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.

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