On this day (16th January)

Hazell plays Soloman, the first episode of Hazell, was broadcast on ITV in 1978.

Based on the novels by Gordon Williams and Terry Venables (writing under the pseudonym P B Yuill) Hazell was a series that I’m always surprised didn’t run longer (it clocked up 22 episodes between 1978 and 1979).

Although Williams and Venables thought Nicholas Ball was a little too young to play the title character, he’s always a strong presence at the centre of each episode, more than holding his own against a diverse group of decent guest actors (not to mention Roddy McMillian as Hazell’s nemesis, ‘Choc’ Minty).

Employing the sensibilities of 1940’s American private eye thrillers (such as laconic narration) transported to a late 1970’s London setting was one of those nice touches which signaled that the series was attempting to do something a little different. It’s just a shame that it wasn’t a Euston Films production – instead it uses the more traditional VT for studio, film for location mix which makes it look a little old-fashioned compared to The Sweeney, The Professionals or Minder.

Maybe it was the emergence of Minder in 1979 which curtailed Hazell‘s run. If you have one series dealing with London’s criminal lowlife, do you really need two? Also, there were some suggestions that Nicholas Ball refused to make a third series if it wasn’t shot on film.

This opening episode was based on the first novel and boasts an impressive guest cast (Jane Asher, Fiona Mollison, George Innes, Patsy Smart).

The Infinite Variety, the first episode of Life on Earth, was broadcast on BBC2 in 1979.

Although David Attenborough had been making wildlife documentaries since the 1950’s, Life on Earth was a groundbreaking production – utlising a variety of innovative filming techniques to present breathtaking images of the natural world never before seen on screen.

Having said that, possibly the series’ most enduring moment was Attenborough’s encounter with a group of mountain gorillas (which was certainly easier to film than sequences which necessitated hundreds of hours of patience to capture just a few seconds of screentime).

For those in the UK, or who are able to access it, the complete series is available on the iPlayer whilst there’s a radio documentary reuniting key members of the production team available here.

30 Years of Rock – 1980 – 1984


In 1985 Radio 1 broadcast 30 Years of Rock, which comprised a repeat run of 25 Years of Rock plus five new programmes looking at the music and events from 1980 to 1984.

The introduction in the first edition was extended to include some of the main events and records of the early eighties, but the records don’t really represent the era. Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and the Everley Brothers represent the fifties, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Scott McKenzie represent the sixties, David Bowie, Queen and the Sex Pistols represent the seventies. But Irene Cara, Dire Straits, and John Lennon who died in 1980, don’t really represent the eighties.

The new programmes did feel a bit tacked on, and the pop scene in the mid-eighties was less interesting than in the early seventies, it was a period when the pop scene went from post-punk to “like punk never happened”, although the new events are no less interesting. But the series couldn’t have had a better note to end on.


Don’t Stand So Close To Me – the Police

Speech by Jimmy Carter

Atomic – Blondie

Mount St Helens volcano in Washington erupts

Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie

Robert Mugabe elected president of Rhodesia. Speech by Robert Mugabe.

Redemption Song – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Interviews with white Rhodesians

Could You Be Loved – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Rhodesia becomes Zimbabwe. Speeches by Robert Mugabe and Prince Charles.

Master Blaster (Jammin’) – Stevie Wonder

Gdansk Agreement signed in Poland

Food For Thought – UB40

Unemployment figures in UK rise to over two million. Ian MacGregor appointed chairman of British Steel Corporation. Interview with Ian MacGregor.

Going Underground – the Jam

Interview with new Labour Party leader Michael Foot

Baggy Trousers – Madness

Mods, rockers, punks, skinheads and teddy boys cause trouble on beaches over Easter weekend

Geno – Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Britain’s first nudist beach opens in Brighton

Echo Beach – Martha and the Muffins

Iranian hostage crisis continues. Jimmy Carter cancels rescue operation.

Mirror in the Bathroom – the Beat

Iranian Embassy siege in London

Another One Bites the Dust – Queen

Alan Minter becomes world middleweight boxing champion. Bjorn Borg beats John McEnroe in Wimbledon men’s singles final

Use It Up and Wear It Out – Odyssey

Margaret Thatcher calls for British boycott of Moscow Olympics. Interview with Sebastian Coe.

Games Without Frontiers – Peter Gabriel

Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe win gold medals

Coming Up – Paul McCartney

Interview with Jeremy Lloyd on Captain Beaky

Captain Beaky and His Band – Keith Michell

Prince Charles seen out with Lady Diana Spencer

The Tide Is High – Blondie

Peter Sellers dies. Riots at funeral of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador

The Winner Takes It All – Abba

Jimmy Carter runs for re-election. Ronald Reagan runs for election. Ronald Reagan elected president.

One Day I’ll Fly Away – Randy Crawford

Andy Peebles interviews John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Just Like Starting Over – John Lennon

John Lennon shot dead

Woman – John Lennon

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament revival

Stop the Cavalry – Jona Lewie

This was the first of the new programmes. On its first broadcast this was where 30 Years of Rock reached the current decade. Some of the music and events in this programme happened while 25 Years of Rock was being broadcast for the first time. The first three programmes begin with the best selling single of the year, and the last two programmes end with the best selling single of the year.

In 1980 people were still listening to the Police, Blondie and the Jam. There’s a lot of reggae in this programme (and surprisingly little reggae in the sixties and seventies programmes). There was a mod revival in the early eighties.

One of the news stories in the last edition of 25 Years of Rock was the election of Abel Muzorewa of prime minister of Rhodesia. In 1980 Rhodesia formally became Zimbabwe. The new decade saw the start of another new era in American politics. One of the most memorable news stories in Britain was the Iranian Embassy siege. The assassinated Archbishop Romero was in the news again in 2018 when he was made a saint.

The biggest new story in pop music in 1980 was the murder of John Lennon, and the programme includes some extracts from an interview he did for Radio 1 with Andy Peebles just days before he died. But the programme doesn’t end with the death of John Lennon, instead it plays out with Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie.


Tainted Love – Soft Cell

Ronald Reagan inaugurated. Iranian hostage crisis ends. Jimmy Carter welcomes hostages home.

Planet Earth – Duran Duran

Space Shuttle Columbia launched

Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads

Assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley Jnr

In the Air Tonight – Phil Collins

People’s March For Jobs. Speech by Ken Livingstone. Interview with marcher.

Chant No 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) – Spandau Ballet

New Cross Road fire. Interview with Darcus Howe of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee.

Under Pressure – Queen and David Bowie

Riots in Brixton

Ghost Town – the Specials

Race riots in Southall. Interview with witness. Riots in Toxteth, Liverpool. Rolling Stones have successful tour of USA. Interview with Keith Richard and Mick Jagger.

Start Me Up – the Rolling Stones

England win the Ashes. Ian Botham named man of the match.

O Superman – Laurie Anderson

John McEnroe argues with umpire

John McEnroe sketch – Not the Nine O’Clock News

Shaddap You Face – Joe Dolce Music Theatre

Interview with Adam Ant

Prince Charming – Adam and the Ants

Prince Charles gets engaged to Lady Diana Spencer. Interview with Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

Being With You – Smokey Robinson

Prince Charles marries Princess Diana

Romeo and Juliet – Dire Straits

Anwar Sadat assassinated

Invisible Sun – the Police

IRA prisoner Bobby Sands dies after hunger strike. IRA bomb British army barracks. Ian Paisley calls for Loyalists to fight IRA.

Can You Feel It? – the Jacksons

First London Marathon

Physical – Olivia Newton-John

Body Talk – Imagination

Bob Marley dies. New Romantics craze. Interview with Steve Strange.

Vienna – Ultravox

Margaret Thatcher celebrates birthday at Conservative Party conference

Happy Birthday – Altered Images

Roy Jenkins announces the formation of the SDP. Shirley Williams wins Crosby by-election. Interview with David Owen.

Endless Love – Lionel Richie and Diana Ross

Bill Haley dies

This Old House – Shakin’ Stevens

Bucks Fizz win Eurovision Song Contest. Commentary by Terry Wogan.

Making Your Mind Up – Bucks Fizz

Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland. Ronald Reagan supports Solidarity.

Don’t You Want Me – the Human League

Needless to say this programme begins with the inauguration of the new American president. The Iranian hostage crisis ended the same day. And the programme ends with Ronald Reagan wishing everyone a happy Christmas.

It was a new era for British politics with the foundation of the SDP. (Without the SDP there probably wouldn’t have been the Coalition government in the 2010s.) There’s no mention of the Rubik’s Cube.

And as with That Was the Week That Was in the early sixties, and Monty Python in the early seventies, so Not the Nine O’Clock News was the top satire show of the early eighties.

The early eighties were the tail end of the punk/new wave era. In 1981 there was the new romantics movement, which was a self-conscious attempt to be the next thing after punk. Electronic music was becoming more popular with Soft Cell and the Human League, and two-tone was still popular. The programme includes some of the artier records from Talking Heads and Laurie Anderson.

30 Years of Rock didn’t do Adam and the Ants justice considering how big they were in 1980-81. Prince Charming neatly segues into the Royal Wedding, the most remembered event of the year, and Ghost Town by the Specials is played over news of the riots that took place in Britain during the summer of 1981, and they include the wind blowing at the end of the record.


Come On Eileen – Dexys Midnight Runners

Mary Rose raised

Abracadabra – Steve Miller Band

Laker Airways goes bankrupt. Interviews with passengers and Freddie Laker.

Pass the Dutchie – Musical Youth

John DeLorean arrested for drug trafficking. The Jam split up. Interview with Paul Weller.

A Town Called Malice – the Jam

Argentina invades the Falkland Islands

Mad World – Tears For Fears

Britain sends armed forces to the Falklands. Interview with Margaret Thatcher.

Private Investigations – Dire Straits

General Belgrano sunk by British submarine. HMS Sheffield sunk. Argentina surrenders.

Shipbuilding – Robert Wyatt

Pope John Paul II visits Great Britain

Love Plus One – Haircut One Hundred

Michael Fagan breaks into Buckingham Palace and enters the Queen’s bedroom. Queen opens London’s Barbican Centre

House of Fun – Madness

Prince Andrew goes on holiday in Mustique with Koo Stark

The Look of Love – ABC

Women stage anti-nuclear demonstration at Greenham Common Airbase

Happy Talk – Captain Sensible

Interview with Captain Sensible. National Union of Mineworkers vote against strike action. Interview with Arthur Scargill.

Da Da Da – Trio

Chariots of Fire wins Oscar for best picture

Chariots of Fire – Vangelis

England knocked out of World Cup. Interviews with Michael Foot and Norman Tebbit on new Employment Act

Fame – Irene Cara

Musicians Union call for ban on synthesisers. Interview with Midge Ure.

Living on the Ceiling – Blancmange

Lebanon War

Save a Prayer – Duran Duran

IRA bombings in Hyde Park and Regents Park

Theme from Harry’s Game – Clannad

Princess Grace of Monaco dies after car accident. Solidarity demand release of Lech Walesa

Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

Prince William born

It Started With a Kiss – Hot Chocolate

Defence Secretary John Nott walks out of interview with Robin Day

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? – Culture Club

Interview with Boy George. Yuri Andropov becomes head of state of Soviet Union following death of Leonid Brezhnev

Young Guns Go For It – Wham!

In Britain 1982 is remembered as the year of the Falklands War, Pope John Paul II’s visit to Britain, and the birth of Prince William (the only royal birth in the series). In fact most of the news stories are British stories. The 1955 and 1964 programmes included the start of ITV and BBC2, so it’s surprising that the 1982 programme didn’t include the launch of Channel 4.

1982-83 was when what most people think of eighties style really came in. The pop music scene was once again moving from rock to pop with the arrival of groups such as Culture Clubs and Wham. Blancmange were a forerunner of the indie groups of the later eighties, and Dexys Midnight Runners provided the summer’s biggest hit.

Incidentally the version of the theme from Fame which got to number one in 1982, and the version featured in this programme, is Irene Cara’s recording from the original 1980 film, and not the one used in the 1982 tv series. Although Irene Cara’s version was released as a result of the hit tv series.


New Year’s Day – U2

Speech by Ronald Reagan. Cruise missiles housed at Greenham Common Airbase. Speech by Margaret Thatcher.

War Baby – Tom Robinson

Ronald Reagan announces. Strategic Defence Initiative. Space Shuttle Challenger begins six day mission. Interview with America’s first space woman, Sally Ride.

Every Breath You Take – the Police

Stephen Warldorf shot and injured by police after being mistaken for criminal David Martin

Is There Something I Should Know – Duran Duran

Margaret Thatcher calls general election. Interview with Michael Foot. David Owen and Francis Pym on Any Questions. Conservatives win election by a landslide. Robin Day interviews Margaret Thatcher.

I’m Still Standing – Elton John

Michael Foot resigns as Labour leader. Interview with Neil Kinnock. Owen Edwards declares Neil Kinnock elected as new Labour leader.

All Night Long – Lionel Richie

Jonathan King reviews Michael Jackson’s performance at Tamla Motown concert

Bille Jean – Michael Jackson

Stern magazine publishes Hitler Diaries, which later turn out to be a hoax

True – Spandau Ballet

American troops invade Grenada following military coup

Undercover of the Night – the Rolling Stones

Korean Air Lines plane shot down over Soviet Union

Blue Monday – New Order

Cecil Parkinson resigns from cabinet when his secretary, Sarah Keays, reveals she is pregnant with his child

Wherever I Lay My Hat – Paul Young

Britain has hottest July of the century

Red Red Wine – UB40

BBC launches Breakfast Time. Diana Moran “the Green Goddess” presents exercises.

Let’s Dance – David Bowie

Interview with David Bowie

China Girl – David Bowie

Prince and Princess of Wales take Prince William on tour of New Zealand

Down Under – Men at Work

Ian MacGregor appointed chairman of National Coal Board. Interviews with Ian MacGregor and Arthur Scargill.

Only You – the Flying Pickets

IRA bomb explodes outside Harrods

Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler

First compact discs go on sale

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This – the Eurythmics

Lech Walesa wins Nobel Peace Prize. Jane Torville and Christopher Dean win World Figure Skating Championships

Uptown Girl – Billy Joel

Tracey Ullman as Roz on Three of a Kind

They Don’t Know About Love – Tracey Ullman

British pop acts dominate American chart

Karma Chameleon – Culture Club

What better way to start off a look at the year 1983 than U2’s New Year’s Day? There’s a lengthy couple of minutes with no music when they look at the 1983 general election. In 1983 it was predicted that compact discs would make vinyl obsolete, but vinyl made a comeback in the twenty-first century.

The Hitler Diaries hoax was still remembered in 1985, but is largely forgotten now, so these last five editions of 30 Years of Rock are more useful now than they were when they were originally broadcast.

Since these programmes were broadcast the music has become nostalgia fodder. The last new story is about the boom in British pop music. (This was the year that saw the start of the Now That’s What I Call Music albums.) We don’t hear the Thompson Twins, Thomas Dolby or Billy Idol, but we do hear Culture Club and Duran Duran. Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet were associated with the new romantics craze, but by 1983 had gone for a more mainstream sound.

As well as the new groups acts who’d been big since the sixties and seventies, such as the Rolling Stones, Elton John and David Bowie, were still having hits, and Jonathan King’s review of Michael Jackson’s performance of Billie Jean is what 30 Years of Rock is about.

Oddly enough this is the only edition of the series in Radio 6’s repeat run to include the preview of the next programme.


Radio Ga Ga – Queen

Relax banned by the BBC. Interview with Trevor Horn.

Relax – Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Frankie Goes to Hollywood release different mixes of their records and “Frankie Says” tee-shirts. Interview with Paul Morley. Ronald Reagan inadvertently makes joke announcement

Two Tribes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Arthur Scargill calls miners’ strike.

When Doves Cry – Prince

Elton John marries Renate Blauel. Richard Branson launches Virgin Airlines

Like a Virgin – Madonna

Soviet Union boycotts Los Angeles Olympics. Daley Thompson wins second gold medal for decathlon. Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram win silver and gold medals. Mary Decker knocked out of 3000 metres by Zola Budd.

Hole in My Shoe – Neil (Nigel Planer)

Prince Charles reads The Old Man of Lochnagar on Jackanory. Interview with viewers.

I Fell For You – Chaka Khan

Breakdancing craze. Pete Townsend joins anti-drugs campaign

White Lines – Grandmaster and Melle Mel

John DeLorean found not guilty of drug offences. Sarah Tisdall jailed for leaking government documents to the Guardian

Careless Whisper – George Michael

WPC Yvonne Fletcher shot dead outside Libyan embassy in London. Interview with General Gadaffi.

What’s Love Got to Do With It? – Tina Turner

Marvin Gaye shot dead by his father

Free Nelson Mandela – Special AKA

Nelson Mandela has spent twenty years in prison. Desmond Tutu awarded Nobel Peace Prize. Interview with Desmond Tutu.

Your Love Is King – Sade

British Telecom becomes privatised

I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder

Unsuccessful attempt to get Umaru Dikko back to Nigeria

Wouldn’t It Be Good? – Nik Kershaw

Indian army invades Golden Temple in Amritsar. Indira Ghandi assassinated. Clashes between Sikhs and Hindus. Rajiv Ghandi succeeds his mother as prime minister of India.

Love Resurrection – Alison Moyet

Gas leak at pesticide factory in Bhopal.

Hello – Lionel Richie

Ronald Reagan re-elected as president

Theme from Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Junior

Striking miners clash with police. Arthur Scargill speaks out against non-striking miners. Taxi driver killed by striking miners. Margaret Thatcher condemns their action.

Everything Must Change – Paul Young

IRA bomb Brighton hotel during Conservative Party conference. Norman Tebbit injured. Interview with Margaret Thatcher.

Drive – the Cars

Michael Buerk reports of famine in Ethiopia. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure announce plans to make record in aid of famine. Interview with Bob Geldof.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid

Do They Know It’s Christmas? becomes all time best selling single. Various quotes from the past thirty years

One of the main stories in the last programme was the miners’ strike which was still going on in 1985. One of the main stories throughout the whole series was the Cold War, and in 1984 the Soviet Union led a boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics following the United States’ boycott of the Moscow Olympics. As well as major stories such as the assassination of Indira Ghandi and the Brighton bombing, they managed to find room for Prince Charles reading his own book on Jackanory.

The programme makers managed to pick out two new acts who would still be big many years later, Madonna and Prince. Just as the 1969 and 1977 programmes included the previously banned Je t’Amie and God Save the Queen, so the 1984 programme included the previously banned Relax. (Record label founder Paul Morley is now a well known tv presenter.) And Pete Townsend remembers some of the rock stars who died during the last thirty years.

Criminally the Smiths were ignored.

There is one more record which deserves a special mention. As with the original twenty-five part series, 30 Years of Rock ended with the last number one record of the previous year. (It’s tempting to think that Radio 1 decided to do the updated series because of this record.) The last news story in 25 Years of Rock was the Ayatollah banning western pop music, but the thirty part series ends on a more positive note, with pop music being used for some good.

The last news story is Michael Buerk’s report of the Ethiopian famine which prompted Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to write Do They Know It’s Christmas? and form Band Aid. Band Aid led onto Live Aid, and in fact 30 Years of Rock had to come off the air for one week to make way for Live Aid. (The inclusion of Drive by the Cars suggests that the programme was completed after Live Aid.)

30 Years of Rock ends with the best selling British single with everyone on it, and they couldn’t have had a better place to end on.

band aid

25 Years of Rock – 1975 – 1979



Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

John Ehrlichman and Bob Halderman jailed. Interview with John Stonehouse

Idiot Wind – Bob Dylan

John Stonehouse and Sheila Buckley returned to Britain to face trial. Vietnamese war orphans arrive in Britain.

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

Industry Secretary Eric Varley puts government funds into British Chrysler. Vietnam War ends. People airlifted out of Vietnam.

SOS – Abba

South Vietnam formally surrenders to the Viet Cong. Arthur Ashe wins men’s singles title at Wimbledon. Ilie Nastase gets disqualified

Come Up and See Me Make Me Smile – Cockney Rebel

Cricket pitch vandalised by “Free George Davis” campaigners

Young Americans – David Bowie

Patty Hearst’s kidnappers arrested. Symbionese Liberation Army take hostages in Greenwich Village. John Lennon allowed to reside in the USA

Pick Up the Pieces – the Average White Band

Evel Knievel injured while attempting to jump over fifteen buses

Autobahn – Kraftwerk

IRA bomb pub near Caterham Army Barracks. Interview with barmaid Kitty Stone. Ross McWhirter shot dead by IRA

One of These Nights – the Eagles

Balcombe Street Siege. Edward Heath sacked by Conservative Party. Margaret Thatcher becomes new leader.

Lady Marmalade – LaBelle

Sex Discrimination Act passed. Interview with feminist campaigner Ruth Lister.

Stand By Your Man – Tammy Wynette

Fleet Street wine bar challenges Sex Discrimination Act

Remember – the Bay City Rollers

Bay City Rollers concerts disrupted by hysterical fans. Interviews with fans.

Bay City Rollers Are the Best – Bay City Rollers fans

No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Harold Wilson calls referendum on Britain’s membership of the Common Market. Interview with Anthony Wedgewood Benn. BBC News theme. Majority of British vote to remain in Common Market.

I’m Not in Love – 10cc

Assassination attempt on President Ford. Foreign Secretary Jim Callaghan flies to Uganda to prevent execution of British lecturer Denis Hills.

Dreamer – Supertramp

Apollo-Soyuz link-up. Laker Airways launch Skytrain

Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac

Newsbeat interview with Alex Hughes, aka Judge Dread

Big Six – Judge Dread

Magic Roundabout – Jasper Carrott

Funky Gibbon – the Goodies

Jive Talkin’ – the Bee Gees

Third Cod War begins

Sailing – Rod Stewart

Chris Drake reports from Lebanese Civil War

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

Inflation in Britain

It was very clever the way that they used Bohemian Rhapsody to bookend this programme. Bohemian Rhapsody was really the climax of mid-seventies pop music.
This is the only programme in the series to feature the BBC New theme, when it was used for the referendum results. The biggest news story was the end of the Vietnam War. Other big news stories were the Apollo-Soyuz link-up, and Margaret Thatcher becoming Conservative Party leader.

There’s a good selection of records in this programme (although the Tammy Wynette song was recorded long before 1975, but it did get rereleased and got to number one that year). There are some innovative records, the Bee Gees brought disco music into the mainstream, Kraftwerk were pioneers of electronic music. David Bowie had a change of image and musical style. And of course it was the year of the Bay City Rollers. By the time this programme was repeated in 1981 No Woman No Cry had been in the charts again as a tribute to Bob Marley.

There was a trio of comedy records by Judge Dread, Jasper Carrot and the Goodies. Richard Skinner said it was going to be Radio 1’s only broadcast of Judge Dread’s Big Six, but it wasn’t because they repeated it on 25 Years of Rock.


So It Goes – Nick Lowe

Jimmy Carter runs for US president. Harold Wilson resigns as prime minister

If You Leave Me Now – Chicago

Jim Callaghan becomes prime minister. Denis Healey cancels visit to Hong Kong following country’s financial problems

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Elton John and Kiki Dee

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden separate

Let’s Stick Together – Bryan Ferry

Jeremy Thorpe resigns as Liberal Party leader following scandal. Interview with Norman Scott. David Steele becomes new Liberal leader.

Livin’ Thing – Electric Light Orchestra

John Curry wins gold medal for ice skating at Winter Olympics. Southampton win FA Cup James Hunt wins World Drivers’ Championship

Convoy – CW McCall

Palestinian terrorists hijack plane in Uganda. Chaim Herzog addresses United Nations. Interview with Idi Amin.

Blinded By the Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

Margaret Thatcher responds to journalists who described her as “The Iron Lady”.

Tonight’s the Night – Rod Stewart

New Rose – the Damned

Government job creation scheme. Interview with unemployed young man.

You Should Be Dancing – the Bee Gees

Ian Smith says there will be no black majority rule in Rhodesia. Black protesters shot by police in Soweto, South Africa. Nigeria boycotts Olympics. Nadia Comaneci wins three gold medals for gymnastics

Dancing Queen – Abba

Bjorn Borg wins Wimbledon men’s singles. Government passes drought bill as Britain has driest summer since records began

Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder

Viking 2 lands on Mars. USA celebrates its bicentenary. Queen visits the USA.

Bicentennial – Loudon Wainwright III

Jimmy Carter on peanut farming

Why Not the Best? – Oscar Brand

Gerald Ford runs for re-election

Show Me the Way – Peter Frampton

Jimmy Carter elected US president. Chairman Mao Zedong dies

More Than a Feeling – Boston

Women in Belfast start Peace Movement

Night Moves – Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

Thirteen mercenaries tried in Luanda, Angola. Four of the mercenaries executed.

Love and Affection – Joan Armatrading

Howard Hughes dies. Interview with Ron Kessler.

Take It to the Limit – the Eagles

Richard Skinner interviews the Sex Pistols

Anarchy in the UK – the Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols swear on live television. Bill Grundy suspended. Bill Haley says punks are carrying things too far.

When this programme was first broadcast 1976 was the start of the current era. Margaret Thatcher was already Conservative Party leader, Jim Callaghan became Labour leader and prime minister, David Steele became the Liberal Party leader, and Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States. And it was the start of the punk explosion, the last truly original youth cult and the most outrageous, which paved the way for the then current rock scene.

So It Goes wasn’t a big hit at the time, but it was the first record on Nick Lowe’s own Stiff Records label which would play an important part in the punk/new wave scene.
Convoy was almost a forgotten record by 1980, and I don’t think Loudon Wainwright’s response to the American bicentenary celebrations had been heard much in the UK. But much of the music in this programme consists of ‘safe’ acts such as Abba, Chicago, the Eagles, Elton John and Kiki Dee.

Rather incongruously New Rose by the Damned appears somewhere in the middle of the programme, but it should have been the second to last record. The programme ends with Radio 1’s interview with the Sex Pistols and the third record that changed everything forever.


Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac

Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. Jimmy Carter visits Britain for G7 summit meeting

Rocking All Over the World – Status Quo

Delegates arrive at G7 summit meeting. Great Lakes blizzard

Hotel California – the Eagles

Gary Gilmore executed

Gary Gilmore’s Eyes – the Adverts

Interview with Johnny Rotten. Sex Pistols fired by EMI. Interviews with Sir John Reid and Malcolm McLaren.

EMI – the Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols fired by A&M

God Save the Queen – the Sex Pistols

John Peel defends God Save the Queen. Queen celebrates Silver Jubilee

Fanfare For the Common Man – Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Queen’s Jubilee walkabout

Heroes – David Bowie

Manchester United beat Liverpool in FA Cup Final. Liverpool win European Cup.

Night Fever – the Bee Gees

IRA bomb goes off in London disco. Black Muslim extremists take hostages as protest against film The Message

Short People – Randy Newman

Skateboarding craze

Road Runner – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

Jimmy Carter urges Americans to cut down on fuel

2-4-6-8 Motorway – Tom Robinson Band

National Front march in London causes riot

White Riot – the Clash

Black people complain about police racism. Two senior police officers found guilty of accepting bribes from pornography dealers

Watching the Detectives – Elvis Costello

South African students arrested at protest over the death of Steve Biko. Interview with Alex Haley, author of Roots

Float On – the Floaters

I Feel Love – Donna Summer

Virginia Wade wins ladies’ singles title at Wimbledon

Lido Shuffle – Boz Scaggs

Victor the giraffe dies

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina – Julie Covington

Marc Bolan dies in car crash. Members of Lynard Skynard killed in plane crash. Elvis Presley dies

Way Down – Elvis Presley

Funeral of Elvis Presley

Sex and Drugs and Rock n Roll – Ian Dury and the Blockheads

EEC butter mountains. British Leyland workers calls for Day of Action

Get a Grip on Yourself – the Stranglers

Jim Callaghan and David Steele form Lib-Lab Pact. Firemen’s strike

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction – Devo

President Anwar Sadat of Egypt visits Israel. Tony Greig stripped of captaincy of England Cricket team. Interview with Tony Greig. Geoff Boycott scores one-hundredth century. Interview with Geoff Boycott.

Pretty Vacant – the Sex Pistols

Scotland win British Home Championship. Football hooligans invade pitch.

Mull of Kintyre – Wings

The programme begins with Fleetwood Mac and ends with Wings, so punk didn’t change everything. There is punk from the Clash, the Stranglers and the Adverts. (Surprisingly there are no interviews with punks, as they did with teddy boys, mods and rockers in the fifties and sixties programmes.) There was already new wave music coming out of the punk scene, with Ian Dury and Elvis Costello, and there are some rarities like Jonathan Richman’s Road Runner and Devo’s version of I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Disco music was also popular.

But once again the highpoint of the programme is the Sex Pistols. God Save the Queen was banned by the BBC in 1977, but three years later it was included on 25 Years of Rock.
God Save the Queen leads neatly into the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, when everyone looked back at the fifties, sixties and seventies. When Jimmy Carter became president of the USA it was as much a breath of fresh air as President Kennedy’s presidency sixteen years earlier. 1977 was also the year of the skateboarding craze.

The news stories in these programmes aren’t played in chronological order. For example Elvis Presley (who I don’t think had even been mentioned since the 1961 programme) died in August 1977, Marc Bolan died in September, and the Lynard Skynard plane crash was in October, but in the radio programme they left Elvis Presley’s death until last because it was the biggest news story.


Rat Trap – the Boomtown Rats

Clip from Star Wars

Theme from Star Wars – John Williams

Star Wars premieres in Britain

War of the Worlds – Jeff Wayne (narrated by Richard Burton)

The neutron bomb

I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass – Nick Lowe

Leon Spinks beats Muhammed Ali in world heavyweight championship. Interview with Muhammed Ali.

Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

Religious cult led by Rev Jim Jones commits mass suicide. California holds referendum on Proposition 13. Speech by Howard Jarvis.

Le Freak – Chic

California makes tax cuts after Proposition 13 goes through. Vox pops on quangos

Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden get divorced. Roddy Llewellyn makes a record.

Jilted John – Jilted John

If the Kids Are United – Sham 69

Nottingham Forrest win Football League. Argentina win World Cup. Willie Johnston sent home from World Cup, and banned from playing for Scotland after failing drug test. Michael Parkinson interviews Geoff Boycott. Steve Ovett wins gold medal at European Championships

You’re the One That I Want – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

Interview with Olivia Newton-John

Roxanne – the Police

Oil tanker Amoco Cadiz runs aground in France. Vietnamese boat people arrive in Britain

I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea – Elvis Costello

Jimmy Carter arranges for Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin to sign Camp David Accords

Mr Blue Sky – Electric Light Orchestra

Ambassador Andrew Young tells French newspaper that American jails have political prisoners.

Follow You Follow Me – Genesis

Muhammed Ali regains heavyweight title. Times newspaper strike

Miss You – the Rolling Stones

Pope Paul VI dies. Pope John Paul I elected.

By the Rivers of Babylon – Boney M

Pope John Paul I dies. Pope John Paul II elected.

Forever Young – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan plays in London. Interviews with Bob Dylan and fans. Eric Idle in The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash

I Must Be In Love – the Rutles

Jim Callaghan announces he will not be calling an early election. Interviews with Margaret Thatcher and Denis Healey.

Denis – Blondie

Debbie Harry announces Radio 1’s new wavelength

Radio Radio – Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello announces Radio 1’s new wavelength. Newsbeat review of the year

Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush

Interview with Kate Bush. Interview with Sid Vicious. Sid Vicious charged with the murder of Nancy Spungen. Newsbeat interviews Father Abraham

The Smurf Song – Father Abraham and the Smurfs

Do You Think I’m Sexy? – Rod Stewart

Jeremy Thorpe charged with conspiracy to murder Norman Scott

YMCA – the Village People

Ian Smith makes Internal Settlement with African nationalist leaders Demonstrations against the Shah of Iran

Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf

It’s 1978 and punk’s not dead. Some punk groups, such as Sham 69, made their breakthrough after the main punk explosion. The programme begins with Rat Trap by the Boomtown Rats, but it should have been the last record as the first new wave record to get to number one actually topped the charts towards the end of the year. Other new wave acts who made their breakthrough in 1978 included Blondie and the Police.

As well as obvious classic pops songs like Wuthering Heights (which should have been the first record played) and Baker Street, there are some ephemeral records by Jilted John, the Rutles and the Smurfs.

One of the most memorable events of 1978 was the murder of the Italian prime minister Aldo Moro, but surprisingly that wasn’t included in the programme. Neither was the death of Keith Moon.

1978 is remembered as the year that we had three popes. We hear the news report about the election of Pope John Paul I, and then after the next record we hear the news of his death. This was also the year of the Camp David Agreement. And three years after the end of the Vietnam War the repercussions were still being felt.


Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury and the Blockheads

Winter of Discontent: Britain hit by industrial action

Brass in Pocket – the Pretenders

Jim Callaghan calls general election after vote of no confidence. Margaret Thatcher becomes prime minister

Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Shah of Iran deposed. Ayatollah Khomeini takes over Iran.

Dance Away – Roxy Music

Dancin’ Fool – Frank Zappa

Interview with Frank Zappa

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson

Radiation leak at Three Mile Island nuclear generating station. Interviews with residents.

The Logical Song – Supertramp

Lord Mountbatten murdered by IRA. Airey Neave murdered by INLA. Sid Vicious dies. Interview with Steve Jones and Paul Cook.

My Way – Sid Vicious

Anthony Blunt exposed as member of spy ring. Interview with Anthony Blunt. Jimmy Carter signs Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty

Pop Muzik – M

Pope John Paul II visits Poland, Ireland and USA.

Rapper’s Delight – the Sugarhill Gang

Ambassador Andrew Young resigns after meeting with PLO

We Don’t Talk Anymore – Cliff Richard

Interview with Cliff Richard

Video Killed the Radio Star – Buggles

Skylab returns to Earth

I Don’t Like Mondays – the Boomtown Rats

DC-10 crashes at O’Hare International Airport, Chicago. Federal Aviation Authority cancels all DC-10 flights.

Message in a Bottle – the Police

Interview with the Police

Walking on the Moon – the Police

Interview with Trevor Francis. Nottingham Forrest win European Cup. Interview with Brian Clough.

Lucky Number – Lene Lovich

Chas Smash Introduces… One Step Beyond – Madness

Teacher Blair Peach dies after National Front clash with Anti-Nazi League in Southall.

Eton Rifles – the Jam

Abel Muzorewa elected prime minister of Rhodesia. Jimmy Carter intend to stand for re-election

Gangsters – the Specials

Eleven fans killed at Who concert in Cincinnati, Ohio

Are Friends Electric? – Tubeway Army

Jeremy Thorpe found not guilty

Heart of Glass – Blondie

Interview with Debbie Harry. Police receive message from man claiming to be the Yorkshire Ripper

My Sharona – the Knack

Iranian students hold staff at American Embassy as hostages Soviet Union Invade Afghanistan

Ayatollah – Steve Dahl

Ayatollah Khomeini bans western pop music

Another Brick in the Wall – Pink Floyd

Various quotes from the past twenty-five years

Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley and the Comets

(The selection of quotes and the reprise of Rock Around the Clock were omitted from the 1985 repeat.)

When this programme was first broadcast this was the music and events from last year.

It was the year that the new wave finally got into the mainstream, and most of the records featured are records which got into the upper reaches of the charts and are still well remembered.

Somewhat incongruously the second record played, Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders, was a number one hit early in 1980. (If the series had been made later Brass in Pocket would probably have been included in the 1980 programme.) Two-tone music was big in 1980, and this programme includes early hits by Madness and the Specials. So the last episode of 25 Years of Rock really was up to date with the current pop scene.

This the last programme in the series to feature cinema newsreel clips, British Movietone News stopped making them in 1979.

There are two stories that stand out. Firstly there’s the tape from a man claiming to be the Yorkshire Ripper. When Peter Sutcliffe was caught it turned out that the message was a hoax. And the other story is Anthony Blunt being exposed as a spy. In the first programme there was a clip of Kim Philby denying that he was part of the same spy ring, so the first programme had a news story from twenty-five years ago and the last programme had a related story from last year.

In 1955 American and Russian scientists were planning the first space satellite, in 1979 Skylab returned to Earth. In 1955 there were nuclear tests in Nevada, in 1979 there was a nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. In 1955 Eisenhower met Krushchev at a summit in Geneva, in 1979 Carter and Brezhnev signed a treaty in Vienna. In 1955 Juan Peron was ousted, in 1979 the Shah of Iran was ousted. In 1955 Winston Churchill resigned, in 1979 Margaret Thatcher became prime minister.

Two of the last stories in the programme were the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The latter led to the United States boycotting the 1980 Olympics which took place while 25 Years of Rock was being broadcast, and both event played against Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election.

The programme plays out with Another Brick in the Wall (album version) and a creaky recording of Rock Around the Clock.

25 Years of Rock still stands up very well. My only criticism is the various records and events which were omitted, but then they did only have an hour to include what they did.

The series proved popular enough for Radio 1 to give it a repeat run in 1981, but then the programme was dated in as much as it now only went up to two years ago. However there was an updated version of the series a few years later ….
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25 Years of Rock – 1970 – 1974



After the Gold Rush – Neil Young

Apollo 13 expedition abandoned

All Right Now – Free

Chicago Seven tried for inciting riots

Ball of Confusion – the Temptations

President Nixon send troops into Cambodia. Four students at Kent State
University, Ohio shot dead by national guard

Ohio – Neil Young

Interview with father of dead student

Fire and Rain – James Taylor

Nigerian Civil War ends

Dead Parrot Sketch – Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Black Night – Deep Purple

Storms and flooding in Belfast. Bernadette Devlin on trouble in Northern

Let It Be – the Beatles

Apple deny reports that Paul McCartney has left the Beatles. Beatles film Let It Be released. Paul McCartney releases solo album.

Maybe I’m Amazed – Paul McCartney

Germany beat England in World Cup quarter final Tony Jacklin wins US Open golf

I Want You Back – the Jackson Five

Harold Wilson calls general election. Voting age lowered to eighteen. Interview with first time voter. Edward Heath becomes prime minister, and forms new cabinet.

Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell

Isle of Wight Pop Festival. Interviews with attendees, and Caroline Coon from
Release. Anti-drug message from Mark Farner of Grand Railroad Funk.

In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry Rag

Mama Rag – the Band

Government introduces industrial relations bill. Interviews with Robert Carr and Vic Feather.

Question – the Moody Blues

Jimi Hendrix dies

Voodoo Chile – Jimi Hendrix

Janis Joplin dies. Palestinian guerrillas hijack aeroplanes

Ride a White Swan – T Rex

President Nasser of Egypt dies

Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel

Aleksandr Soltzenitsyn wins Nobel Prize for Literature

The beginning of the first half of the thirty part series.

It’s interesting to hear the 1970s editions of Twenty-five Years of Rock now. At the time the music of the early to mid seventies was too old to be up to date, but not old enough to be nostalgia, and with the later seventies
editions some records and events included in the programmes would be now long forgotten, while other records and events would be conspicuous by their absence.

1970 was the tail end of hippy era. A lot of the music is folk rockby people like Neil Young, Jon Mitchell, James Taylor and the Band, or heavy rock by Free and Deep Purple. It was the year that the Beatles split, and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died (although they didn’t play any of her music in the series).

It was also the start of the seventies. If the 1960 programme gave little indication of the type of music that was coming in the next decade, the 1970 programme features two influential new acts. T Rex had one of the first
glam rock hits, and there’s the Jackson Five, featuring Michael Jackson who was still a big star long after the seventies.

Britain got a new Conservative government, and the programme includes a newsreel clip of Edward Heath’s new cabinet, which included Margaret Thatcher.

But Monty Python’s Parrot Sketch was definitely first broadcast in 1969. Surprisingly there’s no mention of the death of General De Gaulle, or the skinhead craze.


Layla – Derek and the Dominoes

Edward Heath applies for Britain to join the Common Market.

Imagine – John Lennon

Beatles’ split official. Interview with John Lennon.

My Sweet Lord – George Harrison

Earthquake in California

Your Song – Elton John

Postal workers strike. Britain changes to decimal currency Mick Jagger marries Bianca de Macias

Brown Sugar – the Rolling Stones

England win the Ashes. D B Cooper robs plane over Seattle. Arsenal win FA Cup and
Champions League Cup

Hot Love – T Rex

Rolls Royce gets into financial difficulty

Get It On – T Rex

Princess Anne presents Society of Film and Television Arts Awards. Clip from Dad’s Army. Anti-Vietnam War demonstration in Washington erupts into violence

Theme from Shaft – Isaac Hayes

Jim Morrison dies in Paris

Riders on the Storm – the Doors

Edward Heath on trouble in Northern Ireland. Pub bombed in Belfast. Minister of Home Affairs announces internment order.

It’s Too Late – Carole King

Homes bombed in Derry. Civilians attack British troops.

Won’t Get Fooled Again – the Who

Black Panther George Jackson shot dead while escaping from prison

Yours Is No Disgrace – Yes

Attica State Prison riot

Black Magic Woman – Santana

Oz editors charged with obscenity and jailed. Richard Neville, Felix Denis and Jim Anderson interviewed.

Hors D’Oeuvres – Sid Phillips Band

Women’s Liberation Movement in Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner.

Resurrection Shuffle – Ashton, Gardner and Dyke

Hot pants. Clockwork Orange released. Festival of Light rally in Trafalgar Square

Get Down and Get With It – Slade

Voting age in the USA lowered to 18. School leaving age to be raised to 16. Interview with education secretary Margaret Thatcher

Maggie May – Rod Stewart

East Pakistan becomes Bangladesh following civil war

Bangla Desh – George Harrison

Milton Obote of Uganda ousted in military coup led by General Idi Amin. President Nixon announces he will visit China in 1972

Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin

The Beatles’ solo careers started. The Oz magazine trial was another sign that the sixties were over. The Rolling Stones started their own label, and Rod Stewart and Elton John made their breakthrough. The glam rock movement was taking off with Marc Bolan having more hits, and Slade joining the glam scene. The American
rock scene was getting more mellow.

Britain was entering another new era with the changeover to decimal currency, parliament voting for Britain to join the Common Market, and the rise of the feminist. But the troubles in Northern Ireland, and the anti-war protests and racial tensions in America got worse.


All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople

Students’ Union protest in London

School’s Out– Alice Cooper

Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhoff arrested. Miners’ strike leading to energy crisis in

Heart of Gold –Neil Young

Miners return to work

Vital Transformation – John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra

Trident crashes in Staines, Middlesex. Japanese terrorists, recruited by PLO, shoot passengers at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv

Without You – Harry Nilsson

British soldiers shoot 28 unarmed civilians in Derry. Interview with Father Edward Daly, and other witnesses.

Lady Eleanor –Lindisfarne

IRA bomb parachute regiment headquarters. Edward Heath announces plans to solve troubles in Northern Ireland.

Big Eyed Beans From Venus – Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band

Silver Machine – Hawkwind

Racial tension in Alabama. Governor George Wallace shot.

Do It Again – Steely Dan

Gravelly Interchange, aka Spaghetti Junction, opens

Spam – Monty Python

Thick as a Brick – Jethro Tull

Karin Janz, Olga Korbut, Mark Spitz win medals at Munich Olympics

Goodbye to Love – the Carpenters

Palestinian terrorists murder Israeli athletes at Olympic village

American Pie – Don McLean

One million people unemployed in Britain. Interview with Anthony Barber over “floating the pound”.

Money Programme sketch – Monty Python

I Saw the Light – Todd Rundgren

George Best suspended by Manchester United

Mama Weer All Crazee Now – Slade

Bobby Fischer interviewed after beating Boris Spassky in World Chess Championship

Ziggy Stardust – DavidBowie

The Jean Genie – David Bowie

George McGovern runs for president. Break-in at Democrat Party’s Watergate office. President Nixon re-elected.

Merry Xmas War Is Over – John Lennon

Vietnam War statistics. Last American infantry unit leaves Vietnam. Henry Kissinger negotiates end for Vietnam War.

Virginia Plain – Roxy Music (The original broadcast also included Rock n Roll by Gary Glitter.)

The 1971 programme ended with President Nixon announcing he would visit China in 1972, but we don’t hear about his visit in the 1972 programme. He did manage to get re-elected that year, but news came out about the Watergate break-in that would lead to his downfall.

1972 also saw the start of the industrial unrest in Britain that would lead to Edward Heath’s downfall. Bloody Sunday should have been included in the introduction in the first programme as the troubles in Northern Ireland was one of the main news stories of the seventies. The 1972 Olympics are remembered for the wrong
Three years after his Space Oddity David Bowie re-emerged as one of the leading lights of the glam rock era. As well as his own hits he wrote a song for Mott the Hoople. Roxy Music followed to Bowie style, while glam rockers like Gary Glitter and Slade drew on old style rock n roll. The biggest glam rock star from America was Alice Cooper.


Reelin’ in the Years – Steely Dan

Nixon states that he is not a crook. Britain joins Common Market. Interview with Edward Heath. President Nixon’s inauguration. Six men charged over Watergate break-

You’re So Vain – Carly Simon

USA ends its involvement in Vietnam War. Train drivers’ strike

Part of the Union – the Strawbs

Edward Heath announces wages squeeze

Money – Pink Floyd

Red Rum wins Grand National

Superstition – Stevie Wonder

Bob Halderman and John Ehrlichman resign over Watergate. Sam Ervin presides over Watergate hearing. Interview with John Dean.

Stuck in the Middle With You – Stealers Wheel

Nixon denies involvement in Watergate break-in. Watkins Glen Rock Festival

Jessica – the Allman Brothers Band

Interview with organiser Jim Koplik, and festival attendees

Ramblin’ Man – the Allman Brothers Band

Northern Ireland referendum. IRA bombings in London. Tu-144 crashes at Paris Air Show

Whiskey in the Jar – Thin Lizzy

Clashes between Protestant extremists and British army in Northern Ireland. Uri Geller demonstrates fork bending

Papa Was a Rolling Stone – the Temptations

Sioux Indians take hostages and demand rights for Red Indians. Academy Awards.
Marlon Brando refuses Oscar for The Godfather.

Long Train Runnin’ – the Doobie Brothers

Vice President Spiro Agnew resigns

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan

Gerald Ford becomes Vice President

Hocus Pocus –Focus

Blockbuster – the Sweet

Princess Anne marries Captain Mark Phillips

Get Down – Gilbert O’Sullivan

Nixon interviewed over Watergate scandal

Desperado – the Eagles

Cod War between UK and Iceland. Marjorie Wallace, Miss USA, is crowned Miss World. Fashions news, including coloured hair

Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed

Yom Kippur War

Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield

Fuel shortages in USAand Europe. Edward Heath meets Arab oil ministers. Nixon asks Americans to cut down on fuel for heating.

Angie – the Rolling Stones

Edward Heath announces three day week

Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade

Radio 1 review of the year. Interviews with Emperor Rosko and David Hamilton.

Let Me In – the Osmonds

Eclipse – Pink Floyd

“It’s 1973, and a very happy New Year to everyone.”

Britain joined the Common Market on New Year’s Day, but the story that dominates this programme is the Watergate scandal. America finally got out of the Vietnam War, but more wars started in the Middle East, leading to a fule crisis in the USA and Europe, and more industrial unrest in Britain.

In Britain 1973 is also remembered for the royal wedding. There are some memorable records from Stevie Wonder, Thin Lizzy, and Lou Reed, but You’re So Vain was
definitely a hit in 1972. There’s not as much glam rock in this programme as you might expect. Glam rock group reached its peak in 1973, but then glam was overshadowed by punk for a long time.

Country rock was big. The Watkins Glen Rock Festival was, at the time, the biggest rock festival ever held, but it’s less well remembered than Woodstock. The programme ends with an extract from Radio 1’s review of the year. It mentions that 1973 was the year that
Radio 1’s Newsbeat started, and Newsbeat was still going strong in the early eighties.

Since this programme was made Jessica became the theme tune to Top Gear, and Stuck in the Middle With You has become synonymous with Reservoir Dogs.


You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet – Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Britain suffers from fuel crisis and industrial disputes. South Eastern Gas Board recommends couples share baths. Interview with Joseph Kinsey.

Rebel Rebel – David Bowie

Edward Heath calls general election. Speeches by Edward Heath, Harold Wilson and Jeremy Thorpe.

Election Night Special – Monty Python

Waterloo – Abba

Richard Skinner presents election edition of Newsbeat. Harold Wilson becomes
prime minister

I Can Help – Billy Swan

Three day week ends. IRA bomb in Tower of London. Martial arts craze

Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas

Rugby match disrupted by streaker. Marcus Lipton MP urges Home Secretary to deal firmly with streakers.

The Streak – Ray Stevens

President Nixon visits Leonid Brezhnev for peace talks Aleksandr Soltzenitsyn
expelled from Soviet Union

This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Both of Us – Sparks

Patty Hearst kidnapped by Symbionese Liberation Army.

Killer Queen – Queen

Message from Patty Hearst. Interview with Randolph Apperson Hearst. The Exorcist banned by several councils after boy dies after watching the film.

Remember You’re a Womble – the Wombles

Sugar shortage ends

I Shot the Sheriff – Eric Clapton

Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham bombed by IRA. DC-10 crashes in Paris

Cajun Moon – J J Cale

President Nixon on Watergate investigations. Impeachment process against President Nixon

How Long – Ace

President Nixon resigns

The Show Must Go On – Leo Sayer

Gerald Ford becomes president and pardons Richard Nixon

Gonna Make You a Star – David Essex

Muhammad Ali regains world heavyweight title. Court Line goes bankrupt, leaving British holidaymakers stranded

Y Viva Espana –Sylvia

Package Holiday sketch – Monty Python

The Joker – the Steve Miller Band

Lord Lucan disappears. Harold Wilson calls second election. Labour wins again.

The Wall Street Shuffle – 10cc

Pound falls to its lowest ever level. Vox pops on what people want to see in 1975

Down Down – Status Quo

Can’t Get Enough – Bad Company

John Stonehouse disappears, and later is found and arrested in Australia

Band on the Run – Wings

1974 is remembered as the year the President Nixon resigned. In Britain it was the year that we had two general elections. But the Monty Python sketches were definitely earlier than 1974.

Another news story here is the IRA pub bombing in Birmingham. As with the pub bombing in Guildford the same year, it transpired over a decade later that the people who went to prison for this crime were innocent.

This is the first programme in the series to feature a song from the Eurovision Song Contest. Queen also had their first hit. There are several records in this programme based on the crazes of the year such as kung fu, streaking and the Wombles, the last of these being one of the most successful novelty acts. The programme plays out with Wings’ Band on the Run, one of the first concept singles.


25 Years of Rock – 1965 – 1969

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Vietnam War

Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire

Lyndon Johnson announces decisions to bomb North Vietnam, and to raise the draft call.

Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation – Tom Paxton

Ways to avoid the draft

My Generation – the Who

US Marines fire on Viet Cong. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Sir Winston Churchill dies. Richard Dimbleby provides commentary for Churchill’s funeral. Richard Dimbleby dies.

Catch the Wind – Donovan

Martin Luther King leads civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama

You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – the Righteous Brothers.

Riots in Los Angeles, Watts District

We Gotta Get Out of This Place – the Animals

Help! – the Beatles

Beatles perform at Shea Stadium. Paul McCartney introduces…

Ticket to Ride – the Beatles

Interview with the Beatles

I’m Down – the Beatles

Beatles interviewed after receiving MBEs. Objection to Beatles reciving MBES.

I Got You Babe – Sonny and Cher

Diana Rigg joins The Avengers. PJ Proby ordered off tour after trouser ripping incident. The mini skirt

I’m Alive – the Hollies

Ronnie Biggs escapes from prison

Subterranean Home Sick Blues – Bob Dylan

President Johnson’s State of the Union address

The Last Time – the Rolling Stones

Edward Heath elected leader of the Conservative Party

Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan

Interview with Mick Jagger

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction – the Rolling Stones

North Sea oil rig Sea Gem. Northeast power cut affects parts of USA and Canada

Go Now – the Moody Blues

Conservatives win Leyton by-election. Rhodesia declares UDI

For Your Love – the Yardbirds

Ed White makes the first walk in space. Gemini 7 and Gemini 6A make first rendezvous in space

Mr Tambourine Man – the Byrds

Anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in Washington. Robert McNamara predicts increase in American military efforts. Vietnamese villagers rendered homeless.

Yesterday – the Beatles

Beatles’ Christmas Record

The main new story in this edition is the Vietnam War. In Britain 1965 is remembered as the year that Winston Churchill died.

Pop music was becoming more sophisticated. The Beatles’ music was becoming more sophisticated (although I don’t think it was a good idea to have another programme ending with a Beatles’ Christmas record). The Rolling Stones were writing their own songs, and the Who made their breakthrough. Surprisingly James Brown, the pioneer of soul music, wasn’t included. There was already a hippy sound coming into pop music, and in America the folk-protest music scene lead by Bob Dylan was really taking off, but then there was a lot to protest about.


The Sound of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel

England wins the World Cup. Kenneth Wolstenholme’s commentary.

England Swings – Roger Miller

Carnaby Street fashions

Dedicated Follower of Fashion – the Kinks

Radio London jingle. Vitalis shampoo commercial. Radio Caroline marooned. Radio Caroline jingle.

Wild Thing – the Trogs

Edward Short, postmaster general, presents white paper outlawing pirate radio, but allowing local radio stations

Paint It Black – the Rolling Stones

Over five hundred billion dollars spent on Vietnam War. Bombing in Vietnam continues. Interview with President Johnson.

The Ballad of the Green Berets – Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler

Charles Whitman shot dead by police after shooting spree at University of Texas

Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix

Eight students murdered in Chicago. Hendrik Verwoerd stabbed to death. Indira Ghandi elected prime minister of India. Mao Zedong’ Cultural Revolution

For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield

John Lennon gets into trouble after saying the Beatles are more popular than Jesus

Eleanor Rigby – the Beatles

Calls for sanctions against Rhodesia. Speech by Ian Smith.

Summer in the City – the Lovin’ Spoonful

The Man From UNCLE – Montenegro

David McCallum visits Britain before making film in Italy

River Deep Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner

Muhammad Ali refuses to join US army on religious grounds

Reach Out I’ll Be There – the Four Tops

You Keep Me Hangin’ On – the Supremes

Safari park opened at Longleat. Chi Chi the panda sent to Moscow Zoo to be mated with An An

Good Vibrations – the Beach Boys

Interview with juvenile delinquents

California Dreamin’ – the Mamas and the Papas

Ronald Reagan becomes governor of California. Lurleen Wallace succeeds her husband as governor of Alabama. Edward Brooke becomes first black senator. Labour wins general election

Taxman – the Beatles

Harold Wilson opens new Cavern Club in Liverpool

Rainy Women – Bob Dylan Doctor

Timothy Leery appeals against sentence for drug offences

Eight Miles High – the Byrds

Timothy Leery describes LSD experience

Tomorrow Never Knows – the Beatles

Psychedelic craze

1966 was a transitional year. The Beatles stopped touring. This is the fifth consecutive edition of Twenty-five Years of Rock to end with the Beatles, but the song is nothing like anything they recorded before. The Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys joined the psychedelic bandwagon, as did new acts like Jimi Hendrix and Buffalo Springfield.

1966 was the year that the phrases ‘Swinging Sixties’ and ‘Swinging London’ were coined, and it was an optimistic time for Britain with Britain leading the worlds of pop music and fashion, England winning the World Cup. The programme even includes a couple of animal stories.

The US mid-term election results included the former actor Ronal Reagan (surname pronounced incorrectly in the new report) being voted governor of California. A few months after this programme was broadcast he was elected president of the United States.


Magical Mystery Tour – the Beatles

Last Train the Clarksville – the Monkees

The Monkees perform in Britain

Theme from The Monkees – the Monkees

Interview with Davy Jones

I’m a Believer – the Monkees

Israel fights Arab nations in Six Day War

A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum

Race riots in Detroit

Light My Fire – the Doors

Anti-Vietnam War protests

Al Capone – Prince Buster

Che Guevara killed in Bolivia. SS Torrey Canyon runs aground and creates massive oil spillage

Waterloo Sunset – the Kinks

Hi Ho Silver Lining – Jeff Beck

Interview with American visitors to Carnaby Street. Interview with Twiggy.

Let’s Spend the Night Together – the Rolling Stones

Interview with Mick Jagger after controversy over lyrics of Let’s Spend the Night Together. Mick Jagger and Keith Richard avoid being jailed for drug offences.

We Love You – the Rolling Stones

British Medical Journal warns of dangers of taking LSD. Flower people have love-in at Woburn Park. Interview with Duke of Bedford.

San Francisco – Scott McKenzie

Ed Stewart appeals to listeners to save Radio London

Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley

Radio London Jingle. Radio London closes down.

We Shall Overcome – Pete Seeger

Johnnie Walker on Radio Caroline. Radio One is launched

Radio One is Wonderful – Kenny Everett

Beefeaters – Johnny Dankworth

Tony Blackburn introduces…

Flowers in the Rain – the Move

Radio One – Jimi Hendrix

Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix

Till Death Us Do Part

See Emily Play – Pink Floyd

Interview with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Brian Epstein dies. Interview with the Beatles.

Within You and Without You – the Beatles

Third phase of LSD

Cliff Richard says Paul McCartney was wrong to admit to taking LSD, and will be giving up show business career for the church.

Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds – the Beatles

Harold Wilson announces devaluation of the pound. Coronation of the Shah of Iran. Steve Race goes behind the scenes on Beatles’ latest record…

All You Need is Love – the Beatles

Doctor Christian Barnard carries out first heart transplant. Canada celebrates centenary, and hosts Expo ’67. Charles De Gaulle supports Quebec separatists.

Itchycoo Park – the Small Faces

Beatles open Apple Boutique. The Fool play at the opening party.

White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane

This was the middle episode of the original twenty-five part series.

Rather incongruously the programme begins with Magical Mystery Tour which was the Beatles’ Christmas special. It was a mixed year for the Beatles, they made their most celebrated album, and their most famous tv appearance, but they lost their manager.

There are a lot of anthems here from the hippy/psychedelic era by the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Scott McKenzie, the Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, Jefferson Airplane and others. Jimi Hendrix should have featured in the introduction in the first programme.

Al Capone was probably included because it was the inspiration for the Specials’ then recent hit Gangster.

1967 was the year that Radio 1 started, and the programme includes the station’s opening moments. In 1987, to mark Radio 1’s twentieth anniversary, this edition only was repeated under the title The Year in Rock.


Lazy Sunday – the Small Faces

Government cuts. Harold Wilson endorses “I’m Backing Britain” campaign.

Mrs Robinson – Simon and Garfunkel

US sends warships to North Korea following capture of USS Pueblo. Viet Cong launch Tet Offinsive

Dance to the Music – Sly and the Family Stone

Student demonstrations in Paris

Revolution – the Beatles

Anti-Vietnam War protest in London turns into riot outside American Embassy. Student unrest in Berlin following assassination attempt on student leader Rudi Dutschke

Fire – the Crazy World of Arthur Brown

Malcolm Muggeridge resigns as rector of Edinburgh University over students taking drugs

Jumpin’ Jack Flash – the Rolling Stones

Brian Jones fined for possession of cannabis resin. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful bailed for drugs charges. Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy run for Democratic presidential candidate. Lyndon Johnson announces he will not stand for re-election.

All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix

Martin Luther King assassinated

We’re Going Wrong – Cream

Bobby Kennedy assassinated. Edward Kennedy speaks at his brother’s funeral.

Hey Jude – the Beatles

Demonstrations outside Democratic convention. Hubert Humphrey becomes Democratic presidential candidate.

Fire Brigade – the Move

Sabre Dance – Love Sculpture

Soviet troops invade Czechoslovakia

Alabatross – Fleetwood Mac

Protests against government’s immigration policy. Enoch Powell makes “Rivers of Blood” speech.

On the Road Again – Canned Heat

Ian Paisley speaks out against nationalist march in Derry.

The Mighty Quinn – Manfred Mann

Men of the Year Lunch. Melody Maker Readers Pop Poll Awards

This Wheel’s on Fire – Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity

Richard Nixon becomes Republican candidate, with Spiro Agnew as his running mate. Nixon elected president.

With a Little Help From My Friends – Joe Cocker

Jackie Kennedy marries Aristotle Onassis

Everlasting Love – Love Affair

Apollo 8, the first manned orbit of the Moon

Nights in White Satin – the Moody Blues

Vietnam peace talks in Paris become deadlocked

In 1968 the hippy movement went from love-ins to protests. It was a violent year with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the continuing Vietnam War, protests against the Vietnam War, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the start of the troubles in Northern Ireland. The best news of the year was the first manned orbit of the Moon, another stage closer to getting men on the Moon.

The music in this programme is almost the start of the early seventies rock and pop scene. The main charts were moving from rock to pop, the Rolling Stones had jumped on the psychedelic bandwagon but quickly returned to their rhythm and blues style, Sly and the Family Stone were making funk music, and Cream and Can were the roots of prog rock. It also marked the start of a new era in American politics.


Something in the Air – Thunderclap Newman

President Nixon on first Moon landing. London School of Economics closes after students break down protective gates. London Street Commune in Piccadilly, interviews with squatters. Ronald Reagan imposes curfew at University of Berkley

Street Fighting Man – the Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones give free concert in Hyde Park and pay tribute to Brian Jones

Honky Tonk Woman – the Rolling Stones

Prince Charles invested as Prince of Wales

Je t’Amie Moi No Plus – Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg

Charles de Gaulle resigns. Bernadette Devlin becomes Britain’s youngest ever MP. British Troops sent into Northern Ireland

Bad Moon Rising – Credence Clearwater Revival

Concorde’s maiden flight. Boeing launches 747.

Get Back – the Beatles

Paul McCartney marries Linda Eastman. John Lennon marries Yoko Ono and stages bed-in for peace

The Ballad of John and Yoko – the Beatles

Interview with John Lennon

Give Peace a Chance – Plastic Ono Band

Reports of atrocities in South Vietnam. Second Lieutenant William Calley court martialled following My Lai Massacre.

Also Sprach Zarapthrustra – Richard Strauss

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become first men on the Moon

Space Oddity – David Bowie

President Nixon speaks to Apollo 11 astronauts

Star Spangled Banner – Jimi Hendrix

Country Joe McDonald addresses audience at Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Interviews with attendees at Woodstock.

Soul Sacrifice – Santana

Country Joe McDonald introduces…

I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die – Country Joe and the Fish

Nixon announces plan to withdraw American troops from Vietnam

I Heard It Through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye

Rolling Stones fan stabbed to death at concert in Altamont, California

Sympathy For the Devil – the Rolling Stones

Charles Manson and five followers charged with the murder of Sharon Tate

Hare Krishna Mantra – Radha Krishna Temple

Pinball Wizard – the Who

The Who perform their rock opera Tommy. Edward Kennedy interviewed after Chappaquiddick incident

Oh Well – Fleetwood Mac

Melody Maker Readers’ Awards

Living in the Past – Jethro Tull

Benjamin Spock addresses largest anti-Vietnam War demonstration in Washington

A Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin

Something in the Air sets this programme up very nicely for the last year of the sixties (and the end of the first half of the thirty part series). It was a bad year for the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones died and the Altamont concert ended in tragedy. The Who broke new ground with the first rock opera, and Oh Well by Fleetwood Mac was the theme tune to Twenty-five Years of Rock. But the biggest pop music event of 1969 was Woodstock, and we hear performances by Jimi Hendrix, Santana and Country Joe McDonald and the Fish.

If the 1960 programme gave little indication of the type of music that was coming in the next decade, the 1969 programme features two influential new acts. The programme plays out with Led Zeppelin who were a major influence on some of the rock bands of the early seventies, and there’s David Bowie who would be a major influence in the seventies and beyond.

Space Oddity ties in with the biggest news event of the year, the first Moon landing. Oddly the series doesn’t include any of the other Moon landings apart from the failed attempt in 1970. Meanwhile back on Earth President Nixon pledged to end the United Sates’ involvement in Vietnam, but it would be a slow process.

25 Years of Rock – 1960 – 1964



Cathy’s Clown – the Everly Brothers

Sergeant Elvis Presley leaves the army and starts a career as a film actor.

Interview with Elvis Presley.

It’s Now or Never – Elvis Presley

Cassius Clay wins gold medal at Rome Olympics. Commentary by Eamonn Andrews.

Tell Laura I Love Her – Ricky Valance

Eddie Cochran killed in a car crash. Gene Vincent injured.

Three Steps to Heaven – Eddie Cochran

Francis Powers captured by Soviets after U2 crash lands in USSR

Apache – the Shadows

Francis Powers sentenced to ten years in prison

Only the Lonely – Roy Orbison

Queen and Prince Philip attend Royal Variety Performance

Walk Don’t Run – the Ventures

Italian suits and college boy haircuts

Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-dot Bikini

Stay – Maurice Williams

Sharpville massacre. Hendrik Verwoerd survives assassination attempt. Harold Macmillan’s “Winds of Change Speech”.

Chain Gang – Sam Cooke

Britain’s first Traffic wardens

Sweet Nothin’s – Brenda Lee

Investigations into payola scandal. Lady Chatterley’s Lover published

Poetry in Motion – Johnny Tillotson

Pioneer 5 and Discoverer 11 launched. USS George Washington fires first Polaris missile

Shakin’ All Over – Johnny Kidd and the Pirates

Nikita Kruschev makes speech on 66th birthday. Kruschev hits desk with his shoe at United Nations session. Guiseppe Bianco, aka Brother Emin, predicts end of the world

Please Don’t Tease – Cliff Richard

Birth pill becomes available in USA. Caryl Chessman executed.

Good Timin’ – Jimmy Jones

Princess Margaret marries Anthony Armstrong-Jones. Beatnik wedding in Soho

You’re Sixteen – Johnny Burnette

Two planes collide at Idelwild Airport, Brooklyn

Save the Last Dance For Me – the Drifters

Floyd Paterson regains work heavyweight title

Hit and Miss – John Barry

John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon run for US president. Kennedy wins election.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow – the Shirelles

In 1960 people were still listening to Cliff Richard and the Shadows, the Everley Brothers, Eddie Cochran who died in 1960, and Elvis Presley who was changing direction musically after coming out of the army. There were some good new acts, such as Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and the Shirelles, but they were mostly following in the style of the older acts.

1960 was the start of a new era in American politics. Funnily enough three of the news stories, Kruschev’s birthday speech, the Discoverer 11, and the death of Eddie Cochran, happened during Easter. I liked the way that they contrasted Princess Margaret’s wedding with the beatnik wedding. Was that Cliff Michelmore looking at young people’s fashions?

But there was no excuse to include to include Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-dot Bikini.


President Kennedy’s inaugural speech

Runaway – Del Shannon

President Kennedy’s inauguration

The Twist – Chubby Checker

New dance craze called the twist. Teddy boys, modernists, beatniks, ravers and squares

FBI – the Shadows

Tottenham Hotspur win League Challenge Cup and FA Cup. Danny Blanchflower thanks the supporters.

Mary Lou – Ricky Nelson

Yuri Gagarin becomes first man in space

Blue Moon – the Marcels

President Kennedy pledges to get men on the Moon. Virgil Grissom becomes second American in space. Freedom Riders protest against segregation on buses. South Africa leaves the British Commonwealth

The Lion Sleeps Tonight – the Tokens

Chuck Berry convicted

Runaround Sue – Dion

Teenage girl interviewed about going out with boys

Don’t Treat Me Like a Child – Helen Shapiro

Helen Shapiro voted best female singer in New Musical Express poll. Barricade erected in Berlin

Wild Wind – John Leyton

US sends troops into Vietnam

President Kennedy on nuclear fallout shelters

Civil Defence – Beyond the Fringe

Beyond the Fringe tour America

Take Good Care of My Baby – Bobby Vee

Rudolph Nureyev requests political asylum

Stranger on the Shore – Acker Bilk

Interviews with jazz fans

Take Five – the Dave Bruebeck Quartet

Bertrand Russell sentenced to prison after anti-nuclear demonstration. Ban the Bomb demonstration in Trafalgar Square.

Hit the Road Jack – Ray Charles

Polaris submarines stationed in Britain. Dag Hammarskjold killed in plane crash

Ebony Eyes – the Everly Brothers

United States supports bid to overthrow Fidel Castro. President Kennedy on Bay of Pigs incident.

Who Put the Bomp? – Barry Mann

Tony Hancock in The Blood Donor

Calendar Girl – Neil Sedaka

Berlin Wall goes up

Wooden Heart – Elvis Presley

Variety Club luncheon. Cliff Richard returns from tour of Australia and attends premiere of his latest film

The Young Ones – Cliff Richard and the Shadows

Speech by President Kennedy

There are some memorable records in this programme from Del Shannon, the Marcels and the Tokens. (I was surprised that Stand By Me wasn’t played, but then it became more famous later when it was used in a film of the same name and a pretentious jeans advert.)

As Cliff Richard pointed out in an interview in the next programme, the music scene had moved from rock n roll to pop, although some young people preferred to listen to the rock n roll records from a few years earlier, and others preferred jazz. And of course Chubby Checker popularised the twist.

This is one of the few programmes in the series to begin with spoken words rather than music. Outside the world of pop music the sixties were starting to take shape as John F Kennedy was sworn in as the new United States President, the USSR and the USA sent their first men into space (although oddly they played a clip of Virgil Grissom’s space flight rather than the first American space flight by Alan Shepard), and the Beyond the Fringe team kicked off the satire boom.

On a less happy note the Berlin Wall went up and the United States sent their first troops into Vietnam.


Talkin’ New York – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan emerges from New York folk scene. Princess Margaret attends Cliff Richard concert.

The Young Ones – Cliff Richard

Interview with Cliff Richard

Wonderful Land – the Shadows

John Glenn makes first manned orbit of the Earth

Let’s Twist Again – Chubby Checker

Twist marathon in Harlow, Essex

Twistin’ the Night Away – Sam Cooke

Twist banned in dance halls. Interview with Mary Quant

Come Outside – Mike Sarne

Andy Warhol paints pop art

James Bond Theme – John Barry Orchestra

William John Vassall imprisoned for spying. Francis Powers released in exchange for Vilyam Fisher. President Kennedy attends Atlas missile launch. Nuclear shelters made in Britain

It Might As Well Rain Until September – Carole King

Marilyn Monroe dies

A Picture of You – Joe Brown

Communications satellite Telstar launched

Telstar – the Tornados

Vice President Johnson speaks to Frederick Kappel via Telstar

The Locomotion – Little Eva

Black student tries to enrol at all-white Oxford College, Mississippi

Oxford Town – Bob Dylan

He’s a Rebel – the Crystals

Plymouth mail robbery. Thalidomide tragedy

Twist and Shout – the Isley Brothers

Liberal Party win Orpington by-election. Communists demonstration in Paris against French government policy on Algeria. Escape tunnels dug under Berlin Wall

West of the Wall – Toni Fisher

Cuban missile crisis

Booker T and the MGs – Green Onions

Cuban Missile Crisis continues

Let’s Dance – Chris Montez

Bertrand Russell sends messages to Kennedy and Kruschev. Kennedy calls for end to missile crisis

Talkin’ World War III Blues – Bob Dylan

Atomic Survival Instructions

Nut Rocker – B Bumble and the Stingers

Kruschev calls for withdrawal of missiles in Cuba. Richard Nixon loses bid the become governor of California

Crying in the Rain – the Everly Brothers

The Beatles perform in Hamburg

Twist and Shout – the Beatles

EMI signs up the Beatles

Love Me Do – the Beatles

A lot of people regard 1962 as the real beginning of the 1960s. Andy Warhol and Mary Quant made their breakthrough into the worlds of art and fashion, the James Bond films started, and there were two ground-breaking pop acts, starting off with Bob Dylan.

The biggest news story was the Cuban Missile Crisis, but then it was the year of the Cold War, with missile tests, people preparing for nuclear war, spy scandals, and the Berlin Wall. When former Vice President Richard Nixon lost a bid the become governor of California some people thought his political career was over. How wrong they were.

The twist became even more popular. Someone said the most famous twist record was Let’s Twist Again by Chubby Checker, the best twist record was Twistin’ the Night Away by Sam Cooke, and the most influential twist record was Twist and Shout by the Isley Brothers. The last of these was covered by a group called the Beatles, and the programme ends with the second record that changed everything forever.


Please Please Me – the Beatles

Britain has one of its coldest winters

Surfin’ USA – the Beach Boys

Cassius Clay versus Henry Cooper

Come On – the Rolling Stones

Peace treaty between USA, Britain and USSR signed in Moscow. Speech by President Kennedy.

Fingertips – Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder and Murray the K plug Big Holiday Show at Brooklyn Fox Theatre. WMCA radio jingle. South Coast Broadcasting Company campaign for independent radio. Saturday Club is one of BBC’s most popular radio shows.

He’s So Fine – the Chiffons

Medgar Evers assassinated. Martin Luther King prays for Evers.

Only a Pawn in Their Game – Bob Dylan

Interview with white supremacist. Civil Rights march in Washington. Martin Luther King has a dream.

We Shall Overcome – Pete Seeger

You’ll Never Walk Alone – Gerry and the Pacemakers

I Like It – Gerry and the Pacemakers

That Was the Week that Was – Millicent Martin

David Frost on Britain’s remaining colonies

Surf City – Jan and Dean

John Profumo resigns after affair with Christine Keeler

Do You Want to Know a Secret – Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas

Harold Wilson on becoming leader of the Labour Party

It’s My Party – Lesley Gore

Doctor Beeching announces closure of British stations and railway lines. Harold Macmillan resigns and appoints Alec Douglas-Home as successor. Interview with new prime minister.

Wipeout – the Sufaris

Da Doo Ron Ron – the Crystals

Great train robbery. Cleopatra premieres in New York

Big Girls Don’t Cry – the Four Seasons

Lord Stansgate renounces his peerage and becomes Anthony Wedgewood Benn. Vietnamese Buddhist priest burns himself to death President Kennedy visits West Berlin

From Me to You – the Beatles

Interview with Beatles fans. Interview with the Beatles.

She Loves You – the Beatles

President Kennedy assassinated

Blowing in the Wind – Bob Dylan

Lyndon Johnson’s inaugural speech. Lee Harvey Oswald shot dead by Jack Ruby

Be My Baby – the Ronettes

Record companies sign Liverpool groups following success of the Beatles

Please Please Me – the Beatle

Beatles wigs. Interview with Beatles fans. Beatles’ Christmas record.

I Want to Hold Your Hand – the Beatles

Two names dominate this programme, the Beatles and President Kennedy.

Apart from the Kennedy assassination, one of the biggest news stories of 1963 was the rise of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream.” speech. In Britain 1963 is remembered for the Profumo affair, which along with Harold Macmillan’s controversial decision to appoint Alec Douglas-Home as his successor led to the Conservative part losing the following year’s election.

The Radio Times article on Twenty-five Years of Rock mentioned that Pope John XXIII died in 1963, yet this new story didn’t appear in the programme.

Following the success of the Beatles other Liverpool groups such as Gerry and the Pacemakers and Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas had hits. From America there was folk music, a proliferation of female vocal groups, and the surf sound, although we only hear a tiny bit of Wipe Out. But the programme ends with an extract from the Beatles’ first fan club Christmas record.


I Get Around – the Beach Boys

I Want to Hold Your Hand – the Beatles

The Beatles tour America. Interview with the Beatles.

Can’t Buy Me Love – the Beatles

Beatles dominate US pop charts. Breathalyser test. Rolling Stones play in Hull

Not Fade Away – the Rolling Stones

Great train robbers sentenced. Charles Wilson escapes.

You Really Got Me – the Kinks

Carnaby Street fashions

All Day and All of the Night – the Kinks

Needles and Pins – the Searchers

BBC2 launched. Dennis Tuohy introduces belated opening night. Shindig! starts on ABC tv.

Where Did Our Love Go? – the Supremes

Elizabeth Taylor marries Richard Burton. Mods and rockers clash on British beaches. Interview with mods.

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – Dancing in the Street.

Interview with rockers.

Leader of the Pack – the Shangri-Las

Radio panel discussion on mods and rockers. Pirate station Radio Caroline goes on air, including Simon Dee programme.

As Tears Go By – Marianne Faithful

Tony Blackburn on Radio Caroline

Bits and Pieces – the Dave Clark Five

Tokyo Melody – Helmut Zacharias

Ann Packer wins gold medal at Tokyo Olympics

A Hard Day’s Night – the Beatles

Interview with John Lennon after writing his first book. Cassius Clay become world heavyweight champion. Cassius Clay recites poem. Cassius Clay converts to Islam and changes his name to Muhammad Ali. Sportswriters’ dinner and awards.

It’s All Over Now – the Rolling Stones

Labour win general election. Harold Wilson becomes prime minister. Nikita Kruschev deposed

House of the Rising Sun – the Animals

President Johnson denies that USA is planning an attack on North Vietnam. Barry Goldwater opposes US intervention in Vietnam

The Times They Are a Changing – Bob Dylan

Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson run for president. Johnson re-elected. Robert and Edward Kennedy elected to the Senate.

5-4-3-2-1 – Manfred Mann

Do Wah Diddy Diddy – Manfred Mann

Harold Wilson supports the Beatles

I Feel Fine – the Beatles

Ringo Starr has his tonsils out

Eight Days a Week – the Beatles

The Beatles went from strength to strength, with a successful tour of America and their first film. In the interview with John Lennon he says that he doesn’t care if he’s remembered or not after he’s gone, and that was more poignant when the programme was repeated the year after his death.

There was a proliferation of British groups known as the British Invasion. A lot of groups such as the Searchers and the Dave Clark Five were very Beatles influenced, but one group who were distinctly different were the Rolling Stones, although in 1964 they were mainly a cover versions band. Britain in 1964 saw the rise of pirate radio and the mods and rockers. They mention the launch of the American pop show Shindig!, but not the launch of the longest running pop show Top of the Pops.

One of the main news stories was Labour winning the general election, and most of the social reforms in Britain in the sixties happened under Harold Wilson’s government.

25 Years of Rock – 1955 – 1959



Guest contributor Zanyhorse takes a look at the radio series 25/30 Years of Rock. This first part examines 1955 to 1959

25 Years of Rock was originally broadcast on Radio 1 in 1980, and was a twenty-five part series looking at the music and news events of each year from 1955 to 1979. In 1985 the series was repeated as 30 Years of Rock which comprised the original twenty-five programmes plus an additional five programmes looking at the years from 1980 to 1984.

The series has recently been repeated on BBC Radio 6.

If you listen to the series now it helps if you bear in mind when it was first broadcast. In 1980 rock n roll was just over twenty-five years old, it was less than twenty years since the first Beatles’ record and ten years since the Beatles split, it was less than five years since the punk explosion. When 25 Years of Rock was first broadcast Bill Haley and John Lennon were still alive. The last programme in the series was more or less up to date with the current pop scene.

With each programme I have provided a playlist plus some additional comments.



Rock Around the Clock – Billy Haley and the Comets

Anthony Eden on the Suez Crisis

Hound Dog – Elvis Presley

Interview with Elvis Presley

Hail Hail Rock n Roll – Chuck Berry

Bye Bye Love – the Everley Brothers

John F Kennedy on the Cuban Missile Crisis

The Times They Are a Changing – Bob Dylan

President Kennedy assassinated

She Loves You – The Beatles

Interview with the Beatles after receiving MBEs

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction – the Rolling Stones

My Generation – the Who

Vietnam War

San Francisco – Scott McKenzie

Country Joe McDonald at Woodstock

I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die – Country Joe and the Fish

President Nixon announces troops to return from Vietnam

Space Oddity – David Bowie

Neil Armstrong lands on the Moon Edward Heath announces three day week

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

President Nixon Resigns Jimmy Carter runs for president

Anarchy in the UK – the Sex Pistols

Margaret Thatcher becomes Conservative Party Leader Interview with Johnny Rotten

Another Brick in the Wall – Pink Floyd

(When the first edition of 25 Years of Rock was repeated as 30 Years of Rock the introduction was extended to include: Ronald Reagan’s inauguration Fame – Irene Cara Interview with John Lennon. John Lennon assassinated. Just Like Starting Over – John Lennon Wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana Romeo and Juliet – Dire Straits The Falklands War Two Tribes – Franke Goes to Hollywood)

Main programme:

Alan Freed introduces…

Rock Around the Clock – Billy Haley and the Comets

Winston Churchill resigns as prime minister

Ain’t That a Shame – Fats Domino

Churchill announces Anthony Eden as successor. Conservatives win general election Leaders of USA. USSR, Britain and France meet at Geneva Summit

Sh-Boom – The Chords

Atom Bomb tests in Nevada Rolls Royce TMR, aka the Flying Bedstead, makes first vertical take-off

Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley

ITV launched (including Take Your Pick) Donald Campbell breaks waterspeed record in Bluebird

Maybellene – Chuck Berry

James Dean killed in road accident

Earth Angel – The Penguins

Royal Command Performance

On the Waterfront wins seven Oscars

Only You – The Platters

Billy Graham speaks in New York French evacuation of Vietnam

Hernando’s Hideaway – The Johnston Brothers

Start of Cyprus Crisis Juan Person ousted in military coup

Roll With Me Henry – Etta James

Prince Charles and Princess Anne make their first flight. Princess Margaret decides not to marry Captain Peter Townsend

See You Later Alligator – Billy Haley and the Comets

I Got a Woman – Ray Charles

Heathcote Elementary School wins architectural award

President Eisenhower suffers heart attack, but soon recovers and returns to work. Harry S Truman among attendees at Democratic Party dinner.

Adlai Stevenson announces intention to run for president.

Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford

British migration to Australia is highest for three years Borough of Lambeth organises inter-racial dance

Tutti Frutti – Little Richard

Harold Philby denies connection with Burgess and Maclean spy ring

The Great Pretender – The Platters

Jonas Salk develops polio vaccine. Rocky Marciano defends world heavyweight title

Elvis Presley introduces…

That’s Alright – Elvis Presley

USA and USSR announce plans to launch first space satellites by 1957

Mystery Train – Elvis Presley

Each programme plays out with Oh Well by Fleetwood Mac.

The first programme in the series, and one of the best.

Rock n roll started before 1955 and Rock Around the Clock wasn’t the first rock n roll record, but it was the first rock n roll record to be a major hit, so it was chosen as the starting point. Some music in this programme is the type of music that was the forerunner of rock n roll. But we also have the real thing from Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, and somebody called Elvis Presley.

The news events put the music into some sort of context. When Bill Haley recorded Rock Around the Clock Winston Churchill was still prime minister. When this programme was first broadcast in 1980 the Burgess/Mclean/Philby story would have rung a bell with some listeners who didn’t remember the events of 1955, because a year earlier Anthony Blunt was exposed as the fourth man in the spy ring. And this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing about Vietnam.


Roll Over Beethoven – Chuck Berry

Bikini Atoll H-Bomb test, Anthony Eden announces plan for Britain’s H-bomb, Editor of Steel predicts nuclear planes and homes heated by nuclear fuel

Let the Good Times Roll – Shirley and Lee

Smog causes disruption to train service and cancelled flights High-rise flats opened in Toryglen, Glasgow

Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino

Rocky Marciano retires British Sports awards. Freddie Laker takes ten wickets in one innings. Floyd Paterson wins heavyweight boxing title

Blue Suede Shoes – Carl Perkins

Prince Rainier of Monaco marries Grace Kelly

Why Do Fools Fall in Love? – Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers

Marilyn Monroe marries Arthur Miller, and makes The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier

Be Bop a Lula – Gene Vincent

Nikita Krushchev visits UK, Commander Lionel Crabb disappears

Green Door – Jim Lowe

Cecil Reid, acting president of American Federation of musicians, announces that communists will be expelled from federation. Soviet Union invades Hungary

My Prayer – The Platters

Court in Montgomery, Alabama makes injunction against segregation on buses, Protesters picket Bill Haley concert in Birmingham, Alabama

The Saints Rock n Roll – Bill Haley and his Comets

Film Rock Around the Clock released, causing riots in cinemas

Rip It Up – Little Richard

Desmond Tee, King of the Teddy Boys, fined, and later imprisoned, for assault, Manuel Shinwell discuses rock n roll craze on Any Questions

Rock With the Caveman – Tommy Steele

Teddy boys talk about rock n roll, Lord Boothby discuses rock n roll craze on Any Questions, Egypt takes Suez canal

It’s Almost Tomorrow – The Dreamweavers

Israel invades Egypt. Anthony Eden on Suez Crisis.

Hound Dog – Elvis Presley

Suez crisis escalates

I’ll Be Home – Pat Boone

Fuel rationing announced by Aubrey Jones, minister of fuel and power, Underwater prospecting for oil

Rock Island Line – Lonnie Donegan

Rock n Roll festival in Sydney, Elvis Presley returns to Mississippi. Elvis makes his first film, Love Me Tender.

Love Me Tender – Elvis Presley

Interview with Elvis Presley

Don’t Be Cruel – Elvis Presley

President Eisenhower on being re-elected, Anthony Eden takes holiday in Jamaica

Heartbreak Hotel Elvis Presley

1956 was the breakthrough year for rock n roll, and the breakthrough year for Elvis Presley, already called the King of Rock n Roll. Britain got in on the act with Tommy Steele and Lonnie Donegan. In Britain there were the teddy boys. It’s amazing how they dug up that clip from the panel show Any Questions.

The main news story of the year was the Suez Crisis. The other big event was also the Soviet invasion of Hungary. I’m surprised that the sports roundup didn’t mention the Olympic Games.


All Shook Up – Elvis Presley

Anthony Eden resigns. Harold Macmillan becomes prime minister.

Six-Five Special – Don Lang

Inflation hits Britain

Singing the Blues – Guy Mitchell

Singing the Blues – Tommy Steele

Tommy Steele and his mother move from Bermondsey to Catford, Rock n roll concert on channel ferry Teddy boy suits banned at Stafford RAF Station. Tailor discuses teddy boy suits.

Puttin’ on the Style – Lonnie Donegan

Vox pops on youth culture

School Days – Chuck Berry

Inauguration of President Eisenhower

Bye Bye Love – the Everley Brothers

Little Rock High School integration crisis.

Keep a Knockin’ – Little Richard

Little Richard throws jewellery into Hunter River as symbol of his faith in God, Sophia Loren attends Hollywood Party

Little Darlin’ – the Diamonds

Jellyfish on south coast of Britain British emigrate to Canada

That’ll Be the Day – Buddy Holly and the Crickets

Buddy Holly and the Crickets visit Britain

Peggy Sue – Buddy Holly and the Crickets

Interview with Buddy Holly, IRA bow up Dungannon Barracks in Northern Ireland, Mayflower II lands in Plymouth, Massachusetts

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On – Jerry Lee Lewis

Nuclear accident at Windscale Lewisham rail crash Chris Brasher becomes Sportsman of the Year

Diana – Paul Anka

Wolfenden report recommends changes in law on prostitution on homosexuality, Link between smoking and lung cancer confirmed

Teddy Bear – Elvis Presley

First premium bonds draw. Bill Haley tours Britain. Bill Haley explains rock n roll.

Rock n Roll Music – Chuck Berry

Sunderland Football Club officials suspended for making illegal payments to players. Interview with Jimmy Hill. Juan Fangio wins German Grand Prix

Reete Petite – Jackie Wilson

Americans work on their first space satellite. Russians launch Sputnik.

Great Balls of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis

Laika the dog sent into space on Sputnik II

Wake Up Little Susie – the Everley Brothers

Rock n roll was going from strength to strength. New acts included Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the Everley Brothers who appear to be favourites of the series producer. The BBC launched Six Five Special, their first rock music programme.

People complained about inflation during the seventies, but it was nothing new. But the biggest news story of 1957 was the launch of Sputnik I. It’s clever how they use some of the records to fit in with the events, for example Great Balls of Fire being played after the Sputnik story.

Twenty-five Years of Rock was a bit like a serial with some of the ongoing stories such as the development of space flight, the comings and goings of the prime ministers and presidents, and the careers of some of the more famous rock acts like Elvis Presley.


Rave On – Buddy Holly

Juno I rocket launches Explorer I satellite from Cape Canaveral

You Send Me – Sam Cooke

Members of Manchester United killed and injured in plane crash in Munich

Rumble – Link Wray

Bolton Wanderers beat Manchester United in FA Cup Final. Rise in crime figures following temporary suspension of death penalty. Interview with Fabian of the Yard.

Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley

Bridge Over the River Kwai wins seven Oscars. Elvis Presley receives call up papers.

King Creole – Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley begins basic training. Interview with Elvis Presley.

Move It – Cliff Richard and the Shadows

Report from jazz club

Why Don’t They Understand?

Interview with beatniks. Interview with Lady Lewisham.

Chantilly Lace – the Big Bopper

The sack dress

No Chemise Please – Gerry Granahan

Doctors warn of dangers of using hula hoops

Poor Little Fool – Ricky Nelson

Vice President Nixon returns from tour of South America.

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands – Laurie London

Bony Maronie – Larry Williams

Vivian Fuchs reaches South Pole. Alaska becomes 49th State of America

At the Hop – Danny and the Juniors

Lebanon crisis. Interview with Private Elvis Presley

To Know Him is to Love Him – the Teddy Bears

Jayne Mansfield gets engaged to Mickey Hargitay

Stupid Cupid – Connie Francis

Sweet Little Sixteen – Chuck Berry

Six Five Special Roadshow. Britain’s first motorway, Preston By-pass. Opens Ford cars advert. Stirling Moss wins Morocco Grand Prix

Splish Splash – Bobby Darin

Comet 4 and Boeing 707 launched.

All I Have To Do Is Dream – the Everley Brothers

It’s Only Make Believe – Conway Twitty

Race riots in Notting Hill

Tom Hark – Elias and his Zig Zag Jive Flutes

Tommy Steele gets wax statue in Madame Tussauds. CND organises Aldermaston March

Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochrane

Worst unemployment figures in UK since records began. Teenagers spend more money on clothes and records

High School Confidential – Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis UK tour cancelled after revelation that he has married his thirteen year old cousin

Good Golly Miss Molly – Little Richard

In 1958 Elvis Presley put his career on hold when he joined the army, but he predicted that rock n roll would still be around for a long time. The two most notable new rock n roll personalities were Cliff Richard and Phil Spector, the latter the writer and producer of the Teddy Bears’ first hit.

I think this is the first edition of Twenty-five Years of Rock to feature a novelty record, Gerry Granahan’s ode to the sack dress. It’s also the first to feature a speech by Richard Nixon.

It was around this time that teenagers came into their own. Lady Lewisham later became better known as the step mother of Princess Diana.


It Just Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Buddy Holly

Interview with Buddy Holly. Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens killed in a plane crash

Three Stars – Tommy Dee

Alan Freed leaves WABC after being accused of involvement in payola scandal

What Do You Want? – Adam Faith

Vice President Nixon visits Dallas State Fair

What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For? – Emile Ford and the Cherckmates

Nixon visits Moscow and meets Nikita Khrushchev

Charlie Brown – the Coasters

NASA predicts men will land on Moon by 1969. Luna 3 transmits photographs of the Moon.

Kookie Kookie Lend Me Your Comb – Edward Byrnes and Connie Stevens

Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour? – Lonnie Donegan

Conservatives win general election

Mack the Knife – Bobby Darin

Harold Macmillan forms new cabinet

C’mon Everybody Eddie Cochrane

EMI to discontinue 78rpm records. Diesel and electric trains start to replace steam

Travellin’ Light – Cliff Richard

M1 motorway opened. Earl’s Court motor show

Kansas City – Wilbert Harrison

SRN1 hovercraft makes first channel crossing. Mike Hawthorn honoured by British Sporting Club. Mike Hawthorn killed in car crash.

Peter Gunn – Duane Eddy

Ingemar Johasnson wins boxing heavyweight title. England, led by Billy Wright, beat Scotland

Oh Carol – Nail Sedaka

Oh Donna – Ritchie Valens

Queen Elizabeth and President Eisenhower open Saint Lawrence Seaway in Canada

The Battle of New Orleans – Johnny Horton

Fidel Castro becomes Cuban prime minister following revolution. General De Gaulle becomes president of France

One Night – Elvis Presley

Tibetans rise up against China Communist rebellion in Laos

Dream Lover – Bobby Darin

Marty Wilde announces he is giving up rock n roll for classier style of music. Academy Awards

Living Doll – Cliff Richard

I Shall Not Be Moved – Million Dollar Quartet

CND organise second Easter march to Aldermaston

Down By the Riverside – Alexis Korner, Bill Colyer, Dick Smith, John Bastable and Ken Colyer

Government announces abolition of national service

Teenager in Love – Dion and the Belmonts

1959 saw the first major tragedy in the history of rock n roll when Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens died in a plane crash. And there’s a rare chance to hear the tribute record Three Stars.

Vice President Richard Nixon was making a name for himself. This is the first programme in the series where we hear the Queen.

There was definitely a folk music scene in Britain in 1959. And Britain was heading towards a new era with the CND movement, the new motorways, the modernisation of the railways, and the imminent abolition of national service.

According to the entry for this programme in Radio Times Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Bobby Darin and Neil Sedaka were producing “a mellower style of pop”. And Elvis Presley joining the army, the Jerry Lee Lewis scandal, the payola scandal, and the death of Buddy Holly all contributed to the decline of the first wave of rock n roll.

Betjeman – The Collection. Simply Media DVD Review

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Sir John Betjeman (1906 – 1984) described himself with characteristic understatement in Who’s Who as a “poet and hack”.  There was rather more to him than that though – he was a writer, broadcaster and from 1972 until his death also served as the Poet Laureate.

Betjeman’s love of architecture (especially from the Victorian era) and landscape is explored in detail across the three series which make up this boxset – A Passion for Churches, Bird’s Eye View and Four with Betjeman: Victorian Architects and Architecture.

Four With Betjeman finds him indulging one of his most strongly held passions – that of the Victorian architects and the buildings they left behind.  “I have known for years and so have most of you that there were great Victorian architects, but they have never been given their due. Today, thank goodness, we can see Victorian architecture in perspective”.

This excerpt from a contemporary Daily Telegraph review articulates just why this short series was so entertaining and absorbing.  “There is a precision about his informed enthusiasm which enables one to see the most familiar buildings, such as the Houses of Parliament, in a new light … Sir John, who succeeds in making his conducted tours seem addressed to a personal friend, can move without pause from an appreciation of shape and proportion to an anecdote about an Irish peer rolling the full length of a Barry staircase”.


Four With Betjeman contains four half-hour programmes – (Charles Barry & Augustus PuginWilliam Butterfield & Gilbert ScottAlfred Waterhouse & Norman ShawSir Ninian ComperWilliam Robinson & Sir Edwin Lutyens).

In Bird’s Eye View we, unsurprisingly, observe Britain from a different angle as we take to the air for an unusual take on the familiar.  The first programme, An Englishman’s Home, sees Betjeman waxing lyrical (with the occasional sharp barb) as the camera swoops over a diverse selection of dwellings.  From stately castle, Georgian terrace, suburban semi to looming concrete tower blocks, Betjeman has words for all.  His comments on tower blocks (“but where can be the heart that sends a family to the twentieth floor in such a slab as this?”) carries a particular resonance today, following the disaster at Grenfell Tower.

From the same series, Beside the Seaside is a treat as we tour past some of England’s most popular seaside destinations.  The somewhat faded colour print helps to give the visuals a faint air of melancholy.

A swooping seagull takes its flight
From Weymouth to the Isle of Wight
From Cornish cliff tops wild and bare
To crowds at Weston-super-Mare
The seaside seen as history
Bournemouth, Butlin’s and Torquay
Whatever paddles, surfs or sails
Braves the waves or rides the gales
A scrapbook made at Christmastime
Of summer joys in film and rhyme

The title music for Bird’s Eye View is a typically jazzy piece from John Dankworth (the incidentals are more classically inclined, all the better to compliment Betjeman’s words).

Also included on the same disc is One Man’s Country – Cornwall (1964).  This isn’t part of the Bird’s Eye View series, but since it has a similar style it fits well with the two later programmes.  The stark black and footage of Cornwall is very striking and helps to make it especially memorable.

Although he’s not on camera, these three programmes (a perfect marriage of visuals and Bejeman’s poetic prose) are probably my favourite from the set.  Both of the Bird’s Eye View programmes run for fifty minutes whilst Cornwall is shorter, at twenty five.


A Passion for Churches (1974) sees Betjeman explore his long-held fascination with church architecture.  “What would you be, you wide East Anglian sky, without church towers to recognise you by?”  His love of churches began exactly sixty years prior to this, as the eight-year old Betjeman went rowing on the River Bure in Norfolk with his father.  Delightfully, this film opens with Betjeman re-enacting this. He then moves on to take a whistle-stop tour around the area.

From Medieval stained glass and brass rubbings, to weddings and the Edwardian parish church on the Queen’s estate of Sandringham, A Passion for Churches is another leisurely treat.  As with all the programmes, the visuals are anchored by Betjeman’s measured, poetic narration.

Also included on the same disc are ABC of Churches (two episodes of approx. 23 minutes, 1961), Journey to Bethlehem (30 minutes, 1966) and a ten-minute fragment from a later edition of the ABC of Churches series (since the two complete editions only go from A – F, presumably the others were wiped).  All of these, unlike A Passion for Churches, are in black and white.

I’m sure that Doctor Who fans will appreciate the tour of Aldbourne’s church (memorably later depicted in 1971’s The Daemons) in the first edition of ABC of Churches whilst Journey to Bethlehem still captures the attention some fifty years on.

Given the age of the source materials, the picture quality is naturally a little variable.  The colour film prints are rather faded in places, although the black and white prints aren’t in too bad a condition at all.  But everything’s perfectly watchable with no major picture glitches to report.

A wonderful collection of programmes, Betjeman – The Collection should appeal to anybody interested in archive documentaries. Recommended.

Betjeman – The Collection is released by Simply Media on the 23rd of October 2017.  It can be ordered direct from Simply here.


Watergate (BBC, 1994)


I’ve recently been rewatching Watergate, the five part BBC2 documentary series from 1994.  One of the most remarkable things about the programme was the way that – Nixon excepted – virtually every living participant was not only willing to talk on camera, but did so extremely candidly.  It was written and narrated by Fred Emery, who also penned a tie-in book which is an excellent print summation of this most fascinating of political stories.

Emery’s skill is in letting the participants speak for themselves.  What emerges from their oral history is that the Watergate affair was bungled right from the start – this was no controlled mission, rather it was a collection of loose cannons ricocheting off each other. And loosest of all must be G. Gordon Liddy, the former FBI agent who was the chief architect of the Watergate break in.  Liddy is a mesmerising interviewee, not least for the moment when he recalled that he would have been quite happy to murder Jack Anderson, a Washington reporter who was something of a thorn in the side of the Nixon administration, had the order been given.  Just one of a number of jaw dropping revelations from Liddy, easily the most entertaining interviewee.

Although Richard Nixon, who coincidentally died just before the programme was broadcast, didn’t take part, he’s still very much present – thanks not only to the David Frost interviews but also via the infamous White House tapes which would eventually lead to his downfall.

Watergate is a quality documentary that’s well worth four hours of your time.

Dunkirk – Arrow DVD Review


Even today, nearly eighty years on, the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation still resonates.  Possibly it has something to do with the British character – the way that a crushing military defeat could be turned around into a moral victory – or maybe it’s the logistical scale of the rescue (some 340,000 British, French and Belgian troops snatched from the shoreline by a raggle-taggle collection of ships and boats).

The British Expeditionary Force had found itself in trouble as soon as they landed in France.  The French army were in disarray, and although the BEF could boast substantial numbers, they were quickly outgunned and outmanoeuvred by the Germans.  Viscount General Gort, commander of the BEF, therefore faced a stark choice – stand and fight (and face certain capture or death) or attempt to force a retreat back to the port of Dunkirk (where hopefully as many men as possible could be rescued and live to fight another day).

The story of their rescue (and the story of the men back in England who coordinated it) is retold in this three-part 2004 drama-documentary scripted by Alex Holmes, Neil McKay and Lisa Osborne and directed by Holmes.  The drama-documentary is a curious beast – often it satisfies as neither a drama or a documentary – but Dunkirk fares better than most.

The authoritative tones of Timothy Dalton as the narrator certainly helps, as does the impressive list of players.  Simon Russell Beale as Winston Churchill, Benedict Cumberbatch as Lt Jimmy Langley, Phil Cornwell as Harry Noakes and Kevin McNally as Major General Harold Alexander are amongst the familiar faces on show whilst an intriguing piece of casting sees Richard Attlee play his grandfather, Clement Attlee.

Casting was key to Dunkirk‘s success, with several actors offering eerily accurate recreations of familiar historical characters.  Christopher Good as Neville Chamberlain for one, although he’s overshadowed (just as Chamberlain was in real life) by Simon Russell Beale’s towering Churchill.  So many good actors have had a crack at playing Winston Churchill over the years (Brian Cox being the most recent) but Russell Beale really nails the man.


Russell Beale is never better than when, chairing a War Cabinet meeting, Churchill opines that “nations which go down fighting rise again. Those which surrender tamely are finished”.  Later he tells his colleagues that “if this long island story of ours is to end, let it end only when each one of us is choking in his own blood upon the ground”.  Russell Beale brings Churchill back to life with this classic and characteristic piece of oratory.

Alex Holmes would comment that Dunkirk wasn’t “revisionist but accurate. The notion that everyone leapt into boats at the drop of a hat to save their fellow man isn’t the whole story. There is great heroism but it is complex heroism”.  This comment highlights one of the problems inherent in mounting any drama or documentary which attempts to examine the Dunkirk evacuation.  Given the number of people who took part, it would clearly be wrong to treat them as simply a gestalt – they’re a group of individuals with diverse opinions and objectives.

Episode one – Retreat (original tx 18th February 2004) sees Churchill under pressure from his colleagues to sue for peace with Hitler.  He refuses and orders the evacuation to begin.  Private Alf Tombs (Clive Brunt) and his unit hold the Germans at bay for 48 hours, enabling many of their colleagues to escape, although this leads to their own capture.  Tombs lived to tell the tale, although as he explains here, many of his comrades weren’t so fortunate.  Meanwhile, Captain Bill Tennant (Adrian Rawlins), tasked with organising the operation on the ground, begins the evacuation.  But when the Luftwaffe begin to attack in earnest, the situation looks grim.


Episode two – Evacuation (original tx 19th February 2004) finds the BEF on the coast of Dunkirk, awaiting rescue.  But with so many men and too few ships, the Admiralty begins to requisition any craft they can find – including cockle fishing boats from Leigh-on-Sea.  The heroic tale of one of the Leigh cockle boats – Renown – is featured heavily in this episode (further information on the Renown can be found here).

The final episode – Deliverance (original tx 20th February 2004) sees the embattered British still attempting to hold off the Germans.  Although many troops have already been lifted off the beach, a considerable number still remain. This puts their lives in the hands of soldiers such as Lt Jimmy Langley (Benedict Cumberbatch) who attempts to delay the Germans for as long as possible.  Although Langley is successful in buying more time for his colleagues he’s not so fortunate himself.  Langley’s autobiography (reviewed here) looks to be a fascinating read, especially his post-Dunkirk activities.

The bare statistics of Operation Dynamo, which ran between the 27th of May and the 3rd of June 1940, are eye-opening.  338,226 troops were evacuated from Dunkirk (98,780 men were lifted from the beaches whilst 239,446 were taken from the harbour and pier). Out of the 936 ships which took part, 236 were lost and 61 were put out of action (the number of small boats who sailed on their own initiative will never be known).

Dunkirk manages to put these bald facts into perspective by concentrating on the human and heroic endeavours of that hellish week.  It’s an absorbing and compelling tale brought to life across the three 60 minute episodes thanks to a mixture of fine performances and carefully selected archive footage.  Arrow’s release contains all three episodes on a single DVD and – apart from subtitles – offers no additional special features.  This is a slight shame, but the programme is the main thing.  Dunkirk is an exceptionally well-crafted drama-documentary and comes warmly recommended.

Dunkirk is released by Arrow on the 10th of July 2017.  RRP £15.99.


Bob Monkhouse – Behind the Laughter


I’ve recently, after a long break, uploaded some archive bits and bobs to my YouTube channel, including this two part documentary from 2003.

Sadly part one cuts out early (presumably there was a late schedule change and the timer let me down) whilst uploading part two is proving to be rather problematic, since BBC Worldwide appear to have a block on even short clips of Tony Hancock’s BBC shows.  Quite why they should be so protective of him is a bit of a mystery.  I’ll have another go at uploading part two – I’ll probably just cut the whole Hancock section out to be on the safe side.

Although it wasn’t known at the time, Monkhouse was reaching the end of his life and this might explain the downbeat tone of the piece.  Heroes of Comedy this certainly isn’t ….

But whilst Monkhouse does dwell on the self destructive nature of some of Britain’s comedy greats, he also acknowledges their undoubted skills  – even if, as with Frankie Howerd, he also admits that he never understood his appeal.

Part one tackles Tommy Cooper, Benny Hill, Frankie Howerd and Ken Dodd.  There are no major revelations, since the frailties of Cooper, Hill and Howerd were already well known (had the recording not cut out I’d assume that the only living subject – Dodd – would have received an easier ride).  The most absorbing sections occur when Monkhouse relates his own personal experiences with his subjects.  Frankie Howerd, painted as an unpleasant sexual predator, certainly comes off worse here.

In part two, Monkhouse turns his attention to Morecambe & Wise, Peter Sellers and Tony Hancock.  The character flaws of Sellers and Hancock were also very familiar, although again the personal touch from Monkhouse is of interest (he claims that Tony Hancock and Morecambe & Wise were rather condescending towards him).

Monkhouse’s comedy partner, Denis Goodwin, who took his own life at an early age, is also discussed, which fits into the general tone that comedy can be bitterly self-destructive.

Not always an easy watch then, but Bob Monkhouse doesn’t seem to have an axe to grind and – unlike some talking heads who have passed judgement on these people in other documentaries – at least he knew and worked with them.


Connections – Simply Media DVD Review


James Burke (b. 1936) first came to prominence on Tomorrow’s World during the mid sixties, where his relaxed and conversational tone provided a sharp counterpoint to his co-presenter, the more precise and patrician Raymond Baxter.  His profile on TW meant that he was an obvious pick for the BBC’s Apollo coverage – he would go on to helm numerous hours of live television alongside Patrick Moore and Cliff Michelmore.

After leaving TW in 1971, Burke moved onto his own series, The Burke Special (1972 – 76), in which he examined various aspects of modern life and conjectured how they might develop in the future.  Already in place was Burke’s trademark style of swiftly jumping from one subject to another and some of the topics covered – such as test tube babies and gun control – ensured that the series generated a certain level of controversy.

Burke then moved out of the studio and onto film for Connections (1978).  Subtitled An Alternative View of Change, it sought to challenge the accepted linear view of technological progress.  Burke would argue that no part of the modern world can be regarded in isolation – instead you need to track back through history to find apparently unconnected events which can be linked together in order to show a continuity of change.

This interdisciplinary approach wasn’t to all tastes and neither was Burke’s presenting style – contradicting himself or walking out of shot during mid-sentence, for example.  But it’s fair to say that Connections was a programme which made a deep impression on a section of its audience and – whether you disagree or agree with all his theories – still provides substantial food for thought.

This three disc set contains the following –

The Trigger Effect – Original broadcast 17th October 1978

Death in the Morning – Original broadcast 24th October 1978

Distant Voices – Original broadcast 31st October 1978

Faith in Numbers – Original broadcast 7th November 1978

The Wheel of Fortune – Original broadcast 14th November 1978

Thunder in the Skies – Original broadcast 21st November 1978

The Long Chain – Original broadcast 28th November 1978

Eat, Drink and Be Merry – Original broadcast 5th December 1978

Countdown – Original broadcast 12th December 1978

Yesterday, Tomorrow and You  – Original broadcast 19th December 1978


Burke’s idiosyncratic style is clear right from the opening moments of The Trigger Effect. He asks the audience (“would you do me a favour?”) to consider all the man-made objects in the room where they’re sitting (television, lights, etc) and the impact they have on their lives. He then moves out of shot, leaving an empty frame for a few seconds, an obvious visual cue which gives the audience some “thinking time”. It’s a good example of the way Burke challenges the viewers not to be passive observers, but instead to interact with the arguments and theories he’s generating.

In addition to Burke’s sometimes provocative statements, Connections boasts impressive visuals, thanks to the skills of director Mick Jackson. Jackson’s later and very varied CV includes the Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner movie The Bodyguard, the devastating nuclear drama Threads and the Ray McAnally political serial A Very British Coup.

Connections allowed Jackson a wide palette in which to craft some striking images.  And he was granted a very healthy budget – the series took fourteen months to shoot, travelled to nineteen countries and took in a hundred and fifty individual locations along the way.

Jackson’s eye for the unusual can be seen in the first episode as even the simple act of Burke travelling in a lift is presented in a memorable way. But this isn’t simply gloss for the sake of it – Burke makes the point that just as we have become increasingly dependent on technology, so our understanding of how it works has decreased sharply. Does he know how a lift works? No, he just accepts that it does.

I take going up in the world like that for granted. We all do. And as the years of the 20th century have gone by, the things we take for granted have multiplied way beyond the ability of any individual to understand in a lifetime. The things around us, the man-made inventions we provide ourselves with, are like a vast network, each part of which is interdependent with all the others.

This increasing dependency on technology is examined during The Trigger Effect as Burke looks back to a massive power-cut which engulfed New York in 1965. With discordant music (courtesy of Richard Yeoman-Clarke from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop) and the help of those who were present, re-enacting their roles, it’s presented in highly a dramatic fashion.


“What does survival without technology look like?”. Burke effectively paints a nightmarish picture of the stuggles inherent in existing in a world without electricity (tapping into many of the themes developed in numerous post-apocalyptic dramas, such as Survivors) and then links this back to show how previous civilizations, such as the Ancient Egyptians, could be said to have been the first technological nations. He therorises that once an invention – such as the plough – is created, it must inevitably lead to further inventions through the ages (even if the connection between them isn’t immediately apparent).

The series’ aims are restated at the start of Death in the Morning.  Burke reflects that because knowledge of the future is impossible, tracing a modern man-made object back thousands of years is somewhat akin to a historical detective story, with twists and wrong turns along the way. He sets things up nicely by teasing us that the modern intention of this edition “affects the life of every man, woman and child on Earth” but doesn’t say what it is. Instead, his story begins two and a half thousand years earlier in the Eastern Mediterranean and is concerned with money, but will have become something totally different when we reach the present day. How we get from there to here, the intuitive leaps Burke makes and the visual imagery along the way, all help to make this a typically captivating instalment.

Highlights of later episodes include Burke’s imaginative arguments which connect the Little Ice Age of 1250 – 1300 AD to a whole host of later inventions, including the chimney and diverse objects as buttons and knitting (episode six, Thunder In The Skies).  Also of interest is Eat, Drink and Be Merry, which discusses how modern credit – the plastic credit card – can be traced back to the Dukes of Burgandy, the first state to use credit.  This then springboards into the problems of keeping food fresh (a particular issue for large armies in the nineteenth century) and Burke then presses on to show how these innovations led to the Saturn V rocket which took men to the moon.

The final edition, Yesterday, Tomorrow and You, neatly summaries everything that we’ve learnt in the series to date and returns to a theme posed by Burke posed at the start of the series, concerning the way that the world is developing increasingly advanced technology at a rate faster than our ability to understand it.  Should we be concerned about this, or just accept that change is inevitable?

With its globe-trotting camerawork, Connections engages on several levels.  Not only is it a visual treat, but it’s an intellectual one as well.  It may flit from subject to subject, but James Burke remains the series’ solid centre and his quirky approach helps to ensure that the series is much more than a series of dry lectures.  Picture quality is what you’d expect from material of this era – had fresh prints been struck from the negatives it could have looked much better, but as always it’s a question of cost.  What we have is perfectly watchable though.

Nearly four decades on, the series still engages, entertains and stimulates – a testament to the work of James Burke, Mick Jackson and the whole production team.  Warmly recommended.

Connections is released by Simply Media on the 7th of February 2017.  RRP £24.99.

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Another Six English Towns – Simply Media DVD Review


Another Six English Towns, originally broadcast in 1984, was the third and final series in which Alec Clifton-Taylor cast his expert eye over the architectural merits of a variety of English towns.  My review of the first two series can be found here.

The format remains unchanged.  Architectural historian Clifton-Taylor inspects the streets and notable buildings of each town, dispensing approbation or disfavour as he sees fit and quietly applauding those towns which have managed to preserve their status without recourse to the horrors of modern life (high rise buildings and pebbledash being two particular bête noires of his!).

We open in Cirencester, the capital of the Cotswolds, which finds Clifton-Taylor in an approving mood.  He’s particularly taken with the pleasing mixture of styles on display, commenting that “in the market place, the buildings burst forth into a chorus of painted stucco”.  The town’s mansion, Cirencester House, complete with a ten thousand acre park, also catches his eye.

Up next is the fishing town of Whitby, which nestles on the North East coast.  The ruins of Whitby Abbey are striking and whilst St Mary’s Church may look somewhat unprepossessing from the outside, inside it’s quite a different matter.  Clifton-Taylor regards it as “a thrill. Absolutely unforgettable. Not a work of art, but a most illuminating social document.”

Bury St Edmonds has an impressive collection of Georgian buildings, created with different varieties of coloured clay, although Clifton-Taylor is a little miffed that “they are so smothered with Virginia creeper that one can hardly see what colour they are!”  This town has rich pickings elsewhere though – the town hall (reconstructed by the notable eighteenth century architect Robert Adam) appeals, as does the Theatre Royal, designed by William Wilkins, architect of the National Gallery.

Clifton-Taylor travels to Wiltshire for the fourth episode, his destination being Devizes.  He’s saddened that the twelfth century castle no longer remains (on the site is something he dubs as a pantomime recreation from the Victorian period) and reacts in horror when he sees that some of the eighteenth century timber houses have recently “been smothered with that most repellent material – pebbledash!”

He remains in a slightly caustic mood when he reaches Sandwich, sorrowfully reflecting that the original character of some of the 16th century brickwork has been submerged under fresh coats of paint.  But the Salutation, a house and garden designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869 – 1944), is much more to his taste.  Clifton-Taylor has little hesitation in regarding him as “the greatest English architect of the last 100 years”

The series concludes with Durham.  He’s impressed with the Cathedral, especially the vaults, which have remained unchanged for eight and a half centuries.  Clifton-Taylor is also taken with a public convenience, built in 1841, concluding that “few loos, surely, can hold their heads so high!”.  An idiosyncratic, but delightful, moment.

A lovely snapshot of six English towns frozen in time some thirty years ago, Another Six English Towns will certainly appeal both to those who have already collected the first two series, as well as anyone who is familiar with the featured locations and wishes to compare then to now.

Shot on 16mm film, the picture quality is on a par with the earlier releases.  The prints are rather faded and dirty in places, but still perfectly watchable.

Alec Clifton-Taylor maintains the persona of a kindly headmaster, eager to give credit where it’s due, but also quite capable of expressing irritation and exasperation (albeit with his impeccable manners always intact).  An impressive series of travelogues, Another Six English Towns also educates and informs, as Clifton-Taylor is effortlessly able to show how different periods of architecture can live side by side in harmony (or not, as the case may be!)

Another Six English Towns is released by Simply Media on the 23rd of January 2017.  RRP £19.99.


Six English Towns/Six More English Towns – Simply Media DVD Review

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Originally broadcast on BBC2 during August and September 1978, Six English Towns saw Alec Clifton-Taylor cast his experienced eye over the following towns – Chichester, Richmond, Tewkesbury, Stamford, Totnes and Ludlow.

Clifton-Taylor (1907 – 1985) had been a respected, if fairly obscure, architectural historian, so it may have come as something of a surprise to him that fairly late in life he became a recognisable television figure.  It’s easy to see why this happened though – he had a pleasingly direct style and his ease in front of the camera meant that he was able to deliver both brickbats and bouquets in an authoritative, but accessible, way.  Put simply, Alec Clifton-Taylor had the air of a faintly distracted schoolmaster who dispensed learning lightly but with passion.

At the start of the first edition he sets out exactly what he’s aiming to do.  “These are not guidebook programmes. Our main concern will be with buildings and especially with houses. I’d like every programme to be an exercise in looking.  Looking at the changing styles and fashions.  And at the traditional building materials of England.”

One of Clifton-Taylor’s abiding interests was the way that towns prior to the industrial age used materials which were readily at hand.  He therefore had some criticism of the Victorian era, since the age of steam meant that materials could be transported around the country with an ease that simply hadn’t been possible before – therefore the characteristic look of towns began to fade a little.

When visiting Chichester he says that “the cathedral apart, brick and flint are what give Chichester its essential character, the right materials in the right place.” He’s therefore delighted to find examples of good brickwork – and this moment is one that gives pause for thought.  We may pass similar buildings each day without giving them a second glance, but one of Clifton-Taylor’s skills was to find interest in what may appear to be commonplace.  And after watching the series it’s made me appreciate the buildings in my area a little more – how different styles and eras may exist side by side, for example.

When watching the series now it’s impossible not to wonder how the towns look today.  Clifton-Taylor had forthright opinions on how modern buildings (especially high-rise ones) shouldn’t encroach on the old.  Sadly, I’m sure that some of the places he visited over the course of three series have lost some of the features which so pleased him.  When visiting Richmond, he was taken with the way that the old railway station had been sympathetically turned into a garden centre.  He comments that it’s “a shining example of what enterprise and imagination can do to save an excellent building no longer required for its original purpose.” It’s therefore pleasing to note that the building still exists today and – following the closure of the garden centre in 2001 – now serves the community as a heritage centre.

The remainder of the first series has plenty of interest. The House of the Nodding Gables in Tewkesbury, the impressive churches of Stamford and Totnes’ slate decorated houses are just a few examples. The final edition of the series, Ludlow, saw Clifton-Taylor visit his favourite town and there was plenty which appealed to him there.  Ludlow exemplifies his concept of a pattern of building – stone for the church, the bridges and the castle, wood for the medieval houses and brick for the houses of the Georgian period.  He’s less impressed with some of the Victorian additions though.

Six More English Towns followed three years later in 1981.  This time Clifton-Taylor visited Warwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Saffron Walden, Lewes, Bradford on Avon and Beverley.

The opening episode has some predictable highlights, such as Warwick Castle, but less well-known buildings – such as Lord Leycester Hospital – are of just as much interest.  He wasn’t at all enamoured with the modern council building though – a monstrosity in concrete which obscures views of the impressive-looking church.

Berwick-upon-Tweed finds Clifton-Taylor appreciating the character of the town even if there’s nothing of outstanding importance or interest, although some of the architectural flourishes don’t really meet with his approval.  “Even the carved lions on the gate piers seem perplexed”.  Elsewhere, he’s not impressed with the amount of traffic which flows through Saffron-Walden, declaring that most of it should be “firmly re-routed.”  The series closes with Clifton-Taylor’s visit to Beverley, North Humberside, of which the medieval Minster church is of special interest to him.

A third and final series, Another Six English Towns, would follow in 1984 and this will be issued on DVD in early 2017.

Six English Towns/Six More English Towns won’t be everybody’s cup of tea – a man wanders about looking at buildings – but if you’re interested in history, architecture or English towns then there’s plenty which should catch your attention.

Six English Towns was released on the 12th of September 2016 and Six More English Towns will be released on the 7th of November 2016.  Both have a RRP of £19.99.


Somewhere at Sea/Back at Sea/All at Sea – Simply Media DVD Review

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This trilogy of programmes – Somewhere at Sea/Back at Sea/All at Sea – charts the leisurely journey of Timothy Spall and his wife Shane as they take their 50 foot Dutch barge, the Princess Matilda, on a trip around the British coast.

Broadcast between 2010 and 2012, it’s a treat from start to finish.  The gorgeous camerawork is a major plus point, but a large part of the series’ appeal is down to Spall and Shane.  Gleefully admitting right at the start that he’s never had a sailing lesson in his life (everything he’s learnt has come from books) he’s a genial enthusiast who effortlessly draws the viewer in.

The shows are the antithesis of travel programmes such as Around the World in 80 Days.  There we saw Michael Palin racing against the clock, whereas here there are no time restraints at all.  And if you think that three years is a long time to travel around the British isles, they’d actually started out on this journey some four years before the cameras started rolling!

Despite the fact that they have a camera crew in tow, the programmes have the feeling of being completely unplanned.  They know their destination, but it’s the unexpected obstacles they encounter along the way which makes for entertaining television.

This is evident from the opening episode of Somewhere at Sea, as the Princess Matilda makes its way to Falmouth.  Spall is looking for a berth for six weeks, as he needs to pop off to make a film, but after deciding not to book ahead he’s disappointed to find there’s no room at the inn.  They eventually find somewhere to haul anchor, but there are further problems to come.

After completing his film, Spall is keen to set off and navigate around the Lizard (a dangerous stretch of water which isn’t for the faint-hearted).  But poor weather scuppers his plans and if things don’t improve he and Shane face the prospect of having to sit out the winter in Cornwall.

As the weather’s no good for sailing they decide to explore the local landscape.  An impressive country church catches his eye and he takes the opportunity to quietly meditate.  Shane explains that following his illness (Spall was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1996 but has since been in remission) he’s always had an affinity with churches.  It’s a moment that could easily come over as sentimental and mawkish, but Spall’s directness and honesty shines through.


The second episode sees them finally make their way around the Lizard.  It was clear that the thought of navigating such a challenging stretch of water was a concern for Spall, but a pep talk from the local lifeboat crew buoyed him up (if you’ll forgive the pun).  His boyish enthusiasm as he takes the wheel of their lifeboat (which cost two million pounds, funded entirely from donations) is rather delightful.

Things take a slight downward turn in the final episode of the first series as a number of problems take their toll.  First their anchor breaks and then Spall, making his way into Padstow harbour, sinks a marker buoy. Shane is far from impressed and makes this plain to her husband, although the pair soon make up.

Back at Sea opens with the Princess Matilda docked at Penarth, Wales. It’s been there for the winter, but now that spring’s arrived the Princess Matilda is able to set sail once more. Spall’s rather anxious though – the barge has been in dock for six months and the prospect of tackling the tricky Irish Sea fills him with a certain amount of dread. Once again this provides the viewer with a good example of Spall’s character. Many actors would find it impossible not to continue acting when the cameras were on them (playing the part of the stoic captain) but Spall’s fears and vulnerabilities are always on view.

The second episode of series two sees them visit Liverpool and then move onto Lancashire. But things again don’t quite go to plan. Spall drifts off course, which means he misses the high tide and is therefore unable to reach the safety of Glasson port. So they’re forced to drop anchor out at sea overnight, which Spall says was “a mixture of fun and horror”. But a trip the next day to buy some kippers cheers him up!

The remainder of the second series sees the Princess Matilda visit the Isle of Man (where they meet up with their son Rafe), Belfast and then deep into Scotland. By the time Back at Sea draws to a close, Spall and Shane are slightly more than halfway through their round-Britain trip, which sets things up the third series, All at Sea, nicely.

All at Sea opens with the Princess Matilda battling the North Sea around the coast of Scotland. It’s by far the roughest weather they’ve encountered so far, but they eventually reach their destination, Stonehaven harbour. They move on almost straightaway though and Spall confesses that the ever-changing weather is “doing my head in”. The stresses of the North Sea are clearly taking their toll.

But their greatest problems are not to be found in the bitter weather off the coast of Scotland, but rather closer to home. Heading to Chatham Marina in Kent, Spall had to call the Coastguard for assistance after losing his way. An RNLI lifeboat was dispatched and they were able to guide the Princess Matilda to her destination. Prior to their arrival we see Spall getting more and more frayed around the edges, which certainly provides a dramatic end to the series.

Also during All at Sea, Spall visits Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a city that effectively treated him like one of their own after the success of Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Melanie Hill, who played Hazel in the show, pops aboard for a tour around the docks.

With oodles of breathtaking scenary, Spall’s self deprecating humour and a soundtrack of classic 1930’s and 1940’s tunes, all three series are perfect viewing for the armchair mariner.

Somewhere at Sea was released on the 29th of August 2016.  Back at Sea will be released on the 3rd of October 2016.  All at Sea will be released on the 7th of November.  All three titles cost £12.99 each.


Full Steam Ahead -RLJ/Acorn DVD Review


Many people, including myself, have a certain fascination with steam engines.  When the Flying Scotsman made a recent trip through my neck of the woods I did make the effort to see it (although since I have a railway line at the bottom of my garden I didn’t have to venture very far!)

Today it’s easy to view the age of steam through nostalgic eyes – it seems to transport us back to a simpler, slower and less cluttered age.  The reality is very different however.  The steam age heralded an intense period of change in British life – as virtually every aspect (from trade and transportation to health and recreation) was reshaped.

So whilst part of the attraction of Full Steam Ahead is the chance to see an impressive selection of engines chugging their way through the picturesque British landscape, there’s also many painless history lessons to be learnt along the way.

Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn are old hands at this sort of thing (thanks to series such as Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm).  As with all popular historians they are enthusiastic and engaged, although they also manage to impart a great deal of factual knowledge.  In addition, they delight in attempting many tasks both directly and indirectly connected with the railways.  Driving steam engines is clearly great fun, whilst some of the other jobs are harder and much more labour intensive (a reminder that the railways only came into being thanks to the sweat and toil of tens of thousands of workers).

It’s sobering to stop and think just how disconnected Britain was before the railways.  Since there was no easy way to transport bulky goods and materials around the country, it was perfectly normal that everything a person owned would have been made within, say, a ten mile radius of their home.

The age of steam (and mass production) brought an end to this way of life and created the consumer society.  Now people were able to buy the same goods anywhere in the country and many local trades (thatchers, wheelwrights) began to die out.  When Ruth Goodman says that the steam age had a far greater impact on British society in Victorian times than the internet has in recent decades, it’s easy to see what she means.

Produced in association with the Open University, Full Steam Ahead runs for six episodes, each of sixty minutes duration. The narrator is Philip Glenister.

Episode One – Ruth, Alex and Peter begin their exploration of the steam age by learning how it shaped domestic life, from slate roofing tiles to coal fires.

Episode Two – Alex and Peter become navvys in order to understand precisely how the railways were built.  This episode also discusses how the first passenger trains came into being. I love the notion that it all happened after the railway owners spotted workers hitching a ride on the coal trucks. This created a lightbulb moment as they realised there might be money to be made from ferrying passengers about!

Episode Three – Another way in which the railways transformed British life is detailed here, namely diet.  Before the railways, the country was struggling to feed itself – the age of steam saw a culinary revolution.

Episode Four – Ruth, Alex and Peter take a trip on the most famous locomotive of them all, the Flying Scotsman, to understand how the railways facilitated the transportation and delivery of mail.

Episode Five – Life on the railways before Dr Beeching is looked at, whilst Ruth examines the work of the GWR prosthetic limb department.

Episode Six – The series concludes with an examination of how cheap rail travel opened up freedom of movement for working-class Victorians.  No longer tied to the city or towns where they lived and worked, they could now venture further afield.

Apart from being a visual treat, Full Steam Ahead can also be used as a stepping stone for further learning.  The Open University’s webpage has further reading materials, as well as the chance to obtain a free double-sided poster detailing many of the aspects from the programme.

The DVD includes two special features – a ten minute behind the scenes documentary and a photo gallery.  All episodes are subtitled.

Full Steam Ahead is a fascinating series and comes warmly recommended.  It’s released by RLJ/Acorn on the 5th of September 2016.  RRP £19.99.


World War Two: 1942 and Hitler’s Soft Underbelly – Simply Media DVD Review

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In 1942 and Hitler’s Soft Underbelly, Professor David Reynolds re-examines the North African and Italian campaigns of WW2.  He starts by posing a question.  “Why did we and the Americans spend a lot of the Second World War in the Mediterranean, rather than crossing the Channel?”

If the main battleground was Russia, they surely the next key area was to be found in occupied Europe – so why was Churchill obsessed with campaigns in North Africa and Italy?  Reynolds is able to produce a number of convincing arguments.  As a man of Empire, Churchill understood the importance of Egypt – if the Suez Canal was lost, then Britain faced ruin.  But there were also more pragmatic reasons – neither the British or the Americans had the capability to launch a full-scale assault across the English Channel and into France in 1942.  But Churchill needed a victory, any victory, in order to shore up morale.

Given that defeat had already followed defeat for the British since 1939, another failure (he envisaged a bloodbath of the scale of the Somme if they attempted a landing in France) might have spelled the end.  Possibly not for the British war effort but certainly for him as leader, as the likes of Sir Stafford Cripps and Anthony Eden were circling.  The perilous state of Churchill’s own personal standing during this period is a matter of historical fact, but since it often gets overlooked it’s an interesting area to explore.

So once Monty scored a victory at El Alamein, Tunisia and Italy began to look like tempting prospects – offfering the British and Americans chances to score what should have been easy victories.  Surely Hitler would be too occupied with Russia to be able to adequately defend these theatres of war?


It wasn’t to be and Reynolds declares that Churchill’s bright idea would become a dark obsession.  Partly this was because Churchill underestimated Hitler, but the British prime minister also received faulty intelligence.  The work of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park has become well known during the last few decades, but Reynolds shows that they weren’t infallible.  Often this was because they didn’t have access to the top level of German high command and given the chaotic nature of the German command structure (thanks to Hitler’s knack of micro-managing) the information they received, whilst not deliberately inaccurate, wasn’t correct either.

David Reynolds is an engaging guide.  You get the sense that he relishes being away from his day job (as a professor of International History at Cambridge) and that he also enjoys throwing some quirky scenes into what otherwise might be a fairly dry viewing experience.

He opens the first episode with a fairly conventional piece to camera, except that he’s walking along a beach, his trousers rolled up and the waves lapping at his feet!  He also can’t resist doing the voices of the various players (his conversation between Monty and Churchill is one such amusing moment) and another comic touch occurs when he describes an interesting meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt.

Churchill was a guest in the White House and, returning to his bedroom after a visit to the bathroom, was slightly surprised to find the president in his room.  Dressed in only a towel, Churchill told Roosevelt that “the Prime Minister of Great Britain has nothing to conceal from the President of the United States” and promptly dropped the towel.  Reynolds re-enacts this scene although thankfully he was fully clothed.

The occasional moments of levity don’t detract from the fact that Reynolds is an authoritative historian who seems to delight in reaching out to a wide audience.  Across the two 45 minute episodes he’s able to succinctly sketch out all of the key points from this period of the war, sometimes offering a fresh outlook on familiar topics (but always giving well argued reasons for his statements).

A ninety minute television documentary can never hope to have the same scope as a reasonably detailed book (and Reynolds’ own writings are recommended for those who want to dig a little deeper) but 1942 and Hitler’s Soft Underbelly (like his other documentaries available on DVD – 1941 and the Man of Steel and Long Shadow) are all fine examples of popular history documentaries.

1942 and Hitler’s Soft Underbelly is released by Simply Media on the 5th of September 2016.  RRP £19.99.


World War Two: 1941 and the Man of Steel – Simply Media DVD Review

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Originally broadcast in 2011 (the 70th anniversary of the German invasion of Russia) 1941 and the Man of Steel is a two-part documentary written and presented by David Reynolds.

It’s fair to say that the battles on the Eastern Front have never attracted the same level of interest (especially in the UK) as the conflicts in the West have.  But Reynolds convincingly argues that the Battle for Russia was just as critical – possibly even more so – than the Battle for Britain in deciding the future not only of the United Kingdom, but the rest of Europe as well.

Reynolds, a pleasingly idiosyncratic academic, makes this point with an amusing introductory speech, clearly designed to wrong-foot the viewer.  “He was a little man, about five foot five. In his sixties. Rather tubby. Enjoyed his drinks and his smokes. An unlikely hero perhaps. But in the dark days of the twentieth century he helped save Britain. And he was one of the biggest mass-murderers in history. Stalin was his party name”.

He then deftly paints a striking picture of Stalin, from his young days as a bank robber (albeit in a good cause – or at least the cause, Bolshevism, which he believed in) through to his years of terror in the 1920’s and 1930’s, where he brutally suppressed any opposition via show trials, torture and mass executions.

But Reynolds is able to argue that it was his dominant personality which helped to bring Russia to the brink of defeat in 1941.  If you create a society that functions only if the man at the top performs effectively, what happens when he begins to make mistakes?  Stalin’s first major miscalculation saw him fail to believe that an attack from Germany was imminent.  He had accurate intelligence from Britain, but his mistrust of the West caused him to disregard it – a fatal mistake.


The first few days of the German offensive saw them make substantial gains whilst Stalin seemed powerless to act.  The news was no better during the next couple of months and Reynolds suggests that this pressure brought the Man of Steel to the point of a nervous breakdown – in a rare moment of candour he bitterly admitted to his colleagues that “Lenin founded our state and we’ve screwed it up”.  This picture of Stalin – a broken man, alone in his dacha and unwilling to answer the phone – is a compelling one.  When the politburo trekked out to see him, Stalin feared the worst (a coup) but in fact they wanted him back.  And it was their faith (a bitter irony when you consider how ruthless he’d been with anyone who dared oppose him) which seemed to spark him back into life.

How he then managed to turn things around is the crux of the documentary and Reynolds, using official documents and telegrams, illuminates the key moments.  Stalin began by falling back on his old methods of terror, but he also had to learn the gentle art of diplomacy – which wasn’t easy for someone who’d risen to the top by not listening to anybody.  But listen he did – and to a most unexpected source, Winston Churchill.  The British Prime Minister had been a savage opponent of Stalin’s Russia in the past, but political expediency now meant that the Man of Steel was a vital ally for the beleaguered British.

Churchill’s trip to Moscow in 1942 is a fascinating part of the story. Stalin attempted to push Churchill into launching an early invasion of France and then angrily called the British people cowards after he failed to get his own way.  Churchill took great umbrage at this slight and considered returning to Britain there and then, but the next day Stalin suggested they retire to his apartment for the evening – where they consumed a great deal of alcohol, leaving Churchill with a severe hangover the next day!  This moment helps to paint both leaders in a very human light and is also a good example of the strange dichotomy of Stalin’s character.  On the one hand he was a brutal and utterly ruthless tyrant, but, as here, he could be approachable and amenable (and remember, it was Churchill who nicknamed him “Uncle Joe”).

Twenty eight million Soviet citizens lost their lives during WW2 – a picture of death and devastation that’s almost unimaginable.  Had Stalin not been so reckless during the first year of the war, says Reynolds, then the death toll would have been considerably less, but he did ultimately achieve a crushing victory over Germany and this victory would help to shape world politics for the next four decades.

Running for ninety minutes (two 45 minute episodes) 1941 and the Man of Steel provides the viewer with a compact overview that still manages to feel quite comprehensive.  Reynolds, who has helmed a number of documentaries (including Long Shadow), certainly knows his stuff, although he may be something of an acquired taste.  He likes the odd dramatic flourish and his quirky sense of humour bubbles to the surface occasionally.  But his arguments are cogent and well thought out and he’s a very affable guide through this complex theatre of war.

1941 and the Man of Steel is released by Simply Media on the 8th of August 2016. RRP £19.99.


Long Shadow: The Great War – Simply Media DVD Review

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With the centenary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme still fresh in the memory, it feels like the ideal time for Long Shadow: The Great War to be released on DVD in the UK for the first time.  Although as we’ll discover, David Reynolds (the writer and presenter) has concerns about how certain events – most notably the Somme – have come to dominate our understanding of the war.

Long Shadow was one of a raft of BBC Great War programmes announced in late 2013.  It’s an ambitious (and still ongoing) project – more than 2,500 hours of programming across television, radio and online to appear between 2014 and 2018.

This breadth of programming, covering both drama and factual, allows for a range of approaches to be taken when discussing the events of 1914 – 1918.  Long Shadow, broadcast in September 2014, asks us to both remember and reassess what we know (or what we think we know) about the Great War and how the conflict shaped the rest of the twentieth century.

Speaking to History Extra, Reynolds makes the point that the Somme, terrible though it was, has clouded our understanding of both the war and its legacy.  “Our view of the war has become focused almost on one day. We need to get out of the trenches and take a broader view of the conflict.  That’s what I mean by becoming a caricature – it’s become simplified down. A caricature is not necessarily untrue, it’s just a sharp oversimplification of what is going on.”

Reynolds, a Cambridge academic, follows in the footsteps of many illustrious predecessors.  Needless to say, presenter-led documentaries stand or fall on the quality of the man or woman in front of the camera.  Thankfully for Long Shadow, Reynolds is an engaging presence – he’s capable of deftly describing the bigger picture, but can also change gears to illuminate smaller-scale, individual stories. Reynolds rarely seems to stand still – he’s often seen walking to his next location – but this hyperactivity (and his sometimes highly dramatic intonations) doesn’t detract from the story he has to tell.

Over the decades, a certain perspective of WW1 has become solidified (“lions led by donkeys”) and this has been reflected in popular satire (Oh! What a Lovely War, Blackadder Goes Forth).  Long Shadow attempts to peel away this familiar (and, he argues, inaccurate) viewpoint in order to make sense not only of the war, but of the very different world that both the victors and vanquished returned home to.

Post 1918, the British were keen to honour their dead (Reynolds has some interesting points to make about Edwin Lutweyn’s Cenotaph) but since the public at large found it hard to visualise exactly what had happened on the battlefields between 1914 and 1918, the war slowly faded from the public’s consciousness. But a play, Journey’s End by R.C. Sheriff (which debuted in 1928), would help to reignite interest in the conflict. Reynolds argues that for many, Journey’s End helped to illustrate the futility of war – “never again”.

In Germany there was a very different sentiment in the air. If the British were saying “never again”, then some Germans were of the opinion that the war had never ended. It was simply that they had been betrayed by a spineless ruling elite who had forced the country into signing a humiliating armistice. So the seeds for Adolf Hitler’s rise to power were already in place.

But if, as Reynolds argues, WW2 came to be seen as a just war – fought against an evil and corrupt regime – this would have consequences for the Great War. Post WW2, the Great War would be known instead as WW1. It was no longer “The War To End All Wars”, instead it was seen as a failed attempt to end global war (if it had been successful there would have been no need for a Second World War). Reynolds admits this renaming could seem to be a trivial matter, but it was a factor that helped to shape the modern viewpoint that the Great War achieved nothing, except mass slaughter.

Reynolds also examines the unfamiliar British landscape that emerged following the 1918 armistice.  Democracy had come to Britain for the first time with both the working classes and women eligible to vote.  Also discussed is the way that the Great War strengthened a section of the United Kingdom – as both Wales and Scotland took pride in joining with their English counterparts to defeat a common foe.  Had this not happened it’s tempting to wonder whether the union between the three nations would have fractured.  But if the war was a unifying force for England, Scotland and Wales then it was a very different picture in Ireland.  The Easter Rising in 1916 was a watershed moment for Catholics, just as the Battle of the Somme in 1918 was for their Protestant counterparts.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a documentary solely focused on the military conflict between 1914 and 1918 then this possibly isn’t the programme for you.  Long Shadow concerns itself with documenting the aftershock WW1 inflicted on the world at large, with Reynolds demonstrating how this brutal conflict helped to shape the modern world.

The series uses very little archive footage, which is a good move.  Iconic and stirring though these pictures are, the scratchy black and white images also tend to automatically distance the viewer from the events portrayed.  Running for three 50 minute episodes (Remembering and Understanding, Ballots and Bullets, Us and Them), Long Shadow is an accessible and thought-provoking documentary.

Long Shadow: The Great War is released by Simply Media on the 4th of July 2016.  RRP £19.99.


Long Shadow: The Great War to be released by Simply Media on 4/7/16

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Long Shadow: The Great War will be released on DVD by Simply Media on 4/7/16.  Review here.

Based on the prize-winning book, powerful BBC WWI documentary series Long Shadow: The Great War makes its UK DVD debut courtesy of Simply Media.

Renowned British historian David Reynolds explores the enduring impact of The Great War on our world and the shadow it has cast over Europe since the last shots were finally fired. This powerful, eye-opening three part series comes to DVD for the first time on 4 July 2016.

In the series Reynolds aims to change the perceptions of the First World War from the mud, blood, Tommies and trenches to give a sense of the broader consequences of war and its effect over the whole of the twentieth century.

Travelling to locations across Europe-from Slovenia to the Sudetenland, Belfast to Berlin- he examines everything that World War I left in its wake, illuminating how the conflict unleashed forces we still grapple with today.

This remarkable series also chronicles how the experience of war haunted the generation who lived through it, and the soldiers who survived it- dynamic characters such as Benito Mussolini, Eamon de Valera, Philippe Petain, James Ramsay MacDonald and Thomas Masaryk.

Drawing on years of research and a wealth of historical footage, Long Shadow provides a fresh, captivating and-at times-terrifying look at The Great War and its lasting legacy.