Monday, 1 August 2011

Stop, Hey, What's That Sound?, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb! *PHEEEEEEP*

Alright, so either very few of you enjoy lengthy digressions about archaic radio magazine shows, or there's been a collective sigh of post-view-occasioning relief that the previous instalment actually got around to addressing the ostensible 'point' of all of this nonsense, or - and somewhat more likely - Derek Griffiths is still very popular indeed. Whichever of these, or indeed whichever combination of these, was responsible, it gives no small pleasure to report that Here Is A Box is now seemingly through the worst of the 'Cancellation Crisis', and Ian Levine didn't even have to make a substandard disco record about it. Or smash a TV for that matter. We're back in business, and back mistyping 'relief' so many times it has long since ceased to be amusing (though that's hardly likely to prevent it from becoming an increasingly tedious running joke), and what better moment to move on to a subject that will almost certainly increase the viewing figures by several million - Eve Myles T... oh, alright then, Trumpton.

As was promised several millennia ago, in the nearest that this unravelling thematic concept has ever got to anything resembling a cliffhanger, Trumpton was the second instalment in the oft-referenced Gordon Murray-helmed Brian Cant-narrated Freddie Phillips-soundtracked trilogy that later brought forth Chigley. It was also, as you may have worked out already, the one that gave said trilogy its commonly-bestowed name of 'Trumptonshire'. And more also still, if we're going to keep on pushing obscure lexicographic in-jokes that about three people reading this will understand and probably none of them will laugh at (and that's not counting the newly-minted 'more also still'), it should technically be referred to as Popsike Pipedreams. And no, it's still not time to explain just how this so-called 'trilogy' actually consists of four shows just yet. There's some wisecracking spoons, sinister circus employees, Krautrock-soundtracked luddism and unfunny bollocks about milk bottles to get through first. Not to mention Trumpton itself.

Whereas Chigley was more or less a giant industrial park with some toff's private railway running conveniently through it, Trumpton was a bustling residential area complete with an imposing Town Hall and a clock so big it was in danger of being fashioned into a natty 'accessory' by Flavor Flav. While The Mayor, along with his clerk Mr Troop and suspiciously-named chauffeur 'Philby', got on with the administrative slash rosette-awarding side of things, various tradespersons from carpenter to miliner went about their business until, inevitably, running into a problem that would necessitate the intervention of the Trumpton Fire Brigade. Needless to say, due as much to animation-related fiddlyness as any safety-related concerns, this never involved either fire or water, with Captain Flack and his impractically-fringed firemen (Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb) acting as general all-purpose teetering structure-demolishers and retrievers of things from very high places, before retiring to the Trumpton Park bandstand for a daily concert played on brass instruments that sounded suspiciously like varispeeded acoustic guitar.

For 1967 (which, patronisingly-obvious-fact fans, is when it was first shown), this was all very modern and fast-moving stuff indeed, and in a stylistic sense vaguely reflected the 'Swinging London' pop music and fashion of the day. This sociocultural allusion also kind of works for Chigley, whose pastoral-yet-industrial concerns reflected the era when the erstwhile 'Swinging London' popsters got to work on their double-album opuses yet retreated from the capital for the purposes of 'getting it together in the country'. This would technically make Camberwick Green (which we'll come back to - when else? - later) redolent of that lost world of black and white TV and social realism, when light and simplistic pop music provoked girls with beehive hairdos into stamping their heels and shouting "We want to be... Smi-iths Crisps" (actually, that joke would have worked better as "I'm in pieces for Bitza Pizza", except that if anything that's probably even more obscure), which in a way it sort of does, but - as we shall see - there's something more complex and less of-its-time about it which has something vaguely to do with Ewan MacColl turning round a roller caption. And the fourth one doesn't fit into this analysis at all. But more on that - you guessed it - later.

Having been a constantly-rotated favourite for almost a decade by the time that Music From BBC Children's Programmes came out, Trumpton was the proverbial shoo-in for inclusion, taking up the entire seventh track of side one. Once again the compilers reached straight for All The Music From Trumpton And Chigley, but with a greater amount of recognisable 'music' and indeed more instrumental tracks to play with, they came up with a medley that more or less constitutes 'Trumpton's Greatest Hits', especially if you don't count A Trip To Trumpton by Urban Hype. But how did it start, how did it end, and what was in the middle? Come on, you're ahead of us there, surely...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Heads And Tails, Here We Hoo-ba-doo-ba-de-ba-doo-ba-do-ba-be-do-doodah-doodah-doodah-doodah-do-mmmmm-mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Teddy Edward - who, incidentally, now resides in a Japanese toy museum, having been sold in the nineties for a frankly ridiculous amount of money, despite one of the original Camberwick Green soldier boys failing to sell at all around the same time (and you probably wouldn't get twenty seven pence for Uncle Casserole... but we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves there) - may well have been a prolific chronicler of his equally prolific overseas travel, but he clearly did all of his pointing-out-on-the-map-all-the-places-he-had-been in big writing on the back of postcards rather than in Eric Newby-troubling weighty journals. In fact, there wasn't even enough in the way of photographic stills and sub-Whicker's World narration stroke annotation to fill a full fifteen-minute Watch With Mother slot, and his photographically-illustrated cultural wanderings were related in mere five minute instalments.

This scheduling shortfall was duly made up by Ring-A-Ding, a videotaped studiobound ten minute effort in which Derek Griffiths improvised in front of some big pieces of coloured card. And there, ladies and gentlemen, you have the entire ethos of mid-seventies children's television distilled into its purest scientific form. In the kingdom of presenters being expected to think on their feet in a 'white void' set, Derek Griffiths was king, and when you're faced with such pretenders to the throne as Brian Cant, Johnny Ball, Fred Harris and Floella Benjamin - some of whom we'll be meeting again later on - that's no mean feat. Formerly a would-be jazz-folker given to vocal yodelling in the style of Tim Buckley, by the early seventies Griffiths, like many of his peers (including the earlier-mentioned Toni Arthur and Lionel Morton), had fallen into children's television presenting almost by accident, and proceeded to spend the remainder of the decade doing his rubber-limbed thang across just about any BBC children's programme you care to mention, not to mention indulging in such extra-curricular 'is it canon?' activities as presenting Public Information Films about bike theft and (in animated form) the ridiculous 'Splink' campaign, and lending his contortive qualities to hazily-recalled Twister-infringing board game Bent Outta Shape.

Needless to say, his vocal talents and indeed songwriting abilities were often called into service for his TV 'gigs', and most viewers of a certain age will be familiar with his off-the-wall 'in-character' animal songs for Heads & Tails, and indeed his even-more off-the-wall-still wordless yodelling for Bod, previously likened within this convoluted stream-of-consciousness storyline to the output of sixties cello-sawing types AMM. Despite its minimalist approach, Ring-A-Ding clearly made maximum use of his musical resources, as on Music From BBC Children's Programmes we get - bolted together, as you may be expecting by now, into a single track - both the theme and a song used within an actual episode. The former runs to a mere twenty four seconds, though it's those mere twenty four seconds that have had many a collector clamouring for a copy of this album (and that's enough uses of the word 'mere' for this post). As again you might well be expecting, it's twenty four seconds' worth of Griffiths-strummed acoustic guitar, with doorknocker-thrapping, whistling, and short but to the point lyrics about how he's, well, going to tell us a story.

The story in this case - and the proto-postmodernist first verse amusingly outlines yet again that this is a story that Derek Griffiths is going to tell - is that of a boy named Ricky, who built an aeroplane to the bemused chagrin of his peers, which nonetheless ultimately 'flew' with the aid of his going, erm, "brum brum". Though this pleasantly early-seventies-chart-pop-like ditty was indeed used in Ring-A-Ding, this particular recording of it is in fact rather confusingly lifted - like some other track selections we've yet to encounter - from fellow BBC Records And Tapes release Sing A Song Of Play School, its inter-show use presumably the result of them temporarily sharing multi-talented producer Michael Cole, whose pronounced interest in Zen Buddhism presumably accounted for the 'less is more' stylistic approach of Ring-A-Ding. And the 'less' that we get here has certainly left one or two listeners wanting 'more', the undue prominence of this obscure entry on Music From BBC Children's Programmes leading to occasional speculation that there might well be a full-length Ring-A-Ding album out there somewhere. Sadly, if there is, then it's still gathering dust in the BBC Worldwide tape archive, with not even a test pressing ever having emerged. Though it has to be admitted that there's not exactly legions of collectors looking for one.

If you're looking for obscure 'lost world' children's television - and, lest we forget (though there's been so much rambling along the way that you probably have forgotten), that's what we came here looking for - then you'd be hard pushed to find a better example than Ring-A-Ding. Once shown in constant rotation and so well-known that it found its way onto this album, it's since fallen into almost complete cultural oblivion, and yet all of the pieces that it slots together are so familiar that you can almost feel what it must have looked like even if you've never seen it. Added to that, its apparent leanings towards spiritual philosophy (well, in the form of Derek Griffiths and some card, at any rate) only serve to intensify the feeling that we are on the verge of a breakthrough to that higher plane of consciousness where Barnaby is dispensing wisdom about how cultural obscurity will ultimately reach a critical mass which will then resolve itself into a clip appearing on Charlie Brooker's Screen Wipe. And, by the sound of it, there's a fire engine bell echoing from somewhere in the Barnaby-planed distance...

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

I Can Say What I Like On The B-Side/Nobody Much Will Ca... Hello?

At the risk of coming across like a pale imitation of John Fowles (or, on the available literary evidence, more likely that robot calendar thing off of Once Upon A Time... Man)... OK, let me have a guess. The reason for the sudden dip in 'audience appreciation index' - now so low that it's making The Trial Of A Time Lord look like all three The Lord Of The Rings films combined - is that you're all a tad fed up of how long it's taking for each instalment of this ludicrous tale to appear (apart from Dave Bryant, who is simply fed up of being publically accused of liking that bloody Mrs Pinkerton record). This, it has to be conceded, is a fair point. It's been six months already, and we haven't even got to the end of the first side of Music From BBC Children's Programmes yet; at this rate, it's going to run in to the only reasonable timeframe for the proposed follow-on storyline (Spoiler, as the 'fans' have it, Alert). And, let's be honest about it, it's only five paragraphs at a time of stream-of-consciousness nonsense about Barnaby sub-dimensionally splitting into millions of showering fractal particles, so there shouldn't really be remaster-of-Loveless-length gaps between each five-paragraph burst. So yes, let's have this updated a bit more regularly, and you can all start reading again. Deal? Anyway, where were we...?

You may well have noticed that, thus far, Music From BBC Children's Programmes has yet to stray into the realms of the arcane and obscure. The nearest that it's come to anything gathering dust in the most neglected corners of the mass retroreminiscence, and indeed to anything gathering dust in the most neglected corners of the BBC Archive, has been 4th Dimension, and even that is at least semi-known from its Everett-and-Radiophonic-Workshop associations. What we've covered so far have been welcome - and in most cases enjoyable - inclusions, but they're all pretty much what you'd expect to find on an album with this title dating from 1976. In fact, if you drew up a list of shows that you expected it to contain the themes from - and that's a proper list, not that weird counting-off-on-fingers thing Peter Kay used to do when making dull observations about old-skool children's TV on clip shows - then you'd probably nail 99% of the tracklisting there and then.

But what of that other 1%? Well, it's composed of a small but jarring handful of shows whose inclusion must have seemed a foregone conclusion back in 1976, but that have since almost entirely vanished into, and indeed subsequently from, the cultural ether. You won't find them on DVD, or in fact even mentioned anywhere outside of TV Cream. These shows are - and pardon the grammatical mismatch - The Music From BBC Children's Programmes That Time Forgot. But Music From BBC Children's Programmes sure didn't forget them. And this, readers (those of you that are still left, at any rate), is where it really starts to get para-reality-psychedelia headsplitting, heading off into the same musico-cerebral realm occupied by, well, the theme music from Para-Reality-Psychedelia Smith's Cookery Course. Which was, incidentally, stolen lock stock and barrel for the theme music from Press Gang, but that's another another another anoth- ("oh don't start all that again...").

And you can bet that if anyone had visited said musico-cerebral realm, it was long-forgotten globetrotting medallion-sporting bear Teddy Edward. Once a regular fixture in the Watch With Mother schedules, but now scarcely remembered by anyone, Teddy Edward did his travelling to exotic climes with the aid of a natty motorised jeep and a procession of Richard Baker-narrated still photographs, interspersing proto-globalisation facts and figures about other cultures with surrealist whimsy about why those crazy humans insisted on wearing knotted hankies on their heads. It was, to all intents and purposes, like watching someone's holiday slides as rewritten by JB Morton, and better still it all played out to a deliciously funky jazz instrumental, led by one of those 'angry' flutes that a certain TV Cream contributor spent their childhood fearing signified the collapse of social order and the rise of The Yippies or someone.

But, unfortunately, that's all that there is to say about said theme music for now (though it was released on a record, but that's... hey, come back!), as - surprisingly - it's not actually included on Music From BBC Children's Programmes. So why mention it in lieu of whatever programme we should actually be talking about? Stay 'tuned' to find out. If you've not heard the remaster of Loveless before then, that is...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Killing Me Softly With His Moogs Funks Breaks

The point of all that background detail on If It's Wednesday, It Must Be... was to bring us - in a very roundabout way - to the somewhat inappropriately named fifth track of Music From BBC Children's Programmes. And as the two posts building up to this have been the least popular entries in the whole saga of The Golden Road To Unlimited Barnaby thus far, it had better be worth it. Still, that's what happens when you spend far too long wittering on about one of the least popular aspects of the already fairly unopular medium of radio. Wonder if it would have fared any better with a mention of une emission du service des sports presente par Jacques Vendou?

Anyway, one of Kenny Everett's regular inserts in If It's Wednesday, It Must Be... was Rock Salmon - Private Investigator, a madcap spoof of old radio detective serials which started off with something resembling a proper storyline about Edward Heath being stolen, and degenerated into little more than weekly insulting of Mary Whitehouse. After the demise of If It's Wednesday, It Must Be..., Radio 4 were keen to retain Everett's services in a child-entertaining capacity, and duly installed him in a Saturday afternoon show, 4th Dimension. This had much the same format as If It's Wednesday, It Must Be..., albeit with a less belief-beggaring line-up, other contributors including broadcaster Phil Drabble, astronomer Patrick Moore, purveyor of finest 'improving' tedium about ballet-loving youngsters sent to live with stern maiden aunts Noel Streatfeild (yes, that's how it's spelt[CITATION NEEDED]), and impenetrable literary schoolboy 'Jennings'. If you could make it through all that without switching off in boredom - or indeed without stopping reading this blog in boredom, which is what all the 'cool kids' seem to be doing - there were also the exploits of Everett's great forgotten post-Rock Salmon pre-Captain Kremmen Wireless Workshop-derived hero, Captain Rex Radio, who sought to thwart the supervillainous schemes of mad scientist Ernst Krakov with the assistance of hippy cat Passionflower.

And the above is an even more roundabout way of getting to the point that track five was - yes, you guessed it - the theme from 4th Dimension. This was by Paddy Kingsland of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, one of the 'second wave' of Workshop composers who had been brought in largely because he had a rock music background and knew how to work those new-fangled 'Moog' things, and someone we'll be meeting a few times during this album. In 1973, EMI asked him to record an extra-curricular 'Synths Play The Top Pops'-style album for their famed Studio 2 Stereo imprint, much as some previous Workshop occupants had ended up recording a prog album for Island... but that's another story. The result was Supercharged!, where bonkers Kingsland originals like The Earthmen rubbed shoulders with Mooged-up renditions of the likes of Killing Me Softly With His Song, Cecilia and, erm, The Wombling Song. Sensing an opportunity, BBC Records And Tapes duly arranged for him to produce a similar album with his various TV and radio themes rearranged in a pop style. Unfortunately this was never really going to set the charts alight, containing as it did the themes from such iconic well-remembered shows as Scene & Heard, The Space Between and Just Love, and best known track Reg (the theme music for the BBC's African Service) is arguably only well known because it later ended up on the flipside of the Doctor Who theme... but that's another another story.

Anyway, it was from there that the 4th Dimension theme was extracted for Music From BBC Children's Programmes, its twangy electronic burblings presumably constituting a considerable portion of the 'moogs funks breaks' that get eBay sellers so financially unrealistically hot under the collar. It sounds, as all Paddy Kingsland's efforts from this time tend to, as though a failing Acid Folkie had tried to write a hit pop song, but had their idea stolen by a robot who then hid at the bottom of a very large well packed with echo units. This, in case you hadn't realised, is a very good thing, though let's save the discussions about rural-pluralism for another time please. It's a prime example of that odd period when electronics first discovered pop music, and as such very much sonically evocative of that all-important sub-psychotropic Barnaby-buys-a-Casio-VL-Tone era, and all the more effective for someone who had owned a 4th Dimension annual during that same timeframe without ever quite understanding what it actually was. Meanwhile, the 4th Dimension theme would surely have been a prime contender for the planned synth-showcasing original version of The Sound Gallery 2 before Funtastian Retrololz and his pals got their grubby terylene-shirted hands on the 'Loungecore' scene... but that's another another another story.

And if you are one of the readers that's loyally stayed with this perhaps rather taxing narrative lurch, which for some must have been as appropriately impenetrable as, well, an old Radio Times radio listing, then thank you very much indeed. And if you're one of the ones that hasn't, then come back! There's some Derek Griffiths in a minute...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Here's Baked Jam Roll In Kenneth Robinson's Eye

And so the downward trend continues. Like some blog post-based microcosmic re-enactment of the viewing figures chart for Heroes, the inexplicable record-breaking Torchwood: Children Of Earth-rivalling stitch-that-Hannah-so-called-Minx audience interest of but a fortnight ago has given way to a slump into single figures. Clearly there are a lot of people out there who are only interested in seeing Mr Swallow The Wharfinger and Baked Jam Roll In Your Eye by Timebox alluded to in the same sentence. It's tempting to speculate on whether this decline is index-linked to the warmer weather, or as former Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner once bizarrely speculated to people not being able to use their ovens properly, but there's no time for that as - even though, in a neat bit of postmodern meta-textual irony, the viewing stats are starting to climb dramatically even as this is being typed - this is a more than fitting moment to mention the similarly dwindling interest in children's radio in the early to mid seventies, and how as a result, BBC Radio 4 were able to get away with something called If It's Wednesday, It Must Be....

A magazine show for children broadcast in the school holidays throughout 1972 and 1973, If It's Wednesday, It Must Be... was just one of many Radio 4 magazine shows for children broadcast in the school holidays. The most widely celebrated of these, and the one that will hopefully cause a healthy amount of visitors to alight on this page, was mid-eighties effort Pirate Radio 4, home to addresses to the nation by one Adrian Albert Mole (performed by Sue Townsend's preferred incumbent of the role, Nicholas Barnes), and brand new audio-only adventures for the 'Cancellation Crisis'-stricken Doctor Who, for the benefit of fans who could use their ovens properly. If It's Wednesday, It Must Be..., however, was marked out from all of its historical and latterday counterparts by its curious roll call of contributors, most of whom were primarly known for work for an older audience, and some of whom had caused widespread consternation even there.

For starters, it was presented by Kenneth Robinson, a radio anchor for whom the term 'loose cannon' could have been invented, and even then would be barely adequate. Regularly lambasted in the press for various outbursts, physically attacked mid-broadcast by Pamela Stephenson, and actually refusing to sign off live on air when he was eventually quietly 'retired', he was exactly the sort of figure that certain parties would use as a convenient stick to beat the BBC with in this day and age, and as such not exactly the sort of figure that you'd expect to find presenting a show for children. Nor, indeed, would you expect to find him introducing such contributors as electronic music pioneer and Pink Floyd collaborator Ron Geesin; visiting American 'shock-comedy' troupe The Credibility Gap (featuring a pre-Spinal Tap Harry Shearer); Progressive Rock's only known resident poet Lady June; late night Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale; old-skool bandleader Benny Green; close-harmonising Franglais-parlezing satirist Miles Kington; surrealist poet Ivor Cutler; highbrow columnist and legendary drinker Jeffrey Bernard; and, especially, its two most prominent contributors - Kenny Everett and Vivian Stanshall - of whom more hereafter.

Had you been scanning the Radio Times back in the 'day', you'd have been forgiven for thinking this was some kind of late night experimental hoedown that had somehow broken free of its scheduling moorings. But it wasn't. It was concieved, produced and broadcast as entertainment for children, and what's more all concerned seem to have relished the challenge of refining their work to suit a younger audience. Kenny Everett, for example, was at that point trapped in a weird career no-man's-land, between being fired by Radio 1 (for making a joke about the Minister for Transport's wife passing her driving test because she "crammed a fiver in the examiner's hand") and the arrival of commercial radio, and was only too happy to have an opportunity to get back to tape fiddling-festooned audio lunacy. Similarly, Vivian Stanshall had still not quite found his artistic feet following the break-up of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and used the show to experiment with a series of frantically languid comic monologues about aristocratic misfits, which later evolved into Sir Henry At Rawlinson End. In short, this was everything that esoterica-favouring aesthetes now hold dear about radio condensed into one show aimed at children. You can keep your Chris Moyles, thanks.

Even by 1972, children's radio was about as popular as Here Is A Box has been over the past couple of weeks, but If It's Wednesday, It Must Be... was so unusual that it became something of a cult favourite. Inevitably it didn't last, due more to the contributors' commitments elsewhere than anything else, and nor - you may be surprised to read - did it find its way onto Music From BBC Children's Programmes. To find out why, then, we've spent an entire post banging on about a seemingly irrelevant programme, you'll have to stay 'tuned' for the story of what happened next...

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

"I Am Mixing Colours Mixing Colours Mixing Colours, I Am Mixing Colours..."? Well Bloody Well Mix Them And Get On With It, Then!!

Instead of stopping to ponder on the presumably British Psychedelic Trip-related reasons why the last post but one got an inexplicable two thousand plus views yet the most recent one has struggled to achieve even two dozen (should have called it Juste qui est le Sifflet de Six Heures? and waited until the weekend, then), it's time for a welcome, and possibly reader-unanticipated, change of direction. Don't worry, there'll be plenty more on Gordon Murray (Puppets), presumably so named to distinguish themselves from Gordon Murray (Agricultural Fungicides), later. But for now... you may well have noticed that Music From BBC Children's Programmes is a curiously non-commital title, in that it fails to include that presumably all-important selling point 'TV'. And the reason for this is about to become abundantly clear; for the next bit of music from a BBC Children's Programme comes from, believe it or not, radio.

And why's this seemingly innocuous fact apparently so surprising? Well, let's be absolutely merciless about this. Or, if you will, absolutely wireless. Sorry. By the mid-seventies, and indeed by the time that Music From BBC Children's Programmes was released, Children's Radio - even within the Reithian confines of the BBC - was more or less on its last legs. Yes, alright, so they are last legs that have seemingly extended infinitely outwards like Vic Reeves' in that Peter Paul & Mary parody, and chances are that if you flip around the dial for long enough at the right time of day you'll still find somebody with Sophie Aldred speech patterns singing something about "shake those feet/come on and wake those feet" somewhere or other, but it really isn't what it was. And the 'was' in this instance was a very long time ago indeed.

Whenever people start reminiscing about radio programmes for children - and that's actual people doing actual reminiscing, not just Peter Kay being paid to count off an imaginary list on his fingers - they tend t... well, no, they don't really reminisce about radio programmes for children, do they? Very, very occasionally somebody might get all misty-eyed about Listen With Mother, the BBC's midday song and story showcase of yore, and further back in the creakier broadcasting history books there's some impenetrable stuff about 'Uncle Mac', but radio entertainment for the very young was all but done and dusted long before the official Chris Hughes-patrolled parameters of what it's actually considered worthwhile nostalgising about. Even when you do get somebody pining for the long-lost good old days of Listen With Mother, it tends to all be bundled in to one huge memory-splurge of genre-straddling radio recollecting that takes in everything from Dick Barton - Special Agent and Journey Into Space to Calling All Workers (yes, I know, this isn't Friday Night Is Robin Carmody Night, you know) and that one where Jon Pertwee was a postman or something.

Although Listen With Mother would bravely stagger on right up until the early eighties, even those who were of target audience age in the era that Music From BBC Children's Programmes inadvertently defines barely ever listened to it, with at best little more than hazy memories of not really 'getting' it and wondering how long it was until TV 'started' again. For most, defining early memories of radio would doubtless be directly linked to the statutory quasi-religious devotion to 'the charts', and associated willing Sing Something Simple to hurry up and finish. And that's the entire problem nailed in two almost casual pan-cultural reference points; since those supposed glory days, both TV and pop music had happened, and with both increasingly keen to hook in younger and younger audiences, there wasn't really much scope for interesting youngsters in the audio-only exploits of My Naughty Little Sister and Mitten The Kitten. It was all a very long way from Johnny Ball adopting a 'karma' pose at the Interdimensional Barnaby Temple Of The Mind, certainly. The Yompity Yo, a Listen With Mother mainstay who once found himself the target of political ire following a story in which he broke into a house to retrieve his confiscated voice, might have pulled in a few post-Grange Hill listeners though.

So, in short, that's why it's a bit of a surprise to find the theme from a radio show as the fifth track on Music From BBC Children's Programmes. But this was no oridinary radio show. Nor indeed was it any ordinary theme.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Just Who Is The Six O'Clock Whistle?

As we've already established at some considerable length, Lord Belborough was the nominal 'star' of Chigley, not least on account of his ownership of a private steam railway, and - by direct association - singing the song that everybody remembers the show for. When not otherwise occupied in observing how time flies by when you're the driver of a train, he also - as has indeed also been touched on previously (and that's enough uses of the word 'also' for... well, for this paragraph at least) - owned an ornate antique hand-cranked Dutch organ that clattered out - courtesy of a varispeeded Freddie Phillips on guitar, tambourine and reverb-drenched toy trumpet - the calliope-evoking instrumental that played out behind the biscuit factory workers' odd ritual of staging a daily post-work Six O'Clock Dance whilst apparently dressed as medieval Romanian peasants. Which was, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, a visual cue that Gordon Murray would later return to... but more on that later. And that's enough uses of the word 'later' for this paragraph too.

Every good star character needs a good sidekick (and how tempting it is to go into an anti-River Song rant at this juncture, tempered only by the fact that Chigley Biscuits factory manager Mr. Creswell would consider it a woeful lack of the 'efficiency' he was always breaking into song about), and Lord Belborough was joined in both his train-driving organ-playing exploits by Brackett, a butler who excelled at all aspects of his job with one very glaring exception. The key narrative cornerstone of each episode of Chigley was that someone would get themselves into a (usually delivery-related) fix that would require, say, a privately-owned steam train to resolve, occasioning a quick phone call to Winkstead Hall. Brackett would duly answer the telephone, and resolve to 'tell his Lordship immediately'. What he didn't tell the train-requiring caller, however, was that Winkstead Hall's telephone was located at the end of a very long corridor, which - in an interesting definition of 'immediately' - he traversed to the accompaniment of a strident Phillips instrumental. What's more, he did so in a truly bizarre violently jerking nose-led fashion, suggesting to the impressionable viewer that he was walking with his out-of-vision legs tied together. This curious mode of perambulation, it later emerged, was the inspiration for the suspiciously accurate tipsyness-evoking line "slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball" in Oasis' Champagne Supernova, thereby exposing Noel Gallagher's one true moment of poetry as just another sham after all.

You may have noticed the use of the word 'instrumental' above. And you're probably thinking it's about time for a 'that's enough uses of the word 'instrumental'' gag. But you'd be wrong, mainly because there's about to be several more utterly unavoidable uses of it. On the album Come To Chigley, a hitherto unheard vocal section of Brackett's hitherto instrumental (yes, I know, but you're getting '...that's enough uses of the word 'hitherto'' for free!) signature tune was revealed, in which he sang about the structural shortcomings of stately homes; something that he blamed squarely on 'beetles'. His proposed beetle-countermanding (and possibly even Beatle-countermanding) solution was to host a fund-raising Open Day, and this where it all gets really confusing. On Come To Chigley, the Six O'Clock Dance music duly appeared in both instrumental and Open Day-fanfaring vocal versions, giving rise to hazy confused 'did I really hear that with words once?' half-memories to rival Little Britain by Dreadzone. The lyrics, as you were no doubt wondering, featured Lord Belborough inviting all and sundry to hand over wodges of cash in exchange for the opportunity to see sideshows, swings, and most bafflingly "old friends from Trumpton and Camberwick Green". Given that Farmer Bell was always dropping by unnanounced at the best of times, it's hardly likely that anyone from Chigley would have forked out good money for the opportunity to see him.

Come To Chigley wasn't a BBC Records release, but the later narration-free All The Music From Trumpton And Chigley certainly was, and it was from there that the compilers of Music From BBC Children's Programmes drew their choice of Chigley-representing track. Except it wasn't quite as straightforward as that. The Six O'Clock Dance music appeared on All The Music From Trumpton And Chigley in both its vocal and instrumental incarnations, and the somewhat adventurous compilers took the opportunity to put together a dextrous turntable-spinnin' extended 'mashup' of the two, coming across as a primitive precursor of the 12" mix of Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go?, only with more Mr Gubbins And Mr Sneed. Needless to say, DJ Kool Herc was soon scouring the bargain bins for a second copy of A Visit To Trumpton with which to extend Mr Munnings' ' printing press breaks'. And that really is enough uses of the word 'instrumental'... for this entry, anyway.

Maybe waltz-time odes to the joys of the Dutch organ aren't exactly going to be shaking any dancefloors in the immediate future (those traversed by Biscuit Factory workers in odd clothes notwithstanding), and maybe in this case 'extended' really only adds up to 'almost two whole minutes', but what we're looking at here is how this fourth track fits into the overall hallucinogenically-skewed Music From BBC Children's Programmes conceit, rather than its potential use to Jam & Spoon or one of those, and as it's drawn from a relatively less-well remembered show, with a few surprises along the way, and comes bolted onto the end of the theme from The Magic Roundabout too, it's fair to say that this is the most powerful fitting of the Barnaby In The Sky With BBC Schools Diamonds template that we've seen thus far. And it's about to get a lot more evocative and a lot more obscure...

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

I'll Tell His Lordship Immediately (Actual Immediacy Content May Vary)

Or Mr Dagenham, he can sell anything, anything anything money can buy, he's on a voyage across an ocean, waves of his mind are set in motion etc etcTime Flies By (When You're The Driver Of A Train), or to use its somewhat slightly more perfunctory 'official' title The Little Steam Train, may well be the most well and widely remembered song from Chigley, but surprisingly it's not the one that was chosen to represent it on Music From BBC Children's Programmes. As for what was used instead, well... we'd better get getting on with the over bridges under bridges to our destination type sort of thing, with an optional side order of wheezing pistons smoking funnels and turning wheels going clickety-clack, as that's a rather long and convoluted story, which as you'll have noticed by now forms part of an even longer and even more convoluted story. And, rather pleasingly, involves a butler for whom length and convolution were both pretty much meaningless concepts.

So let's begin at the beginning, then. And at the actual beginning of this particular narrative diversion, rather than at the beginning of an episode of Chigley, which would involve less in the way of talking about this second half of the fourth track of Music From BBC Children's Programmes than it would some rolling folky guitar picking and jaunty interrogation of a rogue road-bound inhabitant of Camberwick Green or Trumpton about their next intended destination (clue: it's never Camberwick Green or Trumpton). Not only would that be straying ridiculously far from whatever passes for a 'point' in all of this, it would also, in fairness, be quite difficult to replicate in 'blog' format. So anyway, as we were saying above, back to the beginning of this business about unexpected tune-selection and a tempora-spatial para-mathematical butler.

Chigley, like all of its Gordon Murray-masterminded stop-motion cohorts (both Trumptonshire-based and otherwise... but more on that later), featured extensive musical accompaniment by one Freddie Phillips. A classical guitarist by profession, he nonetheless took great pleasure in earning a bit of extra pocket money via film and TV soundtrack engagements, ranging from cult British horror film Peeping Tom to the 'Network Openings' that played over the BBC Globe in the days when they used to shut down overnight and for most of the daytime too, which basically involved bluesy riffing over a percussive tape loop. As this proto-Big Beat musical and technical incongruity suggests, he was a keen and early advocate of the use of tape effects. Indeed, this was something that he would put to good use in his work on Gordon Murray's shows, multitracking and varispeeding a lone acoustic guitar and assorted percussion instruments to give the aural impression of, amongst others, a shop full of clocks, a printing press and even a full brass band. No, really.

Some of his contributions to Murray's shows, including the opening theme of Chigley, were purely instrumental. Many more of them, however, were short, catchy, simplistic and yet lyrically dextrous songs about the various Trumptonshire inhabitants and their occupations, with vocal duties handled by series narrator Brian Cant. Many of them, underneath the strident acoustic guitar work (once highlighted, incidentally, by Total Guitar magazine as "an example of how you can find great guitar playing in the unlikeliest of places"), had a musical and lyrical feel that were not entirely out of step with the post-Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band trend for 'psychedelic pop', so much so that a couple of them wouldn't have sounded out of place on a volume of The British Psychedelic Trip (and would have been a more suitable and indeed enjoyable inclusion than that bloody Mrs. Pinkerton thing, frankly). But their main purpose was to entertain children while withstanding constant repetition, and this was a task that they undoubtedly performed admirably. Seriously, come on, how many of you are humming "Windy Miller, Windy Miller, sharper than a thorn..." right now?

Meanwhile, what was included to represent Chigley on Music From BBC Children's Programmes was made up from both a vocal and an instrumental track, although to all intents and purposes they were more or less the same track to begin with. Confused? Don't worry, all will be made clear - ish - in the next instalment. And that butler's on his way too. Eventually.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

We Are The Biscuit Factory Rappers/Known On The Block As Da Chigley Packaz...

And from The Magic Roundabout and all of its associated not-about-drugs-ery, we move on with an equal lack of linkage with hallucinogen ingestion to one of the other iconic television animations of the 'swinging' sixties. Well, technically, four of the other iconic animations of the 'swinging' sixties, if we're being strictly accurate about it. If ever there was a legitimate rival claimant to Gerry Anderson's rarely-disputed title of Supreme Balding Overlord Of Small-Screen Puppetry That Dominated Sixties Television (And Beyond), it was Gordon Murray, who between 1966 and 1976 was responsible for four - yes, four, you did read that right, and we'll be finding out just that unexpectedly numerically-expanded total was arrived at in due course (and that's where the story starts to get really peculiar) - charming stop-motion serials set in stylised mouthless-puppet-populated sociologically-idealised depicitions of British residential community life. Although one of them wasn't actually made in the 'swinging' sixties. And it wasn't - apparently - set in Britain either, nor even the sixties, 'swinging' or otherwise. But we really are getting ahead of ourselves there. What would Chippy Minton say??

Not much, probably, as he didn't have a mouth. Nor, more to the point, was he actually a resident of Chigley. Well, yes, he did make a guest appearance in more than one episode of it, but again we're getting ahead of ourselves there, even if he wouldn't have much to say about that himself. But he liked his job as a carpenter, and there was nothing he'd rather be, and he'd had his tools for many long years and they were all good friends to him, and a joke about He's Gone by Suede that would take too long to explain, so he probably wouldn't really begrudge us talking about his non-parent series. Not least because there's plenty more to come about his parent series in but a couple of chapters' time.

First broadcast in 1969, Chigley was the third in this none-more-sixties series (which, in an even more obscure joke that would take too long to explain, would technically make it Nightmares In Wonderland, though for very good reasons that will later become very much apparent that title should realistically belong to one of the earlier instalments... but, again, more on that later). Thematically described as being located 'Near Camberwick Green, Trumptonshire', Chigley was a subdivision of the fictional county which was given over to ultra-modernist light industry (a world away from the deceptively nearby ruralist-pluralist backdrop of mills and vintage cars that we'll be delving into in a future instalment), boasting an impressive high-tech biscuit factory and fully functional wharf alongside a smaller pottery business, and all of it overseen by Lord Belborough, the eccentric toff resident of the capacious and opulent Winkstead Hall who owned his own private steam railway and regularly played his barrel organ for the nifty footwork-related edification of the biscuit factory workers (yes, alright, this isn't Don't Scare The Robin Carmody Hare. you know).

For reasons that are not altogether clear, Chigley is the 'forgotten' entry in Gordon Murray's excursions into small-screen utopian cultural harmonia (though not quite as forgotten as the fourth one, and in a nifty bit of postmodernist audience interactivity, see if you can remember the name of it before we actually get to it). Perhaps, though this is pure speculation here, partly due to the fact that it guest-stars a large number of characters from the two earlier series while introducing some slightly less memorable ones of its own (Lord Belborough notwithstanding), and also perhaps partly due to the BBC dropping it from their repeat schedules for a couple of years in the seventies. And yet, ironically, it also boasts one of the most widely-remembered elements of all of the combined series, namely Lord Belborough's jaunty song about how time flies by when he's the driver of a train, riding on the footplate there and back again as he raced to ensure some ingredients got to the biscuit factory in time for them to, erm, make another batch of biscuits. And there's a special prize of Being Completely Ignored for the first person to mention Half Man Half Biscuit's terminally unamusing 'tee hee, they were all on drugs!!' rewrite of it. Trumpton Riots was funny, though.

And yet for some odd reason it isn't that well-remembered effort that forms the Magic Roundabout-accompanying second half of track four of Music From BBC Children's Programmes, but something from elsewhere in the programme. And what's more, it's presented in a fashion that would leave even DJ Kool Herc mouth-agape at the turntable-spinnin' skills on display.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Lazy Day, Lazy Day, Lazy Day For You And Me (NO DUNCAN THE DRAGONS)

Something that's become puzzlingly obvious during the course of this convoluted narrative is that whenever there's a post with a title in French, it generates a smaller than usual flurry of interest, then is seemingly ignored for a couple of days, until the weekend when - for some unexplainable reason - it suddenly goes bananas and the 'views' count rockets into the high hundreds. It's ironic, then, that most of these posts (apart from the one about Blue Peter and left brain/right brain psychometrics, but then that didn't exactly score too highly on the view-o-meter anyway, which probably says a lot about Blue Peter though less than it says about this increasingly tedious diversion into French Lieutenant's Woman-esque postmodernist commentary on the mechanics of, ahem, 'storytelling') have been about The Magic Roundabout, which provided regular weekday entertainment in its pre-news timeslot before disappearing entirely for the duration of the weekend.

But let's not start shouting up to Philip Martin for the next page of the script just yet. Back to The Magic Roundabout, and more specifically the theme music as heard on Music From BBC Children's Programmes. This was, you'll doubtless be unsurprised to hear, the previously much-discussed short sped-up instrumental version as also heard on the BBC's redubs of the series, and indeed on the earlier BBC Records And Tapes story album from whence this was presumably re-edited (though stranger substitutions have happened, and indeed will happen as we move on through the tracklisting... but all in good time). And this short sped-up version, as will have been all too obvious from the last couple of posts (even the bits in French), is deeply entrenched in that sub-psychedelic retro-nirvana higher state of Barnaby-skewed consciousness that had been so keenly sought from Music From BBC Children's Programmes.

True, the theme from The Magic Roundabout is hardly a serious challenger to the I Am Best At Being UK Psych Hurrah title jointly held by The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, Odessey And Oracle and Would You Believe? (oh, alright, or bloody Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band... can we move on now please?), and indeed it may last little more than thirty seconds, but within those little more than thirty seconds - helped in no small part by the trebly and audio-strobing sound quality - there is an entire quasi-hallucinogenic lost world of gaudy crudely-animated entertainment and black and white Radio Times pages. It's a very different kind of psychedelia to that usually ascribed to The Magic Roundabout by tedious drug bores insisting that it's all a drugs analogy about about drugs (drugs), and this ability to tap into 'the past' of popular culture (a phenomenon that itself, ironically, is also becoming a thing of 'the past' thanks to pop-cultural artefacts of yore actually tending to be available these days rather than hovering on the haziest fringes of the collective memory) is, well, exactly what it was hoped that Music From BBC Children's Programmes might possess.

And how are we scoring on the putative, fictional and not entirely logically applicable Sort Of Chart Rundown Thing-O-Meter Of Just How Pan-Cultural Retro-Symbiotic Music From BBC Children's Programmes Actually Is, then? Well, Mary Mungo & Mindfulness-Pickers, what we have so far is roughly half of the tracks hitting the desired Professor Jordan's Magic Soundshow-esque mark, a couple more sort of but not quite doing so, and one not doing so at all, even if it did inadvertently give rise to a bizarre freak incident of 'trending'. It's all starting to resemble a Derek Griffiths-slanted take on Tinkerbell's Fairydust, the fabled elaborately-named UK Psych band who recorded the awe-inspiring singles 2010 and Lazy Day (b/w, coincidentally enough, In My Magic Garden) and an unreleased album, which was the stuff of minor musical holy grail-related speculative music press agogness until it actually eventually was released, and turned out to be a collection of nice-enough-but-nowhere-near-as-good-as-the-singles harmony pop covers. Mind you, it did have a naked fairy on the cover, which at least holds slightly more visual appeal than those loathesome youngsters from the cover of Music From BBC Children's Programmes.

But, as was last mentioned several millennia and a lot of references to France Gall ago, The Magic Roundabout was merely the first half of the fourth track of Music From BBC Children's Programmes, and if it had acted as a sort of retronostalgic knight in shining armour galloping up to smite Blue Peter, then the cavalry were also about to appear on the horizon, riding on the footplate there and back again...

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles (Avec Les Chevilles Sur Leurs Nez)

If you've ever heard the original French theme music from The Magic Roundabout, or rather Le Manège Enchanté (which, as we've already heard, and will soon hear again, is more or less the same thing but with some subtle yet significant differences), you'll know that, much like the show itself, it's broadly similar to the version you're familiar with, but at the same time subtly yet significantly different. It's built around the same chords and melody but is performed at a much slower pace, and is bolstered by some very sixties organ work and an arrangement not unlike that of a Francoise Hardy record. At one point it even had lyrics, sung as a duet between Margote and Pere Pivoine (or Florence and Mr. Rusty in 'old money'), which basically just do little apart from describe how a roundabout habitually turns round but at least sound nice and exotic in the original French. Later on, for some reason, the producers saw fit to replace it with Pollux (or 'Dougal' in old money) singing a bland song with a peg on his nose about how he was "friend of all adults and children", apparently, and which sounds about as far removed from a Françoise Hardy record as you're liable to get. Even if she was to stick a peg on her nose.

Over here on the BBC, the earliest Eric Thompson-redubbed instalments did indeed use an instrumental version of the original theme, but eschewed the delights of hastily penning some mechanic rotation-centric lyrics for Sandie Shaw (though someone at EMI's cheapo imprint Music For Pleasure later did write some, albeit not for Sandie Shaw, and yes they're every bit as unimaginative as you're probably imagining, but that's another story), in favour of swapping it for a manically sped-up reworking that sounded like it was being played on a steam-driven barrel organ held together with springs and on the verge of exploding; the only resemblance this would bear to a Françoise Hardy record would be if you were to play one at 16rpm while throwing your record player down the stairs.

This would stay in place for the entirety of its run (and indeed for the later Nigel Planer-dubbed Channel 4 remounting, albeit horribly compressed and with some nasty synth bass added, but that's another story... and one that we won't even be going near frankly), and that was pretty much it as far as music for The Magic Roundabout (as opposed to Le Manège Enchanté) went. While the original versions featured dozens of admittedly rather inconsequential songs, as evidenced by those featured in the big-screen spinoff Dougal And The Blue Cat (where they came accompanied by all manner of choreographed hoo-hah so there was pretty much no option but to leave them in place), Thompson preferred to leave the 'clean' instrumentals on the undubbed film prints simply as vocal-free backing music, and get on with the more serious business of wisecracking about mouthy plants forming unions. Though he did once see fit to incorporate a self-recorded approximation of Dylan and Brian jamming an instrumental cover of Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. No, really.

How and why said worryingly haphazard 'everybody take cover!!' arrangement came to be used for the BBC redubs in place of the original themes, and indeed from whence it came in the first place, are questions to which there seems to be no straightforward answer. There's not even an easily identifiable artist credit, more a logic bomb-esque confusion of series creators and music publishers and what appears to be some initials too, so it's not so much a research dead-end as something that gives you a headache just by looking at it. But used it was, at the start and end (and sometimes in the middle) of close to four hundred editions of The Magic Roundabout, so small wonder that it's come to be so firmly embedded in the national subconscious, and indeed so powerfully evocative of a surreal pyschedelic mindset that all of those tedious rumours about it being 'about drugs' could only hope to even begin to hint at.

And here it was, at the start of the fourth track of Music From BBC Children's Programmes, poised ready to evoke that selfsame surreal psychedelic mindset without the aid of psychotropic substances or a peg on Mireille Mathieu's nose (or Marianne Faithfull in 'old money'). But would it work? And, more to the point, what made up the remainder of that fourth track?

Sunday, 8 May 2011

And The Ones That Florence Gives You Don't Do Anything At All

Let's get the tedious bit out of the way, then. The Magic Roundabout, so conventional 'wisdom' has it, was at best the acid-frazzled creation of someone who had imbibed far too many hallucinogens and 'seen' the hat-sporting pink cows lurking on the periphery of human sensory awareness, and at worst crafty pro-drug propaganda for the under-fives with Dougal cast as a sugarcube-scoffing acid visionary, Dylan as a weed-smoking layabout, Mr Rusty as a cart-toting pusher in the mould of Bubbles from The Wire, the Roundabout itself as a giant mushroom, and Ermintrude/Brian/Zebedee/The Train/Delete Where Ohhangonaminute somehow representing 'speed', however that works exactly. And if you play the theme music backwards, it says 'DINNERS' HAS BEEN DEAD FOR AGES HONESTLY. Notice how this perfect fit analysis invariably omits Mr McHenry, Florence, Paul, Basil and Rosalie, not to mention Penelope The Spider and Tweet & Tweet Tweet.

Notice also, more importantly, that there is absolutely no truth in this nonsense whatsoever, and no amount of nudging and winking from third-rate standups nor indeed bare-faced insistence from 'talking heads' on clip shows (both of which, funnily enough, our old pal Ricky Hervaid is guilty of) will ever make it so. If you were alighting on these pages hoping for some zany lolz about how they must all have been on those crazy drugs!1, then please go elsewhere and take that bloody Half Man Half Biscuit song with you. Anyway, we've already sort of been through this once with all that stuff about Jonathan Cohen playing Don't Fight It Feel It on the Bontempi organ or whatever it was. And now, you'll doubtless be delighted to hear, that's the tedious bit out of the way. The bit about Bubbles was quite good though.

Meanwhile, what all this sub-Slater From Dazed & Confused rumourmongering annoyingly obscures is that, well, there's no getting away from the fact that The Magic Roundabout really did chime with the times. Like all of the best 'accidental psychedelia', from Colour My World by Petula Clark and The Great Jelly Of London to The BBC Schools Diamond and Bedazzled, it was made in all 'straight'-ness but still allowed itself to be influenced by the fashion, design and style of the day, and as such ended up more effective in its kaleidoscopic otherworldliness than many more humourless and contrived attemps at 'being psychedelic'; this was even more true of the Thompson-reworked version, which was far from averse to throwing in chortling references to countercultural totems. And it had across-the-board appeal too, drawing in as many appreciative adult viewers who understood the idiosyncracies of Thompson's wit as target audience members fresh from taking their Pelham Puppets Dougal for a 'walk'.

More to the point, it found itself unexpectedly chiming with the times in the early nineties too. Not only were Channel 4 screening some previously unseen episodes with writing and narrating dutes taken on by Nigel Planer (who also produced a bonkers spoof Dispatches-style documentary ridiculing the more outlandish theories that have grown up around the show), but it had also been adopted on a more iconographic face value by the post-Acid House 'rave' generation (who, let's face it, were so blatant in their 'E'-centric hallucinogen propaganda that they didn't need to look for any 'hidden' messages anywhere else), not just as fashion-appropriate t-shirt fodder but also in musical terms, with no less than three superb examples of neo-psychedelia - Too Much Fun by The Chillin' Krew, Summers Magic by Mark Summers, and Everlasting Day by, erm, Magik Roundabout (who also apparently did a cover of The Porpoise Song that nobody seems to have heard) - either making lyrical references to or sampling the theme music of The Magic Roundabout.

But could it chime with the times a third time? Was that all-too-familiar eighteen-note refrain what was needed to forge a psychotropic pathway to Cheggers Plays Zen and obliterate all memory of bloody Barnacle Bill...? Get cranking that handle, Pere Pivoine...

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

BOIING! Time For Not Bed

This Drum And Fife mystery clearly isn't going to get resolved any time soon, which is all the more unfortunate for anyone who was hoping to eventually find an answer on here, as we're not going to be spending any more time than we have to on Blue Peter. Instead, it's time to move on to track four of Music From BBC Children's Programmes, and a show that is probably going to end up being discussed in such depth and from so many different angles that it'll leave you feeling like the coverage of John Noakes and company was almost insultingly fleeting.

It's been a bit of a journey of musical mixed fortunes through Music From BBC Children's Programmes thus far, remaining resolutely rooted in the shallow end of the hoped-for psychedelic blast of retro-iconographic pre-school far-outness, with only the Play Away team and their bubblegum pop funkateering really coming up with the hypothetical goods. Throughout all of this, you may just have ever so slightly noticed, there have been constant and hopeful references to various other shows, and one in particular, that would more closely fit the hypothetical bill and blast all thoughts of that jolly stylised sailing ship out of the water in a shockwave of primarily-coloured stop-motion puppetry and badly aligned end credit slides. But as Barnaby has yet to put in an appearance (his true followers still believe he will make himself manifest and wreak havoc with the forces of creation, though they've probably been taking the opening titles of Once Upon A Time... Man a little too literally), it's time to turn instead to the show that played Chemical World to his For Tomorrow.

You may remember, if you've a long memory and infinite patience for wading through base insults directed at Blue Peter, that a couple of posts back mention was made of an ancient BBC continuity slide, with much cheerleading in the general direction of its left hand side. If you're somewhat slightly baffled by the idea of someone supporting the left hand side and left hand side only of a continuity slide, then you'll have to go back and read the post (it's called Bleu, Bleu, L'amour Est Bleu (Surtout En Regardent Pierre Bleu) and is linked to somewhere in the continuity-slide-counteracting vicinity of the bottom right corner of this post, probably), but suffice it to say that it was something to do with the fact that all of the Children's BBC character iconography most in tune with our purported cause were to be found on the left (yes, alright, this isn't Robin Carmody's Got Talent, you know). One of these was a certain moustachioed jack-in-a-box on a spring, and thankfully there's no need to refer to a thirty-years-plus-out-of-date schedule that's probably tainted by We Are The Champions anyway (and, come to think of it, has nothing to do with the tracklisting of Music From BBC Children's Programmes, so it wouldn't be any use anyway) to find out that, coming up next, it's The Magic Roundabout.

The Magic Roundabout, as doubtless most people reading this were aware already, began in France in 1963, where it was known as Le Manège Enchanté. However, when the BBC bought the series for transmission in 1965, they decided not to go for direct translations of the original scripts (which had a more simplistic and educational quality that was sort of lost in, um, translation), and instead roped in Play School presenter, absurdist, jazz enthusiast and all round Father Of Emma Eric Thompson to make up his own storylines and characters based on what he thought was happening onscreen. The result was a surreal and dryly humorous exercise in Zen-based storytelling set to distinctively offbeat visuals, which remained lodged in a pre-news slot at the tail-end of the BBC's children's schedules right up to the end of the seventies, and infamously found as much favour with adult viewers as it did with its target audience; sometimes with good reason, sometimes with decidedly less than good reason, but we'll get round to all that in due course. More to the point it was, in its own unselfconscious way, about as psychedelic as the BBC's children's programming ever got (discounting Zokko! as a 'bad trip'), though again this was much misunderstood and again we'll be coming back to that in due course.

For the moment, all you need to know is that The Magic Roundabout was, give or take the occasional power struggle with the more anarcho-radicalist Barnaby and the odd bit of Mr. Benn, the high watermark of exactly the sort of subcultural mindset that I was hoping to unlock within Music From BBC Children's Programmes' grooves. And its theme music was up next.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Someone's Being Menaced By An Out-Of-Control Studio Campfire, My Lord, Kum Ba Yah

Well, the previous post has unintentionally inspired something of an online debate, with much 'trending' taking place over whether the closing theme of Blue Peter actually is titled Drum And Fife or not. Wikipedia says yes, 100% Mike Oldfield Super-Best Discography says no, and YouTube says 'blue peter drum and bass', which is hardly exactly helping matters. Can anyone provide the definitive answer? Answers, as ever, on a postcard. Though preferably to here and not to Blue Peter, BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ.

What there can be no debate about, however, is the identity of the piece of music that the Blue Peter theme was bolted onto. As we have seen, it was customary for each track of Music From BBC Children's Programmes to be made up of several shorter tracks segued together. In the absence of Drum And Fife[CITATION NEEDED], which they presumably couldn't agree on the name of even at the time, and with Blue Peter presenters generally discouraged from following the bad example set by Magpie's Mick Robertson and his second division Glam Rock effort Roller Coaster Rock (not a 13th Floor Elevators cover, sadly), there was nothing obvious to pad Barnacle Bill out to track length with and so BBC Records And Tapes had to scour their archives for something tenuously suitable, eventually opting for a version of Kum Ba Yah credited to 'The Girl Guides'.

A bit of background is needed here. BBC Records And Tapes were an eccentric outfit at the best of times, but in their first couple of years of operation they apparently compiled their output by cutting up a copy of the Radio Times, throwing the pieces up in the air and picking the first five words that landed as the basis for an album title. Hence alongside the more expected fare like Jackanory story albums, Marty Feldman sketch collections and BBC Radiophonic Workshop shenanigans, you'd get the likes of Sir Peter Ustinov Says: How To See Jupiter Through A Telescope, Whither Paraguay? A Musical Journey In Speech and Sound Effects No. 874: Steam Train Buffet Cars Of Old Shropshire, none of which are quite as much of an exaggeration as you might be thinking. And yes, there was a Test Card album, but more on that later. Needless to say, they would pile any passing musical ensemble into a recording studio, and so it was that this non-location specific collection of 'Girl Guides', under the supervision of one Hettie Smith, came to record an album's worth of campfire standards (other intriguing-sounding numbers including Hol' Yo' Han', Mr Banjo, the unfortunate psych-alluding juxtaposition of The Brownie Song and Images And Reflections, and Tingalayo, better known to erstwhile viewers of the BBC schools' programme Music Time as that peculiar song about a donkey that eats with a knife and fork), released in 1971 as Singing Along With The Girl Guides with a disturbing cover depicting a terrifying mutant Guide.

And how did it end up on here? Well, presumably as part of the 'improving' remit, Blue Peter was always given to allowing members of the Guiding and Scouting movements to demonstrate their 'gang show' antics in the studio, most infamously resulting in a shower of Guides being menaced live on air by an out-of-control campfire (while, hilariously, singing If You're Happy And You Know It), so the link kind of writes itself. Sadly there's no crackling flame effect (from BBC Sound Effects No. 87663?) to enhance this performance, just a terminally dreary performance of a terminally dreary song, rendered in that 'ghostly' looming-from-out-of-nowhere style much beloved of The Cliff Adams Singers on Sing Something Simple.

Of course, there's a whole subgenre now devoted to the unexpectedly spooky and spectral folky Ghost Box-style sounds of the throwaway background music of yesteryear, which presumably accounts for the otherwise bafflingly inflated sums Singing Along With The Girl Guides now changes hands for. But spooky and spectral folky is not what we're looking for here, let alone jaunty orchestral nauticisms, and the time-honoured Greek Chorus that is Blue Peter has once again succeeded in intrusively disrupting an hallucinogenic vista that should be backward sitars and the shopkeeper from Mr Benn as far as the eye can see. But wait... is that the sound of the cavalry in the distance, galloping up on a 'Tricy-bus'???

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Plus... Tubular... Bells (Made From Cardboard Rolls And 'Double-Sided Sticky Tape')

So, track three of Music From BBC Children's Programmes. The Blue Peter theme. And the original orchestral pre-Mike Oldfield one at that. Much as we might prefer to avoid it, and may have spent the previous two posts trying to find ways of doing just that, it's there on the album and is a hurdle that has to be overcome if we want to get to The Electric Kool-Aid (Made By Windy Miller's Cider Press) Acid Test, so let's just get it out of the way and move on.

The Blue Peter theme, as you may already know, is a jaunty re-arrangement of Barnacle Bill, written by Ashworth Hope and definitely not to be confused with the rather off-colour traditional sea shanty of the same name. And similarly not to be confused with the closing theme Drum And Fife, which is apparently an entirely different tune despite sounding almost identical. This version, as used onscreen from 1958 to 1979, was performed by the New Century Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch, perhaps better known as creator and mainstay of Radio 2's Friday Night Is Music Night. And, well, it sounds pretty much as you remember it, from the opening drum roll to the shrill sign-off. It's jolly but formal strings and woodwind all the way, and as it had its origins in the world of 'proper' orchestral composition, there isn't even a hastily-written weird-out 'middle bit' to enjoy. No, it's just more of the same with occasional variations in conducting emphasis, the only real 'moment' coming with an unexpected oboe 'breakdown' that sounds as if it more rightly belongs behind an early Disney character falling over.

It's nice enough as far as it goes (and later sounded great on CD, but that's another story), and it would be a brave person who suggested that it was anything less than a pleasant and jaunty light orchestral piece, but it just doesn't belong on Music From BBC Children's Programmes. Well, actually, in a literal sense it probably has more claim to be on there than any of the other inclusions. But in a more esoteric and hypothetical sense it's a real fish out of water, redolent of an earlier age of ration books and Calling All Workers and whistling postmen and, well, children's TV of the late fifties (and let's be honest, Blue Peter had done little in the way of modernising since then). Musically and indeed aesthetically it has little in common with the two preceding tracks, nor indeed what else might potentially be found later on in the tracklisting.

Crucially, had this album come out only a couple of years later, it would have featured Mike Oldfield's far more pleasing progged-up Korgtastic rendition, squealing lead guitar and all. Or if it had been Music From ITV Children's Programmes (and oh for such an album to have existed), it would have boasted The Spencer Davis Group's pseudonymous swirly-Hammond Mod-dancefloor-friendly theme song from Magpie. But no, the original Blue Peter theme it had to be, looming up like that weird post-credits zoom in on the Blue Peter boat to remind us that we couldn't have it our own way all the time, and as long as a Reithian pulse was still detectable in the BBC they'd make sure we got our healthy regular dose of improving programming to balance out all that mind-bending stuff about violin-playing robots. Still, it could have been worse. At least it wasn't the brass band rendition of On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at that bookended outward bound Blue Peter spinoff Go With Noakes.

We came looking for something akin to The Walham Green East Wapping Rodent And Boggit Extermination Association appearing on Cheggers Plays Pop. We left, as ever, under the disapproving gaze of those clean-cut youngsters who didn't like that uncouth pop and roll music but knew everything there was to know about getting up at six in the morning to do their bugle practice, recite the Kings and Queens of England in both chronological and dynastic order, and then get to work on the latest Blue Peter 'make'. The effect was somewhat like finding Edwelweiss by Vince Hill in the middle of side one of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (the exact opposite effect, amusingly, to finding (Bring Me) Edelweiss by Edelweiss in the middle of side one of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn), and as we shall find out, this fading of the psychedelic dream would get worse before it would get better.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Bleu, Bleu, L'amour Est Bleu (Surtout En Regardent Pierre Bleu)

Still not convinced? Alright, let's consider this in slightly more pseudo-scientific terms. Many years ago, probably while Music From BBC Children's Programmes was on general release, the BBC used to use a caption slide in a horrid navy/mustard/white colour scheme for unveiling the day's children's TV schedules. On either side of said schedules were a set of illustrations featuring iconography from some of the more popular offerings of the day, complete with two children gazing up at them in awe. On the left were the Play School house and Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout, and on the right were Scooby Doo and - you knew it was on the horizon - the Blue Peter boat.

"So what?", you're probably thinking. "It stands to reason that they'd slap a few random representations of view-enticing shows onto an otherwise bland-looking schedule which probably had bloody God's Wonderful Railway in it on top of everything else, without even considering that in the far and distant future someone would use it as a flimsy springboard for launching into yet more unwarranted Blue Peter-bashing". And yes, in the conventional and indeed literal sense, you'd be exactly right. But consider it more in terms of the cognitive associations of this juxtaposition. The shows on the left, it has to be said, are precisely those that would appeal to the more arty and cerebral sector of the audience, that had 'seen' the jazz influences of Play Away and indulged in pre-school existential rumination on the modern condition and its relation to the pop-art ethics underpinning the Play School toys, and probably grew up to be obsessed with French cinema and lo-fi music and indeed with recapturing the lost 'white void' studio of the mind. Whereas those on the right (yes, alright, this isn't Robin Carmody's Saturday Night Takeaway you know) pointed towards more of a sense of structure and order and academic rigour, with precision and achievement and fresh-faced fun taking precedence over angst-ridden doodling intended to somehow 'take down the government'. In a sense it really is the whole 'Left Brain/Right Brain' theorem writ large, only the wrong way round, and with more Barnaby.

And so it was that if you went through childhood with the imprinted image of a Franco-English stop-motion bear lodged in your subconscious, Blue Peter was merely something that Other Children Liked. Its adherence to formality and achievement and unobtrusive modes of dress, not to mention its obsession with historical facts and figures and ever so slightly patronising exploration of 'foreign' cultures, was sometimes more than the unfocused creative mind could cope with and as such simply rejected it. Others may have had their Bring And Buy Sales and free entry to the Natural History Museum for Blue Peter badgewinners, but this was a world you could not understand and were not invited into anyway, forced instead to stand peering through the window with Mr Davenport from Rentaghost.

It's worth mentioning at this point that there is something of a misconception that those who were barred from entering the Blue Peter party automatically sought solace in Magpie, the ITV counterpart that folk legend would have you believe was something tantamount to a 'roller disco' in comparison. However, that's ignoring the fact that underneath its more modish trappings, Magpie had much the same obsessions as Blue Peter - almost as if Brotherhood Of Man had decided to go 'New Wave' - and the last thing you wanted was to replace something you didn't like with more of the same in trendier jackets. If anything, such disaffected viewers would probably have gravitated towards How!, where the presenters explained how things work but made surreal fun of them at the same time... but that's straying way too far off the central narrative thrust for now. Of course, Magpie did have one very significant thing in its favour, but we'll return to that in due course.

Suffice it to say that no matter how entertaining the archive clips routinely included as extras on 'Classic' Doctor Who DVDs may be, and no matter how legendarily entertaining the bitter rivalry between Blue Peter and Magpie presenters may have been in more recent times, and no matter how enviably classy a complete run of Blue Peter 'books' (never 'annuals'... the whole argument that's taken up two blog posts encapsulated in one word right there) may look on an erstwhile Noakes-decrier's shelves, that's all to do with how vintage Blue Peter seems now, and back when vintage Blue Peter wasn't actually vintage, it was the prim and proper diametric defuser of any theoretical Fingerbobs firework lit by Keith Chegwin. And here it was, slap bang in the middle(ish) of the first side of Music From BBC Children's Programmes, poised to do exactly the same thing again.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Here's One We Made Much More Boringly

Alright, Those Children From The Cover Of Music From BBC Children's Programmes, you can come out from behind the sofa now. Doctor Who and the 'Worlds' thereof has finished, and it's time for the theme music from exactly the sort of programme that appealed to you gentrified Shrivenzale-fearing swots. The sort of programme that has always polluted any attempt at waxing psychedelinostalgic lyrical about children's television of the past with the overwhelming odiferous strength of Pickled Onion Monster Munch. The sort of programme it was always tacitly dictated you ought to be watching, as opposed to the sort that you actually wanted to watch. The sort of programme that was, well, Blue Peter.

Let's get one thing straight from the outset. If we're plotting a star chart rendered in 'Glam Rock' graphology where the constellations form representations of Mr McHenry and Farmer Barleymow inside a larger strobing swirl of cosmic flares, then Blue Peter has no place on it. Yes, it was popular, yes, it was long-running, and yes, it may have to be grudgingly accepted that its live nature sometimes led to watchable moments of cat-goes-berzerk-and-pushes-John-Noakes-backwards-over-couch hilarity, but none of that can do anything to counter the fact that, in this context at least, Blue Peter is to all intents and purposes an Englebert Humperdinck accidentally included on the bill of a 14 Hour Technicolour Dream.

Nowadays, of course, Blue Peter enjoys a very different sort of incongruity, as one of the last remaining outposts of clean-cut improving semi-educational children's television, and is also barely recognisable in that they actually allow the presenters to have something resembling a hairstyle. Back in the era of Music From BBC Children's Programmes, however, you either loved it or hated it. And if you hated it, it was a dull teacherish Reithian exercise in instructing you in what you should be interested in, populated by over-enthusiastic presenters who lacked even the verging-on-surreal-dryness of other close contemporaries like John Craven, presented from a 'white void' studio it barely deserved, and suffering from a worryingly fanatical devotion to retelling the story of The Stone Of Scone.

No doubt many of those who loved it, and TV Cream's Steve Williams in particular, will have stopped reading by now, but please be assured this is no idle and opportunistic exercise in Blue Peter-bashing. For it was a show that had little in common - station of origin aside - with the more absurdist and chronologically adrift shows that it might have been hoped were to be found on Music From BBC Children's Programmes, and yet was always the first to get mentioned whenever anyone sought to evoke memories of children's television past, with reminiscences about 'double-sided sticky tape' and 'makes' that nobody ever made and the Time Capsule and That Sodding Elephant and when Princess Anne joined them for something or other as if anyone ever cared about that in the first place anyway just generally getting in the way of rightful Chegger-skewed revelry, leading to no end of Barnaby-fuelled resentment towards Peter Purves and company. It was probably a wrongful scapegoat, but it was a scapegoat all the same, and arms had to be taken up against it. Slim Charles from The Wire would have been proud.

And whereas Doctor Who was a welcome and musically pleasing diversion from the path to Play Away-soundtracked enlightenment, Blue Peter came equipped with formal (if jolly) stiffly orchestral theme music that belonged to another age. All of the hopes that had been pinned on Music From BBC Children's Programmes were, it seemed, rapidly fading. The Day Of Those Children From The Cover was upon us.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Gallifreyan Staser Gun (3 Blasts)

If anyone ever did actually watch Doctor Who from behind the 'sofa', then it's a fair bet that the second track of Music From BBC Children's Programmes would have similarly sent them diving for upholstered cover. For as the upbeat tones of the Play Away cast getting down home and funky about opening umbrellas indoors fades out, in comes the all-too-familiar electronic sting that had followed countless instances of Tom Baker doing his 'alarmed' face while a booming voice announced that there was nothing he could do to stop their plans now.

Yes, the second track began with the original version of the Doctor Who theme music. Although not quite the original; over the course of the programme's ten year history, The BBC Radiophonic Workshop's original arrangement had been regularly electronically rejigged as an when successive production teams opted to wield the trusty 'new broom'. It had been bolstered by new-fangled electronic 'spangles' (as the fans insist on calling them, which is especially confusing when you're in the middle of an already all-over-the-place narrative that has already made several mentions of the over-mythologised boiled sweets of the same name) and indeed the aforementioned cliffhanger-enhancing sting, it had been remixed into stereo (and, surprisingly for its vintage, real proper bona fide stereo too), and the full-length Tardis take-off effect had been pasted in halfway through. And even that's just the obvious rememberable-off-the-top-of-your-head stuff. Suffice it to say that although the same basic original recording was still there somewhere underneath it all, in many ways it was actually a different version to the simpler, sparser one that had heralded the show's black and white era. Oh yes, Patrick Troughton had to go "oh my gobby gobstoppers!" while a hissing voice announced that there was nothing he could do to stop their plans now without the aid of a fancy electronic sting, you know.

Handily, that subtle but crucial difference marked it out as hailing from the era that you're doubtless tired of hearing about Music From BBC Children's Programmes hopefully invoking (though that will become more relevant later on, honest). By the early eighties, one of said 'new brooms' had ditched the original theme altogether in favour of a new recording; something that happened twice more before the 'classic' series ended and indeed before I managed to get hold of Music From BBC Children's Programmes, with yet another reworking not too far in the distance (though where was that sixty-piece orchestra?). As a result, this slightly older arrangement positively reeked of slit-scan title sequences, seemingly endless multicoloured scarves, dodgy CSO sequences, Target Books, The Giant Robot, and hazy ancestral memories of Jon Pertwee and The Brigadier. This was, doubtless to the relief of anyone who had sat through The Trial Of A Time Lord, the sound of Doctor Who How It Used To Be.

And yet, for all that certain 'fans' might have liked to grumble about how it was better in their day when it was all photographic blow-ups of fields around here and you could get to the Blackpool Exhibition and back and still have change from half a shilling, there was a sense in which Doctor Who How It Used To Be had never really gone away. Yes, alright, so there were about three old stories out on video and you needed to take out a second mortgage to buy any of them, but outside of that there was a whole industry founded on exploiting Doctor Who's archival adventures, from books and magazines to scale model Ice Warriors and the iconically ridiculous Build The Tardis ("Your own time machine... without scissors or glue!"), and if you threw a Dapol Tetrap hard enough chances are it would hit an album that had this theme arrangement somewhere on it. Though not the original original, which got a single release back in 1964 but had since all but vanished... but that's another story.

And that's why, as fantastic a piece of music as it might be, and Music From BBC Children's Programmes wouldn't live up to its title without it, the original-but-not-the-original version of the Doctor Who theme is something of an interruption to proceedings. There's plenty that it does evoke, yes, but rather fittingly that's all for another time and another place. Of course, this isn't quite the whole story as it segues into its more nostalgia-nirvana satisfying companion piece The World Of Doctor Who, though that and indeed its place in the quest for the pop-cultural Key To Time of Music From BBC Children's Programmes has already been covered a couple of chapters back. Instead, it's time to move on to another long-running show that has enjoyed something of a close relationship with Doctor Who...

Friday, 4 March 2011

Captain Kipper's Clipper (Hypnotone Brain Machine Mix)

Play Away, the first track on Music From BBC Children's Programmes, was sadly not subtitled A Dub Symphony In Two Parts. Instead, the tracklisting revealed, it was built up in true 12" version of Tainted Love style from two shorter tracks known as 'Theme' and Superstition. The first of these, it was not unreasonable to presume, must surely have been the Play Away theme song itself; a song by then so well-known, and indeed so utterly chronologically distanced from its original intended purpose, that it had transcended its small-scale small-screen origins to become almost an alternative National Anthem of sorts. Or at least it would be in a world where Andy Pandy's Coming To Play (Tra La La La La La) had supplanted Land Of Hope And Glory.

For the benefit of those who only know the song from the strangely uniform repertoire of parents trying to sing their offspring into submission, the Play Away theme song was invariably heard at the close of the show with Jonathan Cohen pounding out a few nifty jazz piano chord rolls, and the cast struggling with oversized comedy props bearing their names. Usually Brian Cant took the vocal lead - only fitting as he was the main driving force behind the show - which is why it came as something of a surprise to discover that this earliest known reading was sung, and indeed originally written, by Lionel Morton. And that's not all - in place of the more familiar arrangement there was a looser, more improvised setting based around stand-up bass, percussion, and what appeared to be somebody twanging a ruler on the underside of a desk.

The version presented here, I would later discover, was actually rather bluntly hacked down from a much longer recording on the Bang On A Drum album, omitting numerous jazzy melodic touches and an entire middle eight; in its truncated form, however, it did have the advantage of sounding uncannily like the sort of song Oasis would start droning out a year or so later (from the point of view of this narrative rather than from when Play Away started... come on, keep up!), only with slightly more verbose lyrics and slightly more imaginative instrumentation. More significantly, it was 'retro' in a sense that the aggressively backward-looking Gallagher brothers could never hope to replicate or even appreciate... but we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves there. There's a whole second half of the track to get through first.

So, with the Play Away theme over, the stand-up bass deftly folded back on itself like the way The Stone Roses used to segue between Where Angels Play and Shoot You Down in their live shows, and led straight into Superstition, sung as a duet between Lionel and Toni Arthur, though written by Cohen cohort Peter Gosling and strangely absent presenter Carole Ward. You're probably already way ahead here and formulating your own joke about it not being a cover of Stevie Wonder's identically-titled homage to the Sportsnight theme music, but believe it or not that wouldn't actually be quite as much a joke as you might think. For this musical namesake is similarly swathed in wah wah-heavy jazz-funk inflections, and similarly lyrically concerned with debunking folklore nonsense that "may or may not happen", though Mr. Wonder's failure to include Brian Cant and Chloe Ashcroft doing some inter-verse spoken word ridiculing of never-walk-under-ladders hokum is his loss, frankly.

Due in no small part to its lack of gaudy hallucinogenic puppets, Play Away isn't quite the first show that you'd think of when attempting to break through to a pop-cultural elevated dimensional plane of seventies pre-school television esoterica, and yet just one track in to Music From BBC Children's Programmes we'd reached somewhere that, while not yet quite drifting in a space free of time (nor indeed rollerskating around a lake) somewhere between Diamonds & Pearls and Screamadelica, had succeeded in evoking it both musically and visually (after all, what are those spoken comic exchanges if not a reflection of the show itself?) in unexpectedly funk-inflected fashion. Then an all-too-familiar electronic sting blasted the whole experience into space.