25 Years of Rock – 1965 – 1969

viet prot.jpg


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.

Doctor Who – The Romans. Episode Four – Inferno


Inferno opens with another demonstration of Nero’s ruthlessness. Ian and Delos have escaped and Nero’s none too impressed with Barbara (Barbara couldn’t help but shout out to Ian, which infuriated Nero). “So you’re a friend of the gladiators are you?” He then asks a soldier for his sword and looks set to murder Barbara.

The scene is blocked well, as Nero stands in front of both Barbara and the solider when he strikes the killing thrust. We hear Barbara scream and it’s possible to wonder for a split second if he has actually done the unthinkable – but no, it’s the guard that’s died. “He didn’t fight hard enough” mutters Nero as he looks at the (presumably) blood-covered sword whilst Barbara looks suitably sick.

Although The Romans is generally regarded as a comic gem today (although some people will never accept that Doctor Who could or should be a comedy) there’s plenty of evidence that viewers back in 1965 were rather nonplussed. The audience research report includes a number of unfavourable responses, such as “this programme gets more and more bizarre; in fact it’s so ridiculous it’s a bore” and someone else declared that the series “was only fit for morons”. The report summed up that most of the respondents felt that “the story had steadily declined to a farcical and pathetic anticlimax”. Oh dear!

It’s difficult to see exactly what they found to be so irritating, as the script is still bubbling along nicely with some excellently played comic gems. Nero, tiring of the acclaim heaped on the Doctor, decides to throw him to the lions. But he doesn’t directly tell him, all he says is that he wants him to play in the arena. The Doctor knows what’s going on though and Hartnell and Francis share another classic two-handed scene. Francis’ hangdog expression is priceless!

DOCTOR: Yes, well I promise you I shall try to make it a roaring success.
NERO: You’ll have to play something special, you know.
DOCTOR: Oh, yes, of course, of course, yes. Something serious, yes. Something they can really get their teeth into, hmm?
NERO: You can’t know, you can’t. I’ve told no one.

The major weakness with the story is the revelation that Maximus Pettulian had come to Rome to murder Nero – since the real Pettulian was so feeble it’s rather a stretch to imagine he could ever be a successful assassin. The burning of Rome isn’t quite as successful as it could have been either – but on Doctor Who‘s budget this isn’t too much of a surprise. It’s worth reflecting that later prestige serials like I Claudius had similar production standards so if you place them side by side, The Romans stands up quite well.

But as we’ve seen, most of the viewers questioned in 1965 weren’t impressed and seemed to be bored of historical stories – much preferring the Doctor’s trips into the future. But they should have been careful what they wished for, as we now jump headlong into six episodes of The Web Planet …….

Lorna Doone – Simply Media DVD Review

John Ridd (John Sommerville) was just a boy when his father, a good and honest man, was brutally murdered by Carver Doone (John Turner). Despite an outward display of respectability, the wealthy Doone family delight in creating havoc and mischief.

As John grows up, he vows to avenge his father’s death. But matters are complicated when he falls deeply in love with the young Lorna Doone (Emily Richard) whose hand in marriage has been promised to her cousin, Carver ….

Subtitled A Romance of Exmoor, Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore was originally published in 1869. An instant success, it has spawned numerous television and film adaptations over the last hundred years or more. It’s easy to see why, since it’s a heady mixture of action, adventure, revenge and romance.

This 1976 BBC Classic Serial version is a faithful adaptation (always a hallmark of the Classic Serials) although it does take a short time to tune in to the style of production. Even for those well used to the delights of archive television, some of the 1970’s Classic Serials initially appear to be rather earnest and mannered (the numerous very fake-looking beards are also a hindrance). But it doesn’t take long before the story starts to engross and the small niggles fade away.

Richard Beaumont, as the young John, carries most of the first episode. Although still a teenager, he’d already enjoyed a decent career stretching back to the late 1960’s (including a brief recording contract with Decca records). His John is a pleasing mixture of youthful impatience and innocence and such is the impression he makes that it’s almost a shame when John suddenly turns into the much older John Sommerville.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s slightly odd that none of the other characters seem to age though (which makes John’s transformation from scrawny youth to strapping young man all the more jarring). Possibly it would have been better to have staged this transformation at the start of the second episode, rather than at the end of the first.

Episode one also gives us a brief glimpse of the young Lorna, played by Jennifer Thanisch (best known for appearing as Anne in the Southern series of The Famous Five). John Somerville’s John Ridd is a stolid enough creation but it’s Emily Richard’s Lorna Doone who really catches the eye. Easily the more experienced actor of the two, Richard had just starred in The Glittering Prizes and would later appear in the well-remembered WW2 drama Enemy At The Door.

Plenty of familiar faces are on show. Patrick Troughton plays Councillor Doone, not a terribly large role but Troughton was always good value whatever part he played. Ian Hogg is very appealing as the roguish highwayman Tom Faggus whilst Lucinda Gane (later to play Miss Mooney in Grange Hill) appears as Lizzie, one of John’s sisters. David Garfield, Max Faulkner and Trevor Baxter are amongst those who contribute to a strong supporting cast.

The romance between John and Lorna is a key part of the narrative, with various other subplots – the infighting amongst the Doones, rumbles of unrest in London about the King ‘s conduct – also bubbling away nicely throughout the episodes.

Whilst it’s true that some of the rustic supporting characters err on the ripe side, Lorna Donne boasts some fine performances amongst the principals. If you love the 1970’s era of the BBC Classic Serials then this should certainly appeal.

Lorna Doone is available now from Simply Media, RRP £24.99. It can be ordered directly from Simply here (quoting ARCHIVE10 will apply a 10% discount).

Pinter at the BBC – BFI DVD Review

This is an incredibly welcome release, as it brings together a very healthy chunk of Harold Pinter’s BBC output (none of which has been commercially available before). Indeed, Pinter’s television work on DVD has, until now, been rather sparse (a few isolated offerings from Network – the Armchair Theatre production of A Night Out and the Laurence Olivier Presents staging of The Collection – have been the highlights so far).

Disc One

Leo McKern in Tea Party

Tea Party (25th May 1966). 76 minutes

Tea Party was commissioned for a prestigious Eurovision project, entitled The Largest Theatre In The World, which saw the play performed in thirteen separate counties over the course of a single week (some took a subtitled version of the BBC original whilst others staged their own adaptation).

It’s a layered and uncompromising piece, with Leo McKern mesmerising as a self-made businessman who begins to lose his sense of reason (and also his sight). Has he been destabilised by inviting his brother-in-law Willy (Charles Gray) into his business or has his infatuation with his new secretary, Wendy (Vivien Merchant), pushed him over the edge? Do his two young sons from his first marriage really harbour evil intentions towards him or does his new wife, Diana (Jennifer Wright), possesses secrets of her own?

So there are plenty of questions, but as so often with Pinter the answers are less forthcoming. The final scene is extraordinary. Disson (McKern) – his eyes firmly bandaged – sits immobile in the middle of a party held in his honour. Although Disson plainly can’t see, we’re privy to his thoughts (he imagines a three way intimate exchange between his wife, brother-in-law and secretary) as he slowly regresses into a catatonic state.

All of the principals offer polished performances, with Merchant – Pinter’s first wife – especially eye-catching. Given the subject matter and the already rocky relationship she was enjoying with Pinter, it’s fascinating to ponder just what she made of the material. Tea Party is fluidly directed by Charles Jarrott and given that the cameras of this era were bulky and not terribly manoeuvrable, some of his shot choices are quite notable.

It’s a shame that the telerecording isn’t of the highest quality (a new 2K transfer was struck for this release, but given the issues with the original recording the benefit of this was probably minimal). A pity, but at least the worst of the print damage occurs early on.

The Basement (20th February 1967). 54 minutes

Harold Pinter contributed three plays to the Theatre 625 strand in 1967. For some reason the third of these plays appears on the first disc whilst the first two are featured on the second. That’s slightly odd, but since all three aren’t linked in any way it doesn’t matter which order they’re watched in.

We’re in absolutely classic Pinter territory here as Law (Derek Godfrey) discovers his cosy basement flat has been invaded by an old friend, Stott (Pinter) and Stott’s young and mainly silent girlfriend Jane (Kika Markham). Initially pleased to see Stott, Law is less enthused – at first – about Jane ….

The arrival of an outsider into a settled domestic setting is a dramatic device that Pinter would use time and again, but The Basement – the only one of his three Theatre 625 plays to be an original work – is notable since it plays with the artifice and techniques of television.

Even more so than Tea Party, the line between reality and fantasy becomes increasingly blurred as the play continues. Some scenes (such as when Law and Stott, both stripped to the waist, fight each other with broken bottles) seem obviously fantastical, but what of the others? Time certainly seems to move in a disjointed fashion (one moment it’s winter, the next summer) whilst the final scene posits the possibility that everything we’ve seen has been a fantasy.

Pinter is menacing and monosyllabic as Stott but not as monosyllabic as Markham’s Jane, who is passive throughout whilst Godfrey has most of the dialogue and seems to be the most decipherable character of the three. A tight three-hander, The Basement has aged well.

Special Feature

Writers in Conversation – Harold Pinter. A 1984 interview with Pinter, running for 47 minutes.

Disc Two

Hazel Hughes and Maurice Denham in A Slight Ache

A Slight Ache (6th February 1967). 58 minutes

Another three-handed play which also pivots on the arrival of an disruptive outsider, A Slight Ache boasts remarkable turns from both Maurice Denham and Hazel Hughes. Husband and wife – Edward and Flora – they seem reasonably content in their country cottage, but when they invite a nameless and mute matchseller (Gordon Richardson) into their home everything changes.

Denham’s fussy, pernickety Edward is slowly destroyed by the matchseller’s ominous silence whilst Flora finds that her long-dormant sexuality has been reignited by his presence. Some contemporary reviewers found this a little hard to swallow, but realism isn’t the chief component of this play. The matchseller simply serves as a catalyst for Edward and Flora to indulge in several powerful monologues.

Despite its radio origins, A Slight Ache has a much more of a theatrical feel than The Basement. Barry Newbery’s sets (especially the lush garden) are a highlight of the production.

A Night Out (13th February 1967). 60 minutes

It’s interesting to be able to compare and contrast this production of A Night Out to the 1960 Armchair Theatre presentation. Honours are pretty much even, with Tony Selby here proving to be equally effective as the repressed mummy’s boy as Tom Bell was back in 1960.

Anna Wing, as the mother in question, makes for an imposing harridan – although wisely she doesn’t overplay her domineering nature. Albert (Selby) is all she has left, but she ensures that her psychological games comprise honeyed words and pitiful entreaties rather than abuse.

Albert’s humiliation at an office party eventually leads him to a prostitute (Avril Elgar). That she, in her own way, is just as controlling as his own mother unleashes his ugly side. All the pent-up emotions he can’t express at home are unloaded on this poor unfortunate.

Well-cast throughout (John Castle and Peter Pratt catch the eye) A Night Out is the most straightforward of the three Pinter Theatre 625 productions, but is no less fascinating.

Disc Three  

Henry Woolf in Monologue

Monologue (13th April 1973). 20 minutes

We’re now in colour for the fifth play in the Pinter set. At just twenty minutes it’s one of the shortest and only features a single actor – Henry Woolf, but it still packs plenty of content into its brief running time though.  An unnamed man (Woolf) addresses an empty chair, which is standing in for his absent friend.  Or does he believe that his friend is actually sitting there? Or is his friend simply a figment of his imagination?

As so often, several readings can be made, each one equally valid.  The story which unfolds – male friendship disrupted by the arrival of a female – echoes back to the likes of The Basement and is skilfully delivered by Woolf.  One of Pinter’s oldest friends (the pair enjoyed a relationship for more than fifty years) Woolf doesn’t really put a foot wrong (he later reprised this piece at the National in 2002).

This might be a Pinter in miniature, but is certainly deserving of attention.  Something of a neglected piece (there’s no listing on IMDB for example) hopefully this DVD release will shine a little more light on it.

Old Times (22nd October 1975). 75 minutes

Old Times has a very theatrical feel.  This form of television staging would eventually fall out of fashion – for some it was simply electronic theatre (a bad thing apparently).  But it’s always been a style that I’ve enjoyed – when there’s no location filming or clever camera angles, the piece has to stand or fall on the quality of the writing and acting.  

It’s another triangle story – married couple Deeley (Barry Foster) and Kate (Anna Cropper) find their status quo disturbed by the arrival of Kate’s old schoolfriend Anna (Mary Miller).  With Kate remaining passive for most of the play she becomes an object that both Deeley and Anna seek to claim as their own.

Several theories have been propounded to explain the meaning of the play. When Anthony Hopkins tackled the role of Deeley in 1984 he asked Pinter for some pointers. The playwright’s advice? “I don’t know, just do it”.  

Anna’s presence at the start of the play (standing at the back of the living room in darkness and immobile) is a early indictor that the production isn’t striving for realism.  She shouldn’t be there – the dialogue between Deeley and Kate makes it clear she’s yet to arrive – so her presence ensures that a tone of oddness and disconnection is set.  Foster and Cropper duel very effectively (a lengthy scene where Deeley and Anna discuss the best ways to dry a dripping wet Kate is just one highlight).

Puzzling in places (has everything we’ve witnessed simply been Deeley’s imaginings?) Old Times is nevertheless so densely scripted as to make it a rewarding one to rewatch.

Landscape (4th February 1983). 45 minutes

Landscape is a two-hander shared between husband and wife Duff (Colin Blakely) and Beth (Dorothy Tutin).  Both indulge in separate monologues which never connect to the other person’s conversation.  Beth in fact never acknowledges Duff’s presence, although he does appear to know that she’s there (or at least that someone is).

The Lord Chamberlain’s office, back in 1967, found itself unimpressed with Landscape. “The nearer to Beckett, the more portentous Pinter gets. This is a long one-act play without any plot or development … a lot of useless information about the treatment of beer … And of course, there have to be the ornamental indecencies”.

A little harsh maybe. Landscape is plotless but leaves a lingering impression. The music, composed by Carl Davis and played by John Williams, helps with this.

Special Feature

Pinter’s People – four animated short films (each around five minutes) from 1969.  A pity that a fifth – Last To Go – couldn’t be included for rights reasons, but the ones we do have are interesting little curios (Richard Briers, Kathleen Harrison, Vivien Merchant and Dandy Nichols provide the voices, so there’s no shortage of talent there).

Disc Four

Derek Newark in The Hothouse

The Hothouse (27th March 1982). 112 minutes.

Watching these plays in sequence, what’s especially striking about The Hothouse is just how funny it is.  There have been moments of levity in some of the previous plays, but the farcical tone seen here is something quite different.  Originally written in the late fifties and then shelved for twenty years, The Hothouse is set in a government rest home which, it’s strongly implied, uses any methods necessary to “cure” its unfortunate patients (who we can take to be political dissidents).

Although a dark undertone is always present (indeed, the play concludes with the offscreen deaths of all but one of the senior staff) there’s also a playful use of dialogue and even the odd slapstick moment.  Derek Newark as Roote, the hopelessly out of his depth manager, steamrollers his way through scene after scene quite wonderfully.  A man constantly losing a running battle to keep his anger in check, Roote seems incapable of understanding even the simplest of thing. Although he might not be quite as dense as he appears (and his culpability in the death of one patient and the pregnancy of another is also open to interpretation).

With a strong supporting cast, The Hothouse was certainly the most surprising of the main features.

Mountain Language (11th December 1988). 21 minutes.

A one-act play which was first performed at the National Theatre in late 1988, it swiftly transferred to television just a few months later with Michael Gambon and Miranda Richardson reprising their stage roles. One of Pinter’s more political pieces, Gambon and Richardson (along with Julian Wadham and Eileen Atkins) all offer nuanced performances.

Gambdon and Wadham are soldiers, facing down a group of prisoners who include Richardson and Atkins. Language, so often key in Pinter’s works, is once again pushed to the forefront.

“Your language is forbidden. It is dead. No one is allowed to speak your language. Your language no longer exists. Any questions?”

Mountain Language is another prime example of the way Pinter could make an impact in a very short space of time.

Disc Five

Colin Blakely, Kenneth Cranham and Harold Pinter in The Birthday Party

The Birthday Party (21st June 1987). 107 minutes.

Written in 1957, when Pinter was touring in a production of Doctor In The House, The Birthday Party was Pinter’s first full length play.  Revived thirty years later for this Theatre Night production, it’s plain that time hadn’t diminished its impact.

Kenneth Cranham is mesmerising as Stanley, a man haunted by vague ghosts from his past.  Treated with stifling maternal love by his landlady Meg (Joan Plowright), the arrival of two mysterious strangers – Goldberg (Pinter) and McCann (Colin Blakely) – marks the beginning of a nightmarish twenty four hours.  Also featuring Julie Walters and Robert Lang, The Birthday Party baffled many critics back in the late fifties – the reason why Goldberg and McCann have decided to target Stanley and the others is just one puzzle – but in retrospect it’s fascinating to see how key Pinter themes, such as the reliability of memory, were already firmly in place.

Special Features

Face To Face: Harold Pinter. Sir Jeremy Isaacs is the out of vision interviewer since – as per the style of all the programmes in this series – the camera remains firmly fixed on Pinter throughout.  Some decent ground is covered across the forty minutes of this 1997 interview.

Harold Pinter: Guardian Interview. Audio only, 73 minutes. This is selectable as an additional audio track on The Birthday Party, even though it doesn’t directly refer to that play (or run for its whole length). 

It might only be January, but this looks set to be one of the archive television releases of the year. Highly recommended.

Pinter at the BBC is released by the BFI on the 28th of January 2019.  

Harold Pinter, 1997

Take Me Home – Simply Media DVD Review

Tom (Keith Barron) is eking out a living as a cab driver in the Midlands town of Woodsleigh Abbots.  It’s something of a comedown for a skilled man, but since all the traditional trades have disappeared he has little choice. Life with his wife Liz (Annette Crosbie) is settled but rather humdrum.

However, when he meets Kathy (Maggie O’Neill) everything changes. Kathy, half his age, is a newlywed who has recently moved to the area. Having had an argument with her husband, Martin (Reece Dinsdale), she scrambles into Tom’s cab in a highly distressed state. He initially treats her with fatherly concern, but over time this transforms into a dangerous passion which begins to eat away at him ….

Originally broadcast in 1989, Tony Marchant’s three part drama stands as a document of the dying days of the Thatcher era.  Previously an industrial town, the arrival of Chinese computer firm InfoCo has transformed Woodsleigh Abbots, bringing in an influx of upwardly mobile white collar workers like Martin.

Martin and his friends are the winners at present leaving Tom, having seen the industry he spent his life working in evaporate, very much on the debit side of the ledger. As for Liz, she’s embraced InfoCo and enjoys working in their canteen, even if the rank and file staff members – such as Martin – treat her with indifference or mild contempt.

The company offers nothing for Tom though, so armed with his favourite Dusty Springfield cassette he’s chosen the job of cabbie.  But the recent regeneration has transformed the town to such an extent that he sometimes struggles to find his way. The irony in this is quite clear.

The contrast between Martin and Kathy, with their badminton and dinner parties, and the humbler pleasures of Tom and Liz is marked.  Clearly Martin and Kathy are on their way up whilst Tom feels that he’s being left behind.  His bitterness at the way that technological progress has halted his career, allied to his suspicion about the ever-encroaching InfoCo, positions him as a skilled man who has come to realise that his skills are no longer needed.

Keith Barron was one of those actors who could convey a whole range of emotions with just a single look. There’s an excellent example at the beginning of the first episode as Tom drops a couple (older man, younger woman) off at a motel. The waves of disapproval emanating from Tom (the man’s old enough to be the girl’s father for goodness sake) is palpable. But that was before he’d met Kathy of course ..

The clash of opposites is one of the things which makes Take Me Home so compelling.  Tom and Kathy have little in common – the age gap is just one example whilst their divergent musical tastes (he favours Dusty whilst she loves Deacon Blue) is another. 

Reece Dinsdale has a difficult role to play since Martin, initially at least, is portrayed as a wholly unlikeable type. Forcing Kathy to have an abortion (telling her that he wouldn’t be able to love their child and would also end up hating her) sets the tone. As befits a computer operator (or at least the 1980’s vision of one) Martin is coldly logical. They can’t afford a baby at the moment, so the “mistake” has to be dealt with.

The relationship between Tom and Kathy is a slow burn. But once they do connect, everything happens in a rush. Subtitled “a love story” in the Radio Times, it’s probably best not to expect a happy ending – it’s plain that when the affair is revealed the fallout will be dramatic.

It’s hard to fault any of the main performers. Barron is perfect as the essentially decent, but utterly conflicted Tom (a man unable to tear himself away from Kathy, even though he’s well aware that he’s destroying his marriage). Crosbie’s slowly dawning comprehension that something is badly wrong is also skilfully played.

O’Neill has to tread a difficult path, but she ensures that Kathy is more than simply an attractive piece of totty (or a helpless victim of either of the men in her life). And although Martin is initially portrayed in a deeply unsympathetic light, as time goes on the script (and Dinsdale) teases out his damaged, fragile side.

By the final episode the truth is out and events spiral further and further out of control before some sort of compromise is reached (although it’s debatable who the winners and losers are).  Barron and Crosbie share several pulsating scenes early in the episode.  Crosbie is never better than here – displaying a mix of emotions (denial, anger, forgiveness) in quick succession. The sight of a glammed-up Liz (maybe partly done to genuinely tempt Tom, but mainly to taunt him) is a haunting and faintly disturbing one.

Uncompromising and skilfully acted, Take Me Home still has considerable impact, nearly thirty years down the line. Recommended.

Comprising three episodes each of approximately sixty minutes duration, Take Me Home comes on a single disc. There are no special features but – as per all BBC titles – it’s subtitled.  The picture quality is fine (albeit a little grainy) with no noticeable issues.

Take Me Home is available now from Simply Media. It can be ordered directly from Simply here (quoting ARCHIVE10 will apply a 10% discount).