Over the past year BBC Radio 2 has been surreptitiously phasing out music from the 1960s and 1970s. This is being done despite the fact that the music is extremely popular with the station’s listeners.
The station is doing this as it wants to attract younger audience. No one is quite sure why they feel the need to do this. Youth isn’t a guarantee of an audience. One has only to see how Zoe Ball – supposedly seen as someone with appeal to younger listeners – has lost more a millions listeners over the past year.
I predict that BBC Radio 2 will lose even more listeners as a result of their ageist policy. To aid this loss of listeners as new radio station has launched aimed specifically at what is called the Baby Boom generation or Boomers.
The station is Boom Radio UK – although the UK doesn’t appear in its logo or isn’t even mentioned much. The UK is necessary however as there is already a Boom Radio in the USA or Boomstation to give it its correct title.
Boom Radio UK plays a wide mixture of music from the 1950s to the present day. Judging by the amount of advertising it has built up over its first week, Boom Radio looks set to succeed.
And it’s certainly making its mark in the UK not to mention Ireland, the US and various part of Europe.
Not only do I want it to succeed but also to teach the BBC Radio bosses that they shouldn’t turn their backs on their audience.
Listen to Boom Radio UK on DAB or download the app and listen online.
If your internet connection is running slower than normal it’s probably the fault of one man: Santa Claus. With so much of normal life disrupted and with social distancing now a part of everyday life, Santa Claus has been unable to make his annual appearances in department stores, Christmas fairs and other seasonal events. As a consequence, he has taken to the internet.
Not wanting to let the children of the world down this Christmas, Santa Claus has made himself available online. Parents and guardians can now submit pictures and information of their young loved ones to several sites working with Santa.
Santa’s elves process the information and photographs supplied. The websites take a few minutes to create the video message from Santa that can then be sent by email or posted on Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.
When the child logs on to one of Santa’s sites, the great man addressses them by name and tells them whether his elves have decided they have been naughty or nice throughout the year.
Not surprisingly, Covid-19 has seen a rise in the number of online Santa services. A search for “online Santa” on the internet throws up a wide selection.
One such site is Montreal-based PortableNorthPole.com has been hosting Santa every year since 2008. It has made more than 200 million video messages. Each year, there are new videos to keep the story fresh. Many of the children will return every December to hear from Santa.
As someone with six grandsons and two grand-nephews ranging in age from two to nine, I have been a user of this site since 2015. The online greetings have delighted my young relatives as well as their parents.
I paid £29 three years ago for the Unltimate Magic Pass, which allows me unlimited messages until 1 October 2028, when I suspect I may not need the service. It also includes birthday greetings all year round from Santa.
Social distancing has seen parents flock to see Santa online coupled with the fact that he has decided not to appear in public at this troubled time.
“Portable North Pole brings Santa to you in the comfort of your own homes, without having to face the madness of the malls,” says Parenting Magazine.
Confining himself to the internet has met with approval from many safety-conscious parents.
Mother of two Nina Callard from Thanet in Kent, an area of with one of the highest Covid rates in the country, says: “I am delighted Santa has taken this decision to make himself available online. There is no way I would take my sons Arlo (4) and Inigo (2) to a department store, Christmas fair or anywhere where there is a crowd.
“And I certainly wouldn’t let them sit on Santa’s knee. With all the travel he does, he could be a super-spreader.”
Covid-19 has seen several online services spring up with a varying amount of features with several scenarios from which to choose.
santatheexperience.com promises a look behind the scenes at Santa’s toy factory, a chance to see the reindeers in their stable and to meet Mrs Claus. (If he is also known as Father Christmas is his wife Mary Christmas?)
The experience takes about 12 minutes and includes an elf-guided trip to the North Pole with a five-minute personal live video chat with Santa himself. Prices start at £34.95 depending on the time of day.
At less than half the price Dublin-based meetsantaonline.com offers a live chat with Santa the abilty to record the live experience on a laptop or PC and to join from two households at the same time. And in Ireland and the UK there’s a gift for every child.
This site also offers the facility for your dog to have a chat with Santa and receive a special doggie gift.
Both meetsantaonline and portablenorthpole donate a small percentage of their charges to local hospitals.
Another website is themerryelf.com also allows children to speak with Santa Claus directly from his workshop in the North Pole. The call can be recorded and grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends to join the call at no extra cost. The flat family rate is £36.
Santahq.app is a London-based service from entertainment production company Ministry of Fun. It offers a live video call with Santa for £30. But for those on a tighter budget a tenner will get a personalised recorded video message from Santa.
The services vary in quality as do the Santas. PortableNorthPole’s Santa has such a full beard that his mouth is hidden and he speaks through his whispers. This allows him to say names and personal details without allowing lip-reading. Other Santas whose lips can be seen only speak when their backs are turned or their mouths cannot be seen easily or clearly.
In earlier years the pronunciation of some of the less common names caused Santa problems. My grandson Thayer’s name eluded Santa two years ago but this year he mastered it. (Obviously he spends the rest of the year upping his game.)
Santa may have embraced the internet to interact with children but he wants to reassure them that as he travels on his own in his sleigh and reindeers don’t catch Covid-19, he will be safe visiting their homes when they are asleep as usual.
The regular cast of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue: (l-r) Tim Brooke-Taylor, Humphrey Lyttleton (chairman), Barry Cryer, Willie Rushton and Graeme Garden
The other day I wrote a piece about Week Ending the weekly satirical programme on BBC Radio 4. Little did I know that the next day Radio Times, my old journalistic alma mater, would publish the result of a poll it conducted to find the greatest radio comedy of all time.
Such lists are the food and drink of newspapers and magazines. Readers (especially me) love such lists. They make great fodder for a pub discussion. Or would do if the pubs were open. Still, there’s always the chance of a family argument.
Top of the list isI’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue(ISIHAC), which I am very happy about as I think it’s one of the best things on radio. And it has been since 11 April 1972 when its first episode was broadcast.
This “antidote to panel games” grew from the much-loved sketch show I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again which starred John Cleese, David Hatch (later head of Managing Director of BBC Radio), Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie and Jo Kendal.
Garden, Brooke-Taylor, Oddie and Kendal made up the four panellists of ISIHAC under the chairmanship of Barry Cryer, who became a long-running member of the panel. Humphrey Lyttleton became the chairman soon after Cryer and served as such until his death in 1996. His place was taken by Jack Dee after attempts by Stephen Fry and Rob Brydon in the chair for two shows each.
There are some who will argue that ISIHAC has lost a little of its bite with the cleaning up of its act. Gone are the double entendres about Lionel Blair. The round called ‘Sound Charades’ was regularly introduced by a joke at Blair’s expense.
Although the show toned down it smuttiness (something the programme makers deny they have done) it is still the funniest thing on radio. It has won three Gold Sony Awards and a Best British Comedy Award among others.
The Lionel Blair jokes have stopped and it is known that the 91-year-old actor, choreographer, tap dancer and television presenter grew tired of them.
The show has also featured since 1985 a silent scorer Samantha who sat on Lyttleton’s left hand and subsequently Dee’s. Samantha is silent because she doesn’t exist. But her “introduction” to the audiences at recordings of the programme are always met with great cheers.
She too is a source of some ribald remarks.
That’s the joy of radio. The written script, as above, may look innocent enough but when spoken takes on a whole different meaning.
Radio comedy may have seen its best days but we’re lucky because of various recordings on CD, we can enjoy many of them again. BBC Radio 4 Extra plays some the classic comedy shows but it chooses what you can hear and when you can hear it. For example, a show that thrilled me as a young boy every Sunday lunchtime was The Clitheroe Kid. It is also a glaring omission from Radio Times‘ 40 Best Radio Comedies. Oh, it’s listed on BBC Radio 4 Extra’s web presence but no episodes are available.
Also missing in Beyond Our Ken, although its sequel Round The Horne is there at No 3 (and rightly so).
Big fan as I was of Kenny Everett, why are his Radio 1and later Radio 2 shows included? They were not comedy programmes; they were a music shows presented by a very funny and inventive guy.
And do dramatisations and readings of comic works count as radio comedy? I don’t know and so the inclusions of Just William and What Ho, Jeeves are debatable.
But that’s the thing about lists, they are subject matter for debates. I feel sure the readers’ letters of Radio Times will be inundated with correspondence from readers whose own personal favourites have been omitted. I know my letter has already been sent in.
Of all the showbusiness people I interviewed over the years, Des O’Connor (who died on 14 November 2020) was one of the nicest. If not the nicest.
My late wife once opened a piece she wrote about him with the sentence: “The man is extremely sexy, I have to mention that.” That might explain why he had four wives in his 88 years on this Earth.
It was sometime in the Spring of 1985 I was sent to Des’s flat near London’s Regents Park to interview him. The brief was that Des – who had just moved house and found a collection of old photographs – would guide me through his career in pictures. All I had to take do was to note down what he said with each picture.
An hour’s work, 90 minutes tops. It was dark when I left his home after nearly five hours of chatting and laughing. Des’s third wife Jay Rufer was there making us tea and laughing with us as well. They were still relatively newly-weds when I met them.
What struck me that day was the genuine warmth of the man. Also the amount of time he was prepared to spend talking to a journalist in his home.
He was also genuinely funny man. One-liners flowed out of him at a rate of knots. Few could have been rehearsed as he had no idea what picture I was going to thrust under his nose from the hundreds he had accumulated over his then 30-year career. He made Frank Carson look like a Trappist monk. (Not really, but it’s good line.)
I had gone to his home not expecting to get on with him. This was the guy who had foisted records such as Careless Hands, 1-2-3 O’Leary, I Pretend and the ridiculously named Dick-A-Dum-Dum on the charts between 1967 and 1969. He even reached No 1 with I Pretend. This at a time when most of us (well, me) were listening to The Small Faces, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Beach Boys. (Ah, happy days.)
Perhaps it’s a tribute to Des, in a way, that he managed to top the charts in those days. Not my sort of songs. But I ended up liking him a great deal.
But how did my wife, Martine Delamere, come to call him “extremely sexy”. She was an astrologer and for a time the resident star-gazer on TVTimes. As part of her job with the magazine, we would send her to interview various stars. These were stars who had been interviewed ad infinitum by the magazine so a new approach was need.
As Features Editor, I put forward the idea that Martine analyse their birth charts and use what she found as material to talk about.
In Des’s case, she discovered that he was born under Capricorn with Sagittarius as his rising sign, for those of you who care such things. She said that was “a mixture of ambition and optimism which could hardly fail. (Actually she should have used “that” instead of “which” in that sentence. I point that out because she was a pedant when it came to grammar and suchlike. So she’ll appreciate my comment from whichever galaxy is watching down on me.)
Des’s response: “I’m the most positive happy-go-lucky person that God ever made.
“Whether I’m rich or poor, up or down, I’m enjoying it, and that’s not phoney. I can’t stand moaners. There are only three things that matter: love, laughter and good health/ If you have a share of those you’re winning all the way.”
It was that feeling optimism he gave me that day with his photographic collection. I left his home uplifted.
A few weeks later, we published my piece and that was, I thought, the end of that.
A few days after the magazine hit the newsstands, I received a hand-written note from Des thanking me for the article and my enjoyable company that afternoon. What! It should have been me thanking him.
God bless you, Des.
POSTSCRIPT: Des was famous for his banter with Morecambe and Wise. In 2014, he told the Daily Mail: ‘When Eric had his first heart attack in 1968, I was doing a show in front of 2,000. I went for a sip of water and the stage manager said, “Eric Morecambe’s had a heart attack. He’s dying.”
‘I went back on and, at the end of the show, I said, “If you believe in such things, please remember Eric in your prayers. He’s not well.” ‘Happily he recovered and six weeks later he was in a meeting with some journalists. One of them said, “Are you aware Des O’Connor asked his entire audience to pray for you?” Eric said, “Well, those six or seven people probably made a difference.” ‘
Tonto never had any trouble getting the Lone Ranger to wear his mask. But they didn’t have Covid-19 in the Wild West.
Today, I visited my local post office in Broadstairs, Kent where I saw a middle-aged man standing at the counter conducting his business without a mask.
How difficult is it to wear one? Okay, they may not be comfortable but they not not excessively uncomfortable.
Yesterday, I went into my local Tesco Metro where I saw a man pushing his young child in a pram. He was with his wife/partner who was buying groceries. What is about the government’s advice that people shouldn’t shop in groups that these people didn’t understand?
The man had no function in the shopping trip other than to nod when his wife picked out an item. Why couldn’t he stay outside the shop? There was no need to be with his wife/partner, who was perfectly capable of shopping alone.
It doesn’t matter what the individual thinks about the precautions laid down by the government, they need to be obeyed. It’s not a case of civil liberties. I have a civil liberty not to be infected by these morons.
My local council employs Covid wardens to monitor people’s behaviour during this pandemic. Unfortunately there were none around yesterday or today. (We are quite a large area and presumably the council’s budget doesn’t stretch to blanket coverage of these wardens.)
But we shouldn’t need Covid wardens, we should all be observing the rules laid down by the government. And shopkeepers should help in this by refusing to serve people who are not wearing masks and who come in to the shop with their family in tow.
Maybe we do need more help than just the Covid wardens. Where is the Lone Ranger when you need him?
Today is Remembrance Sunday, the day we commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts.
It also includes remembering all those from Ireland, even though the Republic is not part of the Commonwealth, who gave their lives.
Some 210,000 Irishmen served in the British forces during World War One of which 35,000 were killed – a figure that rose to a final toll 50,000 due to wounds received. That is more than were in the GPO in Dublin on Easter Monday 1916 and even more than those who claimed to have been. (I’ve never found out why the post office was open on a bank holiday.)
During World War Two when Ireland was a Free State, it was neutral. That didn’t stop some 50,000 men and women enlisting in the British forces to fight Hitler. (Sadly, a few misguided individuals took a view that they should support the German Reich.)
It is a matter of personal pride to me to see the Irish ambassador to the Court of St James (the UK) lay a wreath at the Cenotaph. It recognises the great bonds that exist between our two islands.
The Irish wreath is made of laurel leaves. I’m never sure why it isn’t made of poppies like all the others. After all, that was what was growing in the green fields of France during World War One. (I never call it The Great War as there is nothing great about war.) Might have something to do with sensitivities about Remembrance Sunday being “a British thing”, which it isn’t.
We cannot buy poppies this year as the Covid-19 crisis has prevented the usual sellers from going out on the streets to collect funds for the Royal British Legion, the beneficiaries of the poppies’ donations. The Legion is a charity providing financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British armed forces, their families and dependents. But we can make a donation to help make up for the loss of funds made this year. Go to https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/ways-to-give/donate
In Dublin, the annual Remembrance Sunday commemoration takes place at the Irish National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge in Dublin. The Queen laid a wreath there on her visit to Ireland in 2011. She also laid another one at the Garden of Remembrance in the centre of Dublin. This memorial remembers “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom”. It should not be confused with the Irish National War Memorial Gardens. The Queen’s visit and wreath at the Garden of Rembrance was a gesture much appreciated by the Irish people and another demonstration of the strong ties between these two islands.
I have no personal connection with Remembrance Sunday other than as a supporter of the event and an appreciation of what a terrible waste of human life war is. My friend Paddy Murray’s grandfather Edward Cox died on 27 May 1917 at Ypres so it means more to him, maybe. But I still feel the hairs on the back of neck rise during the two-minute silence. (Paddy doesn’t, by the way, as he has no hairs on the back of his neck due to having COPD.)
My only family connection with the British Army is through my grandfather who ran away from Blackrock College in Dublin and joined the Duke of Cornwall 2nd Light Infantry on 16 October 1894, at the age of 14. He never saw military action because in those days, it was the practice for half of a regiment to fight and the other half to remain at home in Britain. He served in the half that stayed in England. And he’d left by the time his half came to be called upon to see active service.
I always find the service from Cenotaph very moving but in a way this year’s was more so because it had to be scaled down because of Covid-19. But all the principals were there. The Queen, Prince Charles, the political leaders, the forces’ leaders, David Dimbleby…
David Dimbleby? Why was he there? He was doing the commentary on BBC One. I thought he’d retired but they wheeled him out for this. If they keep doing that how do younger commentators get a chance to have a go? Besides at the age of 82, what was he doing out during lockdown? Surely at his age, he is at risk? Shouldn’t he have been tucked up at home in East Sussex is his slippers, watching it on the telly? A poet called Robert Laurence Binyon published a poem called “For the Fallen” on The Times newspaper on 21 September 1914 and this is probably its most famous verse. Click here for the full poem.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.
Last night I played this vid to my girl. I didn’t actually. I just came across it on YouTube when I was looking for something else. The song is nearly 60 years. (It may even be more than 60) and was written by a buddy, pal and mate of the guy in the video wearing a red t-shirt.
I don’t know the exact date the song was written but I can tell you the guy in the red t-shirt recorded it on 26 November 1962 with three of his buddies, pals and mates, including the one who wrote the song. That’s 58 years ago.
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that many of the people in the video watching the man in the red t-shirt singing the song weren’t even born when the song was recorded. But there they are singing along and bopping away to the song Please Please Me.
The song was made famous by The Beatles for they were the four buddies, pals and mates who recorded it in November 1962. The man in the red t-shirt was called Paul. He still is. Although some deferential people call him Sir Paul.
His buddy who wrote the song was called John. (He was never made a Sir because he had a sharp tongue and a naughty attitude to authority.) He wrote it in his bedroom in his Auntie’s house at 251 Menlove Avenue, Liverpool (Postcode L25 7SA).
He said it was his attempt to write a Roy Orbison-style song. But it was more Roy Orbision meets Bing Crosby. he later admitted.
Anyway, these four buddies, pals and mates went on to make more records – most of them written by Sir Paul (as he then wasn’t) and his buddy, pal and mate John. Then one day the four buddies, pals and mates stopped being buddies, pals and mates. And went their seperate ways.
But the people all over the world still loved their songs.
Then another one day a bad man took out a gun and shot Paul’s buddy, pal and mate. And the world was sad.
The man in the red t-shirt continued working as a strolling player and writer of tunes. But he started to sing songs in concerts that had been written by his buddy, pal and mate John.
And so it was that in 2005 the man in the red t-shirt travelled across the United States of America singing his songs and some of those of his buddy, pal and mate. It was on that tour that this video was filmed.
The man in the red t-shirt has been writing fab songs since 1957 – many with his buddy, pal and mate; many on his own. Great tunes such as Hey Jude, Penny Lane, Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby, Band on the Run, Let It Be, The Back Seat of my Car, Live and Let Die, and Maybe I’m Amazed to name just nine of several hundred.
And here’s a weird thing, he still doesn’t think he has cracked it yet. I once asked him “After all the songs you’ve written and music – rock and classical – you’ve made, not to mention your artwork, children’s books, etc is there still something you want to achieve?”
He thought for a second and then said “I’m still trying to write a great song.”
Well, he’s not very salf-aware if he thinks that. And I believe he is still trying.
Fifty years ago Paul McCartney released his first post-Beatles solo album. It was called McCartney and featured Paul singing and playing all the instruments. (Hence why the title of the album was so apposite.) Ten years later, in 1980 he released his second solo album McCartney II. Now 40 years from that back he comes with McCartney III.
I’m sure like all his previous records it will contain some really great songs and some ordinary (but better than most people’s) songs.
Nicola Sturgeon with Theresa May on the PM’s day-trip to Scotland
UK prime minister Theresa May today declared that it was too early for Scots gnats to appear. Speaking through her mouth in Edinburgh, Mrs May said: “We have only just changed to British Summer Time and the weather is still a bit cold. It is too early for gnats to appear or any sort of flying insect such as midges.”
A spokesman for the prime minister later denied that she had been referring to Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is 5 foot 4 inches tall. Mrs May, who is 5 foot 8 inches said things would have to get hotter before the Scots gnats would make an appearance.
Ms Sturgeon responded by telling the prime minster: “As things are going now, it won’t be long before come to boiling point.”
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan orders dental clean up
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has called on members of the Garda Siochana to brush their teeth at least twice a day. Commission O’Sullivan was reacting to report that members of the service were failing breath tests on a regular basis.
“The Irish public has the right not to have a blast of halitosis in their faces when they approach an officer to ask the time or the way to St Stephen’s Green,” she told a meeting of senior Gardai officers.
But a spokesman for the Garda Representative Association (GRA) claimed that Commissioner O’Sullivan was over-stepping the mark when she commented on Gardai’s personal oral hygiene.
“She has no right to criticise orally my members oral technique,” said a GRA spokesman through gritted but rotting teeth. “Beside abscess makes the heart beat faster.”
“From next month, all gardai will expected to show up for work with their teeth properly brushed and their breath smelling fresh,” O’Sullivan told the meeting. “Gardai with bad breath may well blow their jobs.”
A speaker from the floor asked the Commissioner what action they were expected to take with officers who have false teeth.
“Any officer found with forged teeth will be charged under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.
“Furthermore, any Garda station found to be accepted false teeth handed in by members of the public claiming they are lost property will be censured,” she said.
“Did you say dentured, minister?” asked a reporter from RTE with hearing difficulties.
Meanwhile Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said her department would be issuing a booklet to all Garda officers about the need to regular brushing and flossing. The book is to be published by An Gúm.
Solo artist Brexit Bill is to undertake his first continental tour in 2019 when his contract with the 28-piece band The Europeans comes to an end.
With his contract due to run out in two years time, Brexit Bill said: “It is time for me to go it alone. It worked for Robbie Williams, Diana Ross and Frankie Valli, so I think it’ll work for me.
“They all started as part of a group but soon discovered that they could so much further as a solo act.”
Starting as a solo artist will no be all smooth sailing for Brexit Bill.
“I don’t actually intend to do much sailing or flying in the future. I’ll be keeping myself to myself.”
Among the hurdles Brexit Bill will have to climb perhaps the hardest will be how he leaves the group and still remains friends with the other members. In the past he has argued and fought with some of them.
At several times in history the animosity between Brexit Bill and the other members of the band was so bad that it was described as a war.
Asked if his name had any special meaning, Brexit Bill said: “Brexit means Brexit.”