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Yellow Pages, The ‘Good Old’ Days

A design classic, we're saying.For years, the canary-coloured classified doorstop was plugged on the telly with the slogan ‘let your fingers do the walking’, while a none-more-cheap actor’s hand sis exactly that over a copy in close-up, to the strains of a catchy jingle that sounded uncannily like Yellow River by Christie. This wasn’t deemed sophisticated enough for the ’80s, though, and so it was all change with a series of mini-dramas all revolving round the desperate need for a reliable commercial phone directory. JR Hartley’s epic quest for a copy of Fly Fishing largely overshadowed the rest of Yellow Pages’ bid to convince us they weren’t just there for the nasty things in life. But there were other ads, like the kid searching for the R186 signal box, the Hitchcockian twist being that it wasn’t for him, but his model railway enthusiast dad, Colin ‘Mr’ Bennett. And then there was the impressively eyebrowed teenager (played by Simon Schatzberger, fact fans) groggily awakening in the aftermath of a massive party (‘Who are you?’/‘Who are you? And who’s . . . she?’) only to discover someone had scratched the coffee table, prompting him to thumb through Good Old Yellow Pages to locate a French polisher before his parents returned from holiday. Meanwhile, David ‘Science Workshop’ Hargreaves turned up as a bloke seemingly poised to heartlessly pension off faithful old gardener Ted, only to be leafing through the ‘Pages to order a new ride-on lawnmower, while Kevin Webster’s dad off of Coronation Street tracked down a racing bike (‘I were right about that saddle!’) for his teenage son. Interestingly enough, all these ads still ended with a snatch of that original Yellow River-alike refrain, albeit now tastefully parped through an oboe.



  1. J.R. Fartley

    August 29, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    The Radio Active version of the elderly gardener ad had the couple telling him: “Ted, we’ve noticed the garden is getting a bit much for you – so we’ve had it concreted over.”

  2. Matthew Rudd

    January 20, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    “Hello, Terminal Deformity Clinic? It’s just possible you can save my life!” And the boy saying “Who are you?” back to Schatzberger is Max/KillCrazy from EastEnders/Red Dwarf.

    Jasper Carrott parodied the Hartley one by playing the last shopkeeper who was lightly feather dusting thousands of copies of Fly Fishing while the old duffer made his enquiry.

  3. Richard Davies

    August 10, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I remember Tim Nice But Dim thinking that Fly Fishing by JR Hartley was a real book, & asking for it in a 2nd hand bookshop.

    Smith & Jones did a book sendup of the teenage party one, with a Dad whacking the son on the head with a YP.

  4. Joanne Gray

    May 18, 2017 at 12:45 am

    Someone actually did cash in on the Yellow Pages hype by getting Fly Fishing by JR Hartley published.

  5. Applemask

    July 24, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    A design classic, but not a British one. Originally designed for the Boston Yellow Pages, co-opted by AT&T for the whole nation, but somehow the dipsticks forgot to trademark it so now it’s public domain and used worldwide.

  6. THX 1139

    July 25, 2018 at 9:54 am

    Have you seen the current Yellow Pages? It’s like a pamphlet now.

  7. Richard16378

    July 25, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    The South Africans had Yellow Pages as a sponsor a corner at the Kyalami racing track.

    Does anyone remember the series of ads which had clips like the one of Richard Nixon being captioned for public relations.

    Another was that geeky boy growing up to the sounds of the Ramones version of Baby I Love You.

  8. Droogie

    July 27, 2018 at 1:47 am

    A YP tv ad I vividly remember was a mid 90’s one showing a British soldier in France in WW2 during D-Day telling his French sweetheart that he’d be back after the war was over with a pair of stockings for her. The ad forwards to the present with the old soldier trying to find an authentic pack of 40’s stockings to present his ex-love who he’s finally meeting again after 50 years. After no luck, his daughter finally finds a vintage shop called Roaring 40’s that has just the thing. He meets his old sweetheart in France and presents the stockings and I think I have something in my eye right now.
    ( What bizarrely dates this ad is the concept of the difficulty in trying to find a pair of 40’s style stockings. With the huge boon in recent years for vintage fashion, the chap would now only have to stroll around trendy Shoreditch of an afternoon to find dozens of vintage shops selling this kind of thing. )

  9. Adrian

    August 11, 2022 at 3:14 pm

    I think the physical YP stopped being made (& delivered) a couple of years ago, although they still do have a website. As IO recall I used to chuck the still shrinkwrapped YP in the bin every year whenever a new one was delivered..

  10. Richardpd

    August 11, 2022 at 10:30 pm

    Another advert was a boy wanting to get a new bike, & his Dad dismissing a racing bike for having a saddle like a razor blade.

    My brother once had a summer job delivering copies of Yellow Pages locally, one of the houses was bought about a year later by David Beckham.

    The last one I had delivered was A5 & about 2cm thick.

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