Saturday 1 June 2024

A Sideways Look at D-Day


For the duration of the Second World War the teenage Anthony Smith looked upon the unfolding events with “belligerent glee”. He recalls how they never questioned the “unity of purpose” or “the rightness of the cause”. It was only a post-war visit to Germany that brought him to the realization that the war demonstrated how easy it was for “one bunch of people to be fired headlong at another bunch of people even though each of them knows next to nothing about the other”.

Between 1977 and 1989 writer, broadcaster, adventurer and balloonist Anthony Smith gave over 200 talks for BBC Radio 4 under the title A Sideways Look. These were 15 minute single-authored talks, a radio form that pretty much disappeared when Letter from America ended.  They were on a whole variety of subjects, some such as this D-Day broadcast were serious in tone, others more frivolous. The series was described as “a new look at issues, topics and everyday happenings that we tend to take for granted”.

After Anthony Smith’s service with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve that he refers to in this talk, he continued his education at Oxford before working as a reporter for The Guardian and later The Daily Telegraph. From 1953 he also appeared on dozens of radio and tv programmes including The World of Books (Home Service) and Tomorrow’s World (BBC1). Smith wrote 31 books on subjects ranging from human anatomy, natural history and exploration. His best-selling book was The Body which led to a 1970 film and later the 1998 BBC series The Human Body.

He travelled widely and listed amongst his exploits the claim to be the first to fly a balloon in East Africa (1962) and, the following year, the first Briton to fly over the European Alps. His name turns up in film credits including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where he is listed as the consultant for the Ken Adam designed Vulgarian airship which Smith flew for the film. In this eighties he decided to build a raft out of pipes and sail it across the Atlantic. He died in 2014 aged 88.

This edition of A Sideways Look on the subject of the 40th anniversary of D-Day was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 5 June 1984.

 A Sideways Look at ...

First broadcast: Tuesday 10 May 1977

Last broadcast: Saturday 11 March 1989

For the first year the editions were billed in the Radio Times with the subject matter of the talk. They were: Dangerous Animals, British Genius, Smoking, Peking Zoo, Safety, Birds, Europlugs, NHS, Age, Forests, VAT, Women, Athletics, Talking to Strangers, the Price of Life and Limb, the Tower of Babel, Notice Boards,

29 of the talks were published in 1983 by Unwin Paperbacks

Saturday 18 May 2024

Back to Square One

In what is sure to be an election year in the UK the Prime Minister (at time of writing Rishi Sunak) is fond of saying that were the current Opposition (at time of writing, the Labour Party) to win then Britain would be “back to square one”.

Ah yes, back to square one, an idiom often used but whose origins seem to be uncertain. Look online and you’ll see references to the grid printed in the Radio Times to help describe the action during early football and rugby commentaries (note below). This seems credible until you hear what are admittedly early recreations of those commentaries and the second voice only just has time to say “Square 7, Square 5” etc.  Indeed why would play be described as going “back to square one”? Other suggestions are that it comes from the games of Hopscotch or Snakes and Ladders with the earliest print citation being as late as a 1952 UK Economic Journal which wrote "He has the problem of maintaining the interest of the reader who is always being sent back to square one in a sort of intellectual game of snakes and ladders."

Anyway, all this is by way of saying that the derivation of everyday expressions and sayings would be ripe for the quiz format. And that is exactly what BBC Radio 2 offered over seven series and 54 programmes in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the quiz show Back to Square One.   

The premise was, according the chairman, the ever dependable Chris Serle, that “all the questions are about the origins of everyday words, well known expressions, superstitions, customs, places and pub signs and so on”. The programme was devised by author Graeme Donald who went on to write a number of books on history and the meaning of words.

A team captain throughout the run was author Leslie Thomas, a regular on radio panel shows such as Quote...Unquote, Hoax! and Trivia Test Match. For series one he’s joined by the queen of panel shows Barbara Kelly. For series 4 to 7 the other captain is Pam Ayres.  

Here’s the first ever edition from 9 December 1986 with Pam Ferris and Roy Kinnear joining the panel.

They make no mention of ‘back to square one’ itself but it did turn up in the fourth show – which I’m not uploading as the recording quality is poor. Needless to say they go for the football commentary definition.

Moving to 1988, for the third edition from the third series. Sheila Steafel is the other team captain for this series and she and Leslie are joined by Frances Edmonds and Bill Oddie. Writer Frances Edmonds was one of the regular panellists (8 appearances), others were Sid Waddell (10 appearances, including for two shows with Jeremy Hardy) and Bill Tidy (6 appearances).

Back to Square One finally ran out of steam in 1992 by which time many of Radio 2’s quizzes and panel games were getting the chop anyway. All the programmes enjoyed a worldwide audience on the World Service and selected programmes were repeated over on Radio 4 in 1991/92. 26 programmes were issued by the Transcription Service for overseas sales. 

Series Details

Series 1

9 December 1986 – 27 January 1989 (8 weeks) produced by Ron McDonnell

Team captains: Leslie Thomas (except weeks 5 & 7 John Dunn) & Barbara Kelly

Panellists: Roy Kinnear, Pam Ferris, Peter Moloney, Sheila Steafel, Benny Green, Sheila Hancock, Stephen Fry and Jessica Martin

Series 2

15 September 1987 – 3 November 1987 (8 weeks) produced by Ron McDonnell

Team captains: Leslie Thomas plus Lucinda Lambton (1&5) Katie Boyle (2.4.6&8) and Moira Stuart (3&7)

Panellists:  Moira Stuart, Peter Moloney, Jane Reed, Jeffrey Holland, Pam Ayres, Sid Waddell, Claire Rayner and Bernie Clifton

Series 3

26 April 1988 – 14 June 1988 (8 weeks) produced by Paul Z. Jackson

Team captains: Leslie Thomas and Sheila Steafel

Panellists: Jeffrey Holland, Noddy Holder, Jeremy Hardy, Sid Waddell, Frances Edmonds, Bill Oddie, Benny Green and Pam Ayres.

Series 4

13 June 1989 – 1 August 1989 (8 weeks) produced by Paul Z. Jackson

Team captains: Leslie Thomas and Pam Ayres

Panellists: Molly Parkin, Sid Waddell, Jane Reed, Bill Tidy, Maggie Fox, Jeremy Hardy, Frances Edmonds and Chris Stuart

Series 5

25 July 1990 – 12 September 1990 (8 weeks) produced by Paul Z. Jackson

Team captains: Leslie Thomas and Pam Ayres

Panellists: Dillie Kean, Sid Waddell, Sandi Toksvig, Bill Oddie, Bill Tidy, Helen Atkinson-Wood, Frances Edmonds and Peter Tinniswood

Series 6

30 October 1991 – 18 December 1991 (8 weeks) produced by Paul Z. Jackson

Team captains: Leslie Thomas and Pam Ayres

Panellists: James Reeve, Jessica Martin, Stephen Fry, Frances Edmonds, Sue Cook, Bill Tidy, Sid Waddell and Jane Reed

Series 7

17 November 1992 – 29 December 1992 (6 weeks) produced by Andy Aliffe

Team captains: Leslie Thomas and Pam Ayres

Panellists: James Pickles, Gill Pyrah, Angela Douglas, David Thornton, Natalie Wheen and James Reeve

Theme tune: A Fuguey Day by Johnny Hawksworth played the Ron Grainer Harpsichord Group (Chappell Music, 1966)

Note: Grids were first published in the Radio Times on 18 February 1927 one for football and one for ‘Rugger fans’.

Monday 1 April 2024

Shipping Movements

A little bit of radio broadcasting history happens today as, for the first time since 1956, there will no longer four shipping forecasts a day. This is all part of the plan to decommission Radio 4’s long wave transmitter (see note) and to acknowledge that those at sea are more likely to get their information electronically, e.g. NAVTEX.  

It was in April 1956, Sunday 22nd to be precise, that the BBC and the Met Office reorganised the broadcasting of the shipping forecast so that it would be heard on 1500m long wave on the Light Programme. Prior to that, since its resumption after the war, it had been carried on the medium wave (and VHF) frequencies of the Home Service as part of their mixed shipping and general weather bulletins.

Those initial Light Programme dedicated shipping forecasts were heard at 7.45am, 1.40pm (12 noon on Sunday), 5.58pm (7.28pm on Sunday) and 12 midnight.  By the end of the decade the first bulletin was an hour earlier at 6.45am. By the mid-60s with the extension of broadcasting hours the forecasts were at 6.45am, 1.55pm (11.55am on Sunday), 5.58pm and 2.02am. The Sunday 11.55am bulletin, just before Family Favourites, was on long wave only whilst listeners on VHF heard a 5-minute pre-recorded programme preview called Good Listening.

Radio Times (23 March 2024) on the long wave changes

By 1974 Radio 2 had forecasts at 6.33am, 1.55pm (11.55am on Sunday), 5.55pm and 12.33am. A year later the VHF alternative of Good Listening was now heard twice on a Sunday and during each weekday’s afternoon forecast.

Following the wavelength reshuffle in November 1978 the forecasts came over to Radio 4 and were initially heard at 6.25am, 1.55pm, 5.50pm and 12.15am. The last ships moved to its now familiar 12.48am position in 1995 and the afternoon reading shifted to 12 noon in 1998. The early morning forecast moved progressively earlier to 5.55am, 5.35am and finally 5.20am on 24 April 2006.

Here's the last weekday 5.54pm forecast on long wave only from 29 March 2024 read by Al Ryan. The early evening forecast will continue on all frequencies on Saturday and Sunday.

Here's the last long wave only forecast read at 12 noon on 31 March 2024 by Ron Brown.

The other programme on the move today is the Daily Service, one of BBC radio’s longest-running programmes, dating back to January 1928. On Radio 4 the 15 minute service has always been broadcast mid-morning with times varying between 10.00am, 10.15am, 10.30am and, since April 1998, on long wave only at 9.45am. Today it makes the move over to Radio 4 Extra, which at least suggests that station has got a reprieve. Yesterday in Parliament is also due to move to 4 Extra though parliament is in the Easter recess at the moment.  Cricket fans will be able to hear Test Match Special on Radio 5 Sports Extra and on BBC Sounds.  

Note: The closure of the long wave is now likely to be June 2025 due to the requirement to move about 900,000 households and businesses from older Economy 7 electricity meters that rely on the Radio Teleswitching Service (RTS) that is carried on the LW transmitter. As well as the Droitwich transmitter the Radio 4 long wave broadcasts are provided at Burghead and Westerglen to cover Scotland and Northern Ireland. Radio 4’s medium wave transmitters will close on 15 April 2024. The affected transmitters are: Crystal Palace 720 kHz, Redmoss 1449 kHz, Enniskillen 774 kHz, Lisnagarvey 720 kHz, Carlisle 1485 kHz, Wrekenton 603 kHz, Plumer Barracks 774 kHz, Redruth 756 kHz and Londonderry 720 kHz. 

Friday 15 March 2024

The Not Now Show

So The Now Show becomes The Then Show after this next series as time is called on one of radio’s longest running comedy shows. Punt and Dennis have casting their eye over topical news stories for the last 26 years, a remarkable run. And when you take into account their work on Live on Arrival, The Mary Whitehouse Experience and It’s Been a Bad Week the duo have been on the radio pretty much consistently for 36 years.

Steve and Hugh are not disappearing from BBC Radio 4 however:  a second series The Train at Platform 4 follows in July, Steve will be asking the questions on series 14 of The 3rd Degree also starting in July and together they’ll be working on a podcast (naturally) called RouteMasters which will also be broadcast in October. 

I’ve written about The Now Show before back in 2015 – see That Was the Week – Part 6 – complete with a couple of editions of the programme from 1998 and 2012. This time I’m offering three more recordings.

Firstly, the series two opener from 3 April 1999. It’s worth pointing out that The Now Show wasn’t yet a Friday night comedy fixture, that happened from series four. This edition went out on Saturday at 6.15 pm, the old Week Ending repeat slot, with an in-week repeat on Tuesday at 11 pm. Early series tended to rely more on a regular team rather than a number of guest contributors. In this show the regulars are David Quantick, Emma Clarke, Dan Freedman, Nick Romero , Jane Bussmann and the guest is Kevin Day.

The Wikipedia entry for the show mentions the time in July 2005 when the show was recorded without an audience due to the London bombings on the day of recording. Of course that entry should probably be updated to mention the shows in 2020 for series 57 and 58 that had to be recorded remotely with no audience due to Covid-19 restrictions. Anyway here is that 22 July 2005 edition with Mitch Benn, Jon Holmes, Laura Shavin and guest Andy Zaltzman.     

Back to 2016 and just two months before THAT referendum this show from the start of series 48 features Gemma Arrowsmith, Marcus Brigstocke (both appear in the first show tonight) and an early appearance by Mae Martin. It’s from the period when they had the bright idea of including a journalist or some expert talking about an issue of the day, a spot that often drained the comedy out of the programme, in this show its Felicity Spector from Channel 4 News on the impending US presidential election.

The 64th and final series of The Now Show starts tonight and runs for six weeks. 

Richard Wiseman wrote abou the ending of The Now Show for the Radio Times (w/c 13 April 2024) 

Sunday 10 March 2024

An Everyday Story of an Omnibus Edition

As any BBC Radio 4 controller knows, you ‘refresh’ the schedules at your peril. And what’s more, to tinker with The Archers is sure to incur the wrath of any dyed-in-the-wool Ambridge fan. Cue the letters in green ink and emails fired off to Feedback.

But this is exactly what Radio 4 controller Mohit Bakaya is doing from next month as the Sunday omnibus edition of The Archers is shifted by an hour to the later start time of 11am. Taking its place after Broadcasting House is an extended one hour Desert Island Discs. As a sop to listeners whose Sunday morning routines will now be in disarray the omnibus edition will be available online at midnight, presumably so that Archers listeners can play it out for themselves just after Paddy O’Connell has signed off.

To be fair the omnibus edition has been at 10am on Sundays for the last 26 years. It was moved forward by 15 minutes in April 1998 under the controllership of James Boyle. He’d gain himself something of a reputation as schedule meddler -in-chief, changing the time of the weekday editions of The Archers from 1.40pm to 2pm, dropping the repeat of the Friday edition (reinstated in the new changes) and adding a Sunday evening edition.  Boyle also extended Today, changed the start time of Woman’s Hour lopped 10 minutes off The World at One and dropped the likes of Kaleidoscope (for Front Row), Week Ending, Sport on 4 and Breakaway. Interestingly Desert Island Discs also moved from 12.15pm to 11.15am where it also has remained until next month.     

But surely The Archers omnibus edition has always been on a Sunday morning? Well, no it hasn’t, as this dip into the schedules of Radio 4, the Light Programme and the Home Service will demonstrate.

7.30 pm on Saturday

Well that surprised you. Yes, when the omnibus editions first started on 5 January 1952 – a year after the programme had first been nationally broadcast – it was on a Saturday night. In 1952 it was on the Light Programme so followed programmes such as Sports Report, Jazz Club and Radio Newsreel.

4.00 pm on Sunday

From 26 July 1953 the omnibus moves to Sunday. Why? Well I’ll come to that.

7.30 pm on Saturday

Yes even Light Programme controller Kenneth Adam liked to move the radio furniture now and then as the omnibus is back to Saturday night by the end of September 1953. That same week saw the start of Friday Night is Music Night, also recently in the news as it re-appears on Radio 3.

9.10 am on Sunday

Listeners can, in July, August and September 1954, now ‘have breakfast with The Archers’. But what’s behind this Saturday night/Sunday morning swapping? Well it coincides with the summer Proms concerts. In the 1950s the Proms were not the exclusive preserve of the Third Programme and would also be broadcast on the Light and the Home Service. This summer pattern continues in 1955.

7.30 pm on Saturday

This remains the usual slot apart from when the Proms are on in 1955. The Sunday morning versions start at 9.10 am and run for 50 minutes rather than the usual one hour so actually there’s a bit of editing going on here to make the omnibus version fit the timeslot.  

8.00 pm on Saturday

It’s moved on by half-an-hour from 1 October 1955. In the summer of 1956 it again pops up on Sunday, this time at 3.15 pm. In mid July 1957 it temporarily moves to Sundays at 9.10 am.

12.15 pm on Saturday

For some reason, between 28 September and 30 November 1957, the omnibus is now heard on the Home Service on Saturday lunchtime, again in a truncated form. The weekday editions remain on the Light Programme.

9.45 am on Sunday

Finally, from 8 December 1957, the omnibus edition ends up on Sundays where it has remained ever since. Back in 1957 on the Light Programme it was followed at 10.30 am by Easy Beat, so it remains very much edited down from the regular weekday broadcasts.

9.32 am on Sunday  

On 1 January 1961 it moves back a few minutes and is now just under an hour long so presumably we’re now getting the full weekly story. It follows Chapel in the Valley and a two-minute news bulletin at 9.30 am.

9.30 am on Sunday

From 30 August 1964 the Home Service takes the Sunday morning omnibus and, as it happens, Chapel in the Valley. Meanwhile over on the Light they have The Record Show with Geoffrey Wheeler followed by Easy Beat. The fact that Radio Caroline, with its all day pop programmes, had started earlier that year is purely coincidental surely!

Meanwhile from 14 December 1964 the Home Service starts to repeat the previous day’s Light Programme broadcast. From Monday 2 January 1967 the Home Service broadcast all editions of The Archers .The Home Service becomes BBC Radio 4 on 30 September of that year.

6.15 pm on Sunday

In 1976 Ian McIntyre is appointed as the new controller of Radio 4 and a year later, from 2 October 1977 he causes major consternation by moving The Archers omnibus to Sunday evening at 6.15 pm; at the same time dislodging Letter from America from Sunday morning to lunchtime. Listeners complain in droves. Correspondents to the Radio Times were not happy: ‘I feel like weeping...the most disastrous change of all” (Renee Obard, Salisbury) and ‘change for the sake of change has no appeal’ (S.C. Russell, Bolton). Even the offering of a quadraphonic stereo transmission – for the first omnibus edition at any rate – failed to impress: ‘the pleasure afforded to a few listeners of hearing The Archers in stereo and quad must surely be outweighed by the discomfort caused to those who, like myself, are now denied the pleasure of listening at all, albeit in humble mono’ (R. Collingwood, Camberley)   

The incoming Director General Ian Trethowan tells McIntyre to think again. Bizarrely someone protests by nailing both an abusive letter and a kipper to the door of McIntyre’s son’s room at his Cambridge college. BBC Governor Lady Seota complains that it has “up-ended her life”. Eventually after increasing pressure from listeners and the governors McIntrye relents and the omnibus programme reverts back to Sunday mornings from July 1979.

10.15 on Sunday

This becomes the new time for the omnibus edition for the next 19 years. Returning to Sunday morning on 1 July 1979 it is preceded by Letter from America (which had already been moved back to Sunday morning) and the Morning Service and followed by Weekend Woman’s Hour, back on air after been dropped in late 1974.

10.00 on Sunday

On 19 April 1998 there are changes to Radio 4 Sunday morning’s schedule as mentioned above. At 9 am we get a brand new programmes Broadcasting House in which ‘Eddie Mair presents a fresh approach to news’ followed by The Archers now 15 minutes earlier and also 15 minutes longer. And that is how things have remained until now.  

Sunday 11 February 2024

Wogan House

Wogan House falls silent this month as engineers continue to decommission the BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music studios. The stations have been based in what was then Western House since 2006, at the time of the Broadcasting House re-development. Prior to that there were some production booths in the building. Radio 2 and 6 Music have been moving into new studios back over in NBH, with the daytime news bulletins now coming from studio WG1. Any late-night revelries in the BBC Club, also in Wogan House, ended in December 2023 prior to its move into the existing Media Cafe area by the end of April.

Studio 6A in Wogan House (2018)

The BBC first occupied Western House in 1953 and for many years it was the home of the Designs Group of the Engineering division. A car showroom remained on the ground floor premises until the early 60s. Later the Recorded Sound Effects Library moved in. 

Western House in 2015. The following year on
16 November 2016 it was renamed Wogan House

The lease for the building will transfer to Landmark Space who propose to use it as ‘flexible office spaces’. It will be known as 99 Great Portland Street.

Studio 6B (2024)

Studio 4D (2024)

As far as I’m aware the last 6 Music show from Wogan House is today with Gideon Coe, in for Cerys Matthews. The last Radio 2 shows are this coming Friday.

Friday 9 February 2024

Not the A to Z of Radio Comedy: I is for In One Ear

I first heard Steve Brown on Radio 4’s late-night live comedy show In One Ear. His songs, musical skits and attempts to paint himself as the “affable sex symbol” were an integral part of the show. Press releases of the time also described him variously as “a good natured Nicholas Ball”, “the versatile Brown” and “the man who wrote the press release”.  

In One Ear enjoyed a run of three series of live Saturday late-night shows (plus a recorded pilot and a Christmas special) between 1983 and 1986. It brought together a cast of four: Nick Wilton principally an actor though also in revue and a scriptwriter, stand-up comedian Helen Lederer, musician Steve Brown and actor Clive Mantle. Mantle’s height (6’5½”) and his role at the time as Little John in ITV’s Robin of Sherwood was the subject of much ribbing in the show.     

Before In One Ear both Nick and Steve had worked together a number of times. In 1982 they appeared in the Perrier award-winning show Writer’s Inc. alongside Jamie Rix and Vicky Pile. Rix would go on to produce In One Ear and Vicky wrote for it. (Nick’s first professional role was in the farce Simple Spymen directed by Jamie’s dad the veteran farceur Brian Rix).  Wilton and Brown also worked together in the Spring of 1982 in a two-week run at the Fortune Theatre of News Revue, an attempt at a musical satire show with Wilton in the cast and Brown at the piano. In July 1982 there was a limited run of Ha Bloody Ha! at the Gate in Notting Hill. This sketch and music show also featured Jan Ravens, at the time a radio comedy producer (Week Ending etc.). The following year she and Steve would marry (they divorced in 1993) and from 1986 to 1988 they were part of the Sunday morning Brunch crew on Capital Radio (CFM) with Roger Scott, Jeremy Pascall, Paul Burnett and later Angus Deayton.

Steve’s first radio gig was as a song writer on the 1982 sketch show Three Plus One. Produced by Jan Ravens it also featured the musical talents of Philip Pope, already an established performer on Radio Active. This led to Steve working with Philip on future series of Radio Active and, a few years later, on Spitting Image.  

The cast recorded the pilot of In One Ear in April 1983 but it had to wait until December for broadcast. By then a series had already been commissioned to run the following May and June. Nick Wilton was already appearing in another Radio 4 comedy show, the Grant and Naylor scripted Son of Cliché (1983-84). This show would win the 1984 Sony award as Best Light Entertainment Programme, Radio Active having bagged it the year before. In 1985 it was the turn of In One Ear.  

To introduce the first series in May 1984, Radio Times staff writer David Gillard wrote this article. By the way, take the reference to The Goons as the last live comedy show with a large pinch of salt. That show was, to my knowledge, always recorded, though interestingly enough the In One Ear team do reference The Goons in the pilot episode.  

The art of living dangerously

The sign on the door of one of the BBC Radio Light Entertainment offices reads: ‘Prefects Common Room. Knock before Entering’. Inside, the wine bottles and paper cups on the table suggest St Trinians, though the assembled ‘prefects’ seems a studious bunch. Here, in earnest conclave are the producer, writer and performers of In One Ear – radio’s first live comedy show since the Goons.

‘Above all, we have to justify going out live at 11.30,’ producer Jamie Rix, tells his team. ‘We’re not going to hide behind the format – we’re going to be different and we’ve got to be dangerous. The audience at home must be unsure about which way we’re heading. We must constantly take them by surprise by going off at unexpected tangents.’

The programmes’ tongue-in-cheek publicity poster describes In One Ear as ‘somewhere between alternative cabaret and a puerile adolescent undergraduate revue’. Jamie, in a more serious moment, prefers to call it ‘cabaret revue with a satirical element’. The four performers Nick Wilton (late of Carrott’s Lib), stand-up comedienne Helen Lederer, Radio Active songwriter Steve Brown and actor Clive Mantle –share the burden of providing Rix with ‘seamless comedy’.

Though occasionally adopting another persona, they will all be playing themselves – or, at least what they see as their ‘radio selves’. Nick is ‘paranoid and politically naive’; Helen is ‘slightly embarrassed and neurotic’, modest Steve ‘a romantic crooner and an affable sex symbol’, while Big Clive (recently seen as Little John in ITV’s Robin of Sherwood) is ‘the thick-set, strong-voiced type’.

Jamie Rix, who produced Radio Active and The Best of Bentine and was once a writer on Not the Nine O’Clock News believes they have the recipe for a controversial, hard-hitting comedy success, though there will be no attempt to shock for shock’s sake. ‘We’ve been put into a slot where we can offend the least people-just before the Shipping Forecast’ he says with a grin. ‘But we’re not out to offend. We’re out to challenge.’


So here is that first episode from Saturday 12 May 1984. Although Radio 7/Radio 4 Extra have repeated some episodes I’m not aware that this was been heard since. The show doesn’t entirely eschew BBC comedy traditions as there’s a parody poking fun at the recent Granada tv series The Jewel in the Crown and a Fats Waller gag straight out of I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again. “It’s time for comedy....”

From a couple of weeks later comes the third show. It includes Steve and Nick singing Hello Alexei, referencing Alexei Sayle’s ‘Ullo John! Gotta New Motor? that had charted a couple of months previously. Hello Alexei was itself released as a single on the Red Door label at the end of 1984. The B side Nobody Ever Listens to the B Side featured Nick doing his John Cooper Clarke impression as he had done in the pilot episode. The single didn’t chart.      

Steve Brown’s death at the age of 66 was announced last week.

In One Ear episode guide:

All programmes (except pilot) broadcast live at 2330 on Saturday night

Pilot: Tuesday 27 December 1983

Series 1: 12 May 1984 to 30 June 1984 (8 programmes)

Christmas Special: 22 December 1984

Series 2: 16 February 1985 to 6 April 1985 (8 programmes)

Series 3: 30 November to 1 February 1985, except 21st and 28th December (8 programmes)

The In One Ear poster comes from Nick's website

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