When the pirates ruled

Apologies. This is off topic, not about films but a celebrates a special day. It’s the fifty-fifth anniversary of 14th August 1967. Of course!!!

Let’s go back a few more years.

The 1960s was a fantastic time for music. Look at the charts, think about Dylan, The Beatles, The Stones, P J Proby, The Lemon Pipers… I don’t know what your taste is, maybe Thunderclap Newman or Lulu…

In the 1960s in the UK, it was very hard to actually hear these people on the radio. The BBC had The Light Programme (the name says it all), The Third Programme (classical) and The Home Service (news, current affairs and The Archers). What little pop there might be on those stations would be house bands or imitators, not the real thing at all.

If you were lucky you could pick up Radio Luxembourg, Fab 208, where djs like Pete Murray, David Jacobs, Duncan Johnson and Jimmy Savile played the hits. But the sound quality was famously not good.


When I moved to London in the 1970s I was a poor student. Finding money for entertainment was not easy, and the BBC was a godsend, especially the radio.

For the price of exactly nothing you could go to see a radio show or two being recorded at one of their central London studios and enjoy something that you could listen to again later and share with friends: “I was there”.

The usual venue was the old Paris Cinema in Lower Regent Street. It was quite an historic place. Lots of great shows had been recorded there, even The Goon Show and Dad’s Army. It was also used for rock concert recordings and as such was a cosy venue.

Usually you could just roll up and get a ticket for a comedy or quiz show, especially on a rainy evening. I have fond memories of going in and walking down those windy wooden stairs. It’s not used by the Beeb now, they use the radio theatre in Broadcasting House, a larger and much more impersonal venue.

Ronnie Barker

Most people around the world will know Ronnie Barker from his big hit shows, The Two Ronnies and Porridge, and maybe Open All Hours.

Mr Barker started as a stage actor, then moved into radio with a part on The Navy Lark for something like eight years. As well as playing “Fatso” Johnson, he also played other random voices, as did all the cast.

He moved onto tv in The Frost Report, and this lead to the shows mentioned above.


It has been announced that Nicholas Parsons has died aged 96. That’s a good age.

Mr Parsons has had a long career in radio, tv and film, working to the end. He was famous as a straight man for Arthur Haynes, an inexplicably massively popular comedian in the 1960s, though now it is hard to understand why.

Parsons presented the much derided tv quiz show Sale of the Century.

And for 50+ years he was the chairman, occasionally panellist of Just a Minute. I loved this programme in the old days. You can still catch episodes with Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud and Derek Nimmo on the web. In recent years the show has declined. I saw a recording last September. Parsons was a bit unsure on his feet but was still alert enough to make an entertaining evening.

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