Thursday, 20 December 2018

A Crooning Christmas

With a career spanning seven decades Tony Bennett is the last of the American singers who goes back to the big band era. Most of his contemporaries - Sinatra, Ella, Ray Charles, Mel Tormé, Vic Damone - are sadly no longer with us. He's survived the rock 'n' roll and pop era and has come back time and time again, most recently enjoying success with the Grammy award-winning Duets albums. His most recent album Love is Here to Stay, a collaboration with Diana Krall, was released in September.    

For Christmas in 2001 Tony recorded a show for BBC Radio 2. This was relaxed easy listening with Bennett acting as DJ and playing some of his favourite music from Bing to Billy Joel, from Dinah Washington to Stevie Wonder plus some of his own recordings mixed in for good measure.

Sit back, pour yourself a drink and wallow in some classic music and reminiscences from Tony Bennett. First broadcast on Sunday 30 December 2001. Thank you to Paul Langford for passing this recording on to me.      

And if love this kind of music you were probably a listener to those Sunday night shows from The David Jacobs Collection. Here's a festive themed programme with David from 23 December 2007.  

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Arena Radio Night

Both the novelty value (there was an in-vision edition of In Town Tonight as far back as 1954) and the necessity (stereo broadcasts of Top of the Pops or In Concert) of radio and TV simulcasts has long since passed, occasional 'Red Button' broadcasts of Sounds of the 80s aside.

The BBC2 schedule
The Arena Radio Night of 18 December 1993 was one such simultaneous transmission but one with a subtle difference. BBC2 offered pictures and sound whilst Radio 4 gave us a slightly different but complementary soundtrack. The box in the corner, voiced by Peter Cook, would have conversation with the radio, the voice of Josie Lawrence, but you'd only hear both sides if you had your television and wireless sets lined up together. (Memories of the those Saturday morning stereo test broadcasts using BBC tv and Network Three for those that go back that far).

Radio 4's schedule
From the folk behind the long-running arts programme Arena in purported to show "how the two media have competed over the years, and which medium does what best".  In fact it was a celebration of radio with typically quirky mini-features and narration.

The evening's entertainment was headed by an introduction from David Attenborough. In this sequence I've overlaid the radio soundtrack at various points. You'll immediately recognise the voice of the announcer during the programme as Peter Donaldson.

Throughout the night BBC historian Professor Asa Briggs presented a series of films which, borrowing their title from As You Like It, discussed The Seven Ages of Radio. The technical explanations are from Robert Hawes and the readings by Ian McKellen. (This is the first film, the other six can be found on the Arena Radio Night playlist on YouTube.)

In Heard But Not Seen we are treated to a special Letter from America from Alistair Cooke, introduced by Mark Tully.

The short film The Time Signal was an unusual look at the pips and was presented by Dr Carl Dolmetsch, aka 'Mr Recorder'.

Taking a humorous look at early football commentary was Back to Square One, a film by Steve Bendelack. The cast is Philip Pope, Alistair McGowan, Jon Glover, Andy Parsons, Christopher Driscoll and Marion Sumerfield. There are contributions from Alan Green, Robert Hudson and John Motson.

Memories of Sunday lunchtime meals and radio shows were evoked in the piece Sunday Dinner. In this upload I merged the BBC2 and Radio 4 sound.

One of the undoubted highlights of Radio Night was the reading of the Shipping Forecast on both TV and radio, the one and only time this has happened. Doing the honours was continuity announcer Laurie MacMillan. This remains the most viewed upload on my YouTube channel with nearly 163,000 views.     

I'll post more clips as and when I get the opportunity and also overcome some copyright restrictions.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Tune-in to 1978

Tracking down programme schedules for the original ILR stations is a bit of a hit and miss affair. They were never granted any column inches in the TV Times as the ITV contractors had little vested interest in the stations, though ATV, Granada and Scottish did have minority holdings in BRMB, Piccadilly and Clyde.

Local newspapers would carry listings and each station would often publish publicity leaflets or their own mini newspaper.  There was some coverage in the NME as I recall and between 1972 and 1975 we had the subscription-only Script "the magazine on alternative radio"  whose remit covered the offshore and land-based pirates as well as both commercial and BBC local radio. 

Re-titled Radio Guide in 1975, by 1976 it dealt exclusively with the ILR stations and later that year was published by Independent Television Publications, the association of ITV companies behind the TV Times.  As a stand-alone ITP magazine it was short-lived and in 1978 became part of the quarterly Tune-in (a TV Times Extra). In 1980 that too was dropped just on the point when the network of stations was expanding beyond the initial nineteen.

So what was on your local commercial station forty years ago? The Christmas edition of Tune-in features cover stars Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard. The Radio Guide, from Beacon to Victory, features dozens of familiar names though I reckon there's no more than a handful still regularly on-air.  

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