The date is 1956. I am about 4, and I am in front of Auntie Doris's TV.
We haven't got one yet,and her tuner is"rusted in" to Holme Moss, the 'pan north' BBC TV transmitter. The opening sequence is on. The tuning signal fades (I later learn), up comes the famous opening tune, and towards the end appears a white on black silhouette , of the Angel wings symbol, with spooky mesmerising shadows of white electrical energy radiating sideways from the inner wings outwards. I checked this years later, memories were accurate. Spooky background music accompanying the stentorian voice over...This is the BBC Television Service....a sleeping 'religion' is silently downloaded into my brain, like a quiet special agent waiting to be re-activated later. Apart from a nightmare to rub it in ; over the bed it hovered, still radiating those simulated transmission waves; I forgot the whole thing until seven years later, when 'control' (I jest) re-activated that agent....
Saturday .Home from school. 1963. Not quite 11. Bored. Try the telly. Boring. No Go. A Test Card! Nice bit of music though. That card looks just like something out of an art gallery. All skew wiff, and no"symmetry". That word, just learnt in Geometry. Like something that that foreigner might have painted. You know, the one we heard about in Art yesterday. Just before Johnson T.R.J. threw ink over Burns J.L.,and got lines. What was that artists name? Oh yes. I remember. Piccasso....
Next Saturday. Odd urge to see funny unbalanced painting again. Nice strings tune with it. Only 'bout 3 minutes long. Blink and you miss it. Still I'm very taken with the picture. Tune ends. Posh man speaks." ..,.tuned to......authority.....8, 9 and 10.....Associated British....the Northern and Midland something...". Very bossy sounding man, but somehow strangely mesmeric. Perhaps he wants to invade Poland like that man we heard about in history today. Who knows. Why do I care? (Why DO I?).
Following day. Sunday. Inexplicable desire. What happens after that hypnotising voice? Why didn't I stay and watch instead of running out to ask mummy name of man who invaded Poland? ("That'll be Daddy dear,when he's in a bad mood...").
When was it? Start of programmes I suspected. Check TV Times.When today? (Oh! If you want to see, what's coming on ITV,.... go and get the T....V....Times. Boom Boom de Boom).
"Eleven O'Clock. Morning Service on ITV". O.K.let's turn on AT 1055......and see what happens....
[No prizes for knowing what follows next, not in this club anyway...]
Perpetuum Mobile by Michael Roberts. Authority announcement by John Benson. And then, And then...
As the A.B.C.triangle slowly formed up, on what he later learned to call an extended opening I.D., in time with the best 30 second orchestral motif he ever heard. Something clicked. As simulated radio waves in white electrical impulses shot outwards from the triangle, IN TUNE WITH THE BEATS OF THE MUSIC: he stood there, frozen in time, a small boy alone in 1963, in a moment he would remember all his life. Before him was the icon, the life's hobby, the secret fascination that NO ONE ELSE ON THE PLANET COULD POSSIBLY KNOW ABOUT.His secret. Between him and his (then) God. Anything like this was clearly an art form in its' own right. If ancients could revere church relics, then ten year old Beatle fans in 1963 were jolly well going to capture THIS thing of beauty.
There are men in white coats knocking at my door.
I must go. I must turn back into solid dependable Kif, 34 years later.
So tune In Tomorrow night for part 2 of 6 : Starting an archive with school friends, Battling Father for funds....Begging tape recorders and postage stamps...
Caught in the school cellars, with 3 other boys....Secretly Humming Opening Tunes together .
"Is this some secret cult, or ersatz religion Smith?".
The casting couch? Yes, the story "so-fa"...
Our hero, after a toddlerhood haunted by the BBC 'angel wings' tuning signal (moving telecine version), and a life enhancing experience at the hands of Sir Arthur Bliss, composer of the ABC elongated ident, orchestral version; AND fixated by the A.B.C.triangle, (I am not making this up) is of the opinion that he is either privy to one of the world's great secret cults, or possible he is mad. He is only 11, after all, but decides to go for it. The idea of 'doing his own thing', and bugger the consequences, appeals. So convention, and conformity are left behind, and with one bound he is free.
So now read on , dear viewer, and see how true happiness can take root.
It became obvious pretty quickly that the same sort of material was available in abundance , spread over several channels. If you knew where and when to look. In the Wirral in 1963, we could not only receive Winter Hill and Holme Moss (Granada / ABC & BBC), but Moel-y-parc, and Lichfield. (WWN and ATV / ABC). On a clear day, with DX help, it was not unknown for Border to drift south across the water, and with a special aerial Telefis Eirann at times, as it was then called. I recruited pals to help.
In return for amounts of car washing, window washing, and gardening duties, we managed to persuade increasingly startled parents to provide additional Band III aerials. For the Christmas of 1963, a portable Grundig tape recorder was wheedled out of them. WWN was grabbed, in brief, the week before TWW took it over (although little changed at first). The 30 second extended orchestral version of the ABC ident was next, and the Granada March made up the triumvirate of recordings captured Christmas week '63. We were on our way, and the entirely fictional "record player in bedroom" type radio station (Commercial Radio Liverpool Limited) - [only it wasn't really limited], had the beginnings of a sound archive.....
March 1964 brought an explosion in the UK Broadcasting world. Radio Caroline burst on to the scene. A Northern ship brought the service to Wirral by early summer , and the school magazine wanted a piece on this new phenomenon. Who better to commission it from, than the youth in the corner desk with a 'pretend' radio station in his bedroom... The article was picked up by the national association of prep schools magazine editors forum, and was reproduced in other magazines. Letters started to flood in from school children with tape recorders around the country. At last, a way to set up an informal collectors network, and to make an archive which also covered other regions.....
Spring 1964. We now have a committee, albeit of excitable 12 year olds, and a teacher to keep things relevant. The archives' first bit of news is in. Associated-Rediffusion will be changing its' name and callsign (*what we called idents then) next week. Time to rush into planning for a bit of tape recorded conservation work. What about the pictures though? Try holding a box brownie in front of the screen and clicking the shutter.
Home video wasn't even a twinkle in a Japanese inventors eye. Boot's do their best, or was it "Timothy Whites" then? It works. " Associated-Rediffusion presents " preserved for all time, with soundtrack on tape, with only 3 days to go.... Good old Boot's!
The archive is ON ITS' WAY !! It was to run over 30 years!
Summer 1964. The "committee" is struck by the power and force of the new REDIFFUSION LONDON symbol and theme. (It was "symbols" then, as the American word logo did not intrude until years later). Rumour had it, that the musical ident, as seen in other regions, had a full orchestral representation, 4 minutes long, in it's own region. Now, who is our correspondent in London? This cannot be missed. If we persist in marching round the playground, humming their tune, we'd better have the full version.
Art Class. July 1964. Drawing and Painting project. Free choice of cover design for an imaginary L.P. 3 weeks allowed to complete
Johnson T.M.??? "Bizet's Carmen Sir" .
Roberts P.C ?? "Cliff Richard's chart busters Sir".
Smith.C.J.B.?.. "I.T.A.Regional Opening Tunes Sir".
My afternoon in the school sanatorium was not unpleasant.
Kif's Story is copyright © 1998 Chris Bowden-Smith and is an MHP Presentation
Last Updated 06 Apr 2000