A Living Sermon: OST BBC Records Special

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It is with great pleasure that I hereby present the podcast of last Saturday’s edition of OST on Resonance FM, a two-hour special devoted to the many faces of BBC Records, compiled and presented by myself in my capacity as the corporation’s ‘Resident Hauntologist’. In response to your demands I’ve included a full tracklist too.

(Or carry it with you by choosing a download here.)

I’ve tried to steer clear of anything instantly recognisable, but there’s some truly fabulous stuff buried in this mix – songs, voices, sound effects, girl guides, home movie musics, steam trains in stereo, church bells (not an entire LP’s worth, though I could have easily managed it!), hi-fi maintenance tips, how to offer someone fruit in German, and of course a generous portion of Radiophonic nuggets, some of which will hopefully come as a surprise. It’s sometimes hard to believe just what a wide variety of weird and wonderful things BBC Records were putting out in its 60s and 70s heyday; and harder still to believe that any label could be responsible for both Keith Harris and Orville and ‘Sounds Of Death and Horror’. Then again, perhaps it’s not so hard after all…

As there was so much to get in, I’ve done quite a bit of mixing and the occasional gentle edit here and there; but nonetheless the vast majority of what you’re hearing is fresh off the vinyl and unmolested. Although I’m sure many of you will automatically assume I was trying to be wacky by juxtaposing a choir of monks with the sound of a missile exploding, in actual fact that’s exactly how it appeared on Sailor: A Portrait in Sound of the British Navy, a 1978 LP which must be one of the most quietly bizarre records the BBC ever released. I’ve used three cuts, including the rather lovely ‘Sea Fog’ and ‘Reqium’, which once again finds another settling for Dick Mills eternally haunting ‘Adagio’. There’s an awful lot of Dick amongst these tracks, which surely proves just how much of a Radiophonic cornerstone he really was.  He also turns up during Robert Dougall’s attempt to explain the dangers of loud-speaker phasing (the track used is ‘Thomas the Rhymer’) and if that isn’t his voice announcing ‘bubbling, musical, sound one’ on the Off-Beat Sound Effects LP, then I shall record the sound of eating my own hat and donate it to the BBC Grams Library.

Personally, I find a number of the most affecting moments here come courtesy of the Some British Accents and Dialects LP from 1971. It consists of thirty-odd recordings of voices from different parts of the UK speaking on various topics. Some reminisce over childhood, some describe local traditions, others tell stories and one chap recites a poem in Geordie. Often funny, curious and even strangely moving (particularly the ‘Welsh Ugly Duckling’), it’s a perfect time capsule of Britain in the 1970s, although there is frustratingly no biographical information about these people at all on the strictly functional cover. My favourite is the genial prayer of elderly man who talks to God simply ‘as an old Cotswold’ likes to talk’. He expresses gratitude for the old tree in his back garden (‘a living sermon’, he says) and the apple turnovers baked by missus, while the only thing he would ask of his creator is that it doesn’t rain too hard on his allotment. ‘Thanks to you, I don’t do so badly for an 80 year-old’ he says and you can hear the smile on his face throughout this short recording, perhaps now his only legacy – so simple and yet so deeply affecting. I find myself coming back to this track a lot – it’s something all of us in our restless, temporary, quick-fix world could do with hearing once in a while.

Naturally I’ve book-ended the programme with extracts from The Ghosts Of Bush, partly to maintain the BBC connection and partly to celebrate the second edition selling out in five days flat! I’ve also included the soundtrack to my recent ‘Haunted Homes Under The Hammer’ video, which was made entirely using processed recordings from an old 1950s BBC transcription disc, just to prove I’m not resting on my resident hauntologist laurels.

So, there you have it. There are a few honourable mentions I must make for records not included in the programme, including Lyn Marshall’s ‘Everyday Yoga’, at least twenty different LPs devoted to various types of bird fowl (including an entire album’s worth of Coastal Waders) and a cover version of ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’ performed by Edd The Duck which frankly deserves to be sealed in concrete and dumped in the North Sea. Despite their splendid and comprehensive catalogue of wildlife recordings, the BBC really does have very poor form when it comes to pond life releasing pop records.

Track Listing:

1. Howlround – Cold Space and Peeling Oxide (from ‘The Ghosts Of Bush’)
2. Paddy Kingsland – Scene and Heard
3. Play Away Cast – Superstition
4. Pete Winslow & The King Size Brass – Los Reyes del Bronse
5. Paddy Kingsland – Flashback
6. Malcolm Clarke – Arcadea
7. Lionel & Toni – If I Had a Hammer
8. John Baker – Milky Way
9. Pete Winslow & The King Size Brass – Waiting in the Rain
10. Paddy Kingsland – Vespucci
11. Delia Derbyshire – Mattachin
12. Jonathan, Spike, Al & Jeff – Stops and Starts
BBC Sound Effects – Sounds of Death and Horror
Bob Symes-Schutzmann – BR. No. 92220 ‘Evening Star’ (Extract)
John Priest -Lichfield, Staffs, Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary
13. Sylvia & Bernard Broere – N.Africa (vase drum, cup bells, tambourine, flute)
14. Pete Winslow & The King Size Brass – Saturday Sounds
15. Lionel – The Hippo Song
16. Pete Winslow & The King Size Brass – Girl on the Test Card
17. The Girl Guides – Timber Yell
18. The Girl Guides – Tyrolean Tramping Song
19. Off-Beat Sound Effects – Bubbling, Musical
20. Dick Mills – Computer Waltz
21. Off-Beat Sound Effects – Big Steam Engine
22. Dick Mills – “43”
Accents and Dialects – Geordie (Durham)
23. Geoff and Derek – The Fox and the Goose
24. Geoff and Derek – The Big Rock Candy Mountain
25. The Girl Guides – Cheelo-Cheelo
26. Sylvia and Bernard Broere – Italy (Fountain)
27. Sylvia and Bernard Broere – France or Belgium
28. Dick Mills – Ascending Asteroids
29. George Martin and his Orchestra – Theme One (aka Gale Warning)
30. Hi-Tech FX – Space Intruders
31. Simon Hancock – Computer Rant
32. Dick Mills – Invaders Rock
33. Robert Dougall – Loudspeaker Phasing
34. Roger Limb – Aerial Currents (from ‘Relaxing Sounds’)
Accents and Dialects – Cotswolds
Movement, Mime & Music – Dawn Chorus
35. Wie Bitte? – Programme 7, Band 1: Like and Dislike
Movement, Mime & Music – Fairground Music
Off-Beat Sound Effects – Objects Crashing
36. Simon Hancock – Singularly Simon
37. Robert Dougall – Wow and Flutter
38. Dick Mills(?) – JDC Background (Duke Diamond, Radio 4, 1973)
39. The Brownies – Mr. Banjo
40. Dick Mills – Ascending Asteroids
Accents and Dialects –  Cornwall / Isle of Man
41. The New Philharmonia & Chorus – Neptune, The Mystic (Sea Fog)
42. The Girl Guides – Images and Reflections
43. Sailor: A Picture in Sound of the Royal Navy – Requiem (inc. Dick Mills‘ Adagio)
44. Bernard Broere – General Use: Piano Music
45. Spaceship Landing (Hi-Fi Weekly’s Demo Disc)
46. John Baker – Structures
Accents and Dialects – London (Cockney)
47. Delia Derbyshire – Towards Tomorrow
48. Dick Mills – Force of the Universe
Accents and Dialects – Birmingham
49. Monastic Choir of Hauterive Abbey – Veni Creator Spiritus (aka ‘Missile’)
50. Dick Mills – Purple Space and White Coronas
Accents and Dialects – Welsh (North)
51. Robin The Fog – Haunted Homes Under The Hammer
52. BBC Sound Effects – Combat: Karate
53. Howlround – Shortwave Fishtank
54. Howlround – The Haunted Handle / Stairwell Reprise

Thanks for listening! Time for bed…


Author: Robin The Fog

Sound Artist, Radio Producer, DJ, founder and chief strategist of tape-loop proejct Howlround. Devout Catalyst.

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