Sunday, 29 August 2021

Back in Time On the Light – Part 1

If you were sitting down in front of the wireless exactly sixty years ago what would you have heard? The joys of the BBC Programme Index (formerly BBC Genome) tell us what the BBC was offering but what about listening to those shows again?

In this post I’ll be taking you back in time to the BBC Light Programme on Tuesday 29 August and Wednesday 30 August 1961. Little is likely to have survived in the BBC Sound Archives from those dates. Looking at the listings I know that Tuesday’s episode of Whack-O was secured away as it’s had a Radio 4 Extra repeat. You never know but maybe The Archers or Mrs Dale’s Diary was kept, but I doubt it.

Fortunately we can now fill some gaps thanks to some home taping done back in the day by a young man called Eric Bartington and, more recently, the timely intervention of Gerard de Roo. But more on that later.

Jack Jackson with Record Roundabout

The first show is Jack Jackson’s hugely popular Record Roundabout. By the time of this recording Jack had been in show business for 30 years, with more than a decade as a presenter and broadcaster. As a trumpeter and bandleader he’d been broadcasting since the early 1930s in regular late-nights shows from London’s Dorchester Hotel as well as some broadcasts for Radio Luxembourg and Radio Lyons. During the war whilst his band continued to appear on Music While You Work he also was called on to present shows such as Salute to Rhythm and Band Call.

Post-war Jack performed with his band for a while (including a spell on the BBC tv variety show Rooftop Rendezvous) but his main employment was as a presenter looking after the proceedings on Jazz Matinee (his first show with Mark White as producer) and Band Parade (1947-50).

The first radio series with which Jack was most closely associated is Record Round-up. Starting on the Light Programme in January 1948 it ran until April 1954 and was one of the rare gramophone-only shows on the network at that time. It was during this series that he began to adopt the style that was to become his trademark. Short witty introductions interspersed with comic effects and comedy lines proving something of a nightmare for the studio managers and grams operators. It was only the later Record Roundabout shows that Jack pre-recorded in his home studio that fully allowed this style to develop.    

In 1955 Jack’s radio work ceased when he signed an exclusive contract with one of the new commercial television contractors, ABC. He was there on the opening day in September 1955 to introduce the Gala Night variety show and was given a Saturday night show introducing “personalities, news and music from the world of show business” from the Embassy Club in Bond Street. This didn’t particularly work for Jack and after a month it was re-titled On the Town with Australian actor Ron Randell as the compère. Instead Jack was given a Sunday afternoon show (not long afterwards moved to Sunday night) that became known as Record Time. Co-written and devised with his former BBC producer Mark White it better suited Jack who sat behind a desk and presented “a fast-moving combination of music and comedy, chatting to guests and welcoming his own supporting company of comedians”.  His regular team included Joan Savage, Glen Mason and Paddie O’Neil. Ideas for the show were tried out by Jackson and White in Jack’s studio at his home in Rickmansworth mixing comedy effects from records by the likes of Danny Kaye, Spike Jones and Stan Freberg. Producer Peter Glover told the TV Times that each week’s show is built like a variety bill mixing comedy with fast and slow numbers. “It doesn’t always work out in that way because in the record business sometimes everything is a ballad or its all skiffle”.   

By 1959 Jack was back on the radio, both BBC and on Luxembourg. On 208 he presented the Decca sponsored show Record Round-up (later with Colgate-Palmolive sponsorship) as well as The Juke Box Show (“the fast and furious new-style programme for juke-box fans”) and Hit Parade. On the Light Programme he started his run of Record Roundabout shows, initially on a weekday evening before settling into its Saturday lunchtime berth from May 1962 by which time he moved to Tenerife and had set up his studio there. Now a much slicker operation the records came one after another with none of the usual pauses in between for the usual “that was”, “this is” intros. Uniquely for the time he would even announce a record title and artist mid-way through the song. The show ran until June 1969, by now on Radio 1. A final series aired on Radio 2 in late 1971 but he came back for some bank holiday one-offs in 1975 and 1976 by which time he’d returned to the UK. Jack died in January 1978.

This recording of Record Roundabout dates from Tuesday 29 August 1961 when it was broadcast between 21.31 and 22.30. The first 12 minutes or so are missing so there’s no opening theme – Harry James’s Carnival – and his usual “good evening record lovers everywhere, and welcome to the show” announcement. Also in this show, unlike other recordings I’ve heard from this time, Jack doesn’t use any comedy clips between any of the records.    

Record Roundabout consisted entirely of new releases so he crams in a fair few titles with a mix of pop, ballads, trad jazz and the instrumentals that were all the rage at the time. We join the show with Eggheads by Brian Blackburn and Peter Reeves from the BBC tv sitcom of the same name that centred on student life. Other tracks are:

You Belong to My Heart - Ray Adams

If You Don’t Somebody Else Will - Connie Stevens

Ain’t Gonna Wash for a Week - The Brook Brothers (voted a ‘hit’ on the previous week’s edition of Juke Box Jury)

Square Feet – Monty Babson

Skin Divin’ – The Avons

I’ll Never Smile Again – The Platters

Don’t Bet Money Honey – Linda Scott

The Avengers Theme – Johnny Dankworth & his Orchestra (missing from the YouTube upload for copyright reasons)

Blue Moon – Frank Sinatra

On Route 66 (Get Your Kicks) – Anita Bryant

Someday You’ll Be Sorry – Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen

I Don’t Hurt Anymore – Ann Margret

One More Crime – Dick Williams & his Orchestra

The Juke Box is Broken – Max Bygraves and the Two-Tones (also missing from the YouTube upload)

Jump for Joy – Sarah Vaughan

That Old Black Magic – Earl Watson

San Antonio Rose – Floyd Cramer

True Love – Terry Lightfoot’s New Orleans Jazzmen

Manana (Is Soon Enough for Me) - Peggy Lee

Starfire – The John Barry Seven (this would be used as the theme for the TWW series Discs-A-Go-Go with Kent Walton)

(These recordings are presented here via Mixcloud but they’re also on YouTube but some tracks are missing for copyright reasons)

Serenade in the Night

Following Jack Jackson that summer evening in 1961 was Serenade in the Night, a “late-night journey into melody”. The series had started in March 1959 (though there had been earlier programmes with the same title) and featured a regular orchestra plus guest musicians and singers all linked by one of the staff announcers. Throughout its six year run (it ended in January 1965) orchestras led by Hill Bowen, Reginald Tilsley, Sidney Bright, Peter Yorke, Bernard Monshin, Frank Chacksfield and Eric Rogers (of Carry On fame) all appeared.

In this recording of Serenade in the Music presented by John Hobday the lead orchestra is Bernard Monshin and his Rio Tango Band. Monshin, a bandleader at the tender age of 17, would tour with his Tango Band during the mid-30s before taking a year’s residency in 1937 at the Hotel Borg in, of all places, Reykjavik. Back in London he was leading the resident orchestra at London’s Casini Club. Seeing wartime service in the RAF he re-formed his orchestra after the war and made hundreds of broadcasts for the BBC on programmes either in his own name and on Cafe on the Corner, Tango Time, Melody Hour, Break for Music, Morning Music, Melody all the Way, Tuesday Tunetime and, most notably, Music While You Work for which he appeared in 146 editions between 1948 and 1967.

Also in this edition are The South Sea Serenaders led by guitarist Ernest Penfold and the Sidney Bright Trio (Sidney was the twin brother of bandleader Geraldo, real name Gerald Bright). The singer is Julie Dawn who Radio 2 listeners in the early 70s may remember from her Girl Talk feature on Charlie Chester’s daily show and letters feature on Night Ride as well as Penfriend Corner on You and the Night and the Music in the 1980s.      

This recording is of almost the full show, only the 11.30 pm news summary read by Robin Boyle and part of the following piece of music is missing.

The tunes include (of those I can positively identify) Amico Tango, Fascination (based on a 1904 waltz with English lyrics added in the 50s it was recorded by Dinah Shore, Nat King Cole and others), Ernest Ponticelli’s Owl on the Prowl, The Last Tango,  Ron Goodwin’s Pleasure Island, September in the Rain, September Song, With a Song in My Heart (at the time the theme tune for Family Favourites), Spanish Harlem, Resta cu’mme (Stay with Me), Little Serenade, My Loving Hands, Thou Swell, Caravelle, Drifting and Dreaming, El Gato Montes, What Kind of Fool Am I? from the recently opened West End show Stop the World- I Want to Get Off, Cry Like the Wind, Sweet Hawaiian Kisses, and I’m in Love with the Honourable Mr So and So.    

Exhibition Choice

From the following day, Wednesday 30 August 1961, comes this partial recording of Exhibition Choice. This show aired for a couple of weeks a year between 1957 and 1962 from a stand at the National Radio Show at Earls Court, and again between 1964 and 1965 from the Ideal Home Exhibition at Olympia. Apart from giving the audience to chance to see a BBC programme go out live Exhibition Choice’s USP was that you’d get an instant record request played. Whilst chatting for a minute or so to the host, staff at the BBC’s Gramophone Library would scurry away to find your requested disc. Most times they succeeded though, as we hear in this show, they failed to locate Nat King Cole’s I Give My Heart to You as “all the copies are out”.     

At the 1961 National Radio Show the BBC presenters of each 30-minute Exhibition Choice included Eammon Andrews, David Jacobs, Jean Metcalfe, Pete Murray and, in this instance, “Mrs Elrick's wee son George”.

George Elrick was an extremely popular presenter in the 1950s and 1960s, especially for his regular stints at the helm of Housewives’ Choice. A former drummer and vocalist with Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Band he’d been broadcasting since the mid-30s on both the BBC and Radio Luxembourg (billed as Maclean’s Laughing Entertainer and his Band, sponsored by the makers of Johnson’s Wax Polish). He also toured in the Jack Hylton-produced show Youth Must Have Its Swing. During the war he was an ENSA officer and continued to broadcast on shows with the Scottish Variety Orchestra and with his band in shows in his own name as well as Music While You Work. An early appearance in 1946 on Housewives’ Choice led to repeated bookings on the daily request show over the next 21 years. Away from the radio he managed Mantovani for two decades, was a judge on ATV’s New Faces (1974-77) and was very active in the Variety Club of Great Britain. George died in 1999.

At the time the outlet for pop music on the Light Programme was limited so it’s interesting to hear how, when it comes to a free choice from the audience, they’re keen to hear the hits of the day. The biggest cheers go up for Adam Faith and Gary US Bonds (the record is just credited as U.S. Bonds)

In this edition of Exhibition Choice you’ll hear:

Only the Lonely - Roy Orbison

Dum Dum - Brenda Lee

Sailor – Anne Shelton

Don’t You Know It – Adam Faith

The Touch of Your Lips – Nat King Cole

Quarter to Three – Gary US Bonds

(Theme) Polka for Strings – Dolf van der Linden & his Orchestra

There are also some sonic artifacts (several short beeps) in this recording which were on the original tape. After the show we have some programme news and then to fill the gap up to the 12.30 news summary its the Light Programme interval signal Oranges and Lemons which, I understand, was played on the novachord by Charles Smart. 

Parade of the Pops

The final programme is Parade of the Pops which ran on the Light Programme and then Radio 1 for most of the sixties. It was very much in the mould of tv’s Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! and radio’s Saturday Club. Featuring a resident band and singers who performed the hits of the day, plus some standards or songs from recent films thrown in for good measure, the show included a guest pop star would make an appearance to promote their current single and sang one or two others – Cliff Richard was on the first show. The whole thing was hosted by Denny Piercy.

The format meant it was essentially a show of cover versions, of varying quality it must be said. Listeners to the Light Programme were treated to this show format (see other lunchtime shows such as The Beat Show, The Joe Loss Show, Monday Monday and Pop North) as it avoided eating into the wafer-thin amount of needletime.

Parade of the Pops first aired on a Monday evening between January and April 1960 before returning in August of that year in what would become its traditional slot of a Wednesday lunchtime from the Playhouse Theatre on Northumberland Avenue. The show was, as far as I can ascertain, recorded at noon the preceding Saturday. It finally ended in October 1968 by which time it had transferred to Radio 1 and was replaced by Radio 1 Club.  

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The house band throughout the run was Bob Miller and the Millermen. Led by alto-saxophonist player Bob Miller, they were a versatile outfit that would play instrumentals and accompany most of the songs featured on the show.  Their sound was ideally suited for the sax-heavy sound that was so prevalent at the time with combos such as the John Barry Seven, Lord Rockingham’s XI and Ken Macintosh and his Orchestra

Formed in the late 1950s they had already been the stars of the BBC tv Six-Five Special successor Dig This! and its longer-running Saturday night successor Drumbeat.  This latter show was compered by songwriter and actor Trevor Peacock (many years later Jim Trott in The Vicar of Dibley) and often featured the close harmony group The Raindrops. Parade of the Pops provided the mainstay of the radio work for the The Millermen and they continued to broadcast on BBC radio into the early 1970s

The Raindrops were the featured group for the first couple of years of Parade of the Pops though they continued to broadcast on the BBC throughout the decade on shows such as Workers’ Playtime, Pops with Lenny (with Lenny the Lion and Terry Hall), Music-Hall, The Tommy Steele Show, Benny Hill Time and The Al Read Show. Formed in late 1958 by trombonist Len Beadle, The Raindrops also included Jackie Lee (who married Len later in the 60s and is best known for her singles White Horses and Rupert), Vince Hill (who went solo in late 1961 but continued to appear on the show) and songwriter Johnny Worth (born John Worsley but often credited under his stage name Les Vandyke). In 1959 they appeared on the Light Programme shows Swingsong and Saturday Club and BBC TV’s Trinder Box (with comedian Tommy Trinder) as well as Drumbeat performing with Bob Miller and his Millermen. It was producer John Kingdon that first brought together The Raindrops and The Millermen on the radio in the 1959 series The Pop Shop, the forerunner to Parade of the Pops. By the time of this recording Johnny Worth had been replaced by Brian Adams.        

Presenter Denny Piercy had been a drummer and percussionist with Edmundo Ros, toured as part of a double act with singer Dickie Valentine and played in the Reg Wale Four (with Dorren Lundy and Les Sands). Parade of the Pops seems to have been Denny’s first presenting role and aside from this show he was on Radio Luxembourg’s Spin-a-Disc as well as popping up on Housewives’ Choice, Thank Your Lucky Stars and Juke Box Jury. On the Light Programme and then Radio 2 he presented Double Spin, Swingalong and Accent on Melody. During the 60s he continued to play as a session musician, he can be heard on The Yardbird’s For Your Love for instance and played with the Lennie Felix Trio. Fellow Light Programme DJ David Hamilton (who presented one of the other lunchtime shows, The Beat Show) told me that he remembered Denny as a “very genial character, witty and steeped in the business, a real pro”.

Denny also wrote scripts for Double Scotch as well as providing funny lines for Val Doonican and Vince Hill. By the 1970s he was mainly working as a television audience warm-up man on shows such as This is Your Life, It’s Tommy Cooper and Please Sir! As to what subsequently happened to Denny I’ve no idea. If you know please do get in touch.

The show was pretty much an immediate success, so much so that by the end of its first year EMI’s recording manager Norman Newell had already approached the BBC to record an LP.

This recording of Parade of the Pops followed on from Exhibition Choice and includes the both the 12.30 and 13.30 news bulletins and some piano interval music before Cricket Scoreboard (not on the tape) at 13.35.

The special guest is a 14-year old Helen Shapiro belting out her recent number one hit You Don’t Know and the B side Marvellous Life. Apart from that its pop tunes of the day all performed by the Miller’s band and his vocal group The Milltones (who included Dougie Arthur) as well as The Raindrops, either as a group or as solos.

There’s some real talent on display here and attending the show live at Playhouse must have been a thrill but you can understand why Britain’s teenagers so whole-heartedly took to the Beatles the following year and the offshore pirates three years later. Elvis had four number one hits in 1961 but if you only heard Dougie Arthur’s version of the reverse side of his latest “waxing” then you’d wonder what all the fuss was about. As for the cover of Runaway, I’d close your ears.  

The songs covered are: Ain’t Gonna Wash for a Week (The Brook Brothers), Old Smokie (Johnny and the Hurricanes), Temptation (The Everly Brothers), Climb Every Mountain (Jackie Lee singing this one as Shirley Bassey had just released her version of it), There I Said It Again (originally recorded by Vaughn Munroe and more recently Al Saxon), Amor Amor (Vince Hill doing his best to impersonate Ben E. King), You Always Hurt the One You Love (Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry), Someday You’ll Be Sorry (Kenny ball and his Jazzmen), Who Put the Bomp (The Viscounts), Lumbered (Lonnie Donegan), Quite a Party (The Fireballs), I Feel So Bad (Elvis Presley), The Trek to Rome (Nero & the Gladiators), Runaway (Del Shannon), Don’t You Know It? (Adam Faith), Together (Connie Francis), The Frightened City (The Shadows) and Weekend (Eddie Cochran).   

The recordings

We have Eric Bartington to thank for these recordings. He taped a number of programmes, mainly music shows, but also comedy (The Goons and Whack-O), royal events and sports events in 1960 and 1961. That collection of tape reels (Scotch, EMI and BASF) went with him when he emigrated to New Zealand later in 1961 as one of the Ten Pound Poms. No doubt he wished to take a little bit of British culture with him. 

Eric was born in 1938 in Hendon and later studied at the Hendon Technical College. He became a telephone exchange engineer so dabbling with electronics and hooking up his reel-to-reel tape recorder to the radio would have been no problem for him.

In New Zealand he settled in Auckland from where he would send taped messages back home to Britain and where, based on this 1962 message, he was still recording off the radio, though now the programmes of the NZBC. We know little more about what happened to Eric until this announcement of his death was posted in the New Zealand Herald last year: BARTINGTON, Eric: Passed away on April 9, 2020 after a brave battle with illness. Dearly loved husband of Jo, cherished father of Andrew and father-in-law to Kerry. Loved son of the late Florence and John Bartington. Brother to Anne, John and Allen (deceased). A gentle, kind and compassionate man who gave so much without expectation of return. You will be missed by all who knew and loved you and especially your granddog Winston. Forever in our hearts. Heartfelt thanks to the staff of Howick Baptist Home who cared for Eric in his final year. A private cremation has been held”.

The family started to dispose of some of Eric’s possessions including the stash of tape reels. They were advertised on a local auction site that read “Bulk 8mm film, canisters, spools & film splicer - my fathers collection - refer pictures for details.   Vanguard film splicer 8mm & 16mm in new condition in box.  Brands include Scotch, Philips, Maxell, Tonecrest, Photax & Collaro.  Magnetic tape recordings include Handel organ concertos, Bing Crosby, etc.  Would like to see go to a good home”.

Fortunately Gerard de Roo spotted this advert and bought the lot for just $NZ56 (about £28). Digitising the tapes he realised they contained recordings that would be of wider interest and should be heard and enjoyed again. He contacted me a couple of months ago about the BBC recordings and we’ve been going through the recordings to identify just what we have and the pinpoint the transmission dates.

This is the first of a series of posts to feature these Bartington tapes. I’m grateful to Eric and to Gerard for this glimpse into radio’s past. I hope you enjoy it too.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Easy Night

Cast your mind back a quarter of a century. Dominating the charts and the music press was Britpop, that catch-all for the resurgence in guitar-based pop from the like of Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Elastica, The Boo Radleys, Ash etc. But there was another musical movement sweeping the nation. Easy listening.     

It’s hard to pin down how this all started, though this Radio 1 programme points the finger at the inclusion of Burt Bacharach on the cover of Definitely Maybe. It certainly sent all the record companies scurrying off to their archives and re-releasing   tracks they thought would never see the light of day again. Anything was fair game under the easy listening banner including tv theme tunes, library music, exotica, space age pop and the acts that your parents had enjoyed like Andy Williams and The Carpenters. Collections of CDs labelled as Sound Gallery, Cult Fiction, Loungecore, Cocktail Classics and Music to Watch Girls By filled the shelves at HMV.

In May 1996 BBC Radio 1 devoted the whole of the Bank Holiday evening to the world of easy listening in Easy Night. Presenting were Kevin Greening and Jo Whiley. It’s only right that Kevin was there as he’d been instrumental in championing the easy revival on his weekend shows. On the cover of the CD single of Wonderwall by The Mike Flowers Pops there’s a sticker that reads “as first heard on the Kevin Greening show” and the sleeve thanks Will Saunders (Kevin’s then producer and in charge of Easy Night), Kevin and Chris Evans who played the record on his weekday breakfast show. Chris regularly dipped into the easy listening/library music archives using Alan Hawkshaw’s Girl in a Sports Car (known as Tina’s traffic news bed) and Sam Fonteyn’s theme from Please Sir!

In Easy Night we hear a mix of easy listening pop classics, new versions of old hits and a mix from The Karminsky Experience, the guys behind the In Flight Entertainment albums “mining a groove that seemed to be beamed in from another dimension.”

Kevin speaks to Burt Bacharach, whose PRS royalty cheques must have come flooding in as a result of this easy listening boom, and Tony Bennett, “God’s own crooner” in Kevin’s book.

For no real apparent reason the programme is interspersed with Challenge Graham in which easy listening aficionado Graham Farrar is sent off round London to locate a fondue set, cocktail umbrellas and blue jeans belonging to Neil Diamond, a bit like one of those Apprentice shopping tasks. Graham Farrar is quite evidently Graham Norton in his pre-chat show days. Graham had first worked with producer Will Saunders on Radio 5’s Sunday Brunch and Radio 4’s Loose Ends.    

Giving us the benefit of his wisdom is Professor Keith Haringey, Ronco Chair of Popular Musicology at De Montford University. No idea who the voice of the Professor is, and producer Will can’t recall either.

Choosing their favourite tracks in Celebrity Flashback are Paul Whitehouse who picks Dean Friedman’s Lucky Stars (“well slide over here”). Bjork’s unusual choice is the vocal dexterity of Yma Sumac with Tumpa. Ice T goes for Hey! Love by The Delfonics. Paul Hartnoll, one half of Orbital, selects Nancy Sinatra’s You Only Live Twice.   

Count Indigo is in the studio with a unique rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit. There’s Bacharach to the Future – The Definitive History of Easy Listening  which is far from definitive and a Top 10 of Easy Listening. That top 10 features (spoiler alert) Dana, Acker Bilk, Peggy Lee, Mantovani, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters, Dionne Warwick, Morrissey and Andy Williams with their versions of Moon River, Petula Clark’s Downtown and taking the top spot Herb Alpert with This Guy’s in Love With You.   

Providing all the links and announcements is the purring voice of Honor Blackman.

So once again wallow in the nostalgia of four hours of Easy Night. The recordings, in three parts, include news bulletins read by Jane Bolger and the start of Wendy Lloyd’s show at midnight. If records fade out that’s where I had to turn over the C90 tapes. Some records with a wide stereo spectrum appear to be missing part of one channel.

With thanks to Will Saunders. 

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