The Light Programme: The English TV Lounge

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by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 30 January, 2010

This time on The Light Programme I’m going to play something a little different, writes Elrik Merlin.

A few weeks ago, Gabrielle Riel featured a day of the very best, cheesiest, Lounge Music. Some of these pieces are “Easy Listening” settings of hit songs of the time (“the time” generally being the 1960s), while others are original pieces of music in the Easy Listening vein. The vast majority of her selections were from the United States, of course, although many of the tunes were familiar to us over in Britain. Absolutely fabulous listening.

Well, over this side of the Atlantic we had beaucoup de fromage Anglais all of our own, and I thought I’d play some of it today — quite a lot of it, actually.

In fact in calling it “English Cheese” I am doing many of these recordings a big dis-service. Where we heard the equivalent of Lounge Music when we were growing up in the UK was on the television, where for many years broadcast times were limited and during the day we kids would often sit in front of the box (especially if we were off school due to illness) and watch all the technical stuff on our three and then four channels, like Trade Test Films, and of course the Test Card (one of which is shown above), which was accompanied by instrumental music. In fact some of us became so interested in these hidden bits of television that we still remember the pieces to this day, and particularly the special compositions that the stations used to open and close their broadcast day (keep an ear open for them during today’s show). You can find out more about Britain’s television history at sites like

This music was our equivalent of Lounge Music. But it was a little different to the American genre. Yes, we had plenty of Easy Listening arrangements of popular songs, and you’ll hear some of those today. And believe it or not, they used some of the best session musicians and arrangers in London and (generally) Germany.

But in addition, some channels drew their Test Card music from production music libraries. Library music has an extensive history intertwined with broadcasting, where pieces are used as themes, incidental music, and to underlay commercials. The big names of the time such as KPM, deWolfe and Bruton (still very much with us today) loomed large and here we had extremely high quality original pieces of music recorded in the top studios, again with top session players. No wonder they are so memorable.

And we had our own TV series of course, with their own theme music — some, as I’ve noted, drawing from the libraries, but others commissioning special music. That also happened in TV commercials too — for example, you’ll hear some John Barry TV themes today, along with some of his music beds for commercials like Sunsilk Shampoo: The Girl With The Sun In Her Hair. Thus in the mix today there are some TV themes that may well be familiar if you were brought up in the UK — and even if you are in North America, as many of our series were exported.

I should point out that quite a lot of the material you’ll hear today was captured or otherwise obtained in all kinds of strange ways, from putting a microphone in front of the TV loudspeaker to finding old tapes or vinyl discs in the garbage round the back of a recording or TV studio. Many of the pieces are not commercially available. I’ve made sure that the vast majority of pieces are of respectable audio and technical quality, but you may find the metadata more than a little lacking at times (particularly in the Album department). Sometimes we simply don’t know what the pieces are.

The majority of music in today’s programme is from TV of the 60s or 70s with some a little later. In addition, there are some pieces of music from the heady days of British pirate radio in the 1960s, when ships were moored off the coast and broadcast pop music to the nation. I’ve included some of their station and individual DJ show themes, some of which provide the only vocal music you’ll hear today.

Tune in today for a different kind of nostalgia — from a different kind of lounge: the English TV Lounge. You can find the show on Radio Riel’s Main Stream at — or click here to load a player automatically if your browser is configured to do so. You can also find us in the RadioBOX directory*.

And don’t forget to tune in at 11am and 7pm SLT (7pm and Sunday 3am GMT) for the third installment in our exciting adventure serial, Moon Over Morocco, in the ZBS Radio Hour. See separate entry for details.

Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin and produced by Radio Riel in conjunction with the Alexandrian Free Library Consortium of Second Life. For more information on the Alexandrian Free Library, current exhibits and the work of Consortium members in general, please visit the Alexandrian Free Library website, or one of their branches in-world.

*We’re in the RadioTime directory too, but they have our details a bit scrambled. Please visit them and help sort their listing out.


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