Swingin’ Cymbal

Oct 4, 2010

Anyone over a certain age will remember Dave Nice, the presenter of “Pick of the Pops” on the BBC Radio Light Programme. He rotated with other presenters from September 1961 and then became the sole voice of the BBC Top 20 (later increased to a Top 30) from January 1964 to September 1972 when the sixties officially ended and the world prepared for the delights or otherwise of Glam Rock and the Osmonds and the Partridge family.

From 1967 to 1972 I regularly recorded “Pick of the Pops” in its Top 30 Sundays 5pm to 7pm phase. Dave kept it simple, just giving us the names of the singers/bands and song titles, along with how many places in the chart the single had risen or fallen. And of course the programmes were advert and Jingle free apart from the theme music used behind the chart countdown. Just for the record, (pun) “At the sign of the swinging cymbal” by Brian Fahey and his Orchestra was used between 1961 and 1966. The “b” side was “The Clanger”. (I don’t know why his name was spelled “Brian Faye” on the single as later LPs he released used the correct spelling). For the period of 1966 to 1970 the instrumental “Quite beside the point” by the Harry Roberts Sound was adopted as the theme. From 1970 onward “At the sign of the swinging cymbal” returned as the theme tune to “Pick of the Pops” , only this time it was performed by Brass Incorporated.

PS: Didn’t Alexis Korner have a radio show that followed “Pick of the Pops” at 7pm on Sundays in the 1970s ? In hindsight I now wish that I’d recorded some of those instead.

PPS: Of course, with the “Collective Consciousness Society” he produced a quite famous pop theme tune himself…

True Stories

Jun 13, 2008

It was high upon a dusty shelf towards the back of a shabby second-hand shop but it shone like a beacon the moment I looked through the window. I entered with trepidation and approached the scruffy, balding man seated with an enormous black dog on his lap.
“You weren’t here last time I came this way” was my opening comment.
“And I won’t be here next time unless things pick up” he mumbled.
“This is only a sideline to my proper job as a female impersonator.”
Anticipating my incredulous stare he produced a grubby card which appeared to be a photograph of Danny La Rue kissing a big black dog.
“She’s in the act too.” He nodded towards the animal as if I may not have noticed it was there.
Desperate to change the subject I asked
“How much for the Selco?”
“The what?”
“That Tape Recorder up there.”
“Oh, fi….ten pounds to you. A bargain.”
“Does it work?”
“How the fu…..oh yes, perfect, perfect.”
“I’ll take it.”
He struggled to an upright position throwing the dog to the floor, and breathing heavily dragged the Tape Recorder from its shelf and dropped it unceremoniously on to a stack of Pickwick LPs. I put out one hand to balance it and stop it falling to the floor, presenting him £10 with the other.
“Most people haggle.”
I shrugged my shoulders and carefully avoiding bits of dog and junk made my way to the door.
“It comes with some Tapes” the proprietor shouted after me. I waited whilst he disappeared into the back for three or four minutes. I could hear noises and cursing. The dog glared malevolently at me. Finally he emerged triumphant with a large cardboard box containing dozens of reel-to-reel tapes.
“There you go.”
And I did. So also did the shop a few weeks later.
At home I examined my haul. The machine worked! The box contained forty-three tapes of Alan Freeman’s Pick of the Pops on the BBC Light Programme recorded between 1963 and 1967. All right? Not arf!!