Seven Decades of Song (1)
Today, I start a new monthly series of reflections. Having spent the past seven months taking a journey through my literary past, we’re now moving on to music, or more specifically, popular music. I have listened to Desert Island Discs for as long as I can remember and would love to be a guest one day; to spend forty-five minutes chatting with Kirsty Young, interspersed with my favourite music, sounds Heaven. But I doubt that will ever happen, which is why I came up with this series. I was tempted to call it Devon Island Discs but settled instead for Seven Decades of Song.
According to that font of all popular wisdom, Wikipedia, the term pop music originated in the United States and here in the UK in the mid-1950s, which is fortuitous, since we’re starting back in that decade. Initially, pop and rock were roughly synonymous. But more of that later in the series.
In the 1950s, all my music came through the radio and most shows on the Light Programme (forerunner of Radios 1 and 2,) seemed to feature requests from listeners. There was Housewives Choice every weekday morning, followed by Music While You Work. There was Two-Way Family Favourites, designed to link families in UK with their loved ones serving in the Armed Forces. So popular was this programme that it was promoted from Tuesday evenings to Sunday mornings, after The Archers.
As a young child, my Saturday morning treat was listening to Children’s Favourites, introduced with the words “Hello Children Everywhere” by the mellifluous tones of Derek McCulloch, or Uncle Mac, as he was known to millions. I had forgotten until I did the research for this piece, that he was also the voice of Larry the Lamb in Toytown. And I didn’t know until now that he was born in Plymouth, just thirty-odd miles from where I now live. So it seems appropriate to start this series with some of the songs he played for us each week: The Runaway Train; Teddy Bear’s Picnic; Three Billy Goats Gruff; and of course The Good Ship Lollipop. What little girl didn’t want a frilly dress and blonde curls when she heard Shirley Temple sing. I know I did!