Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Standby for Switching

“Standby for switching. Get tuned to Radio 1 or 2. 5, 4, 3, Radio 2, Radio 1, go!” Surely one of the most played pieces of radio archive: Robin Scott’s countdown to the launch of Radio 1 at 7 a.m. on Saturday 30 September 1967.  But what was happening over on Radios 2, 3 and 4? Was there an exciting new range of programmes as part of the biggest shake-up of the radio networks since the immediate post-war period? Or was it just business as usual?

The relabeling of the old Home, Light and Third had been prompted by the BBC’s promise to fund a new pop service to replace the offshore pirate stations. This had first been mooted in 1966 and work started in earnest in January 1967 when, Johnny Beerling recalls, producers in the Popular Music and Gramophone Departments were asked whether they wanted to work on Radio 1 or 2. Beerling would then work alongside Derek Chinnery, Teddy Warwick and Angela Bond in thrashing out ideas for the pop station, reporting to Robin Scott who was appointed controller a month later. 
In fact at that time the new station still didn’t have a name, that decision was made later that summer. Amongst the names considered by the BBC’s Sound Broadcasting Committee were “Popular Music Service”, “Radio 247”, “Radio 67” (which would surely be out-of-date come January 1968!), “Radio Elizabeth”, “Radio Skylark”, and “Radio Pam”. By May 1967 the use of numbers was first suggested such as “Radio One” and “Light One”.  The numbering of the networks led Home Service controller Gerald Mansell to express concern that the new Radio Four could “imply demotion”.

So what about Radio 1? As ever funds were short so to make the new service look like it had a full schedule there was loads of simulcasting with Radio 2. There was also the trick of billing former Light Programme shows as being on Radio 1, even when also going out on Radio 2. Confusing! This happened for Saturday Club (but dropping Brian Matthew in favour of Keith Skues), Family Favourites with Michael Aspel, Country Meets Folk with Wally Whyton and The Jazz Scene with Humphrey Lyttelton. Even that old warhorse Housewives’ Choice became a Radio 1 show re-titled Family Choice. Some Radio 1 shows such as Late Night Extra and Night Ride would later become long-running Radio 2 programmes.
This was the line-up on Radio 1’s launch day:

0700 Tony Blackburn with a Daily Disc Delivery
0832 Leslie Crowther with Junior Choice (renamed from Children’s Favourites that had ended the previous weekend with presenter John Ellison)
0855 Crack the Clue with Duncan Johnson
1000 Keith Skues with Saturday Club
1200 Emperor Rosko with Midday Spin (Midday Spin being an old Light Programme title)
1300 The Jack Jackson Show
1355 Crack the Clue
1400 Chris Denning with Where It’s At (a Light Programme transfer)
1500 Pete Murray
1600 Pete Brady
1730 Country Meets Folk
1832 Scene and Heard with Johnny Moran
1930 as Radio 2
2200 Pete Murray with Pete’s Party (another Light Programme refugee)
0000 Midnight Newsroom
0005 Night Ride with Sean Kelly
0200 News and closedown

You’ll find audio of Tony’s first show online so I’ll not post it again here. But imagine the shock of any Light Programme listeners who stumbled across Midday Spin – the previous Saturday it had been a special Holiday Spin with Michael Aspel -  and heard the whoops and shouts from Emperor Rosko. Here’s a scoped version of part of that show:

In 1967 the Light Programme was allowed to stay up late and didn’t close down until 2 a.m. It fell to announcer Roget Moffat to have the last word. He was that night’s presenter of It’s One Clock, a hour-long music show with a different host each weekday – in that final week you’d also have heard Jon Curle, Sean Kelly, Wally Whyton and Adrian Love. 

In contrast to Radio 1’s full Saturday schedule, Radio 2’s was a little light. It was continuity announcer Paul Hollingdale who was the first voice on the new networks when Radio 2 opened at 0530. He’d been chosen by controller Robin Scott to host that morning’s edition of Breakfast Special in place of the regular Saturday presenter Bruce Wyndham. In fact Bruce was working that morning anyway, but over on Radio 4 reading the early morning news, such was the swapping between networks of continuity announcers at that time. So the timings were:

0533 Breakfast Special with Paul Hollingdale
0832 as Radio 1
0955 Five to Ten with Paul Simon and Colin Semper
1000 Max Jaffa and Sandy MacPherson with Melody Time
1200 Marching and Waltzing introduced by Jimmy Kingsbury
1300 as Radio 1
1832 Those Were the Days introduced by Bill Crozier
1935 Million Dollar Bill with Joe Brown as that week’s guest speaking to Robin Boyle
2015 Spotlight 1 and 2 in which Kenneth Horne previews some of the shows and voices on the new stations
2115 Caterina Valente Sings
2200 as Radio 1

This is the intro to Spotlight 1 and 2:

In 2007 Paul Hollingdale recalled that first Radio 2 edition of Breakfast Special. And if you want to know the first record played on the station here’s the answer:  

Listeners to the new Radio 3 will have noticed absolutely no difference to their daily programmes. Saturday under the old regime was broken down into different strands: 0700-1230 Music Programme, 1230-1800 Sports Service and then 1800-2315 Third Programme. This continued on 30 September and remained the general format of the station until April 1970 when it became more of a cohesive network.
Friday 29 September had been The Third Programme’s twenty-first birthday and the whole evening was dedicated to a performance of The Tragedy of King Lear with John Gielgud in the title role. Closing down proceedings after the Market Trends report (an odd piece of scheduling with financial news on the Third whilst over on the Home Service they had a music programme) was announcer Cormac Rigby. He was also on duty the following morning to usher in Radio 3, whose schedule for the day was as follows:

0800 News and weather
0804 Record Review with John Lade
0900 News and weather
0904 La Clemenza di Tito, a performance of Mozart’s opera in two acts
1014 Ravel’s Piano Music played by Colin Horsley
1040 La Clemenza di Tito – Act Two
1200 Jazz Record Requests with Steve Race
1230 Sports Service introduced by Michael de Morgan with golf, swimming, racing from Ascot,  second-half football commentary and Sports Report
1800 Bach – four piano pieces played by Charles Rosen
1855 An Idea and Its Icon – a talk by Geoffrey Webb on theology and iconography in the Middle Ages
1910 Folk Music of Czechoslovakia compiled and introduced by A.L. Lloyd and produced by Douglas Cleverdon
2000 BBC Symphony Orchestra – a concert from the Berlin Festival with the Orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez
2105 Personal View – John Maddox with a talk on current affairs
2125 Concert - Part 2  
2205 Abraham Cowley – selections of his poetry introduced by Anthony Thwaite
2235 Mozart – String Quartet in F major played by The Weller Quartet
2300 News
2315 Closedown
Closing the Home Service “for today, and for all days” on the Friday evening was David Dunhill, who’d obviously taken some care in preparing his final announcement.

The last programme on the Home Service was Jazz at Night with records played by John Dunn. Jazz at Night became the only show to move from the Home Service to Radio 1, finding a home just after midnight on Friday nights. John Dunn, of course, would then pop up during Saturday reading the news on Radio 1 and 2 and making that now infamous “here is the news, in English” intro to the bulletin during Rosko’s show (see above).

It was David Dunhill who opened up proceedings on Radio 4 the following morning welcoming listeners to “Radio 4, the Home Service”, a billing that remained for many months to ease the transition. The schedule was exactly the same as the previous Saturday with the sole exception of the renaming of Lightening Our Darkness as At the Close of the Day. Reviewing the line-up I’m struck by the sheer volume of, necessarily, short programmes. There must have been nearly fifty continuity junctions. This is the schedule for the London area, there were regional variations in the Midlands, North, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and South & West.
0635 Farming Today
0650 Ten to Seven – prayers and meditation
0655 Weather and Programme News
0700 News
0715 On Your Farm
0745 Today’s Papers
0750 Outlook – a Christian angle on the news  
0755 Weather and Programme News
0800 News
0815 From Our Own Correspondent
0845 Today’s Papers
0850 Voices – archive material introduced by Leslie Perowne
0900 News
0915 The Weekly World – a review of the weekly news magazine by Geoffrey Howe
0920 A Choice of Paperbacks chaired by Cliff Michelmore
0945 In Your Garden – introduced by John Hay
1015 Daily Service
1030 Science Survey with a talk on Protection Against Disease
1045 Study Session with programmes on The Artist at Work, Music Questions and Divertissement Francais
1200 Motoring and the Motorist – chaired by Bill Hartley
1225 All the Best from Today – clips from the week’s Today programme linked by Jack de Manio
1255 Weather and Programme News   
1300 News
1310 Round the Horne – repeat of an April edition on the Light Programme
1340 Desert Island Discs – Roy Plomley talks to castaway Roy Castle
1415 Afternoon Theatre – with Floral Tribute written by David Bartlett
1515 Home for the Day – a Saturday supplement to Woman’s Hour with Marjorie Anderson
1600 Music at Four – with music by Haydn, Mozart and Stravinsky played by the BBC Welsh Orchestra and a Ravel quartet played by the LaSalle String Quartet
1755 Weather and Programme News
1800 News and Radio Newsreel, followed by Regional News
1830 Sports Session (other regions had their own sports programmes)
1900 Steptoe and Son – a repeat of Crossed Swords from the Light Programme in July
1930 Gala Night at the Opera – Sandra Chalmers introducing a programme of music recorded at the Huddersfield Town Hall played by the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Northern Singers
2030 Saturday Night Theatre with Paul Daneman and Maragret Rawlings in Adventure Story by Terrence Rattigan
2158 Weather Forecast
2200 News
2210 A Word in Edgeways presented by Brian Redhead
2255 At the Close of the Day – a meditation by Stanley Pritchard
2310 Music at Night – Scarlatti sonatas played by Alan Cuckston
2342 Weather forecast, news summary and coastal waters forecast
2348 Closedown

Friday, 12 September 2014

Putting You Through

Phones and tablets are now practically welded to our bodies. Perhaps you are what Allison Pearson recently described as a fomo sapien. That’s Fear of Missing Out. A generation characterised by “an itchy thumb and short attention spans”.

Ironically the UK was initially slow to adapt to the telephone but its business and domestic use was recognised early on in the United States; by the end of the 1920s 40% of US households had one. An oft quoted statement by the then chief engineer of the General Post Office sums up the British attitude.

“There are conditions in America which necessitate the use of such instruments more than here,” he told a House of Commons committee. "Here we have a super-abundance of messengers, errand boys and things of that kind. The absence of servants has compelled America to adopt communications systems for domestic purposes. Few have worked at the telephone much more than I have, I have one in my office but more for show. If I want to send a message - I employ a boy to take it."

When businesses did adopt the telephone, rather than sending message boys or telegrams one presumes, they had to adopt the necessary telephone etiquette, what we would now call telephone techniques or customer service skills.  
Of course the BBC, being the BBC, cut a telephone training record for those working on the switchboard, all women at the time of course. Dating from 1953 here are extracts from it linked by Miles Kington (taken from a programme I recorded in July 1980).

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Dickie the DJ

Amongst all the plaudits for the cinematic highlights in the career of the late Richard Attenborough there was mention of some other interests: his lifelong support of Chelsea FC, his chairmanships at Channel 4 and the BFI.

There were also fleeting references to his involvement in Capital Radio. In fact his chairmanship of the station, when it launched in 1973, was key to getting it, and keeping it, on air; to the extent that he was prepared to sell his own paintings to help bankroll Capital when it struggled to hit its revenue targets in the opening months. Here’s Attenborough in conversation with Paul Burnett in 1993:

Famously he was the first voice heard on Capital when it launched in October 1973 (audio courtesy of Paul Easton):

Of the obituaries for Lord Attenborough that I’ve read only The Times mentions the rather surprising revelation that, for a while in the 1950s, he was “an immensely popular disc jockey”. He’d already made a small number of radio appearances as an actor. One of the earliest I can trace is the Light Programme drama The Silver Lining alongside his wife Sheila Sim (broadcast 16 September 1948).  In 1950 he appeared in Our Mutual Friend and Fairplay for Fatherhood. 

But that same year Richard was in front of the microphone with a Saturday night Record Rendezvous. Not that he was playing that many discs, the show ran, in not untypical BBC fashion at the time, for precisely 26 minutes from 11.30 to 11.56 p.m. It seems listeners and BBC bosses obviously liked him as later in 1950 he had a slightly longer programme from 6.20 to 7.00 p.m. each Friday over on the Home Service. Billed in the Radio Times as “playing some records from his collection”, though no doubt, in fact, carefully selected and scripted by Anna Instone’s Gramophone Department.   
We can only wonder what these shows sounded like but it seems that, as The Times said, he was “immensely popular” enough to feature some six years later as one of the faces in “A Cavalcade of Disc-Jockeys”, sandwiched in between Jonah Barrington and Sam Costa in the Radio Times illustration by Bob Sherriffs.  The accompanying article describes him as having “the happy knack of making difficult classic music sound easy”.

As an aside that same illustration includes actor Dirk Bogarde who was also doing the odd bit of record presenting. Posters to the DS radio forum constantly sniping that radio bosses, and in particular Radio 2, only seem to appoint TV stars as DJs might like to take note!

Anyway that week (in December 1956) Richard was one of the contributors to the Light Programme’s Record Week, a series of shows celebrating the popularity of gramophone record, with an appearance on Stay up with Sam in which Sam Costa and Jean Metcalfe “meet some of the personalities who, over the years, have brought you record entertainment.” 

At far as I can tell his stint as DJ lasted just a year. But who knows, if the acting career had taken a nose-dive, perhaps we’d have had Richard Attenborough as the housewife’s favourite or picking the pops.

Photo of Richard Attenborough from the Picture Show Annual 1951 published by The Amalgamated Press

Monday, 1 September 2014

Random Radcliffe Gubbins

The Guest List was Radio 1’s short-lived arts magazine show airing in 1993 with Mark Radcliffe as “the pathfinder in the cultural desert”. It ran for 28 weeks every Thursday night from 15 April to 21 October.

This edition from 20 May 1993 features a film review with Mark Kermode, Tom McGrath’s new play about boxer Ken Buchanan, talking about TV with Mariella Frostrup and comedy duo Trevor and Simon.

1993 was a significant year for Mark Radcliffe: the Sony Award-winning Out on Blue Six was also running, having started in 1991, there was the sketch show Skyman – “the Surrealchemist of Sound” – the Radio 5 series Cult Radio and then, from 25 October, the start of the Radio 1 late night show nicknamed The Graveyard Shift.

The new show “presented by a bloke who’s older than the last one” replaced the outgoing Nicky Campbell, who temporarily left the station. Here’s the start of the first broadcast with Mark and Lard.

Fast forward eleven years and Mark and Lard were now leaving Radio 1, Radcliffe heading to Radio 2 and Riley to 6 Music. The departure didn’t go unnoticed and the BBC1 North West arts show Powerhouse was there to witness the event. This programme was broadcast on 26 March 2004.

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