All-Star Record Breakers, The

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1974 to 1982 on BBC1

"Down here, Roy!"

FOR NINE CHRISTMASES between 1974 and 1982, the All-Star spin-off from THE RECORD BREAKERS was the glittering festive showpiece of the BBC Children’s Programmes calendar, bringing together all your favourite presenters and, for no adequately explained reason, getting them to act, sing and dance about a bit.

Moreover, it was never exactly clear why Roy and Norris’s domino-toppling catalogue of pointless human endeavour had been selected as the canvas for this sparkling tableau. McWhirter’s patented stout-flogging brand of superlative trivia forever seemed to take a back seat to, say, JOHN CRAVEN exhibiting a nimble foxtrot or JONATHAN COHEN cutting loose with some free-form jazz piano.

Tap's amazing!Of course, the one thing that everybody remembers about TASRB is Roy Castle leading a mass tap-dancing world record (in aid of Action Research For The Crippled Child, lest we forget) in the middle of BBC Television Centre from 1977 (“Just outside with tapping feet! It’s the biggest dance troupe in the whole world, waiting for the beat!”), which of course we love cos you get to see loads of TV Cream’s favourite building in the world, in addition to a load of synchronised juvenile hoofing.

That 1977 show represented TASRB at its peak, kicking off with Roy attempting to sing Catch A Falling Star, only to be interrupted by his co-stars assailing him with facts about astronomy (“I say, Roy! Did you know…?”), a running joke involving JOHN NOAKES being pied at every opportunity, and KENNETH WILLIAMS demonstrating an oversized saxophone and attracting some knowing laughs from the orchestra with some ribald comments, in a scene once masterfully recreated in the TVC office (“Down here, Roy!”). Sadly, a flip through Ken’s diaries reveal he didn’t think much of the show (“I am virtually acting as a crowd artist in some scenes! And as set dressing in others! I’m not part of a team. I’m something better.”)

The other highlight of 1977’s show was the retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen story, with Roy in the lead role, natch, and Cheggers as his trusty apprentice. It’s always good to see NOEL EDMONDS in an acting capacity, and who knew PETER PURVES possessed such a pleasing tenor voice? Although there is a rather sickly soft-focus sequence with Roy attempting to woo Madame Dora, aka MAGGIE “AND I’M MAGGIE” HENDERSON.

Back in 1974…

…the first ever TASRB had kicked off with BERNARD CRIBBINS, MICHAEL RODD and the rest emerging from a giant BBC cracker as Castle be-bopped and scatted his way through a live version of the enduring ‘If you’re the tallest, the smallest’ ‘Breakers theme. The attractions included Roy and Lesley taking the floor as Fred and Ginger, Noakes performing a ventriloquist routine with a miniaturised Purves, and for the finale, a performance of Snow White, with VALERIE “VAL MEETS THE VIPS” SINGLETON in the lead role, the Purves as the wicked stepmother and BRIAN “IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER IF IT’S RAINING OR IT’S FINE” CANT as the prince.

In 1975…

…the entertainment featured El Castillo tackling some record-breaking musical instruments (of course), including a giant-sized alphorn (of course) and the world’s smallest guitar. The grand finale consisted of a performance of Idle Jack, narrated by the Cribbins, with Roy in the lead role. The mighty DEREK “CHECK WHAT YOU’RE DRINKING!” GRIFFITHS performed Jake The Peg and Roy, Purves and SUSAN “GALORE” KING sang There’s A Hole In My Bucket, before Roy teamed up with record-chronicling zip-cardiganed reactionary twin boffins NORRIS and ROSS McWHIRTER to perform I Wish I Was A Cowboy.

The 1976 extravaganza…

Fairy Christmas!…included a rendition of The Twelve Days Of Christmas, a showstopping turn from John Noakes as the fairy at the bottom of the garden, and DAVID “P-L-A-Y, PLAY AWAY-WAY PLAY AWAY” WOOD demonstrating the world’s most expensive bicycle (and, er, the world’s most expensive bicycle clips). The big finale was a performance of A Christmas Carol, with Roy as Scrooge, John Craven as Bob Cratchit, JOHNNY “CARCOAT” MORRIS as Marley, and Purves, Noakes and Wood as the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

In 1978…

Steel-ing the show…the double issue Christmas Radio Times tantalisingly promised that TASRB would take us “to the music hall for a feast of song and dance, and a chance to see some of your favourite presenters in very unusual roles.” The show opened with Roy crooning You Gotta Be Best, before a Tiller Girls routine from JAN “CRACKERJACK!” HUNT, MAGGIE “PENNY KEITH DON’T NEED ME AT THE MANOR” PHILBIN, CAROL “FUSSY OLD CROW” LEADER and the rest of the BBC girls, and a Grease medley from Maggie Henderson and the gang.

There was also a performance from The All-Star Record Breakers steel band, with Purves, Cheggers and co clanging through a rough approximation of Air On A G String, then there was just enough time for Roy to trace his musical family tree (acting all the parts and playing 47 different instruments, obviously) before the grand finale, a lavish top-hatted performance of The Pickwick Papers (“a bit of a devil, a hell of a devil, on every level, and a bit of a character too! Ole!”).

The following year’s show…

Phwoar whom the belles toll?…was memorable in many ways, not least for the “special guest appearance” from VALERIE “SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT” SINGLETON to judge the Miss Children’s Programmes 1979 contest (Val had been the 1972 winner, apparently). Those runners and riders in full, then: TINA HEATH (Miss Blue Peter), LUCY MATHEN (Miss Newsround), CAROL LEADER (Miss Play School), FLOELLA BENJAMIN (Miss Play Away), SUSAN KING (Miss Stopwatch), SU INGLE (Miss Wildtrack), MAGGIE PHILBIN (Miss Swap Shop), JAN HUNT (Miss Crackerjack) and MAGGIE HENDERSON (Miss Ragtime). Sadly, we have no recollection of who won this prestigious crown, but we do recall that the entire thing was revealed to be a dream sequence.

This year’s show also saw Roy drumming up all the fun of the fair, with the ‘Spanish Swap Shop Superstar Knife Throwers’ flinging deadly blades at a hapless NOEL EDMONDS. Not that anyone could blame them. The not-quite dream team of SIMON “MY FAMILY’S FARM IN DETHICK” GROOM, CHRISTOPHER “COLOUR SEP… SEPAR… SEPERATION” WENNER and Heath sang Together while dressed as gnomes in a ‘Gnome Watch’ sketch, and the whole thing ended, for some reason, in a Wild West shoot-out, with the whole cast thrown behind bars and singing Jailhouse Rock.

In 1980…

…Radio Times announced that “down on the farm, Roy holds a Record-Breaking party where cows and vegetables dance, Laurel and Hardy make a comeback and guests are transported to outer space!” We vividly recall the dancing vegetables bit, cos it was SI, SAZ and PETE off of Blue Peter dressed up as carrots and parsnips. John Craven’s Back Pages proffered more information, revealing that “choreographer SALLY GILPIN works out some very smart routines that make people like me, with two left feet, look passably good” and “producer ALAN RUSSELL has asked for at least six grand pianos and an electronic space game. Apparently we’ve got to dodge the lasers!”

Of course, when Roy wasn’t playing 17 different instruments and breaking the inter-planetary tap-dancing record at the same time, he was demonstrating the other element of his showbiz skillset, namely his Stan Laurel impression, delivered in concert this year with a bowler-hatted STUART “HOT MUM” McGUGAN essaying the old fingering-tie-impatiently bit as Oliver Hardy. Mm-mmm!

The end of the show saw Sarah Greene being presented with a king-sized bar of chocolate to flog for the Blue Peter appeal. The choc was auctioned live on New Year’s Day, attracting a winning bid of £37,000, which turned out to be a hoax (no Caribbean holiday for Joey Deacon and pals, alas) and on the next edition, the ‘Peter team had to admit that they’d been diddled. Cue a stiff letter to the Leicester Mercury.

On to 1981…

It's 1981!…and perhaps the most glamorous All-Star ‘Breakers of them all, with Roy masterminding a showstopping song and dance spectacular, beginning in a rehearsal room (overseen, natch, by “caretaker” MR BENNETT), with the gang practising their routines ahead of the high-kicking razzle-dazzle finale. This year’s show seemed to be aimed squarely at the dads, with SALLY-ANN “YOU COULD HAVE TURNED AROUND AND HIT ME AND I WOULDN’T HAVE CARED” TRIPLETT appearing in the world’s most expensive bikini, and SARAH GREENE singing I Can’t Do It Alone from Chicago in her scanties, in double vision no less, via the miracle of colour sep… separ… separation.

The show even included a fantastic BBC Children’s crossover, with TONY “BUT THERE IS A PRIZE” HART popping in from his Take Hart studio “above” Record Breakers HQ to complain about the noise, prompting MARK “BRA-ZIL!” CURRY to assuage the cravatted Caravaggio with a rendition of Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs.

And so to 1982…

"Meet all your friends and find out more!"…and the last ever All-Star Record Breakers, staged in MIKE “275 AND 285″ READ’s gleaming new Saturday Superstore. The show opened with Cheggers chauffeuring Norris to the studio in a Rolls-Royce, while Mike, John and Maggie welcomed the rest of the gang to the ‘Store.

The highlight of the show was the Examinations Rag, a musical number set in the corridors and classrooms of Grange Hill, featuring a one-time-only General Collapse of Secondary Education face-off between “teacher” JOHNNY “AND HIS NAME WAS… GALILEO!” BALL and MARK “GRIPPAAAAHH!” SAVAGE. Being 1982, there was a nod to Blue Peter’s latest obsession, with a musical medley set on the Mary Rose. And there was always the enticing prospect of seeing DAVID ICKE in a light entertainment context.

But as Gripper cycled off on his Crump’s The Butchers bike, The All-Star Record Breakers ended just as it had begun (and, more or less, carried on), with ROY CASTLE playing a load of musical instruments, this time a bass, drums, flute, trombone and trumpet. Now that’s dedication.

TV CREAM SAYS: "I'M HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN!"

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7 Responses to “All-Star Record Breakers, The”

  1. Memories of this include the Wild West one with the cowboy (who was he?) in the saloon asking for “Saaaarsparilla!” but keeping on missing the glass when it was slid down the bar towards him.

    Also the veg one where they all sang “Oh! What a beauty! I’ve never seen one as big as that before!”

    Then there was the superb John Craven trying to sing and having his microphone descend into the stage as he did so, leaving him lying on the floor as the mike disappeared, still crooning (badly).

    Great programme.

  2. Pearlyman says:

    Was there not a routine featuring the Blue Peter team (I’m going for Simon, Sarah, Peter) doing some routine dressed as babies and singing about shooting each other? It seemed to get replayed forever, and I always thought it was on ASRB, but maybe not…

  3. Helga68 says:

    I was one of the tap dancers!!!!

  4. Tryst75 says:

    Tell us more Helga68

  5. Richard Dore says:

    I do remember watching this programme at Christmas time when i was young.

  6. MartS says:

    Back to 1979 for a mo.
    Shows how far we’ve come since then. You can only guess the explosion of rage and anger rags like The Daily Mail and the Express would spew out and call on every feminist rent-a-quote if CBBC came up with a sequence featuring ‘comfortable beach-attired’ female BBC Childrens presenters in a mock beauty contest today..

    ..That said – Tina Heath always wins it for me. No contest.

  7. Graham says:

    It maybe no surprise to have the music of the All Star Record Breakers played on a GDP tv station if they couldn’t transmit their scheduled programmes. There were a number of broadcasting unions slagging off the management and the government during the seventies and eighties leading to captions saying “We’re sorry we can’t bring you our intended schedule today” and that would’ve where the music of Roy and the All Star Record Breakers came in.

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