WITH Alternative Comedy looming on the horizon like a manic snorting lisping bloke saying “Barstard!”, a meeting of minds took place between the primary practitioners of pre-Python, post-Python and, erm Python-Python Oxbridge fringe-fripperies in the form of this decidedly off-kilter panto. Douglas Adams and John Lloyd produced, Clive Anderson and Rory McGrath scripted, and Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden, Peter Cook, John Cleese, David Hatch, Maggie Henderson and Jo Kendall mugged to the audience (well, apart from the home-tape-recorded Cleese) as if in a freewheeling edition of ISIRTA on the run from the ‘structure’ police, while occasionally referring to pseudo-satirical pisstaking of Aladdin-skewed cliches. Utter genius madness from start to finish, and basically an entire Christmas Day of BBC7 in one handy hour-long package.
BY the mid seventies Radio 2 was already turning into a rest home for dwindling nightclub acts and those intriguingly billed ‘all-round entertainers’, all of who undoubtedly benefited from further welcome employment on air late into the eighties. Stalwarts included Bernie Clifton’s Comedy Shop, whose contributors included Pat Mooney (and who won a spin off show, Mooney’s Monday Magazine). If you couldn’t sell your topical one-liner to Radio 4′s Weekending, The News Huddlines team were always available. Hinge And Brackett cornered the market in sound-only drag acts; Rolf Harris went on a Walkabout that lasted a whole decade; Dealing With Daniels puzzlingly contrived to enact a card-based game show on the radio; while Jeremy Beadle’s Nightcap helpfully reminded listeners when it was time to switch off their set. Les Dawson, Roy Castle and many others turned their hand to revue-style series, including Ken Dodd who stuffed more money under the mattress thanks to his Palace Of Laughter. Meanwhile both Instant Sunshine and their C-list cousins Harvey And The Wallbangers ‘took’ those ‘sideways’ looks at the events of the week in song. More substantial fare came courtesy of The Grumbleweeds, so accidentally iconic that they get their own proper entry, and ISIHAC-riffing Cryer’n'Brooke-Taylor smut-pun-fest Hello, Cheeky!. Nowadays more likely to play host to someone causing a national scandal by calling Peter Egan a ‘Joint Account jerk’.
TV CREAM SAYS: "AND NOW ON RADIO 2 - OH NO, THEY'RE BACK..."
EXCRUCIATINGLY beardily-tradicraft-named Capstick-heralded slot of obvious musical leanings with the most schizophrenic content possible for a radio show; owing to ‘trawling the folk circuit’ approach and the willingness of anyone of said circuit to appear at a moment’s notice, you’d either get some rock festival-friendly seven-piece with a far-out medieval-hued name fronted by a Toni Arthur-esque girl in thigh-length boots and a witch’s hat, or a quiet unassuming bloke in a big jumper singing ‘I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly’. Now standard content for pretty much all Radio 2 shows, of course.
TV CREAM SAYS: "KING ARTHUR WAS AWAAAAA-KED"/"LE-MON TREE, VERY PRETTY", DEPENDING ON THE WEEK
BACHARACH-skewed counterpart to Radio 1′s In Concert, wherein the big names of light music (Norrie Paramor, Cantabile, Barbara Dickson, that sort of thing, or more occasionally someone like Henry Mancini which would suddenly get the Radio Times very excited) did their stuff in front of a studio audience with backing from the BBC Concert Orchestra and, where vogueishly applicable, Bantok-style choristers.
TV CREAM SAYS: "I HOPE THAT ONCE AGAIN WE HAVE PROVED THAT FRIDAY NIGHT IS
“WOAH woah weeeeeeeeeeee, are The Grumbleweeds”… quasi-legendary, verging on the ‘notorious’ end of the scale, radio vehicle for the five-piece purveyors of finest ‘joke’n'roll’ whimsy. Roster of comic characters included an endless parade of ‘Uncles’ such as Cream-predicting trivia fiend Uncle Rubbish and the not-at-all-Eric-Pode-plagiarising Uncle Nasty; Wilf ‘Gasmask’ Grimshaw, who for some reason still wore his gasmask on the radio; the risibly-named Fred Fibber; and hours upon hours upon hours of impersonations of Jimmy Savile. Mock-’edgy’ comedy par excellence and the sort of thing that the office joker was addicted to, outlasting the mind-boggling television version – where, hilariously, they maintained the ‘Radio Show’ monicker.
TV CREAM SAYS: "OH I JUST CAN'T COPE"
LONGSTANDING regular engagement for those two men posing as elderly female academics, first off in Radio 4′s Joyce Grenfell Lawsuit-inviting music hall-esque revue The Enchanting World Of Hinge & Bracket, then over to Radio 2 for sitcom The Random Jottings Of Hinge & Bracket, then finally back to their audio alma mater for the sadly overlooked chat show At Home With Hinge & Bracket. Whether or not they dragged up for radio is sadly not known.
TV CREAM SAYS: "WE HOPE TO BRING BACK MEMORIES - FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT STILL
SHIP-IN-A-BOTTLE-like relic from an earlier age of Radio 2, more recently broadening its scope to include blokes doing Kinks covers on Hammond B3s, but forever remembered to a generation of frequency-skipping bemusees as the show where they’d all too readily break out the seagull-picking-at-stale-chips quasi-psychedelic tones of The Mighty Wurlitzer to tackle those all-important ‘standards’ and ‘Big Movie Themes’.
TV CREAM SAYS: "...AS I REMEMBER FROM HEARING REGINALD DIXON PLAY IN THE
BLACKPOOL TOWER BALLROOM..."
FRANTICALLY theme-tuned serial thriller starring Ray Barrett as punningly named scoop-scouring investigative journalist Rick O’Shea. Pulled in the listeners in its day but not really the sort of experiment they’ve repeated much down the years.
TV CREAM SAYS: "SORRY RICK, I WANT YOU TO DROP THE STORY, AND THAT'S FINAL!"
BRIAN MATTHEW-helmed attempt at doing a radio version of those hazy late-night highbrow arts review TV shows, which basically involved him chatting to someone involved with a broadsheet-bigged-up exhibition and then getting a Rory McGrath level comic in to read out a list of ‘funnies’ they’d written down on an A4 sheet.
TV CREAM SAYS: "AND YOU CAN SEE 'ARIA' IN SELECTED CINEMAS FROM FRIDAY"
STARTED off as your standard-issue ‘swinging hits of the Flower Power days of Merseybeat, daddio!’ run-through of the hits of yesteryear, most of them also to be found on the handful of surviving Top Of The Pops clips from the sixties, under the stewardship of former Ready Steady Go mainman Keith Fordyce. Then Simon Dee took over for a bit in the late eighties, adding at least a flavour of pirate radio-era presentation magic until he predictably fell out with the producers. Then came a rotating roster of guest ‘names’ from the decade including Sandie Shaw and Viv Stanshall, who insisted on playing some of the more obscure offerings made by their pop pals amongst all the predictable big hits. This set the turntables in motion for a complete reinvention in 1990 under the watchful eye of ‘Your Old Pal’ Brian Matthew and Roger ‘The Vocalist’ Bowman, going all Record Collector on an unsuspecting early morning audience and subjecting them to a playlist as likely to feature Tinkerbell’s Fairydust, Yvonne Baker and The Waltham Green East Wapping Carpet Cleaning Rodent And Boggit Extermination Association as it is Herman’s Hermits. Regular features include people asking to hear singles that nobody else believes actually existed, the seemingly never-ending and increasingly alphabetically tenuous ‘A-Z Of The Beatles’, and, of course, The Shadows’ closing burst of Foot Tapper extending well into the timeframe that you thought the news would have begun in.
TV CREAM SAYS: "THIS IS YOUR OLD PAL BRIAN MATTHEW SAYING THAT'S YOUR LOT
FOR THIS WEEK... SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!"
SATURDAY afternoon sporting concoction of football, county cricket and the 3.15 from Chepstow, maintained throughout the eighties under the steady hand of Renton Laidlaw, golf correspondent of the Evening Standard, no less. Summer Sunday editions arrived in 1985 with Stuart Hall complementing your Sunday Grandstand fare of motorcycling and local tennis tournaments and never-that-smooth segueing between the last chorus of I Know Him So Well and the John Player League scoreboard. One of the finest Radio 2 themes of the lot, too, in that classic ‘jazzy march with too many piccolos’ seventies sports theme mould.
TV CREAM SAYS: "...AND OF COURSE THERE'S SPORT"
TWO’S daily soap, created as a more ‘happening’ version of The Dales, and prone to endless en masse cast changes, much to the chagrin of irate letter writers. Started off in full-on late sixties ‘hard-hitting’ mode, tackling abortion, student activism, contraception, divorce and, erm, cavity wall insulation, with suitably off-beam theme music from the Radiophonic Workshop and UK Psych madman Cliff Wade. Settled down after that until it was done for by budget cuts, upon which the writers fired off a final couple of weeks’ worth of alien invasion and bizarre fourth wall-breaking character rumination on the show’s axing.
TV CREAM SAYS: "THE LITTLE GREEN MAN FROM MARS WAS FINALLY TRACKED DOWN ON HAMPSTEAD HEATH"
AS FAMOUSLY heralded by frequence-fixated Kings Singers trillery, Radio 2 proudly became the first BBC station in the country to go 24 hours on January 28th 1979, plugging that all-important proto-News 24 gap with appropriately titled new show You, The Night And The Music, as endlessly plugged by television announcers just before they shut up shop for the night. Amongst those meeting the Broadcasting House night porter for the first time were Ray Moore, Patrick Lunt and Sheila Tracy. The insomniac shift was later re-titled Nightride, recalling the ambience if not exactly the content of its erstwhile Peel’n'poetry’n'protest-singing namesake, wherein Colin Berry and Charles Nove oozed sweet nothings into the microphone between heavy rotation Lightfoot and Ripperton. Overnights now zealously guarded by the unlikely coupling of Janice Long and Alex Lester, both of whom play too many loud records – can’t they see we’re trying to sleep here?