‘The Radio Makes Hideous Sounds’, said Bob Dylan.
I did some research this week. Wait – where are you going? I was planning to write a list for Listverse. I was hoping it would be the first that I’ve sent in to be published. The gist of the list was about the longevity of radio shows, after I discovered that there were no lists on the internet about such topics. The reason I bring this up is thus. I was fearful of the Americans. One American radio show that caught my eye was ‘The Grand Old Opry’, a beloved American show, holding the title of the longest running radio show on Earth. According to the Americans. But if I proclaimed my discovery that this is not true on Listverse, which has a large following of Americans, I feared the repercussions. That ‘fact’ has been around for so long it’s practically cannon. I, however, place that show at third in my list, at 86 years old, starting in 1925. However, ‘Lørdagsbarnetimen’ (nope – the names really don’t get any better), a Norwegian show and the official Guinness World Record number one, has been going a colossal one year longer. Yes, it started in 1924 and is still going after 87 years. So, what’s my number one? Well, a radio show can be anything, from a soap opera to the weather forecast. With this extremely pedantic point in mind, I’m giving the number one spot to ‘The Shipping Forecast’ (the dullest thing on Earth). It’s literally the UK shipping forecast. And that, my friend, started in 1922. And it’s still going. After 89 years. So there. My reasoning behind not posting that list. Come to think of it, I shouldn’t have mentioned it.
I got thinking about the radio this week after I helped to install a TV. Funny phrase. How do you ‘install’ a TV? I hardly call plugging it in, hooking the aerial up and tuning in some channels an installation. The problems with grammar these days. Anyway, the TV got me thinking about what we did before them. Probably roll those hoops with a stick down a cobbled street or marital infidelity with the baker’s boy, 14 years your junior. Or you could listen to the radio. Or you could probably do a combination of the three.
I’ve fallen in love with the radio, but one thing I miss is its olden days. That old crackled sound reverberating through the speakers with all the grace of a wartime ballad in the taverns just below the streets, sung by a starlet with sequins on a dress as fine as the old oak wood on that very radio that I adored. They were the days. Meh. Maybe it’s just me, but the pitch perfect sound on the latest laptop is about as romantic as a night out in Birmingham. The romance of the resonance of radios of old was a cherished one, and occasionally that warmth can return through beloved old radio shows like my new love, the almighty ‘I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue’.
This is an institution, a powerful show that captures the innocence of the old days of radio. With none of its innocence. When it started in 1972, nobody knew what it was but it struck such gleefulness that it reminded one of the atmospheric radio of old with that old crackled sound. It introduced a style of radio that was both shocking in its outrageously close to the wire double entendres, sharp and intelligent ad-lib comedy, sexual innuendo, wit and wonderfully brilliant sharp satire and performance. For 39 years, it has held strong to this belief. And for the last few weeks, I’ve been drawn in by its global charm, this behemoth of British comedy loved around the world.
It’s hard to describe. That’s why we love it, this most random of shows that I’ve been on a journey with for what feels like months. I’ve found 307 episodes and I’ve pledged to listen to every single one of them. After 25 days, I’ve listened to all 307 episodes.
I cannot do it justice. The facts speak for themselves. 37 years on air. 397 episodes. 56 series. The same chairman for 35 years. The same line-up for 22 years, with four remaining until 2008 and three remaining to this very day. Plays out in front of packed theatres. 10 awards. So important is it that several episodes were stored in 20 underground radio stations of the BBC’s Wartime Broadcasting Service, designed to provide public information and morale-boosting broadcasts for 100 days after a nuclear attack.
I don’t mean to turn this blog into a review, but this blog is my only voice and when one doesn’t have a friend to talk to it creates a frustration that one doesn’t have somebody to share such a wonderful personal discovery like this radio show. I think radio is important to hold onto. It can unite the world in laughter and joy, especially shows like this, and I think laughter is important. There’s always a sense of ‘why be happy?’ In a world where the news is always awful, laughter is becoming just as much a part of our forgotten history as the radio.
I have to end on a joke from the show: ‘Northampton was originally named “Norse Hampton”, being under the Danelaw until King Alfred freed it, the women of the town rejoicing in the streets as he cried “I have the hampton of a Norse!”’ said the shows late, great chairman Humphrey Lyttelton, one of the greatest comedy legends the world has ever known.
Peace Out :|: