Friday, 1 June 2012

Silver Jubilee

Radio Times cover design by Candace Bahouth
As Britain celebrates the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with street parties, beacons and a Thames river procession I recall how national radio covered the 1977 Silver Jubilee, at a time when the nation commemorated with, yes, street parties, beacons and a Thames river procession.

In ’77 the big day was Tuesday 7 June, the Silver Jubilee Bank Holiday. Radio 4 got into Jubilee mode at 9 a.m. with, somewhat surprisingly, a musical offering recalling Edward German and Basil Hood’s comic opera Merrie England, with Tim Rice presenting the story and songs from “gramophone records”. At the time it was not uncommon for Radio 4 to broadcast music programmes, that week also saw record shows from Richard Baker and Robin Ray and on Jubilee Day there was a Beethoven Concert simulcast with Radio 3. Partly this was a throwback to the more mixed fare of the old Home Service and partly a cost-cutting exercise – the Robin Ray programme also went out on Radio 3.

The main event, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (with breaks for The Archers and The World at One) was introduced by Des Lynam and included a Service of Thanksgiving from St Paul’s Cathedral, a Royal Walkabout and The Queen’s Speech to the Commonwealth from The Guildhall. Providing the commentary were Robert Hudson (former Head of Radio OB), Alun Williams, John Snagge, Brian Johnston, Don Mosey and Judith Chalmers. In the studio with Des were veteran royal experts Godfrey Talbot (the BBC’s first Court Correspondent) and Audrey Russell. Four of the team had also commentated at the Queen’s Coronation in 1953: John Snagge, Alun Williams and Audrey Russell on the radio and Brian Johnston on the TV. 

Here's part of the commentary from an excited Brian Johnston and Robert Hudson.

And this is part of the Queen's speech.

In the afternoon Radio 4 broadcast part 17 of its 26 part epic series narrated by Richard Burton, Vivat Rex. Currently enjoying a repeat on BBC Radio 4 Extra the series provided a “dramatic chronicle of the English Crown through 200 years of its history by the Elizabethan playwrights Shakespeare, Marlowe and their contemporaries”.

On Radio 3 announcer Victor Hallam opened the day with a Jubilee Overture, with the first piece being Handel’s Coronation Anthem: Zadok the Priest. This Week’s Composer was Haydn who, by coincidence (or good planning) is also the featured composer in the Diamond Jubilee week.

There was another programme celebrating the first Queen Elizabeth in The Ride to Triumph (Radio 3 9.25 p.m.) all linked by Roy Strong and with narration from Denys Hawthorne. The Radio Times described it as “the entertainments and masques in honour of Elizabeth I and her successors contained in music, poetry and marvellous effects”.

Over on Radio 1 the main event of the day was a 6-hour show featuring The Nation’s All-Time Top 100, the whole jointly presented by Noel Edmonds, Tony Blackburn and Paul Burnett. This chart was based on a poll conducted in late 1976 in which listeners were invited to forecast the Top 3 for the following week and also to write on their postcard the name of their all-time favourite track. The chart aired just before Christmas, with Tony Blackburn, and got this Jubilee Day repeat. The Top 10 was:

1 I’m Not in Love – 10CC
2 Maggie May – Rod Stewart
3 Without You – Nilsson
4 Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
5 Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel
6 Hey Jude – The Beatles
7 Sailing – Rod Stewart
8 Seasons in the Sun – Terry Jacks
9 Alright Now – Free
10 I’m Still Waiting – Diana Ross
Tony is back for the Diamond Jubilee with Radio 2’s countdown of the 60 best-selling single artists of the last six decades.

Here's Adrian Juste trailing the Radio 1 schedule.

This clip is taken from Radio 1.

During the afternoon of Tuesday 7 June it was David Hamilton, normally a simulcast with Radio 2 but going its own way today on 247 metres, and It’s DLT OK! Between 7 and 10 p.m. there was a rare link-up between Radio 1 and the BBC’s local radio stations in a Jubilee Special under the control of Simon Bates. Rounding off the day was John Peel, presumably not featuring The Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen, though he had played it a couple of times the previous month.  

Radio Times illustration by Eric Gill
Radio 2 offered alternative coverage to Radio 4’s more formal output of the royal events. The day kicked off with Colin Berry and then Brian Matthew playing 25 years of hits. Wogan was on holiday this week so Brian was covering the breakfast slot. The main programme between 10 am. and 1 p.m. provided commentary from Pete “Open House” Murray and Jimmy Young with Ray Moore holding the fort and playing the odd record at Broadcasting House. 

Back on air for an hour at 1 p.m. was another veteran of the Coronation radio coverage Jean Metcalfe with Jubilee Requests. Hosting the afternoon show in place of Diddy David was Wally Whyton. As Radio 2 was the main sports channel Wally’s show also included racing from Sandown and Redcar, county cricket, the John Player tennis tournament and the Tour of Britain Milk Race. The Queen’s Speech to the Commonwealth was carried by both Radio 1 and 2 and chief announcer Jimmy Kingsbury provided the links.

It was pretty much a normal Radio 2 schedule for rest of the day though I note that Esther Rantzen made a guest appearance on Waggoners’ Walk. Des Lynam was back just after midnight with a 10-minute round-up of A Right Royal Day.    

The Queen’s River Progress took place on Thursday 9 June and was carried by Radio 2 with Ray Moore commentating, a special afternoon show with Jean Challis and then coverage of the Beating Retreat during John Dunn’s show with Chris Martin-Jenkins at Horse Guard’s Parade.

Other voices heard on-air on the Jubilee Bank Holiday included a brief return to news reading duties on Radios 1 and 2 for Bruce Wyndham who’d retired from the BBC the previous year. You’d have also heard James Alexander Gordon, David Bellan, Tom Edwards and Ruth Cubbin reading the news and Tim Gudgin announcing. On Radio 4 the continuity/news reading team was Harriet Cass (the only one still with the station), Pauline Bushnell, Edward Cole, Bryan Martin and David Willmott. 

1 comment:

Robin Carmody said...

Although no recordings have yet surfaced of Peel's show from 7th June 1977, part of his show from 6th June - the Jubilee Bank Holiday Monday - can be downloaded from the Peel Wiki. Slightly surprisingly (in that it's not the kind of music for which Peel '77 will always be remembered), he replayed a Genesis session from 1972.

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