The Light Programme: The English TV Lounge

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 Transdiffusion.org.

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 http://main.radioriel.org — 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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