became concerned about Colin's whereabouts. It transpired that he'd been brutally murdered by two assailants during a river trip. His body was dumped and then his apartment ransacked but, alerted by security, the police caught them red-handed. It was a tragic and shocking end.

Colin Hamilton 1935-2015

I'll leave the final words on Outlook to songwriter Sammy Cahn. Always one for adapting the lyrics of his songs to suit the occasion he was at the World Service grand piano when he came up with this version of It's Magic for John Tidmarsh and the team:

The hours and hours it took,
But now, at last, I'm on Outlook,
It's magic.
And though he can be harsh
I love it here with John Tidmarsh,
It's magic.

I can't believe that I'm
Getting so much Outlook time,
It's magic.
But I don't have to say
The payment that I'll take away
It's tragic.

You can hear the 40th anniversary edition of Outlook online here.

With thanks to Ian Hamilton and Richard Tucker.
Quotes come from:
Horrid Go-Ahead Boy by John Tidmarsh (The Book Guild 2010)
London Calling Volume 12 No.4 April 1983 edition
Shrinking World by Paul Donovan (Sunday Times 16 October 2005)

Saturday, 2 July 2016

The Summer of 76

The summer of 1976 and Britain was baking hot. So hot that a Nationwide reporter was attempting to fry an egg on the pavement, probably. "What a scorcher" screamed The Sun headline, probably.  In early July the USA was celebrating 200 years of independence and at Wimbledon Bjorn Borg was about to win the first of his five consecutive titles. On BBC Radio 1 Johnnie Walker was bidding farewell to his listeners and starting a new adventure Stateside. And every afternoon David Hamilton could be heard across the nation on both Radio 1 and Radio 2 on MW, LW and VHF.

Just recently two recordings, one complete and one virtually complete, of David Hamilton's afternoon show from July 1976 have been posted on Mixcloud. At the time I regularly caught the last 40 minutes or so of the show on getting home from school so I probably heard the tail end of these programmes first time round. I definitely heard the 5th July show as I have a note to prove it - more on that below. So here are my observations on each programme. Thanks to Noel Tyrrel for uploading radio gold and to whoever recorded them in the first place.

Friday 2 July 1976

This show was preceded by the "and now a choice of listening" announcement as David was heard on Radio 1's 247 metres and Radio 2 VHF whilst Radio 2 long wave carried the penultimate day's coverage from Wimbledon presented by Peter Jones.

1 min: Whenever I hear Listen to the Music I just can't help singing "David Hamilton" in the appropriate place. David's afternoon show started on Radio 1 only on 4 June 1973. Does anyone know if the Doobie Brothers were used from the off? One hit wonder Lee Garrett is the opener, not to be confused with Leif Garrett.

8 mins:1976 was a great year for Gallagher & Lyle with their hit-laden Breakaway album. A tenuous connection here: my wife Val also comes from Gallagher & Lyle's hometown of Largs and she has memories of Mrs Lyle's wool shop.

11 mins: The Mystery Star was  a long-running feature. All write-in entries of course but the address not given until the last half-hour when all three clues are read out.  

14 mins: The classic Radio 1 travel news jingle. Tried to record this at the time hoping the DJ wouldn't come in too quickly after "news". PAMS jingles had another three months left on Radio 1 before the massive JAM package aired from late September. There seemed to be no regular times for travel news, we get a second bulletin at five to three.

15 mins: I'd totally forgotten about this lovely song from Nancy Ryan in the intervening 40 years. There's little about Nancy on the internet. Anyone know more about her?

26 mins: Paul Burnett was ready to take over from Johnnie Walker the following week. Here he plugs a US special for what was to be his last Sunday morning show that was always billed as All There is To Hear. Simon Bates took over the same slot.

30 mins: I'd forgotten this feature. They Sold a Million would get its own jingle in that first JAM package.

31 mins:  A bizarre "fiddle-fired" cover of the Tavares hit by Jonathan King. He recorded a quadraphonic version, that I still have on tape, for the 1978 special Jonathan King Rules.   

37 mins: Does this Insight programme with Gambo still exist I wonder? I'd love to hear it.

42 mins: The third trailer in an hour. This from the time Savile was still using the Sauter-Finegan Doodletown Fifers that had previously been used for Radio Luxembourg's Top 20.

45 mins: A case of state inflation from David. Just 50 states of course with Alaska and Hawaii the last to join in 1959.

55 mins: Ruth Cubbin on news reading duty. Ruth had previously worked on Woman's Hour before joining Radio 2 in 1975 (I think). As well as newsreading she presented The late Show, Folk 78 and You and the Night and the Music before leaving in July 1979. Subsequently she worked behind the scenes as a researcher on Derek Jameson's breakfast show (1986) and as producer on various Radio 2 shows, but mainly Gloria Hunniford's (1988-89) and then David Jacobs (1990), Anne Robinson (1991-93) and Radio 2 Young Musician between 1991 and 1995.

I love the news story about Parisian bus drivers demanding an hour's siesta because of the sweltering conditions. You can imagine them pulling over with a bus full of passengers for a kip.

56 mins: Tea at Three, but who sings the jingle? The music appears to come from a version of Everything Stops for Tea recorded by The Syncopators. Today's sequence is almost like listening to the Light Programme: James Last, Manhatten Transfer and Glen Miller! (Edit: Apparently that jingle was specially recorded for David by Mud).

1 hr 8 mins: Hour two and you realise just what a busy a show this is. Notice too how David hardly ever signposts what's to come. David Hamilton's Hot-shots was so popular it led to an LP release in May 1976. My mum used to have a copy, though it long since disappeared. This Frankie Valli track failed to chart.

1 hr 21 mins: I remember C'mon Marianne getting its first spin on Roundtable as the mystery record so different was it from Donny's earlier stuff.   

1 hr 23 mins: The 70s equivalent of Make, Do and Mend with advice from David's frugal listeners. Make Ends Meet was published in book form in the following month. 

1 hr 42 mins: Ah yes, David's Daily Dolly! Well this is the 1970s. Could this be the voice that says "It's David's daily dolly" This YouTube clip posted, coincidentally, by another Andrew Walmsley. Spooky.

1 hr 48 mins: One of my favourite records of the year, Starbuck's Moonlight Feels Right complete with its marimba break. It never charted in the UK despite plenty of airplay. It was the first record that Simon Bates played when he took over from Paul Burnett on All There is to Hear just over a week later.

1 hr 51 mins: Any thoughts as to who's voicing this news lead-in? "Satisfaction  guaranteed!" I wondered if it was Rod Lucas.

2 hrs 19 mins: The pips on the half-hour so that Radios 1 & 2 can split. Rosko over on 1 and Waggoner's Walk on 2.  

5 July 1976

After a weekend gig up at Annan David is back on 247 metres, 1500 metres and  2 both LW and VHF. You'd have spotted David on the telly on Saturday night on a recorded Seaside Special from Scarborough. The guests were The Three Degrees and Kenneth McKellar plus, hands up if you remember them, Dailey & Wayne and Brothers Lee.

It was also a significant weekend for me radio-wise. On Saturday 3 July I first started to note the names of the Radio 2 announcers and newsreaders, something I kept up for a few years, adding Radio 3, Radio 4 and IRN over that summer. I noted that John Dunn was reading the 4 pm bulletin on the 5th which suggests that I did hear part of this show the first time round, even though it may have been the missing last half-hour of this recording.

4 mins: Hard to believe that any other Radio 1 show at that time would play Ken Dodd as a new spin. Presumably it was to keep some of the older Radio 2 audience happy and, of course, there's an obvious Doddy and Diddy connection.

8 mins In both these shows David uses Machine Gun by The Commodores as his music bed. The late Chris Rainbow of course known to jingle fans for his Capital Radio jingles and the superb 'Summer Radio' ones used by various Radio 1 jocks.  His multi-tracked vocal talents much in evidence on Allnight.

11 mins: Time for sing-a-long with the Starland Vocal Band. This record gave rise to a number of afternoon radio shows adapting the title Afternoon Delight. Radio Trent certainly had one and I'm pretty sure Radio Sheffield did too. I suspect they weren't really expecting their listeners to enjoy the kind of afternoon delight the group were actually singing about.

26 mins: A little bit of fun at the expense of his good mate Tony Blackburn. Tony would replace David on Radio 1 in November 1977 with David continuing on Radio 2 only. Followed by The Singing Kaftan.

32 mins: The nation's number 1 from The Real Thing. I may be wrong here but this doesn't sound like the single and so could be a re-recording that may not count towards needletime. It was still common practice for Radio 1 to play the occasional re-recording, I have songs by John Miles and Leo Sayer on tape from this period that aren't the original single releases.   

36 mins: A trailer for Radio 2's The Monday Movie Quiz voiced by James Alexander Gordon.

43 mins: More vocal multi-tracking, this time from Adrian Baker performing as The Tonics. Note too the specially recorded jingle, he also recorded versions for Tony Blackburn and Paul Burnett, perhaps other too. Sadly David ditched most of his own personalised jingles when he moved house. Around this time Adrian also recorded other jingles for Noel Edmonds and Paul Burnett. In 1988 he was behind Radio 1's 21st birthday song.  

55 mins: Odd now to hear John Dunn reading the news. He'd been on daily at this time on Radio 2 until March 1974 and then presented Late Night Extra for the remainder of the year. But in 1975 he was back on newsreading duties and the occasional late-night show. John continued to read bulletins until September 1976 just before he moved into the teatime show from which, with a few shifts of time, he didn't leave for the next 22 years. 

56 mins: These Tea at Three segues were a good way for us home tapers to get 3 or 4 records back to back.

1 hr 1 min: On Radio 1 Everyday seems to be the only jingle from the 1970 Audio Producers package that still got an airing in 1976.   

1 hr 23 mins: Some decidedly dodgy cheapskate advice on reusing polystyrene meat trays from Mrs J. Winter that David later qualifies.

1 hr 36 mins: After a great sequence of records from Neil Diamond, Liverpool Express and Candi Staton comes this naff cover from the Surprise Sisters showing that in '76 nothing was safe from been disco-fied. They'd had their only hit earlier in the year with La Booga Rooga.  

1 hr 44 mins: David's Daily Dolly used two 1975 tracks for the intro: Dolly My Love by The Moments and Girls by Moments and Whatnauts.

1 hr 48 mins: Our Kid was one of those acts that came out of New Faces. Not exactly the One Direction of their day they were a one-hit wonder with You Just Might See Me Cry

1 hr 51 mins: Another mystery voice. Does anyone know who's saying "You're listening to afternoon national radio"  etc before the news?

And there you have it. A chance to relive a whole chunk of afternoon radio from exactly forty years ago in the hands of a consummate professional. A little dated, of course, and a reminder that not all songs of the period would become golden oldies. But just for a while I was 14 years old again.  

Oh, and the answers to the Mystery Star competition are Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Alistair Cooke.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Something to Shout About

If you thought Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful (1982-6) was the only radio comedy series set in an advertising agency, think again. Between 1960 and 1962 the Light Programme offered listeners "a light-hearted look at the advertising world" in Something to Shout About. Now, more than fifty years later, its getting its first ever repeat starting next month on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Something to Shout About was penned by scriptwriter and songwriter - Right said Fred and Hole in the Ground being his best known - Myles Rudge and Ronnie Wolfe - think On the Buses. It had a cast of well-known actors: Michael Medwin, straight out of The Army Game and years before Don Satchley, as account executive Michael Lightfoot, Fenella Fielding as his secretary Janet, Eleanor Summerfield, Joan Sims, Nicholas Phipps, Warren Mitchell and, in the final series, Sheila Hancock.

Set in the agency of Apsley, Addis, Cone, Barbican, Blythe, Giddy & Partners the programme ran for three series. Sound Archives kept very few episodes so the repeats are taken from the Transcription Services discs.

At the start of the second series on 2 January 1961 the Radio Times published this article, though it actually tells you very little about the programme:

"From the outset listeners were quick to express their appreciation of this show, and its revival after so brief a lay-off is further proof of its popularity. Myles Rudge, who with Ronald Wolfe, writes the scripts of Something to Shout About did some pretty intensive investigations in the world of advertising before starring to write and, he says 'infiltrated into the offices of several of my friends in that line of business. Actually, to present that quite unique world as it really is would utterly bewildering to the uninitiated. Nobody would understand what was going on, and, if they did, they wouldn't believe it. Our show presents a sort of compromise.

"As before Michael Medwin has three leading ladies, Eleanor Summerfield, Fenella Fielding and Joan Sims, and those who held their breath at the prospect of the sparks that could fly around the studio when three start comediennes were cast in the same show have been disappointed. the girls are the firmest of friends, and woe betide any of the men in the cast who don't keep in line. As Eleanor Summerfield puts it: 'If the men tread on any of our toes, we girls gang up on them, and they have a very rough time!'

Series 1 of Something to Shout About starts on BBC Radio 4 Extra on Friday 8 July at 8.30 am. You can read more about the programme on Laughterlog.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Dear BBC, Why Oh Why...?

Having a moan about the BBC seems to be something of a national pastime. The corporation itself has long sought criticism, and praise, for its own output from TV viewers on Points of View (1961-71/79 to date). In this post I turn my attention to the radio equivalents.

Listeners to the BBC World Service were first invited to send in their letters to Hugh Tattersall when Letterbox was launched in 1965. By 1974 former The World This Weekend and You and Yours reporter Margaret Howard was welcoming the correspondence. The Letterbox theme (Handel?) and Margaret's warm voice became familiar to listeners worldwide for just over a decade. When World Service bosses cancelled Letterbox in April 1986 the programme's correspondents were far from happy. "It's our forum"  and we're "one big family of world-wide listeners" they protested.

Here is that final edition of Letterbox from 25 April 1986. The Radio iPlayer has four editions from the archive available to listen to again.

In the event the World Service did bring back a listeners' correspondence show almost a year later. In May 1987 the legendary Paddy Feeny was in the hot seat for Write On. Shorter, snappier and often calling BBC producers and bosses to account the programme continued with Dilly Barlow and others until 2006.

The World Service website has this second edition with Paddy from 13 May 1987.

In 23 March 2006 Write On was itself given the chop to be replaced by Over to You, which continues to this day. The last edition of Write On, presented by Penny Vine, is also online here.

The earliest available edition of Over to You - by now well and truly in the social media age, there's no mention of writing in - is from 20 April 2006. The presenter is Rajan Datar.

On the domestic side BBC Radio 4 has been airing listener's grievances on Feedback since 1979 but before that was Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells - a title that surely smacked of the Home Counties, you could almost hear Middle England dipping their nibs. Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells ran for nine months between February and November 1978 with the network controller Ian McIntyre hoping that fierce criticism "might have the tonic effect on complacent producers." The programme was dropped among accusations that presenter Derek Robinson betrayed too much "crusading egomania."

This edition, kindly sent to me by Richard Tucker, dates from Sunday 29 October 1978 and aims its sights on A Word in Edgeways, Any Questions? Radio 3 music policy and the "personality cult" of news presenters, with Peter Woon, head of news and current affairs, answering the criticisms.

The following year Feedback offered listeners the opportunity to send in their bouquets and brickbats though the programme aimed "as much to inform the audience about broadcasting matters as to provide an opportunity for airing criticism".  

Regular Feedback presenters have included Tom Vernon, Colin Semper, Susan Marling, Chris Dunkley and the present incumbent Roger Bolton.

Rewind to 10 March 1985 for this edition of Feedback with Colin Semper. Up for consideration are such minutiae as the use of "what" and Susan Rae's accent to the "blasphemy" of The Wordmiths at Gorsemere and that perennial issue of the licence fee.  

Monday, 30 May 2016

Keeping Track

Oh for a few hours - make that weeks - rummaging through the BBC's Sound Archives. Talk about a kid in a sweetshop. The archive has long since moved from the fifth floor of Broadcasting House, as mentioned in an article below, and is now stored in climate controlled vaults in Perivale.

For many years on a Monday morning, in a gap between Today and the 9 o'clock news, Radio 4 used to feature a series of programme, more often than not presented by the late John Ebdon, that plundered the archive for unusual and quirky nuggets. In a similar vein this sound clip comes from a short series that aired in 1980 called Keeping Track on "the art, science and business of sound recording." 

Here, the presenter, Peter Clayton, talks to Tony Trebble, at the time the BBC's Sound Archive Librarian, and asks him to select some of his favourites pieces from the collection.

I was reminded of this programme when I recently read about the death, in April last year, of Tony Trebble. There's an obituary for Tony, written by Glynne Price, in the February 2016 issue of the BBC's Prospero and also on the Noticeboard for former BBC staff. Part of it reads:

"The first half of his BBC service was in library services, film and radio, when his reliability and discretion led to him being entrusted with the confidential recording for posterity of the career experiences of eminent BBC hierarchs. Moving on to Television Personnel eventually he settled effectively as a one-man Secretariat to successive Controllers and as such was ideally well-suited. Affably trustworthy he was able to deploy his own orderly-mindedness and the precise love of language that he so much admired in others particularly in navigating the treacherous waters which separated management and unions. His irrepressible capacity to find humour in most human dilemmas never succumbed to the many incipient idiocies of bureaucracy. He was a dependable source of honest counsel for anyone shrewd enough to seek it".

Back in 1975 Tony was interviewed for the Radio Times by Alexander Frater. Here's an extract from that article:
"Trebble, a spare, bespectacled , fit-looking man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of things past, has overall charge of more than 63,000 recordings which cover, quite simply, everything. There are current affairs, the voices of the famous and descriptions of great occasions.
There is a huge section devoted exclusively to the last war. There is music of every type, from assorted versions of Messiah to a Greek lady playing a 'jumping dance' on the bagpipes. There is even a section dealing entirely with rotten singers and terrible performances. There is also drama, dialects, social history, special effects and a unique collection of 5,000 bird, animal and insect noises.
Sound Archives was born in the 1930s, when it was called the Permanent Library. As well as collecting recordings from the past, they started carefully recording, for the benefit of future generations, the present as well. The 1931 Derby commentary was the first they made and today they file away, for posterity, the best 600 hours from each year's broadcasting.
Sound Archives consists of a small suite of rooms on the fifth floor of Broadcasting House, fitted with shelves and stacked with records. Trebble refers to it as his pantry. 'The records are simply ingredients which are used for mixing into new programmes. We get about 50 requests a day for material which producers want to incorporate into their current projects'.

I asked him what recording appealed to him most. 'A woman in 1941,' he said, without hesitation. 'She had a loud upper-class voice and she said "First we have to win the war. Then we've got to reconstruct the world. Quite a task, really." I still think of her in awe.'
Sound Archives intend to continue recording people like that as long as they can. And as Tony Trebble says, 'When the Millennium comes and the Last Trump, we shall record that too'."

That mention of "600 hours" each year pales into comparison with the current acquisition rate of 6,000 per month.  

Finally, before I leave the subject of the archive here's a fascinating Guardian Tech Weekly podcast from 2011 recorded just before the BBC moved from Windmill Road to Perivale:

Friday, 27 May 2016

The Great Gambo

News this week that Paul Gambaccini is to be the next regular presenter of Pick of the Pops. He's probably in the studio now practicing those rundowns to At the Sign of the Swinging Cymbal.  
The announcement is steeped in irony: the post only becoming vacant because Tony Blackburn was, for some inextricable reason, caught up in the flak from the Savile Inquiry. Gambo himself was off-air for a year as part of a 'Yewtree' investigation.

Paul's move to Saturday lunchtime means another show comes to an end as, on 2 July, he'll present his final American Greatest Hits, a radio regular, on and off, for over 40 years. "Until next week's Paul Gambaccini show plays next week's American hits, Bruce Springsteen is number one ...."

It's a show I first used to listen to in the mid-70s on  Saturday afternoons after Fluff had finished his rock show. That Radio 1 run ended in 1986. In 1998 he was back, this time on Radio 2. Here is that first return show from Saturday 18 April 1998, with Gambo following Johnnie Walker who was also back at the Beeb. The first record, inevitably, is Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, the track that both started and ended the original run of America's Greatest Hits on Radio 1.   

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