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Showing posts from December, 2017

I’M JUST SECOND HAND NEWS

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It is very well-known that, one day in 1930, a BBC radio announcer proclaimed, “there is no news,” with piano music played to fill the gap. This is often read as the BBC deciding no news was worth broadcasting that evening which, in our age of instant reports and reaction to the merest flinch of an event, sounds either completely authoritarian or completely hilarious. However, the very specific set of circumstances that led to this decision would never be repeated, as our appetite for information was already increasing. The day was Good Friday, 18 th April 1930. Usually, the BBC’s National Programme would broadcast, after the mid-morning Daily Service and Shipping Forecast, a continuous diet of concerts and talks from noon to midnight, with two news bulletins at 6.15pm and 9pm – regional services dipped and out of the national feed, re-reading “The Second News” at 10.15pm. However, Easter meant Good Friday’s main programmes started at 3.30pm, with a military band, string orches

JUMP INTO A DUSTBIN AND DANCE

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After another year blighted by terrorism and ideology – OK, name a year when that wasn’t the case – Christmas becomes a time for remembering the lights in our world, those things for which we give thanks, for which the world becomes that bit better or, in the very least, a little more bearable. This was demonstrated by my finding a radio show, recently played out on BBC Radio 4 Extra, titled “The Naughty Navy Show,” from 1965, starring Spike Milligan, with John Bird and Barry Humphries, in a story not unlike those found in “The Goon Show,” but without the orchestra and sound effects. The difference here was how the show was recorded in front of a group of students at Greenwich Royal Naval College, on Christmas Day. While not the best show Milligan ever did, it is nice to hear everyone giving up their time on Christmas Day to perform a professional show. Similar shows were done for Army and Royal Mail workers, but at other times of year. For me, Spike Milligan is

ONE SHAFT OF LIGHT THAT SHOWS THE WAY

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Last weekend, I took delivery of a piece of my childhood: an Acorn BBC Micro computer. For an entire generation of British schoolchildren, the BBC Micro, introduced in 1981 as part of a Government-backed computer literacy campaign, cemented Acorn as a British technology success story for nearly twenty years, culminating in the creation of the ARM chip, now found in billions of devices. Why did I buy a second-hand one on eBay, described as being “in working condition, needs a clean”? Apart from having already bought another BBC Micro eight years ago, sadly no longer working, I wanted to make some music with it – the four-channel Texas Instruments sound chip installed in it is also found in other 8-bit machines, but also many Sega arcade machines, the Master System and the Mega Drive / Genesis. In addition, BBC BASIC, created by Acorn engineer Sophie Wilson, is still the most versatile version of basic, with easy SOUND and ENVELOPE commands to build sounds – Commodore 64 owners,

HAIR RING MOLASSIS ABOUNDING

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"Solar Prestige a Gammon” is a song from side A of Elton John’s 1974 album “Caribou.” The album was made under a contract that required John to release two albums per year – “Caribou” came only eight months after his masterpiece, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and was recorded in only nine days before embarking of a tour of Japan, leaving his producer, Gus Dudgeon, to finish the arrangements and mixing. Despite the rush, the album reached number one in the UK and US, and spawned two singles, “The Bitch is Back,” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Dudgeon’s own assessment was: “’Caribou’ is a piece of crap… The sound is the worst, the songs are nowhere, the lyrics weren’t that good, the singing wasn’t all there, the playing wasn’t that great, the production was just plain lousy” – seeing as Dudgeon was in charge of the production, I can only guess this was a case of the creative process not being what you wanted, even if the result was. “Solar Prestige a Gammon” begins in

LOVELY SPAM, WONDERFUL SPAM

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Before you even get to eating it, there is much to be said about Spam. What began with the surprise of my winning a tin of Spam, after correctly answering all the questions in a 1940s-inspired charity quiz at work, has become an odyssey of changing uses, changing meanings, and changing diets. The most likely meaning of the word “Spam” is “Shoulder of Pork and Ham,” as the tinned meat itself, made by Hormel since 1937, was introduced as a way of using a surplus of pork shoulder, an unpopular cut, built up by the company. Even though the name was coined in a competition, with Ken Daigneau, the brother of a Hormel executive, winning $100, Hormel insist that the true meaning of SPAM, which they always refer with full capitals, is only known by a select group of executives, as if it were Colonel Sanders’ secret blend of herbs and spices. Monty Python changed the meaning of the word “spam” in two ways, although Hormel only subscribe to one of these. In the United States, Sir Can-a-