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...

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