Tuesday 30 December 2014

Rolling Back the Year

We are, apparently, slap bang in the middle of what some call Merryneum. That post Christmas period when we’ve had our fill of pud, turkey leftovers and the sales and we’re girding our loins for the New Year’s Eve revelries and the return to work. It’s also a time for reflection on the past year, the highlights and the lowlights, the good and the bad.

As usual there are a smattering of review programmes in the current national radio schedules. I’ve spotted BBC Radio 4’s News Review of the Year with Sarah Montague hash-tagging the year and Pick of the Year with Lynne Truss. On Radio 5 Live there’s Chris Warburton’s news and sports highlights in 5 Live in Short and the excellent Radio Review of the Year with Jane Garvey and Stephanie Hurst. On the World Service you can hear highlights from across the language services in The Fifth Floor.      
But on the RRJ blog I like to dip into the archive and so its not the last twelve months I’m remembering but the events on 1982 when for much of the year the focus in the UK was on a forgotten group of islands in the South Atlantic.

News Review of the Year 1982 is presented by one of the BBC's then foreign correspondents, David McNeil. It was produced by John Allen and broadcast on Radio 4 on Sunday 26 December 1982.

Monday 29 December 2014

Year Ending – 35 Years Ago

Do you recall the news events of 1979? No me neither, the General Election aside.  So to remind you, here’s the Week Ending team with their take on the year.

You’ll hear the voices of Bill Wallis, David Tate, Sheila Steafel and Chris Emmett with musical accompaniment from the David Firman Trio. The main writer is Guy Jenkin with other sketches, songs and news lines provided by Max Alcock, John Langdon, Roger Woddis, Peter Hickey, Richard Quick, Alan Nixon, Strode Jackson, Stephen Jacobs, Simon Rose, Vilnis Vesma and Andy Wilson.
This edition of Year Ending went out at 11.15 p.m. on New Year’s Eve (and no repeat) so goodness knows how many people heard it at the time. The BBC don’t have a copy but home recordings exist including this one from my archive.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

A Tip Top Christmas

Pull the master switch. All aboard for A Radio Tip Top Christmas.

Yes once again I crank up the Lunewyre technology to bring you this 1996 Christmas Day special hosted by Kid Tempo and The Ginger Prince for what was to be their last outing on BBC Radio 1.

May I wish a very Happy Christmas to all readers of the blog and offer particular thanks to all those that have kindly offered feedback, information and old recordings. I’ll be back with some year-end specials next week.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Big Holy Christmas

What was big and holy and appeared at Christmas? Answer: Simon Mayo’s Big Holy Christmas show on Radio 1. It was a seasonal version of the station’s mid-90s “irreligious religious” programme that was, according to Robert Hanks of The Times, “light on religion and heavy on the Mayo.”

The three Christmas Eve editions of Simon Mayo’s Big Holy Christmas in 1993, 1994 and 1995 are perhaps best remembered for the renditions of well-known Christmas carols in the hands of some unlikely pop stars. In this (edited) edition from 24 December 1994 you’ll hear Sparks perform Little Drummer Boy, Sandie Shaw attempts Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Squeeze with I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday, Donna Summer sings I’ll Be Home For Christmas and finally a specially composed, and untitled, tune from The Beautiful South.  

Monday 22 December 2014

Dates in Your Diary

For radio fans here’s the perfect gift, the Radio 1 diary, available at all good stockists.

This is the cover for the 1980 diary published by WM Collins and bought, no doubt, at WH Smith’s in Hull’s Prospect Centre. There are articles on Radio 1 in the eighties, How Hits are Made and biographies of the Radio 1 DJ line-up, from Bates to Vance. We also get a Pocket Disctionary (sic), an A to Z of all you need to know about the studio equipment and “deejay’s jargon” starting at “AM” stopping off at headings such as “Cartridges” “Quad” and “Turntables” and ending at “Zero Level”.

For the serious radio enthusiast who eschewed the fripperies of the nation’s favourite station there was always the Radio Diary. Again published by Collins, this (above) is my 1977 edition. This was aimed at the radio engineers with pages of features on transmitters, powers supplies and semi-conductor devices.  

Please note, these diaries may no longer be available!!

Friday 12 December 2014

Whittaker’s World

Broadcaster Mark Whittaker worked across a number of BBC radio stations for just over thirty years. A “thoroughly professional, thoughtful and clear broadcaster” who was, by all accounts great fun to work with.  

After training as a newspaper journalist Mark joined BBC Lancashire in 1983 before moving to BBC WM and then a long stint on Radio 1’s Newsbeat. In 1994 he was in the original line-up at BBC Radio 5 Live co-presenting a weekend show with Liz Kershaw (photo left). Moving to Radio 4 he hosted Costing the Earth and You and Yours. More recently he was a presenter on the World Service programmes World Business Report and Business Matters. Mark died on 1 October only a month after his final broadcast.
By way of a tribute this is Mark on Radio 1 in 1997 investigating the music business and the ways in which it could guarantee itself hits. Hyping the Hits was broadcast on a Sunday evening (23 February) immediately after Mark Goodier’s chart rundown.

Mark Whittaker 1957-2014

Read more about Mark on Bill Rogers’ blog Trading as WDR

Friday 5 December 2014

The Christmas Laughalong

Two of the most popular radio comedies of the late 70s and early 80s were Listen to Les (74-85) and Castle’s on the Air (74-83). Both Radio 2 shows came from the BBC’s Manchester comedy outpost under the stewardship of James Casey.

Occasionally the two stars, Les Dawson and Roy Castle, would come together for ‘Laughalong’ specials.  This is one such seasonal offering from 1982. Joining them are Castle’s radio sidekick Eli Woods, who’d also co-starred alongside Dawson on his YTV series Sez Les, and Daphne Oxenford who was a regular on Listen to Les. The music is provided by Brian Fitzgerald and his Orchestra.
The Christmas Laughalong was broadcast on Friday 24 December 1982.  

When I dug out the Laughalong tape on the other side was The Grumbleweeds Christmas Party. However, containing copious amounts of Savile impressions and a guest appearance from Stuart Hall that particular show won’t get a release anytime soon.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Lost Comedy Gems

There are a number of so-called “lost gems of the Light Programme and Home Service” airing on Radio 4 Extra over Christmas. As ever it’s great when the BBC dusts off (one somehow imagines the reels sitting on dusty old shelves rather than the temperature-controlled reality) these old comedy shows. All but one, the edition of Up the Pole, have not been heard on the radio in decades. And two really were “lost” as they come from off-air recordings provided by the Goon Show Preservation Society.     

This is what’s on offer in the week commencing 22 December 2014:
Over the Garden Wall was a Light Programme comedy in 1948/9 starring Lancastrian comic Norman Evans in which he brought his variety stage act of Fanny the garrulous gossip to the radio. His co-star was Ethel Manners (of the musical hall act Hatton and Manners) who played Mrs Higginbottom.

A Date with Nurse Dugdale was a six-part series that ran in 1944 starring Arthur Marshall as the eponymous Nurse Dugdale with her catchphrase “Out of my way deahs, out of my way instantly!” It was spin-off from the series Take It From Here, not the long-running Muir/Norden creation but an earlier 1943/44 series. Both Take It From Here and the Nurse Dugdale programmes also featured the May Fair Hotel Dance Orchestra conducted by bandleader and later renowned-DJ Jack Jackson.

Up the Pole ran for four series between 1947 and 1952 and starred Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss initially playing the cross-talking proprietors of a trading post in the Arctic. Later series shifted the action an apartment in a disused power station and a rural police station. Only one edition survives, from 1 November 1948, but has been heard again as part of Bill Oddie’s turn on Radio 7 and Radio 4 Extra as The Comedy Controller.     

It’s Great to Be Young was Ken Dodd’s first starring programme and ran between October 1958 and January 1961. It’s the one that gave rise to Doddy’s catchphrase “Where’s me shirt?” and co-starred impressionist Peter Goodwright.
Blackpool Night was a regular summer series of variety shows that ran from 1948 to 1967. It gave early radio appearances for Ken Dodd and Morecambe and Wise and its Eric and Ernie that star in this repeat from 18 August 1963.

The Naughty Navy Show was a one-off Home Service comedy from Christmas Day 1965 written by and starring Spike Milligan along with John Bird, Bernard Miles and Bob Todd.

Sid and Dora was another one-off show from 25 December 1965, this time over on the Light Programme. Described as a ‘domestic comedy for Christmas’ it starred Sid James, Dora Bryan and Pat Coombs. 

The Army Show also stars Spike Milligan and shares cast members with The Naughty Navy Show as well as Barry Humphries and Q series regular John Bluthal. The show was first broadcast on 16 June 1965 and has only been repeated once, and that was in 1966.
There’s more Milligan in the The GPO Show from Christmas Day 1964. The Radio Times unhelpfully describes it as follows: “Spike Milligan takes a benevolent but distinctly Milligoonish look at the work of that mighty institution the British Post Office. In fact he braves the hallowed precincts of Mount Pleasant itself, to report the merry, festive scene. With the stalwart shape of Harry Secombe and John Bluthal, to name but six, he will be giving listeners a seasonal view of Operation Mailbag in full swing.”  The GPO Show was recorded just five days before transmission and by then the Post Office had objected to the title on the grounds that GPO was a registered trademark so it was hastily changed to The Grand Piano Orchestra Show. The script, in part, was a re-working of an earlier Goon Show from 1954 titled The History of Communications.

And finally also worth mentioning, and of more recent vintage, is a repeat of the 2008 Archive Hour feature on Kenny Everett from music journalist Mark Paytress in Here’s Kenny. 
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