Monday, 30 June 2014

World Cup 1986, 1990 and 1994

The World Cup returned to Mexico for the 1986 tournament with time difference leading to 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. kick-offs UK time. There was plenty of home nation interest as for the second time running England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all qualified.

Radio 2’s match commentary, all on medium wave, starts with the Group A opener on 31 May: Italy vs Bulgaria. Commentating are Mike Ingham and Peter Jones. Over on BBC1 they precede coverage of the opening ceremony and game with the classic Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? episode, No Hiding Place. 

On weekdays Radio 2 provides World Cup overnight news at 6.02 a.m., 7.07 and 8.07. There are match reports at 8.02 p.m., 9.02, 12.05 and 1.02 in addition to the normal afternoon Sports Desks at 1.05 p.m., 2.02, 3.02, 4.02, 5.05, 6.02, 6.45 on MW only and 9.55. Also keeping an eye on proceedings in Mexico was Sport on 2, at the time presented by Tony Adamson, and Stuart Hall’s Sunday Sport.

Commentary on the first round matches involving Northern Ireland comes from Mike Ingham and Mark Robson. At the time Mark worked for BBC Northern Ireland and would later move to UTV and then Sky Sports as part of their rugby commentary team. Scotland’s matches were covered by Mike Ingham and Roddy Forsyth with analysis by Denis Law. Print journalist Roddy joined the BBC in 1986 and would become the Scottish Football Correspondent for Radio Sport; he remains a regular on 5 Live’s sports team. 

This is part of a World Cup Special from 3 June 1986. Can anyone identify the theme tune please, it's been bugging me for days and I'm convinced I have a copy of it somewhere. (Edit: It's Aztec Lightning by Heads).

Meanwhile the England matches had commentary from Peter Jones and Bryon Butler with summaries by Ron Greenwood.  Only England progressed to the second round and then onto the quarter-finals before defeat against Argentina and that famous ‘hand of God’ goal. Commentary on the final on 29 June (Argentina vs West Germany) was again a Jones/Butler commentary.

Italia 90 introduced football fans to Nessun Dorma, John Barnes rapping and the pain of an England penalty shootout. It was Radio 2’s final tournament – Radio 5 would take over all the sports coverage from August 1990 though that station didn’t actually get round to handling a World Cup tournament – and as usual it was on medium wave only and confined to home nation matches; this time England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. Theplanned coverage was of the opening game, the semi-finals and the final. With Ireland and England progressing beyond the group stages there was some added quarter-final action too.

Radio 2’s coverage was presented by John Inverdale, who also fronted the Wimbledon programmes when they started, including some joint programmes when the tennis and football overlapped. The Radio Times is a little light on who commentated on which game but the listed team are Mike Ingham, Alan Green, Ron Jones with expert analysis from Denis Law and Ray Clemence.  

With Scotland once again in the running, commentary on those games was also carried on Radio Scotland – can anyone confirm the commentary team? On 16 June there was a clash of 8 p.m. kick-offs so whilst Radio 2 carried England vs Holland, Radio Scotland carried Sweden vs Scotland.

Additional World Cup news, and some commentary, was heard on Sport on 2 with Jon Champion and Sunday Sport with Charles Colville. The Republic of Ireland’s match against Egypt was heard on Sunday Sport for instance.  There was also an extra World Cup Report each evening after the 11 p.m. news.

The final (West Germany vs Argentina) on Sunday 8 July was covered in an extended Wimbledon 90 and World Cup 90 programme from 2 p.m. to about 9 p.m. as the Men’s Singles Final took place that day too.

By the time we get to 1994, Radio 5 Live had arrived – replacing the short-lived Radio 5 - and there was plenty of airtime to fill. Football was more popular than ever due to Sky Sports upping the ante and over on ITV we had the adaptation of the stage play An Evening with Gary Lineker.

The 5 Live coverage was linked by Jon Champion though were it overlapped with Wimbledon we had John Inverdale, or on Tuesday evenings as part of Inside Edge presented by Jonathan Legard. There was also coverage as part of Saturday’s Sport on Five with either Ian Payne or Marcus Buckland and on Sunday Sport with Eleanor Oldroyd. The commentary team in the USA was Mike Ingham, Alan Green, Ron Jones  and Rob Hawthorne. Providing the expert analysis were Mark Lawrenson and David Pleat.

The only ‘local’ interest was the Republic of Ireland so in the first week we also had commentary on Germany vs Bolivia, USA vs Switzerland, Germany vs Spain, Italy vs Norway and Brazil vs Cameroon as well as Ireland’s match against Italy. The final on 17 July (Brazil vs Italy and the first to be decided on penalties) coincided with The Three Tenors Concert from the Dodger Stadium in LA. This was broadcast on both BBC1 and Radio 2.

And that is where I leave the World Cup for the time being. Further posts may follow in four year’s time, assuming we qualify.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

World Cup 1978 and 1982

1978, and the World Cup moves to Argentina. Just as in 1974 England fail to qualify and hopes are pinned on Ally’s Tartan Army. Andy Stewart charts with Ally’s Tartan Army and Rod Stewart with Ole, Ola. BBC coverage uses the Andrew Lloyd Webber penned Argentine Melody and ITV Alan Tew’s Action Argentina.

All the radio coverage is on Radio 2 and we start to see a gradual increase in the time devoted to the tournament. The weekday 15 minute Sports Desk broadcast at 18:45 is extended to nearly half-an-hour and on days when there’s play an additional Sports Desk goes out at 23:02 just before Round Midnight.

For the first time the opening ceremony and the opening game (West Germany vs Poland) are covered. Commentary (all on long wave only as Radio 2’s music programmes continue on VHF) is by Peter Jones and Alan Parry, with David Francey of BBC Scotland again joining the team for Scotland’s group matches. “Expert comments” come from Denis Law.

In addition to Scotland’s games (they don’t progress further than the first round) there’s commentary on the Italy vs Argentina game. The only other commentary is the final on 25 June (Netherlands vs Argentina) with Peter Jones, Bryon Butler and Denis Law. 

It’s also worth mentioning an “all-star entertainment” that acted as a prelude to the tournament: Good Luck, Scotland.  Broadcast on Radio 2 on Bank Holiday Monday (29 May) it’s now perhaps best known for featuring the last-ever outing for Steptoe and Son in a specially written 15 minute sketch called Scotch on the Rocks (there’s a poor quality version on YouTube). The hour-long show also featured Ernie Wise, Janet Brown, Michael Hext (Young Musician of the Year), Peter Morrison, Tom Conti, Helen McArthur, The Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Max Harris Orchestra. Writing some of the material were Barry Cryer and John Junkin.   

With three ‘home’ countries in contention – England, Scotland and Northern Ireland – the 1982 World Cup coverage had to step up a gear. In the first week from Spain, Radio 2 (now on medium wave) offered a match a day between Tuesday and Friday.

Commentary on England’s games was provided by Peter Jones and Bryon Butler, with expert analysis from Jimmy Armfield. Looking after the Scottish matches was George Hamilton and David Begg with summaries from Frank McLintock. George Hamilton continues to commentate for the World Cup for RTE and is part of their 2014 team. David Begg worked for BBC Scotland and this was his first World Cup. He continued to commentate north of the border until his retirement in 2012. Meanwhile the Northern Ireland commentary was by Alan Green and Peter Brackley. Alan Green had only recently joined BBC Sport and is, of course, commentating at the 2014 for Radio 5 Live. Peter Brackley had been on Radio 2 since the late 70s but this was to be his last World Cup for the BBC as he joined ITV at the start of the 1982/3 season.

With so many games to cover there was, for the first time, a clash of sporting occasions when, in week two, the afternoon kick-offs coincided with Wimbledon. The tennis coverage was presented that year by Mike Ingham (normally it would’ve been Peter Jones), and Mike was also the regular host of Sport on 2 at that time. There were combined Wimbledon/World Cup Special programmes on 25 June and 1 July.  As usual the music continued over on VHF with Ed Stewart and David Hamilton, though both were on holiday on some point that month and cover came from the continuity announcers Don Durbridge and Colin Berry.

As only England and Northern Ireland progressed to the next round and then both failed to go further, there was no other commentary until the final (Italy vs West Germany) on 11 July. Presenting was Mike Ingham with match commentary from Peter Jones, Bryon Butler and Jimmy Armfield.

In the next post 1986 and 1990.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

World Cup 1970 and 1974

The first World Cup of which I have a clear memory of is the 1970 tournament held in Mexico. I’d cut out a full-page colour photograph of the England squad from the back of the Daily Express – a broadsheet back then – and sellotaped it to a large board.  England where knocked out by Germany in the quarter-finals. Their record Back Home fared better and made number one that May.

I happen to have one back issue of the Radio Times that covers that World Cup – a photo of Bobby Moore adorns the cover. BBC TV’s daily coverage was hosted by David Coleman, Frank Bough and David Vine but on radio - unlike today’s almost continuous coverage – commentary was wholly concentrated on the home nation games – in this case just England-  apart from the final and one of the semi-finals.

Although we now associate Radio 2 in the 1970s and 1980s as being the home of radio sport, the 1970 World Cup matches were broadcast exclusively on Radio1’s 247 metre wavelength.  At the time this was not as unusual as it may now seem. From Radio 1’s launch in September 1967 it had regularly carried any midweek matches, although, confusingly not all such matches – some still appeared over on Radio 2. For example on 29 May 1968 the European Cup Final (Benfica v Manchester United) was on Radio 1 whilst the following week on 5 June the semi-final of European Nations’ Championship Cup (England vs Yugoslavia) was on Radio 2.

The radio commentary team was Maurice Edelston, who along with Brian Moore, Alan Clarke and Simon Smith had covered the 1966 competition, Bryon Butler, who’d become the radio football correspondent in 1968, and Peter Jones. Peter had joined the BBC in 1966 as a sports assistant and had been involved covering the Group 4 and the quarter-final matches played in the North-East in that year’s World Cup. He joined the rota of presenters of the Saturday afternoon Sports Session in late 1967 and was the first host of Sport on 2 when it started in April 1970.    

The 1970 coverage differs from that four years earlier as listeners were now treated to commentary of the full game for England’s group stage matches, and not just second-half commentary. We did get second-half commentary on a semi-final (possibly Italy vs West Germany) and most of the final (Brazil vs Italy) on 21 June just after an extra programme, Summer Solstice, that followed Alan Freeman and Pick of the Pops.

Here sports journalist Geoffrey Green recalls England’s match against West Germany on 14 June 1970.

For the 1974 World Cup it was Scotland that was the sole representative from the UK. All commentaries were now on Radio 2 long wave. Listeners to Radio Scotland (on VHF and MW) also heard carried the match commentaries. Scotland’s third group stage match was covered as part of that Saturday’s Sport on 2.

Commentary was provided by Peter Jones and David Francey, who was a regular commentator for BBC Scotland, with analysis from Mike England. Presenting the coverage was Alan Parry who’d joined the sports unit from BBC Radio Merseyside in 1973. Apart from Scotland’s matches there were no further commentaries until the final (Netherlands vs West Germany) on 7 July with Jones and Parry.

In the next post 1978 and 1982.

Thanks to Robin Carmody for helping me fill in some of the gaps.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Stop the World with Francis Matthews

One of the lesser-known programmes in the Francis Matthews CV is the Radio 2 comedy series Stop the World.

Actor Francis Matthews, who sadly died over the weekend, starred in four series of the show that promised to uncover “amusing and bizarre stories from home and abroad”.  Essentially he linked comic skits and one-liners based on stories culled from the world’s press. The style, if not the content, was not dissimilar to the Trends section of Round the Horne; there was even a radio announcer taking part in proceedings, this time the by now retired Ronald Fletcher.
Also assisting Francis were Sally Grace, later a Week Ending regular, actor David Timson and, doing his first radio work, singer-songwriter Richard Digance.

Radio Times 12 October 1980
Stop the World ran between 1979 and 1983 and was a follow-up to the not dissimilar Offbeat with Braden (1978) which perhaps explains the presence of Ronald Fletcher, the regular announcer in Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly’s 1950s comedy series Breakfast with Braden (and later Bedtime with Braden).  
This recording is episode four of series two and was broadcast on Sunday 2 November 1980. The producer is Alan Nixon. The programme announcer doing the topping and tailing is Tim Gudgin. Listen out for Francis Matthews doing his Cary Grant impression, the basis for his Captain Scarlet voice.

Stop the World
All series on BBC Radio 2 and produced by Alan Nixon.
Series 1 Wednesdays 2202-2230
With Francis Matthews, Ronald Fletcher, Sally Grace, Gregory de Polnay and Richard Digance
Written by Geoffrey Atkinson and Jimmy Mulville
12 episodes 14 November 1979 to 30 January 1980 (episode 7 26 December 1979 broadcast 1302-1330)
Series 2 Sundays 2202-2230
With Francis Matthews, Ronald Fletcher, Sally Grace, David Timson and Richard Digance
Written by Geoffrey Atkinson and John Langdon
12 episodes 12 October 1980 to 28 December 1980
Series 3 Sundays 1702-1730
Cast and writers as above
12 episodes 7 June 1981 to 23 August 1981
Series 4 Mondays 2203-2230
Cast and writers as above
13 episodes 1 November 1982 to 31 January 1983 (not broadcast 27 December 1982)

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Oranges and Lemons

On D Day+1 the BBC launched the Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme (the AEF) on 285 metres, a joint venture between the Corporation, the American Forces Network and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Announcing the new service at 05.55 Double British Summertime on 7 June 1944 was Franklin Engelmann.

The signature tune Oranges and Lemons (played on the nova-chord) was followed by Rise and Shine co-hosted by Sergeant Dick Dudley from the USA and A/C2 Ronnie Waldman from the BBC (later Head of Light Entertainment in the post-war TV service). The AEF Programme gave listeners in Europe the chance to hear US shows such as Amos and Andy, Command Performance, The Bob Hope Show and the sound of Glen Miller and his Orchestra (Miller pictured above with Dinah Shore). Canadian Robert Farnon was also a regular broadcaster as conductor of the Canadian Band of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. AEF announcers included Margaret Hubble and Jean Metcalfe.

The service closed down on D Day + 417 (28 July 1945) and in the final programme Ronnie Waldman played a number of versions of the Oranges and Lemons.

Margaret Hubble was on hand to make the final closing announcement. She would become a regular announcer on the BBC Light Programme and presenter of Woman’s Hour.

In 1984, to mark the 40th anniversary of the AEF Programme, Jean Metcalfe (pictured in the 1940s below) returned to the studio to present Oranges and Lemons. The documentary, written by David Rider, featured contributions from Cecil Madden, Margret Hubble, Stephen Williams, Robert Farnon, Anne Shelton, Nat Peck, Jimmy Miller, Brian Willey and Alan Dell. 

This programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on Thursday 7 June 1984. The producer was Ken Evans. The continuity announcer is Tim Gudgin.

Friday, 6 June 2014

War Report

On the evening of D-Day, 6 June 1944, the BBC Home Service broadcast the first in a ground-breaking series of programmes featuring recorded reports from correspondents on the front lines: War Report.

One of the reporters sending back dispatches recorded on the newly-developed Midget Recorder was Frank Gillard (pictured in 1944 above), who in 1985 revisited some of the battlegrounds and recalled how he and his colleagues brought the news back to Britain.
War Report was broadcast for fifteen minutes each evening at 9.15 p.m. from deep in the basement of Broadcasting House, Studio LG1. An enthralled audience of between ten and fifteen million would tune in.  There were some 235 editions, from D-Day until VE Day.  

This programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 11 August 1985. The producer at BBC Bristol was John Knight.

Radio Times feature on War Report 16 June 1944,
as reproduced in the 50th anniversary magazine.

D Day Has Come

John Snagge’s D Day announcements on the BBC are some of the most momentous archive recordings ever. Less well known is the story behind the announcement of Communique Number One and the importance of the pink card that contained the historic news.

This audio is a recording not of the initial announcement but of the midday bulletin read by Snagge on 6 June 1944.
The story of the behind-the-scenes events at Broadcasting House and at the small underground cubicle beneath the Senate House of London University – the wartime HQ of SHAEF, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces – were recalled by John Snagge and Michael Barsley in their book Those Vintage Years of Radio. Snagge takes up the narrative:

 “I had begun broadcasting many years before but in all those years, this was the most dramatic announcement I had ever made. It had an electrifying effect. The tension had been building up and increasing month by month, day by day, and finally hour by hour. As I read the announcement, from a pink card which had been handed to me at 9.15, I sensed the excitement, and knew what it would mean to the people at home, and especially to the resistance movement of the occupied countries in Europe.”
The story behind that pink card is also, in its own small way, dramatic. For the card had been written to be spoken by two announcers, and contained indications for Voice A and Voice B. The words were identical, but the announcement for Voice A had been crossed out in red pencil. Moreover, when Snagge went into his cubicle that morning (the broadcasting room was immediately below the Press Room, where the D Day news was given simultaneously and verbally) he realised that beside him another cubicle was the American military correspondent, Colonel Dupuis. His Voice A announcement, went out only to the troops waiting to go across to France to reinforce the initial landings.

What exactly had gone on, during the night hours, to make the change? Snagge takes up the story:
“We have to go back a bit. The date of the opening of the Second Front must have been one of the most closely guarded secrets of all time, and within the vast and intricate organisation necessary to mount such an assault, the BBC was destined to fulfil a special role – and to fulfil it according to the BBC method, that’s the important point. All the secrets have been out for years now – the last-minute postponement, the fact that the BBC Overseas reported the invasion two hours earlier, by quoting an Occupied Europe broadcast from Holland, and so on. But perhaps the victory of the BBC in insisting on the use of a well-known BBC voice first – which happened to be mine – has never before been properly emphasised. The man who won that victory was William Haley. As Director-General, he declared that the use of an American voice first would cause confusion, and that Voice A must not only be British, but be one of the regular, named announcers.”

The actual card of the announcement, with Voice A eliminated, was taken by Snagge back to Broadcasting House that day, and now hangs framed in his house. At one time, his friend Ed Murrow asked if he could borrow it, and when it was returned, the card was signed “To John Snagge, who first spoke these words on the air: Dwight D. Eisenhower.” Underneath are the confirming signatures: “Winston Churchill” and “Tedder” (Lord Tedder was then Eisenhower’s Deputy).

There were several more vitally important personnel involved in the D Day broadcasting story. As Head of Presentation, Snagge’s first job was to contact the Senior Superintendent Engineer, Leslie Hotine, and the man who put out European Service programmes, Gibson Parker. That was about three weeks before 6th June. The equipment was to be installed at SHAEF, not at BH. All programmes were to be faded, and linked with United Nations Radio. European transmitters would then put out an Alerting Period, with an initial call in English, followed by recordings made by Heads of State in their own language – Queen Wilhelmina, King Haakon, General de Gaulle, and so on. Snagge had to write out all his instructions in longhand, without secretarial help, until Senior Controller, Basil Nicolls, was able to supply his own personal secretary, who was within the magic circle. Frank Phillips recalls that he was in charge of Overseas announcements from Bush House, but said to Snagge “I don’t know what my instructions are.” Nor did Joseph Macleod, who was detailed for the Continuity announcing. The instructions were, of course, in longhand – in the safe.       

So to 5th June, and Snagge continues:
“I had not been allowed to leave Broadcasting House for days. I couldn’t even leave the office – not even to make necessary physical calls – without informing Duty Officer. On the 5th, I went to bed as usual, with no indication that we were on the verge of D Day. But looking back, I remember that the engineer in charge, Leslie Hayes, had a habit of saying, knowingly, ‘You can sleep tight tonight,’ or something similar. He said it on the night of the fourth, but not on the night of the 5th! At about 4 a.m. my bedside phone rang. Jim Forte, the Duty Officer, said: ‘You must report to SHAEF headquarters at once.’ I rang Frank and Joseph, and told them to take up their positions. With Pat Ryan[who led the BBC War Reporting Unit] I walked the ten minutes or so over to Malet Street. I don’t remember what we talked about. At 6.30 a.m. Macleod opened up the Service normally, and according to programmes in the Radio Times. We sat and waited. We know we had dynamite to announce –at last.

“A sergeant brought me a slip of paper at 9.0 a.m., headed Topflight Zero 732 GMT. This meant that 0932 Double British Summer Time was the deadline.  I contacted Joseph, to transfer from BBC to me at SHAEF, To Frank Phillips I said ‘Get the keys of the safe from Gibson Parker,’ and gave him zero hour. I had to scribble my own introduction to the Announcement on the pink card. Colonel Dupuis started his broadcast first, but only to his limited audience. The moment I heard him announce the invasion of Europe I went ahead too. After reading the momentous words, I repeated them, and again many times during the day, to the first War Report.    
“To while away the time of waiting, some of the high-ranking British and US officers around that tiny studio organised a two-shilling sweepstake on the exact hour. I won eight shillings with my estimate of 9.0 a.m., and still have the odd scraps of paper on which we wrote down our estimates. Such is radio history.”

Extracted from Those Vintage Years of Radio by John Snagge and Michael Barsley published in 1972 by Pitman Publishing.  
There’s more about War Report in a blog post following later today.

Monday, 2 June 2014

The Buzzer

What is it for? Nobody knows. Or at least those that do are keeping it secret.

It’s a radio station that emits nothing except a buzzing sound and identifies itself as UVB-76 but is known around the world as The Buzzer.
What we do know is that it’s somewhere in Russia and that very occasionally, once every few months, there’ll be some cryptic voice message.

The Buzzer has been transmitting for about 30 years, no-one is exactly sure of that too. It may be related to the work of a geophysical observatory; conspiracy theorists would have you believe it’s operated by the Russian military.
Recently, for BBC Local Radio’s Evening Show, Radio Humberside's Chris Arundel reported on The Buzzer.

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