Saturday, 31 December 2016

News Review of 1991


Exactly twenty five years and 1991 draws to a close. Radio 1's Newsbeat team review the year.

The Gulf War comes to an end. (A  long sequence is played over Oleta Adams's Get There: "You can reach me by caravan, cross the desert like an Arab man.") Right Said Fred get too sexy for their shirts. The death of Freddie Mercury. There's a  wind of change blowing through the Soviet Block (cue the Scorpions). Bryan Adams hangs onto the number one spot for an eternity. The grey Prime Minister has his first full year as PM. Terry Waite is released.    

News 91 Review of the Year was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 on 31 December 1991. 

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Girls Just Want to Have Fun


Here's a fascinating piece of analysis that, according to The Guardian, is the "most comprehensive analysis ever carried out of comedy panel shows". Conducted by Stuart Lowe of the Open Data Institute it concludes that "only once in the history of British TV and radio has a programme had an all-female line-up".

Lowe observed that few women appeared on panel games and was determined to undertake a more scientific approach to analysing whether or not this was actually the case. The Guardian report continues: "Of more than 4,700 individual episodes examined ... 1,488 programmes since 1967 have been made up solely of men. But only on one occasion in 49 years has there been a programme in which the presenter and all the panel were women – an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Heresy in January 2012 presented by Victoria Coren-Mitchell".

Whilst Lowe appears to overlook Petticoat Line (1965-74) which arguably became a more comedic show - a sort of all-women Does the Team Think - and was always 100% female then in theory this edition from the eighth series of Heresy is a piece of broadcasting history.

According to Coren-Mitchell “the thing that surprised me is that it turned out to be the silliest episode of the series. My theory is that, because productions usually put one woman on a panel show (or none) and stop there, women get used to having to (at some wearisome level) ‘represent’ female humour when we appear on these shows ... but with four women the pressure was off. It was nobody’s individual responsibility to prove anything. So we all got the chance to just mess about, relax and make free jokes like men do.”

So here is that edition of Heresy from 4 January 2012 (though I think my recording is of a subsequent repeat). With Victoria Coren-Mitchell are Sue Perkins, Cerys Matthews and Maureen Lipman.



Postscript

Since I first drafted this blog post last week I've been in touch with Stuart about the Petticoat Line and he's now updated his data and created a Wikipedia article on the show. I was pretty sure I had a couple of audio clips but so far I've only tracked this one down from 1969.


Petticoat Line aside Stuart's basic arguments remain that on radio and TV "nearly all these long-running shows under-represent women even if you ignore the regulars. Few shows have equal representation amongst guests."    

You can drill down into Stuart's data here.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Listen Without Prejudice

It was the kind of shock ending to Christmas Day that you'd expect from one of the soaps. But this news was real enough. As I sit drafting this post at 2 am on Boxing Day listening to the hits of George Michael, currently playing back-to-back on Heart, I fear my words cannot do justice to his music and career. But oh, what a voice.

So instead let's hear George talking about himself and performing in concert twenty years ago. The interview, conducted by Chris Evans, was part of the warm-up for a concert recorded in October 1996 in the Radio Theatre at Broadcasting House. He touches on smoking, the Sony lawsuit, sexuality and the reasons he wants to get back on stage.

This programme, An Audience with George Michael, was first heard on BBC Radio 1 on 8 December 1996. My tape started partway through the interview so I've tidied it up a little. And if anyone has the first 30 or so minutes please contact me. 



George Michael 1963-2016

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Frank Muir Goes Into Festivities

This year's pick from the festive comedy selection box is a 1980 edition of Frank Muir Goes Into...

Running over eleven series from 1973 to 1987 this is the Christmas special Frank Muir Goes Into ... Festivities. Joining Frank Muir is, as usual,  Alfred Marks reading the comic quotations with recorded contributions from Bill Cosby, Alan Bennett, John Sergeant, Virginia Stride, Instant Sunshine, Joyce Grenfel, Tom Lehrer and Bob Newhart.

This programme was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 24 December 1980.



Frank Muir recounts how the series came about: "It all began when BBC Radio 4, seeking to find ways to make use of the mass of recorded material in their archives, asked me to do a Christmas programme for children tracing the development of radio comedy since the war. This went out in 1971 under the title Why Are You Laughing? It was produced by a couple of likely lads named David Hatch and Simon Brett, who spent hours in listening rooms hearing playbacks of the Golden Oldies of radio, and comedy LPs made by the likes of Woody Allen, Michael Bentine and Stanley Baxter. A group of actors played 'live' sketches and told the sort of jokes which needed to be told as illustrations.

It became clear that the formula, the 'mix' of the show, was unusual and had more potential than being merely a way of re-broadcasting archive material. So the BBC decided to have a go at a series. It was called Frank Muir Goes Into... because each week we took a theme, e.g. Home, Sport, Jobs, and took a look at the humour which these subjects attracted.  

We needed a kind of general-purpose joke-teller and actor and Alfred is a little more than these. He happens to know every old joke (old jokes are vitally important) and can tell them as well as anybody but he is also a fine straight actor, a sensitive reader of poetry and is possessed of an unbelievable range of dialects and accents".

From Frank Muir Goes Into... by Frank Muir and Simon Brett (Star Books, 1978) 

Monday, 12 December 2016

The Last Farewell

2016 took its toll on the entertainment world  with the passing of many major actors, singers and comedians. Radio too marked the loss of four DJs each of whose careers had spanned about five decades. All four famously appeared in that group shot to mark the launch of BBC Radio 1. They are, on the back row, Jimmy Young and Dave Cash, in the middle Terry Wogan and seated at the front Ed Stewart.    

I've written about Jim, Dave, Terry and Stewpot during the year. But as 2016 draws to a close here's a further opportunity to enjoy their work.

Ed Stewart
Ed presented a revived version of Junior Choice live every Christmas Day on Radio 2 between 2007 and 2015. The playlist was virtually the same every year - festive pop classics mixed with all the children's favourites and novelty songs - but listeners loved it. Here's the complete programme from Christmas 2009. Reading the news is Fran Godfrey.



Between 1991 and 1999 Ed had a daily afternoon show on Radio 2. His final show was on Friday 2 July before he was moved to a Sunday afternoon slot. Here's the majority of that programme. Yet again the perils of recording on a C90 means that the tape turn falls in the middle of the Accumulator Quiz. Taking part in the final run is quiz junkie Isabelle Heward - she's in the current series of Mastermind and has appeared on The Weakest Link, The Chase, Only Connect, Counterpoint, Countdown and 15-1. Also featured are Barbara Windsor, Hilary Oliver, Radio 2 controller Jim Moir and, for some reason, Victoria Beckham's dad, Tony Adams. With the travel news is Sally Traffic and reading the news Colin Berry.


Terry Wogan
For nine years, 2000 to 2008, it was a Christmas morning tradition for Radio 2 to feature a show with Our Tel. All recorded of course, Terry would no doubt be at home helping "the present Mrs Wogan"  to peel the veg. This is a delightful slice of audio archive from Christmas Day 2007. Assisting Sir Terry are Deadly, Boggy, Lynn and Barrowlands Boyd in a tribute to Mrs Gaskell, Scranford, a panto and a Janet and John story. 


Dave Cash
Dave hosted what would be his final shows, The Dave Cash Countdown as well as Dave Cash Country, on the weekend of 15th and 16th October. Here's the penultimate Saturday evening retro chart show as heard on BBC Radio Kent on the 8th of October playing hits from 1968 and 1978.


I've posted this before but this is Dave's guest appearance on Pirate Johnnie Walker as heard on Radio 2 on 27 December 2009.


Jimmy Young
When Jimmy died last month he hadn't been on air with a regular show for 14 years as he'd been given the boot by Radio 2 in December 2002. My tribute to Jimmy includes his final show and his penultimate one is on MixCloud. But here's 80-odd minutes of the anti-penultimate show from Wednesday 18 December 2002. 


Jimmy did present other shows on Radio 2, he took turns on Radio 2 Top Tunes and Two's Best for instance. But here he is as the compere of a concert that very much features the kind of music he probably would've first introduced on the Light Programme. The Golden Age of Radio was broadcast on 22 February 1992 live from the White Rock Theatre in Hastings. The BBC Concert Orchestra is conducted by Bramwell Tovey and the guest pianist is Alison Procter. I'm grateful to Paul Langford for this recording (which is edited). 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Sunday Massam

So Steve Massam is packing it in, hanging up his headphones after 33 years. He now gets his Sundays back.

Admittedly those outside the Radio Humberside area may not know the name but Steve has been part of the station line-up since 1983 - as far as I'm aware the only DJ from that decade still broadcasting from the Queen's Gardens studios.   

Steve had a daily show on Humberside for the best part of two decades. Initially a mid-afternoon show called Let's Go - this was still the era when all local radio programmes had to have a title - he moved to lunchtimes in February 1986.

Steve's the one on the left! (Pictured in 1986)
Longer running still is his Sunday morning request show, again starting in late 1983 under the title Sunday Spin where, it seems, he had a little help from Postman Pat! Eventually this was renamed Steve Massam's Sunday Requests and which, though the run times have changed a little of the years, has aired every week and concludes with Steve's last show on 18 December.  

For my audio contribution I must express a degree of self-interest. At the time of this recording, 24 May 1998, Steve's Sunday show included a live pub quiz. Taking part were the Jolly Miller, Wrawby and The Gardeners Arms, Coniston. Somewhere in the background at Jollies is Val and myself helping with our quiz knowledge. Back then we lived over on the north bank in Beverley but my good mate Simon, who at the time just happened to live next door to the pub, invited us over. My recollection, until I played back this recording, is that we lost. In fact we won. How could I doubt that!

You'll also hear sports editor Dave Gibbins reporting ahead of Second Division play-off at Wembley with Grimsby Town doing battle against Northampton Town plus a cookery spot from Karen Edwards.  

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Radio Lives - Andrew Sachs

Tributes following the death last month of actor Andrew Sachs understandably lauded his masterful comic portrayal of the dim-witted Manuel. Surely there's no-one who can't verbatim quote lines from Fawlty Towers.

Although Andrew had a considerably lengthy television career spanning just over fifty years there was an even greater body of work on the stage and on radio. In this post I review his radio career.

Andrew's first professional acting engagement was in 1947 in a repertory theatre production at Bexhill-on-Sea of Ronald Millar's Frieda.  For most of the 1950s he was in rep and then in the West End in a number of  Whitehall farces (he appeared in a number of BBC televised Brian Rix farces 1958-62 and 1967-69).  Andrew also joined the BBC Drama Repertory Company, his audition report reading: " Very much like the voice, remarkable range as accents, direction, good voice control, very versatile, nice to see such a range, vitality, would be useful to have but his real resting place is with variety and features."   Initially he was cast in a number of minor roles in dozens of plays and Saturday Night Theatre productions as well as the 1957 radiophonic soundscape Private Dreams and Public Nightmares where Andrew played one of the ethereal voices alongside Frederick Treves and Joan Sanderson (decades later making a guest appearance as the hard-of-hearing Mrs Richards in an episode of Fawlty Towers).   

Private Dreams and Public Nightmares was first heard on the BBC Third Programme on 7 October 1957. 



German-born Sachs was an obvious choice to act out some of the scenes in the Network Three adult learning series Talking German and Improve Your German (1959-63). Occasionally he broadcast for the BBC's German Service. Meanwhile he continued to make almost weekly appearances for the BBC Drama Repertory Company in plays and serials on the Home, Light and Third, more often than not some way down the billing, though he did co-star with John Baddeley in the Afternoon Theatre comedy Slightly Off Key and with Barbara Leigh-Hunt in My Dearest Angel. He also appeared in, and for a while directed, episodes of the daily serial The Dales.

In 1962 Andrew started to write for radio. His first broadcast piece was One Man and his Dog, heard on the BBC Home Service. In 1964 he followed that with the black comedy Till Death Do Us Join in which Lance Percival's character Mr Ernest Wire is intent of bumping off his wife. Other productions that some year were Fearful Adversaries about a 'down-at-heel Soho busker' played by Sachs himself and Flat to Let for Midweek Theatre. The following year he co-wrote with Jill Hyem a daily serial broadcast over a month called Dear Girls about a group "who come to London to find their fortune but had to share a house in Belsize Park." The cast of Dear Girls included Melody Lang, who Andrew had married in 1960. Dear Girls was the forerunner to Waggoner's Walk as four years later Jill Hyem, now writing with Alan Downer, continued with the idea of a group characters in a bedsit in Belsize Park in the Saturday Night-Theatre play The Ropewalk, this in turn became the long-running Radio 2 daily serial.  Andrew himself appeared in a number of editions of Waggoner's Walk.

Other plays written by Andrew include Afternoon Theatre productions Pie and Pea Supper (1966),   Decline and Fall of the Empire (1969), Made in Heaven with Timothy West and future Fawlty Towers co-star Prunella Scales (1971), Home from Home starring Martin Jarvis (1972) and Cash Me a Portrait (1972). For Midweek Theatre there was Philately Will Get You Nowhere (1971) which has had a number of repeats. In 1985 he wrote The Art Lovers trilogy.

But perhaps Andrew's best-known original work is The Revenge, to date radio's only play without words. Recorded on location in binaural stereo it's a thriller telling the story of a man on the run. First heard on BBC Radio 3 on 1 June 1978 it gained a swift repeat a month later, twice in the same evening.

The original broadcast was preceded by a discussion with producer Glyn Dearman, head of drama Ronald Mason and Andrew Sachs. In this version you'll also hear Andrew talking to Peter Reed about the play taken from the Radio 7/4 Extra programme I Did It MyWay



Andrew was appearing on stage in No Sex Please, We're British in early 1975 when John Cleese and BBC producer John Howard Davies came to see a performance. Impressed by what they saw they offered him the part of Manuel in the sitcom that Cleese and Connie Booth were in the middle of writing. No doubt they recognised how well Andrew played farce, an element that would feature throughout Fawlty Towers. The rest, as they say, is history.

Andrew's non-Fawlty Towers RT cover for BBC1's
The History of Mr Polly (March 1980)
During the 1970s and 80s Andrew continued to work regularly on radio. He was a superb narrator and reader, what he termed "sitting down acting", cropping up on A Book at Bedtime, Story Time, Poetry Please! and Time for Verse. Now a star name he was a panellist on The Law Game, The Name's the Game, Give Us a Conch and others and was in the comedy shows Delve Special, Sloe Coaches, Week Ending, Going for Broke and Little Blighty on the Down. In 1987 he was also back helping listeners to learn a new language, this time Spanish in When in Spain, working on the premise that Manuel would step in and prompt Andrew on what to say.  

In this the first episode of Sloe Coaches Andrew Sachs plays the part of Gerhardt "a former Luftwaffe pilot who crash-landed his Heinkel and has been trying to repair it ever since". In the starring role is Roy Kinnear playing the scheming boss of a ramshackle Sussex coach company. Gerhardt is one of his drivers. The Radio 2 series was written by Charlie Adams and John  Lea. There was only one series of Sloe Coaches. It's not hard to see why.



Following in the footsteps of Alec Guinness and Kenneth More, Andrew took on the role of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown in a couple of series heard on Radio 4 between 1984 and 1986. On playing Father Brown he told the Radio Times "I've always thought of him as essentially English and I never think of myself as a very English actor, nor indeed a very English person. But he's a lovely man to play and, on radio, the stories stand on the style of the writing. The adapter, John Scotney, has caught Chesterton's style beautifully -and that's not easy when you have only dialogue to rely on."

Radio Times illustration by Robin Jacques for the radio adaptations
of the Father Brown Stories
This is the first story from the second series of the Father Brown Stories titled The Perishing of the Pendragons.



In the early nineties Andrew would become a familiar voice to a whole new younger generation reading the daily stories in Wiggly Park on Radio 5. Here's an example of his story-telling.



Andrew was also cast in another Radio 5 children's serial The Adventures of Tintin as Snowy but by now the majority of his radio work was as a reader on Poetry Please! and With Great Pleasure. There was also a reading of the French comic masterpiece Clochemerle and a role in the '"rock 'n' roll sitcom" Love 40 - New Balls Please, both on Radio 2. Over on Radio 4 he was in the comedy series Man of Soup (1999) and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (2007). His last starring role on radio was as Dr John Watson opposite Clive Merriman's Holmes in The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (2002-04 & 2010).

In 2002 Andrew was featured on the Radio 4 series That Reminds Me in which actors and comedians reminisced about their life and career in front of a live audience.



Andrew (Andreas Siegfried) Sachs 1930-2016 "¿QuĂ©?"
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