Tag Archives: tv

July 5th 1973

“Watched the Burke Special then did some more of the Hist. project”


I had almost totally forgotten about James Burke and his set of techno-science documentaries – all called “The Burke Special” – that littered the TV during the 70’s and early 80’s.

He was a great presenter who managed to educate and entertain in equal measures as he showed us the intricate workings of the world around us.

It’s somewhat spooky timing that his name turns up now… because I first remember him as the BBC’s “space guy” – the reporter they always trotted out to talk on the news whenever there was a new Apollo mission. I wasn’t 100% certain but research backed up my addled brain to confirm that he was indeed the presenter on the day Neil Armstrong & Co landed on the moon… almost 40 years ago on the 20th/21st July 1969 (20th U.S. time, 21st UK time)

Here he is, taking us inside the Apollo Command Module, from some footage that seems to scream 1973…


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December 7th 1972

“Scored in Gms” / “Twonite eye watshed Monty Piethins Flying Circis in culer”

Isn’t it funny how “scored in g(a)m(e)s” could be misconstrued for something completely different in 2008 than it was in 1972?

It looks as if I had the rare chance of enjoying Python in colour (yes, that’s what it means) this evening? Probably as a result of going into my parent’s neighbours place.

My Dad was pretty set in his ways in those days, refusing to fork out for a colour TV (and the accompanying higher-priced TV license) until something went wrong with our “perfectly good black and white telly”. Indeed – and as I think I have stated elsewhere – my folks never enjoyed their own colour TV until I bought them one as their Christmas present the first year I was working full-time. (A promise I had made myself for a long time prior).

I’m sure that, these days, the mere presence of ‘only’ a black and white TV would be considered akin to “child cruelty” in many households, but back then I didn’t really think anything of it. If you’ve never had better you’re rarely aware of what you’re missing.


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December 2nd 1972

“City 1 Ipswich 1” / “Sold records – Beatles + Grandad – 50p”

Our newsagent used to have a display board in its front window where local residents – for 2 or 3 pence a week, or something silly – could post hand-written cards advertising things for sale.

Indeed, the very same newsagent continues to offer the service. The last time I flew over and stayed with my Dad in England, the board was still in the window. The cost had gone up – 50p I believe – but it was nice to see the tradition remains.

I used the newsagent’s service to advertise records for sale. LP or singles that I’d got bored with or no longer wanted, as well as 45’s I’d picked up cheap and then sold for a small profit. Yes, I was doing that kind of trading at the age of 14! Talk about prescience!

I have no idea what the Beatles record was. Knowing my luck, it was probably one which sells for oodles and oodles of cash on eBay nowadays!

I know what “Grandad” was though.

Yes, it’s embarrassing.

In the 70’s, the UK singles chart was virtually awash with novelty hits. Many of them the famous “wonders” of the one hit. 

Clive Dunn’s “Grandad” was such a record.

Clive Dunn is an actor who found fame playing a doddery old butcher in Dad’s Army, a British TV sitcom about the home guard during World War II. The series’ huge audience (18 million weekly) almost guaranteed that anything involved with the show would also be loved by the public.

Dunn met famous session bassist Herbie Flowers (it is his bass line that opens Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”) whilst at a party and challenged him to write a hit single for him.

Flowers contacted his friend and fellow songwriter, Kenny Pickett (former member of 60’s freakbeat combo Creation) who turned up a little later ringing Flower’s doorbell. The doorbell’s simple ‘ding-dong’ apparently gave the pair the hook for the song! (“Ding” + “Dong” = “Gran” + “Dad”)

(How do I know this story? Permit me a “brush with the stars” moment. Flowers was an unlikely member of Marc Bolan’s T.Rex for (what turned out to be) their final tour, just months before the tousle-haired pop pixie died in a horrible car crash.  Along with several friends, I attended the final date of the tour in Portsmouth and we were all able to get backstage and into the changing rooms after the show.  We never met Marc, but Herbie was an extremely affable gent, sharing his wine with us and regaling us for a while with his tales of the music business… including his involvement with “Grandad“)

Anyway, Clive Dunn recorded the song with a children’s choir and its awful cheese (“Grandad, Grandad, you’re lovely“)  made Number 1 in early 1971 (incongruously sandwiched in between Number 1’s by Dave Edmunds and George Harrison!) and stayed on the charts for a mind-boggling 27 weeks! 

Now, let it be known – to my wife’s repeated horror – that I am something of an aficionado of ‘novelty hit singles’. However, even I think Clive Dunn’s “Grandad” is a novelty just TOO far!

Judge it for yourself… if you dare!


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July 10th 1972

“Me + Mick DR Rick + Andy 5-5” / “Went swimming during games 68°C” / “Taped Doddy’s ½ hour – not very good”

I can beat two people by myself – as witnessed a few days ago – and yet when teamed up with Mick” I can barely scrape a draw. Either this “Mick” was a total loser at tennis or the opposing team remembered their racquets this time?

I went swimming again I see. Despite the fact that I can’t swim. Did I just write “went swimming” to kid myself?

“Doddy’s Half Hour” was a 30-minute show highlighting the talents of one of Britain’s finest stand-up comedians, Ken Dodd.

Even in the 70’s Doddy was considered “old school”, one of a group of comedians who had honed their acts in the music halls and working men’s clubs across the country long before they ever became TV sensations.

With his harsh Liverpudlian accent, tickle stick, shock of hair and silly catchphrases, Dodd endeared himself to the old (and the teenagers) with his silly humour, which only occasionally bordered on the ‘dirty’.

He is often considered the “comedian’s comedian”, still does three-hour (or more) long shows, remains touring at the grand old age of 81, and will doubtless appear in pantomime this coming Christmas if his health holds up.

Back in 1972 though, his TV show that night failed to make me feel tickled in the slightest.

I do want to use this opportunity to comment that one of the best verbal tongue-twisters ever to exist is “Ken Dodd’s Dad’s Dog’s Dead” – trying saying that quickly a few times after a couple of pints of falling-over liquid!

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May 11th 1972

“recorded half of goodies programme”

My “tape recording” fever was not merely limited to popping the microphone in front of the record player’s speaker and ‘pirating’ an LP or two.

Every so often I would sit the mic in front of the TV and record the audio from programmes I liked – usually comedy shows – and then play them back ad infinitum.

For the uninitiated (read “American readers”), The Goodies were a comedy troupe consisting of Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden. At times as anarchistic (if not often moreso) as Monty Python, the comedy revolved around the wacky trio hiring themselves out to “do and solve anything”.

Their mode of transport was a three-seater tandem bike and the kind of things they solved was a giant cat terrorising London, the end of the world, women’s lib and even apartheid in South Africa. It was all very surreal stuff, often politically-aware, and helped immensely by the persona of the three leads. Graeme was the mad professor character, Tim a die-hard royal-supporting Tory and Bill the liberal weirdo.

Unlike Python, the humour and popularity didn’t cross the Atlantic, which is a shame as it’s probably even more “British” than Cleese & Co., and I am sure the show would still be in cable re-runs even now if it had. In 1972 The Goodies was the epitome of “must-see TV” (even if the phrase hadn’t yet been invented), and ran for 12 years and over 70 episodes.

Yes, I have the DVDs. Yes, I might be a little sad.

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