Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Marooned for 70 Years – Desert Island Discs

The UK’s longest running record programme celebrates its 70th anniversary this Sunday on Radio 4 and around the nation on BBC local radio stations,  Radio Scotland and Radio Wales.

The inspiration for the programme came to its creator, the late Roy Plomley, one evening in November 1941. He typed out this letter to BBC producer Leslie Perowne:

Dear Leslie,
Here is another idea for a series. DESERT ISLAND DISCS. If you were wrecked on a desert island, which ten gramophone records would you like to have with you? – providing of course, that you have a gramophone and needles as well!

The BBC top brass gave the programme the go ahead for an initial eight week run. The number of discs was reduced from 10 to 8 to fit into the half-hour timeslot. Three potential theme tunes were considered: By A Sleepy Lagoon by Eric Coates, Summer Afternoon Idyll by the same composer and incidental music to the play Mary Rose by Norman O’Neill.  By A Sleepy Lagoon won out, with added seagulls. 

The first castaway was planned as Professor C.E.M. Joad, of Brain’s Trust fame, but he was unavailable so that honour went to comedian Vic Oliver, at the time appearing in the hugely popular radio show Hi- Gang! The first programme aired on the Forces Programme on 27 January 1942.

Since 1942 there have been nearly 3,000 castaways (with a break between 1946 and 1951) with Arthur Askey having the good fortune, or perhaps misfortune, in taking top prize as being stranded on the desert island four times.

The Desert Island Discs website has nearly 500 programmes available online to listen again. In this post I’m featuring two shows that currently aren’t available.

Just three guests have been members of the British Royal family: Princess Margaret in 1981, Princess Michael of Kent in 1984 and David Linley in 2002. Here’s Princess Margaret’s show as broadcast on 17 January 1981.      

From 18 August 1984 this is part of the programme with comedian, cartoonist and writer Willie Rushton. (sound quality is not great).

And finally a clip from a 1980 edition of Feedback in which Roy Plomley gets a ticking-off for not name-checking his castaways during the programme.
Read more about Desert Island Discs on Suite 101

Listen out for the Radio 4 programme on Vic Oliver this week.

Though technically the longest-running record programme the show is sixth overall,with the record going to Chroal Evensong (1926).
Should the Desert Island Discs website make these two shows available online in the future I’ll remove the above links.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Thanks Andy - I see the Vic Oliver programme also features a contribution from Bill Pertwee!

Also there's an Archive On 4 special on Desert Island Discs on Saturday. I'd really like to hear more Plomley editions repeated or at least available as podcasts!

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