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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.

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