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.
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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.
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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.
I try my best to make Dirty Feed a proper blog with actual commentary and shit like that – but sometimes you just want to chuck a great link out there, then cut and run. So it is with Unforgettable – published this month, it’s the latest in a long series of jingle montages from Ken Deutsch. This particular selection all come from jingle company PAMS between the years of 1960-1974 – a time which has a special meaning to Ken:
“For me this era represented my teenage years and early 20s, a time I fell in love with top-40 radio and its jingles in particular. People have come and gone in my life. I married, gained a stepson, watched the world change in many serious ways, but the PAMS jingles from the 60s and early 70s will always remain “unforgettable” to me.”
Not that you need to have grown up in the US during that era to get something out of this collection. There are few better ways to dip into the world of radio jingles than listening to material of this vintage – some of the very best jingles ever made. Give it a try. A glorious slice of Americana.
Even if the start of Track 7 may make you wince somewhat.
I’ve linked to many jingle montages in my time. This, however, is something special. The above audio is 2 hours 10 minutes long – and is really less of a jingle montage, and more of a journey through one man’s radio history.
That man is Duncan Newmarch – former radio DJ and producer, current BBC television continuity announcer. I caught up with him for a brief chat about his creation… and what radio means to him.
JOHN: So, what the hell is this, and why have you made it?
DUNCAN: (laughing) That’s a good question! I’ve got to come up with an answer.
Well, the idea was to mix hissy old cassette recordings with lovely clean copies from master tapes and CDs of all the things I just loved listening to as a kid. This is the radio and the jingles that I have grown up with. I did play a few little bits and pieces to somebody and they said: “You can hear where it goes from the crappy quality to lovely, crisp clean explosions… why don’t you just make the whole thing mono and make it sound like it’s from a medium wave speaker?” And I thought “Well, that’s not the point”. I think anybody can find old cassette copies of old radio. If you could have taken all that radio from the 80s and the 90s, how would it have sounded through their headphones? Because I grew up listening to Radio 1 in medium wave, and it sounded horrible for most of the time! But of course, in the studio, they were listening to it sounding beautiful.
But yeah, how do you describe it in one sentence? It’s a radio trip down memory lane, isn’t it?
I just spend so much time in the car. I wanted to have something that I could start at home, and get all the way to work and it still hadn’t finished. And the problem is, I don’t think I’ve changed a lot from being a ten year old – I’m still listening to really weird stuff in the car, rather than just putting the radio on. As a kid, like most kids of the 80s, I had this drawer under the bed which was just full of cassettes. But rather than them being filled with music, I was one of those boys who recorded the Top 40, and had my finger over the Pause button – but rather than recording the music and stopping the tape when Bruno Brookes would start to speak, I was the wrong way round! So I’d be recording what he said, to try and get copies of all the jingles, and all of the silliness in-between.
So there was all these cassettes which I found recently, and I thought: “Well, what the point of having this if you don’t listen to it?” There are lots of jingle collectors, and I don’t blame them, but they’ve got all these jingles and they never listen to them. So I wanted to archive all of those cassettes, and then, rather than just listening to them, mix these hissy old recordings with lovely clean quality versions of all the jingles and the beds and all the things I loved listening to as a kid, and unfortunately still love listening to them now.
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“Hey, whatta ya say, it’s a great new day and we’re livin’, with 1010 WINS
Hey, whatta ya say, let’s get underway, we’re really livin’ W-I-N-S
It’s the right spot, 1010, it’s the bright spot, that’s WINS
The 1010 spot on your dial, and suddenly it swings
Hey, whatta ya say, have a happy day ‘cause we’re livin’, with 1010 WINS
– PAMS Series 13 “Target”, Cut #1, 1959
One recurring theme here on Dirty Feed can be summed up by the following: “Hey, jingles are fun”. This is a really good example.
A topic I’ve touched on before is the world of jingle syndication: the idea that whilst a jingle may originally be sung for a specific radio station, versions of that jingle can then be sung for different stations or uses all over the world. Here is an ultra-simple example of this; a single two-second jingle sung many different times. (Yeah, the final one is my favourite. Bite me.)
Last month, JAM Creative Productions1 uploaded the following fun bit of audio. It’s the above idea… taken to its absolute extreme. A jingle originally sung in 1959 for station 1010 WINS in New York – resung in 2015, with brand new lyrics, for internet station Rewound Radio. Take a listen below.
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On Saturday, Pointless Celebrities did their second radio special. And to celebrate the event, Richard Osman had lots of jingles at his disposal. As possibly one of the most Dirty-Feed-friendly programmes ever broadcast, we had to mark the event somehow.
Now, many shows might have just got some cheap, nasty, mock radio jingles done – maybe because they wanted cheap, or maybe because they wouldn’t have any idea companies exist whose entire purpose is to create radio jingles. But the beauty of Pointless – as with all great programmes – is how much care is taken in the production. So we get resings of tracks which originally came from US jingle companies JAM and PAMS – who both produced Radio 1 jingles for decades.1
The result of this? That, much like TV Offal, all the jingles heard on Pointless were originally sung for US radio stations. And if you don’t want to hear a comparison between the two different versions, then you’re clearly on the wrong site. What are you doing here? Go away.
Download “Pointless Celebrities Jingles – 18/10/14” (6MB MP3, 4:09)
For the record, the jingles in order are: Turbo Z #18, Turbo Z #4, Turbo Z #26 (my favourite), Turbo Z #1, Series 34 ‘Music Power’ #23, Series 27 ‘Jet Set’ #2, Turbo Z #6, Series 33 ‘Fun Vibrations’ #16, and Series 34 ‘Music Power’ #14. (With thanks to Robin Blamires for helping me identify that last one.)
All huge amounts of fun, and the delight with which Alexander Armstrong greeted them was a joy to behold. (Though well done Trevor Nelson for calling them “dated”, which is possibly the least interesting thing that could possibly be said about them.) It is, however, slightly ridiculous that Pointless not only has better jingles than an awful lot of radio stations, but also knows how to use them better…