Saturday, 25 October 2014

Peel Reveals

On this the tenth anniversary of the death of John Peel I’ve been rummaging through my press cuttings box and came across this interview with Robert Chalmers from the short-lived The Sunday Correspondent.

In fact the interview later gained some notoriety, particularly when part of it was quoted in a Julie Burchill article. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions. This is the full feature as published on 5 November 1989.



Saturday, 18 October 2014

There’s No Place Like Genome

Christmas has arrived early! On Thursday the BBC’s GenomeProject released nearly ninety year’s worth of Radio Times listings. I predict many a lost hour, make that day, blowing the virtual dust off long-forgotten programme schedules.

Sadly, due to copyright problems, there are no scans of the actual magazines; so my collection at least retains some value. I can still drop in the odd article, piece of artwork or advert to blog posts (see above). And to be honest there’s something satisfying about seeing the different typefaces and layouts of the listings over the years. But the ability to search and order the programme details on this online Beta version is an absolute boon to researchers and the idly curious alike. 
The OCR software does throw up some odd spellings – this is one of many I’ve found in the first day. Readers are invited to submit edits – I’ve done a 100 or so already. Apparently there are some verification processes in place to ensure that the edits are indeed just corrections rather than an attempt to improve the entry, adding episode titles or missing cast members were none existed at the time of going to print for example.

So what random fact can I find this morning? Well Brian Matthew, currently on air as I publish this post started with the BBC in 1954. But in 1953 he presented a series of programmes on Music from Holland, presumably as at the time he was still working for Radio Netherlands.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Fun at One – When It Ain’t Tip Top, Then It Ain’t Tip Top

The ‘facts’ are as follows: It was broadcast via the “magic of Lunewyre technology in total Spectrasound”. The hosts were the self-styled Kid Tempo and The Ginger Prince – whose real identity was, at the time, shrouded in mystery though we now know as Eli Hourd and Nigel Proctor. You could enjoy the delights of the Hammond Organ interlude and radio’s only dance troupe Peter Lorenzo and the Guys Now Dancers. It was Radio Tip Top.

It’s difficult to explain what was going on, even for those of us that signed up for Radio Tip Top membership. It was retro but played current hits. It was funny but had no discernible jokes. It aired at a time when loungecore and easy listening were cool. Think Radio 1 Club meets Phoenix Nights with a dash of Austin Powers.
Radio Tip Top had started life as a weekly pirate radio show in London in 1993 and 1994. There was press interest in the Tip Top phenomenon and in late 94 even an ITV pilot show set onboard a giant spaceship. By April 1995 they’d gone legit and moved to Radio 1 for a 12-week Wednesday night run. This is when I became hooked, although I was probably initially drawn in by the old Radio 1 jingles that punctuated proceedings. 

For all you Tip Toppers and Tip Toppettes here are three editions of your favourite show. From series one comes episode eight broadcast on 14 June 1995 with Star Time guest Sandie Shaw, redirection advice from Postman Patois, the Radio Tip Top Big Break Talent of Tomorrow featuring Ken Goodwin and the Radio Tip Top Cabaret Cavalcade with Ken Dodd “who always insists we pay him in cash”.

Episode nine of the first series features the vocal talents of Tony Blackburn, The Bowling Queens Margaret and Maureen, Norman Barrington with a TV Treat, rising talent Lenny Kravitz, the Reverend Ray Floods from the Church of What’s Happening and the headline act, Lulu.

And finally, for the moment, the tenth edition with the 1995 Radio Tip Top Summer Seaside Special. Star Time features Naomi Campbell,  get down with Mr Superbad and topping the bill is Britt Ekland.

I’ll be posting more Radio Tip Top shows over the coming months.

Radio Tip Top series details:
Series one: 12 weeks from 26 April to 12 July 1995
Radio Tip Top Christmas Cracker 25 December 1995
Series two: 14 weeks 3 January to 3 April 1996
A Tip Top Christmas 25 December 1996

This post was sponsored by the readers of Corsair magazine.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Tokyo Memories

The opening ceremony of summer Olympics in Tokyo was fifty years ago today. With the distance and time difference involved it was possible for TV viewers in the UK to receives some same-day pictures via the Syncom III satellite over the Pacific.  Late night BBC coverage of an hour or so was in the capable hands of Cliff Michelmore, who also presented a results round-up at teatime. Any daytime programmes, and this was by no means every day, were hosted by Alan Weeks.

In addition to the satellite images TV pictures also took the Polar route where events were taped and flown from Tokyo each night over the Pole to arrive in Hamburg by 7 a.m. That tape was then transmitted over the Eurovision network to member countries and on the Intervision network in Eastern Europe. The BBC team lead by Peter Dimmock consisted of just twenty-five! Five commentators covered all the sports: David Coleman, Max Robertson, Harry Carpenter, Peter West and Frank Bough.

Meanwhile over on BBC radio the sound reached the UK via the Commonwealth cable, Compac, which linked Britain, Australia, and New Zealand via Canada and the Atlantic. Commentary from Japan joined Compac from the trans-Pacific cable. The radio team was a very small affair led by Head of OB Charles Max-Muller alongside three producers, an engineer and a secretary.

Seven commentators looked after the radio coverage: Harold Abraham and Rex Alston covered the athletics, Alun Williams and Pat Besford the swimming, John Snagge the rowing and sailing, Brian Moore the soccer and cycling and Raymond Brookes-Ward the equestrian events.

Radio programmes averaged about two hours a day across the Home, Light and Third, with the lion’s share of the commentary and reports going out on the daytime service of the Third Programme, known as the Third Network. Each day there was an Olympic Report from 8.10 to 9.00 a.m. and an evening round-up from 6.00 to 6.30 p.m.   

Some twenty years after the Games of the XVIII Olympiad the gold-medal winning long-jumper Lynn Davies recalled some key moments in Olympic Memories. You’ll also hear the voices of British athletes Robbie Brightwell, Mary Rand, Anne Packer and Basil Heatley, swimmer Bobbie MacGregor, US athlete Billy Mills, race walker Ken Matthews, and weightlifter Louis Martin.

Olympic Memories: Tokyo 1964 was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on 25 March 1984. The producer was Emily McMahon

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sheila Tracy – Girl with a Trombone

Though she’d have probably denied it Sheila Tracy was something of a feminist pioneer by working in what were, at the time, mostly male preserves: touring the country with a big band; broadcasting on the Light Programme when few other women hosted record shows; being the first woman to read the main news bulletins on national radio and being the trucker’s friend on an overnight music show. With a broadcasting career that spanned fifty years I remember Sheila Tracy who sadly died earlier this week.    

Born and raised in Helston, Cornwall Sheila went on to study piano and violin at the Royal Academy of Music “but soon realised I wasn’t going to become a concert pianist.” Noticing that the brass section of the Academy’s orchestra didn’t contain any women she plumped for the trombone, thus unwittingly launching a long career as a professional trombonist.

Leaving the Academy in 1956 Sheila joined the Ivy Benson All Girls Band. A year later she and Phyl Brown, a vocalist in the Ivy Benson outfit, formed the Tracy Sisters. They got their first break when they replaced the Kay Sisters on a Moss Empire Variety tour with Mike and Bernie Winters. Their first radio broadcast was on 24 May 1958 on In Town Tonight.  Other appearances followed on Workers Playtime, Mid-Day Music Hall and Saturday Club.

Her move into full-time broadcasting came in February 1961 when, with prompting from her mother, she successfully applied to become an in-vision announcer on BBC TV, joining the other women on the team: Meryl O’Keeffe, Valerie Pitts and Judith Chalmers. When the BBC stopped using in-vision announcers Sheila worked on a number of regional news shows: Spotlight South-West in Plymouth, Points West in Bristol and South Today in Southampton.

Sheila also worked with Michael Aspel on the BBC1 show A Spoonful of Sugar which was broadcast from hospitals and where they would surprise staff and patients with people they wanted to meet. She recalled on programme where “we had fixed for Mike Yarwood to be hidden in the corner of the ward while I was talking to the patient. The cameras started to roll and I go into my spiel about how much red tape we’ve had to cut to get this special guest on the programme. Mike then does his impression of Harold Wilson. ‘And who do you think this is?’ I ask the patient. Obviously very excited she goes….’Ooh Ooh…it’s…Freddie Frinton’ Poor Mike Yarwood was absolutely devastated. Harold Wilson was his favourite impersonation. However it was all quite hilarious and all went out just as it happened!”
An early Radio Times billing for Sheila from
March 1963. Late Choice was a 20 minute Sunday night show.

Meanwhile Sheila was picking up some radio work on the Light Programme. Her first solo broadcast was in February 1963 on the Sunday night show Late Choice. “I wasn’t allowed to play anything loud or fast”, she recalled. There were also appearances on Melody Fair, Anything Goes, Music for Late Night People and, in 1967, one of the presenters of It’s One O’Clock billed as “music for late night people” and produced by Aidan Day.  

In October 1973 Sheila joined BBC Radio 4 as a staff announcer – making her first appearance on the 8th of that month (most websites incorrectly state 1974). She later claimed that she had made the move with “the express purpose of doing a breakthrough in news.” That breakthrough came on the evening of 16 July 1974 with a certain amount of subterfuge on the part of Presentation Editor Jim Black. Colin Doran was reading the early evening news and Bryan Martin was due to take over the late shift, as was the pattern at that time. Sheila was already on the rota to do that evening’s continuity when at the last minute a switch was made with Bryan supposedly being ill Sheila stepped in to read the late-night news bulletin.  Thereafter she became a regular newsreader on the network.

Whilst the press made a fuss about Sheila reading the Radio 4 news she wasn’t, of course, the first woman to actually read a news bulletin on the radio. In the regions it had long being the practice to have female news readers and even on national radio Angela Buckland, Ann Every and Patricia Hughes, to name but three, had for years being reading the early morning bulletins on the Home Service and on Radio 3. However, it did open the way for the likes of Susan Denny, Pauline Bushnall and Laurie MacMillan to become regular readers on the station.

In 1977 Sheila moved across to BBC Radio 2, again as a continuity announcer and newsreader – making her first appearance on 21 January – but also having the opportunity to present a number of music shows. Firstly there was The Late Show and the overnight You and the Night and the Music as well as Saturday Night with the BBC Radio Orchestra and The Early Show (weekends in 1982/83).

This clip of You and the Night and the Music is from 4 April 1980. With apologies for the slightly dodgy tape.

But it was Big Band Special that proved to be the long-running success. Initially planned as a 12-part series it ran for 34 years (1979-2013), with Sheila at the helm for nearly 22 of them. For the first couple of programmes the featured band was Nelson’s Column before the BBC Radio Big Band took up residency under the baton of Barry Forgie, himself a trombonist, as was the show’s first producer Robin Sedgley and even the second producer Bob McDowall.

From 1987 the BBC Radio Big Band started to undertake a number of tours in addition to its regular recording commitments. Occasionally Sheila, who’d compere about 50 concerts a year, would herself fill the gap on trombone if an additional player was needed or even conduct the band if Barry Forgie fancied a turn on his trombone. She also played with the BBC Club’s Ariel Band and the Delta Jazz Band. The highlight of her time with the show was the 1992 three-week tour of America with guest star George Shearing. Sheila’s last appearance as host of Big Band Special was in 2001 when she was replaced by jazz singer Stacey Kent.

Here from 12 February 1990 is the 500th edition of Big Band Special. For these live concerts Sheila would put in lots of preparation and learn her script beforehand so that she wasn’t seen on stage behind a sheath of papers.

Sheila returned to the programme for its 25th anniversary to speak to Stacey Kent. This show was broadcast on 4 October 2004.

The other programme Sheila’s best known for was the late-night Truckers’ Hour. Initially this was just a segment of her weekly You and the Night and the Music show. Apparently she’d got the idea when on holiday in the States and read about the DJ Big John Trimble who would broadcast his show from a truck stop on KGA in Spokane, Washington and then WRVA in Richmond, Virginia. When in May 1981 Sheila went freelance she introduced Truckers’ Hour five nights a week between 1 and 2 a.m. It also cashed in on the use of CB radio amongst the truck driving fraternity and Sheila herself adopted the handle of Tiger Tim.

In May 1981 an hour was shaved off Round Midnight
to make way for a new series of Truckers' Hour
The first regular Truckers’ Hour was broadcast on Tuesday 12 May 1981. I originally posted this online in 2011 and it was included in a blog post over on 80s Actual but here it is again complete with mention of Jarrell’s Truck Plaza, a nod to Big John Trimble who broadcast from the stopover on WRVA.  

Eventually the show was pulled after Sheila was inadvertently reading out some racy messages. “Some of the blighters send me rude messages and I’ve read them out without realising”, she claimed. Signing off with “keep the lipstick off your dipstick” didn’t go down well with the BBC management. The show was dropped in April 1982, though Trucking with Tracy remained as a feature of YATNAM for a while.   

Leaving the BBC in 2001 Sheila joined Primetime Radio and then Saga Radio with her Swingtime shows.  More recently a similar show was broadcast in the States on Pure Jazz Radio in New York and in the UK on Age Concern’s The Wireless.

Sheila Tracy 1934-2014
“Tiger Tim saying thanks for the ride. I’m down and I’m gone.”

There were tributes to Sheila in this week’s LastWord on BBC Radio 4. Tonight’s Clare Teal show on BBC Radio 2 will also celebrate her life and career.  

Ivy Benson is remembered in a couple of week’s time on Radio 4 in Ivy Benson: Original Girl Power on Saturday 18 October at 10.30 a.m.

Sheila presented Big Band Special between 6 October 1979 and 26 March 2001.
Truckers' Hour ran as a stand alone show from 12 May 1981 to 3 April 1982.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

All Abroad

Tonight listeners in East Anglia get a chance to reminisce about the former commercial station based in Norwich, Radio Broadland. The celebrations are over on BBC Radio Norfolk during the last hour of MatthewGudgin’s show.

The reason? It’s thirty years ago today that Broadland launched and Radio Norfolk isn’t one to miss an anniversary, even if it’s for “the other side”. Not to mention the fact that Matthew worked on the station early in his career.
Radio Broadland disappeared in 2009 as part of the so-called “Heartification” by Global Radio. Here from the RRJ archive is an aircheck of Stuart Davies with Drivetime from the time the FM service was “Broadland 102”. The date: Thursday 5 August 1993.

Matthew Gudgin is on air today from 4 to 7 pm.

Read more about Radio Broadland here.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Standby for Switching

“Standby for switching. Get tuned to Radio 1 or 2. 5, 4, 3, Radio 2, Radio 1, go!” Surely one of the most played pieces of radio archive: Robin Scott’s countdown to the launch of Radio 1 at 7 a.m. on Saturday 30 September 1967.  But what was happening over on Radios 2, 3 and 4? Was there an exciting new range of programmes as part of the biggest shake-up of the radio networks since the immediate post-war period? Or was it just business as usual?

The relabeling of the old Home, Light and Third had been prompted by the BBC’s promise to fund a new pop service to replace the offshore pirate stations. This had first been mooted in 1966 and work started in earnest in January 1967 when, Johnny Beerling recalls, producers in the Popular Music and Gramophone Departments were asked whether they wanted to work on Radio 1 or 2. Beerling would then work alongside Derek Chinnery, Teddy Warwick and Angela Bond in thrashing out ideas for the pop station, reporting to Robin Scott who was appointed controller a month later. 
In fact at that time the new station still didn’t have a name, that decision was made later that summer. Amongst the names considered by the BBC’s Sound Broadcasting Committee were “Popular Music Service”, “Radio 247”, “Radio 67” (which would surely be out-of-date come January 1968!), “Radio Elizabeth”, “Radio Skylark”, and “Radio Pam”. By May 1967 the use of numbers was first suggested such as “Radio One” and “Light One”.  The numbering of the networks led Home Service controller Gerald Mansell to express concern that the new Radio Four could “imply demotion”.

So what about Radio 1? As ever funds were short so to make the new service look like it had a full schedule there was loads of simulcasting with Radio 2. There was also the trick of billing former Light Programme shows as being on Radio 1, even when also going out on Radio 2. Confusing! This happened for Saturday Club (but dropping Brian Matthew in favour of Keith Skues), Family Favourites with Michael Aspel, Country Meets Folk with Wally Whyton and The Jazz Scene with Humphrey Lyttelton. Even that old warhorse Housewives’ Choice became a Radio 1 show re-titled Family Choice. Some Radio 1 shows such as Late Night Extra and Night Ride would later become long-running Radio 2 programmes.
This was the line-up on Radio 1’s launch day:

0700 Tony Blackburn with a Daily Disc Delivery
0832 Leslie Crowther with Junior Choice (renamed from Children’s Favourites that had ended the previous weekend with presenter John Ellison)
0855 Crack the Clue with Duncan Johnson
1000 Keith Skues with Saturday Club
1200 Emperor Rosko with Midday Spin (Midday Spin being an old Light Programme title)
1300 The Jack Jackson Show
1355 Crack the Clue
1400 Chris Denning with Where It’s At (a Light Programme transfer)
1500 Pete Murray
1600 Pete Brady
1730 Country Meets Folk
1832 Scene and Heard with Johnny Moran
1930 as Radio 2
2200 Pete Murray with Pete’s Party (another Light Programme refugee)
0000 Midnight Newsroom
0005 Night Ride with Sean Kelly
0200 News and closedown

You’ll find audio of Tony’s first show online so I’ll not post it again here. But imagine the shock of any Light Programme listeners who stumbled across Midday Spin – the previous Saturday it had been a special Holiday Spin with Michael Aspel -  and heard the whoops and shouts from Emperor Rosko. Here’s a scoped version of part of that show:

In 1967 the Light Programme was allowed to stay up late and didn’t close down until 2 a.m. It fell to announcer Roget Moffat to have the last word. He was that night’s presenter of It’s One Clock, a hour-long music show with a different host each weekday – in that final week you’d also have heard Jon Curle, Sean Kelly, Wally Whyton and Adrian Love. 

In contrast to Radio 1’s full Saturday schedule, Radio 2’s was a little light. It was continuity announcer Paul Hollingdale who was the first voice on the new networks when Radio 2 opened at 0530. He’d been chosen by controller Robin Scott to host that morning’s edition of Breakfast Special in place of the regular Saturday presenter Bruce Wyndham. In fact Bruce was working that morning anyway, but over on Radio 4 reading the early morning news, such was the swapping between networks of continuity announcers at that time. So the timings were:

0533 Breakfast Special with Paul Hollingdale
0832 as Radio 1
0955 Five to Ten with Paul Simon and Colin Semper
1000 Max Jaffa and Sandy MacPherson with Melody Time
1200 Marching and Waltzing introduced by Jimmy Kingsbury
1300 as Radio 1
1832 Those Were the Days introduced by Bill Crozier
1935 Million Dollar Bill with Joe Brown as that week’s guest speaking to Robin Boyle
2015 Spotlight 1 and 2 in which Kenneth Horne previews some of the shows and voices on the new stations
2115 Caterina Valente Sings
2200 as Radio 1

This is the intro to Spotlight 1 and 2:

In 2007 Paul Hollingdale recalled that first Radio 2 edition of Breakfast Special. And if you want to know the first record played on the station here’s the answer:  

Listeners to the new Radio 3 will have noticed absolutely no difference to their daily programmes. Saturday under the old regime was broken down into different strands: 0700-1230 Music Programme, 1230-1800 Sports Service and then 1800-2315 Third Programme. This continued on 30 September and remained the general format of the station until April 1970 when it became more of a cohesive network.
Friday 29 September had been The Third Programme’s twenty-first birthday and the whole evening was dedicated to a performance of The Tragedy of King Lear with John Gielgud in the title role. Closing down proceedings after the Market Trends report (an odd piece of scheduling with financial news on the Third whilst over on the Home Service they had a music programme) was announcer Cormac Rigby. He was also on duty the following morning to usher in Radio 3, whose schedule for the day was as follows:

0800 News and weather
0804 Record Review with John Lade
0900 News and weather
0904 La Clemenza di Tito, a performance of Mozart’s opera in two acts
1014 Ravel’s Piano Music played by Colin Horsley
1040 La Clemenza di Tito – Act Two
1200 Jazz Record Requests with Steve Race
1230 Sports Service introduced by Michael de Morgan with golf, swimming, racing from Ascot,  second-half football commentary and Sports Report
1800 Bach – four piano pieces played by Charles Rosen
1855 An Idea and Its Icon – a talk by Geoffrey Webb on theology and iconography in the Middle Ages
1910 Folk Music of Czechoslovakia compiled and introduced by A.L. Lloyd and produced by Douglas Cleverdon
2000 BBC Symphony Orchestra – a concert from the Berlin Festival with the Orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez
2105 Personal View – John Maddox with a talk on current affairs
2125 Concert - Part 2  
2205 Abraham Cowley – selections of his poetry introduced by Anthony Thwaite
2235 Mozart – String Quartet in F major played by The Weller Quartet
2300 News
2315 Closedown
Closing the Home Service “for today, and for all days” on the Friday evening was David Dunhill, who’d obviously taken some care in preparing his final announcement.

The last programme on the Home Service was Jazz at Night with records played by John Dunn. Jazz at Night became the only show to move from the Home Service to Radio 1, finding a home just after midnight on Friday nights. John Dunn, of course, would then pop up during Saturday reading the news on Radio 1 and 2 and making that now infamous “here is the news, in English” intro to the bulletin during Rosko’s show (see above).

It was David Dunhill who opened up proceedings on Radio 4 the following morning welcoming listeners to “Radio 4, the Home Service”, a billing that remained for many months to ease the transition. The schedule was exactly the same as the previous Saturday with the sole exception of the renaming of Lightening Our Darkness as At the Close of the Day. Reviewing the line-up I’m struck by the sheer volume of, necessarily, short programmes. There must have been nearly fifty continuity junctions. This is the schedule for the London area, there were regional variations in the Midlands, North, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and South & West.
0635 Farming Today
0650 Ten to Seven – prayers and meditation
0655 Weather and Programme News
0700 News
0715 On Your Farm
0745 Today’s Papers
0750 Outlook – a Christian angle on the news  
0755 Weather and Programme News
0800 News
0815 From Our Own Correspondent
0845 Today’s Papers
0850 Voices – archive material introduced by Leslie Perowne
0900 News
0915 The Weekly World – a review of the weekly news magazine by Geoffrey Howe
0920 A Choice of Paperbacks chaired by Cliff Michelmore
0945 In Your Garden – introduced by John Hay
1015 Daily Service
1030 Science Survey with a talk on Protection Against Disease
1045 Study Session with programmes on The Artist at Work, Music Questions and Divertissement Francais
1200 Motoring and the Motorist – chaired by Bill Hartley
1225 All the Best from Today – clips from the week’s Today programme linked by Jack de Manio
1255 Weather and Programme News   
1300 News
1310 Round the Horne – repeat of an April edition on the Light Programme
1340 Desert Island Discs – Roy Plomley talks to castaway Roy Castle
1415 Afternoon Theatre – with Floral Tribute written by David Bartlett
1515 Home for the Day – a Saturday supplement to Woman’s Hour with Marjorie Anderson
1600 Music at Four – with music by Haydn, Mozart and Stravinsky played by the BBC Welsh Orchestra and a Ravel quartet played by the LaSalle String Quartet
1755 Weather and Programme News
1800 News and Radio Newsreel, followed by Regional News
1830 Sports Session (other regions had their own sports programmes)
1900 Steptoe and Son – a repeat of Crossed Swords from the Light Programme in July
1930 Gala Night at the Opera – Sandra Chalmers introducing a programme of music recorded at the Huddersfield Town Hall played by the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Northern Singers
2030 Saturday Night Theatre with Paul Daneman and Maragret Rawlings in Adventure Story by Terrence Rattigan
2158 Weather Forecast
2200 News
2210 A Word in Edgeways presented by Brian Redhead
2255 At the Close of the Day – a meditation by Stanley Pritchard
2310 Music at Night – Scarlatti sonatas played by Alan Cuckston
2342 Weather forecast, news summary and coastal waters forecast
2348 Closedown
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