A fun thing happened a week or so back. Radio presenter Nathan Turvey1 posted the following absolutely delightful thing.
And don’t miss Kenny’s little message to Nathan at the end of the reel.
Understandably, this went down extremely well on Twitter. At the time of writing, that video has had nearly a million views, and a ridiculous number of replies. Which is fascinating for such an arcane subject. After all, radio jingles are not exactly the most popular thing to talk about on Twitter. Believe me, I know. I’ve tried to talk about them on there for years.
Which proves one thing: topics are esoteric and simply not talked about… until they suddenly are talked about. People just need a gateway into them. And I don’t mean that in a sneery way at all; quite the opposite. There are plenty of topics I never think about, until I suddenly do.
The reason that has happened here isn’t difficult to figure out. The story of a 13 year old writing to his radio hero and getting back some jingles made just for him is an irresistible one. As a jingle nerd I’ve heard audio of Kenny making jingles for other people before… but for professional DJs, never for a kid who just looked up to him. Combine that story with the presence of Kenny himself – where the word genius really does apply – and you have a story which is pretty much guaranteed to go viral. And quite right too. We all need as many glimpses of pleasure as we can get these days.
My point is simply that subjects can be seen as impossibly nerdy and esoteric, when they actually aren’t at all. To take a similar example: old Radio 1 jingles weren’t exactly a popular conversation on Twitter… until Radio 1 Vintage played some of them, and people remembered how great they were. Or moving away from jingles entirely: chatting about Doctor Who continuity errors was confined to a decreasing section of society… until a certain Russell T. Davies relaunched the show in 2005, and a brand new legion of fans got involved in the UNIT dating controversy.
To be absolutely clear: nobody is better because they talked about this stuff before other people. You can’t do everything at once. My first love is sitcoms, but I only got round to watching Are You Being Served? properly this year. A fair few people enjoyed my observations about the show, but I’m sure plenty of what I talked about had been discussed by people decades earlier. This is not about cultural gatekeeping.
It’s just a reminder not to worry about whether the things you love are important, or popular. Because those statuses can flip in an instant. And then flip back again. And certainly don’t let anybody sneer at you for your interests.
Just love the things you love, and the rest will take care of itself.
My old pal Duncan Newmarch appears to have a problem. “He doesn’t remember the 80s – he’s still there…”
Featuring an appearance by yours truly, as the last caller of the show. But how can I be phoning in, if I’m living in 2019 and Duncan’s stuck back in the 80s?
I think the answer is really obvious. In fact, it’s so obvious, I’m not even going to patronise you by giving you the answer. Let’s just say my local telephone exchange has a few issues, and leave it at that.
…or certainly up there, anyway.
I’ve talked before about Jon Wolfert’s Sunday Jingle Show, and how you should all be listening to it. If you can’t be bothered to click on that link: Sundays, 3pm ET/8pm GMT on Rewound Radio, stuffed full of great radio and advertising jingles.
Well, usually great, anyway. Unless I send in a request to the show. Then, I’m afraid, you get the dregs.
Download “Rewound Radio (04/11/18) – Ecology” (12.5MB MP3, 8:41)
After a week’s break, the show is back tonight. So if you want to listen to someone who knows damn well what they’re talking about take a little trip through the history of radio, then give it a listen.
It’s often the highlight of my week; if you like the kind of thing I post here, I think it could be yours, too.
Short version: you should all be listening to Jon Wolfert’s live Rewound Radio show (Sundays, 3pm ET, 8pm BST), full of great 60s/70s music, and loads of talk about radio and advertising jingles.
Long version: why would you want to do this?
Well, I’ve talked before about some of the reasons I love jingles, but hey – I’m just a fan. Jon Wolfert is president of JAM Creative Productions, who have made some of the finest jingles ever made… and also just happens to be the biggest jingle fan in the world. There is literally nobody else in the world who knows more about jingles than Jon. And listening to people talking about stuff they know and love is one of my favourite things in the world.
And he can bring the history of jingles to life in a way I’ve never heard anyone else do. Here’s one of my favourite examples from recent weeks – an eight minute segment from his show, on the topic of 1960s soul jingles:
Download “Rewound Radio (12/08/18) – Soul Jingles” (8MB MP3, 8:32)
Jon takes what could have been a difficult subject, and brings out a fascinating tale of not only music, not only radio, but of history, and people. Every jingle has a tale behind it, and nobody can tell those tales better than Jon Wolfert.
Rewound Radio, Sundays, 3pm ET, 8pm BST. Three hours of jingle fun, and loads of great music too. You can’t go wrong.
Here ends your public service announcement.
This year, for my partner Tanya’s 40th birthday, I bought her a very special present. Don’t worry, this piece isn’t about what a great boyfriend I am.1 This piece is simply about how something fun can be brought into the world.
The theme for my gifts this year was obvious: the year 1977. Which means, of course, I could just go to town on eBay. But what else can you buy for the girl who has everything, if by “everything” I mean an original poster for Confessions from a Holiday Camp?2 And then it struck me. Wouldn’t a jingle singing her name be fun?
Not just any old jingle, however. A jingle from 1977. A jingle first sung four decades ago.
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A week on from Radio 1 Vintage – the BBC’s joyous three-day celebration of 50 years of Radio 1 – my brain is still buzzing. Much like 2011’s Radio 1’s Longest Show Ever, or 2014’s Phillip’s Live 24 Hour TV Marathon, I felt like this was something which was made just for me.1 My diseased brain often ponders the production values of old episodes of the The Radio 1 Chart Show: here was Radio 1 Vintage doing the same thing. My little obsessions were acknowledged… if only for a little while.
The sheer amount of stuff the station pumped out over those three days – 54 hours, across 53 separate programmes – is a treasure trove of material which deserves time to sit, ponder and reflect on. Though one thing is for sure: as delightful as Radio 1 Vintage was, it’s almost more delightful to see how happy it made people – people way beyond the usual radio anorak crowd. I love imagining brain synapses firing off across the UK, when a jingle someone hasn’t heard for 30 years comes blaring out the radio.
Ah yes, those jingles. Sure, they were far from the only great thing about Radio 1 Vintage, but they were a huge part of the fun. And if you loved those jingles, you might love this. Back in 2015, I linked to “The Jingles I Grew Up With” by my great mate Duncan Newmarch, celebrating his radio experiences across the years. For 2017, and in celebration of Radio 1’s 50th anniversary, he’s re-edited it to include loads of Radio 1 and Radio 2 stuff he missed the first time round.
So if you’re suffering from Radio 1 Vintage withdrawal symptoms, this might be just what you’re looking for. (If you get to the end of it, you might hear something fun to do with Dirty Feed too. But the real meat is those glorious Radio 1 and Radio 2 jingles.)
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The Music You Want (JAM Creative Productions, 1979)
Yesterday, on a small corner of the internet, something flickered back into life.
A jingle package, in fact. A jingle package made by JAM Creative Productions in 1979, for legendary radio station WABC. Called “The Music You Want”, it would be some of the last jingles JAM made for WABC which emphasised the station as somewhere to go for music.1 (Three years later, WABC would transition to a talk format.)
These jingles were previously unavailable on JAM’s website. Sure, the famous Top 40 packages were there, like LogoSet (1976) and Positron (1977). And all WABC’s talk radio packages were there, from Talk To Us (1982) right through to Top News (2005). But a little slice of that history was missing. And now it isn’t. Brought out of limbo into the digital age. So we can all enjoy some damn fine jingles, which even plenty of jingle obsessives have never heard before.
This pleases me.
* * *
A Brief Message (Khoi Vinh and Liz Danzico, 2007-08)
The website A Brief Message had a rather, yes, brief existence. Launched in 2007, it was billed as the following:
“A Brief Message features design opinions expressed in short form. Somewhere between critiques and manifestos, between wordy and skimpy, Brief Messages are viewpoints on design in the real world. They’re pithy, provocative and short – 200 words or less.”
To be honest, it was never the writing side of A Brief Message which I particularly liked. What caught my attention was the site design itself; one of the very earliest examples I came across of a site breaking out of pre-existing templates, and making each post look different. Moreover, each post had a specially commissioned piece of artwork, which is still a rare thing to find today, let alone back then. It’s a site I’ve always remembered, as something which came along and made me realise that web developers can paint themselves into artificial corners: every post can look different if you want it to. It fundamentally made me think of web design differently.2
The site is no longer online. Well, not properly, anyway. As usual, most of it is preserved online via the Wayback Machine. But the actual URL is dead as a Pyrenean ibex.
In fact, the site had a bit of an odd end full stop, really. Launched in September 2007, the site stopped updating in March 2008: an active life of just half a year. That’s a very short amount of time for a project which had so much promise, and had two such talented people running it; you have to wonder what happened. And then the archives fell offline for good at the end of 2012.
And man, that sucks. I have no problem at all with the site not updating; it was a shame when the project was so promising, but there could be any number of reasons for that happening. But to not inform your readership about the future of the site, and then letting it just fall offline entirely is a dreadful way for a project to end, and is just rude as much as anything. Communicate with your audience. Let them know what is happening. And keep those archives online, especially when you’ve made something important and influential, as A Brief Message undoubtedly was. If a work remains online, it is never truly dead.
A Brief Message had much that could inspire people even today. If it wasn’t for the Wayback Machine, that work would be inaccessible entirely. Even as it is, that copy of the site isn’t quite complete, and far fewer people will read it. It’s all such a waste.
This displeases me.
* * *
Without a word, somewhere on the internet, someone drags out something from the past, and makes it live again. Elsewhere, without a word, great things die in the most ignoble way possible.
Be the person who makes things live, not lets things die.
Yesterday there was a bit of consternation about a late schedule change forcing coverage of Wimbledon onto BBC Four and postponing Top of the Pops for an hour. For various reasons I can’t really talk much about that, although expect a THRILLING article about schedule changes generally on here at some point.
I would, however, like to point out something about how Sue Barker ended the show. Over a beauty shot from the grounds:
“Now, coming up next on BBC Four it is Top of the Pops 1982, and it’s a good year for music. A vintage year for tennis as well; Jimmy Connors beat John McEnroe here, and also Martina Navratilova beat Chris Evert. So, that is next here on BBC Four, but I hope you enjoyed our coverage at Wimbledon – we’ll be back with more tomorrow at 11:30. Clare Balding will be here with Today at Wimbledon, that’s at 9:30 on BBC Two. But for now, from Wimbledon, goodbye.”
It’s simply one of the most skilful bits of presenting I’ve ever heard.
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Whilst I’m getting my shit together to actually write something on here, here’s something fun to be getting along with. Over the past few years I’ve been getting some jingles sung for the site, courtesy of JAM Creative Productions of Dallas. My chum Duncan Newmarch has put together a montage of some of these jingles… with the odd added sound effect added here and there.1 Some of the jingles, including the first, are hot off the mixing desk this week:
Yes, that definitely wins the award for “Most Uses of the Word ‘Dirty’ in Two and a Half Minutes of Audio”.
These jingles were all originally sung for US or UK radio stations between the years 1976 and 1991. It gives me a kick that this site can use versions of the same material made for New York’s Z-100 in the 80s, or Radio 1 in the 90s. (For a bit more on the history of these jingles, check out this article I wrote earlier in the year.)
You will have heard some of these jingles on the front of a few of my audio posts, but the main reason I’ve been buying them is for my podcast, which abruptly stopped in September 2012. I’ve been feeling guilty about that for ages, especially as people have actually been asking when it’s going to return. The reason I haven’t really talked about it on here is simple: it felt self-indulgent, and I didn’t want to promise a date I couldn’t keep. Which is good, as it’s been “a couple of months” now for three years.
So, I’d best answer the question properly. Put simply: those first few podcasts were meant to be 10-minute trial offerings, leading up to a proper series of half-hour episodes. Unfortunately, in 2012, I suddenly – to my immense surprise – got a proper career, and things took a back seat for a while. Which is a shame, as I promise a section about Friendship is Magic in those trial episodes, and I had an awful lot to say about that series in 2012. Sadly, it’s all rather been said by now. Hey-ho.2
Anyway, I still don’t want to give a date, but I do have solid plans to actually return to making podcasts. I’ve spent far too much on these sodding jingles not to. In the meantime, enjoy these gorgeous silly jingles. I think every podcast could do with one.
30 years ago today, “We Built This City” was first released in the US. Many people know that some radio stations tailored the DJ chatter section near the end to add in their own local personalities; scroll down to Special Recordings here to listen to no less than four different versions created by CBS-FM.
A lesser-known fact, however, is that for some markets the front of the song was customised as well. Called a singover, or a power intro in more modern parlance, this involved jingle singers singing the station name over the front of the song. And seeing as every single post about jingles on here seems to come back to JAM Creative Productions, it’s hardly a surprise that they were involved with this little bit of fun over the airwaves – and posted about their part in it recently. Let’s take a listen:
Download “We Built This City singovers” (Original post on Facebook)
YAY I LIKE RADIO I THINK IT’S COOL.
But what I find especially interesting about this is: this is how plenty of people would mainly have heard the song at the time. Their local radio station, playing all the hits. Assuming that the radio stations actually used the audio on a regular basis1 – and I see no reason why they wouldn’t – many people would always have experienced that song with their favourite station’s name sung over the front of it. A memory that fades through the years, with each passing experience of the song on endless compilation albums or later radio plays… until nobody remembers that how they’re now hearing the song is not how they first experienced it.
A minor historical detail, perhaps. But I bet if you played that audio to certain New Yorkers who listened to Z-100 in the 80s, their brain would spark up, and they’d instantly recognise something they’d entirely forgotten – and send them hurtling 30 years back through time. And that’s worth a hell of a lot.
It’s always worth remembering this stuff. It’s so easy for things like this to slip through the cracks. And remembering history in a way which isn’t just endlessly recycled, obvious clips takes constant vigilance.