Barry Humphries presents a new three part music series for BBC Radio 2
Barry Humphries presents a selection of his musical memories and aims to transport listeners to a bygone era with vintage records. As a little boy growing up in far-off Melbourne during the 1930s and 40s, Barry was captivated by the sounds and music emanating from his parents’ wireless set. During childhood illnesses, Barry’s mother placed the radio set in his bedroom and little Barry was so entranced by the music that he tried to make whooping cough, measles and mumps last as long as possible. Barry’s early musical memories include Fred Astaire, Flanagan and Allen, The Comedian Harmonists, Joseph Schmidt, Harry Roy and Judy Garland among others.
In the second programme on 20th January, Barry Humphries celebrates the age of the wireless. The show opens with Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra performing the song ‘Radio Times’ (a copy of the sheet music for which was issued with the 1934 Christmas edition of the magazine of the same name). Also musical comedians Norman Long and Stanelli perform an ode to the BBC Licence Fee with the song ‘All For Ten Shillings A Year’.
In the final programme on 27th January, Barry Humphries recalls his first job working at a major record label in Melbourne in the early 1950s during an historic time in the music industry. The era of 78 r.p.m. was over and the 1950s were the Age of the Microgroove! Also, Barry remembers his arrival in London on 1st June 1959 when there was a sense that London was a city on the verge of change. He arrived just in time to catch Randolph Sutton giving his last performances at the Metropolitan Musical Hall on Edgware Road before it was pulled down to make way for the West Way and just before a new generation made their mark on British theatre in the 1960s.
The best Radio 2 series in this, or any month for as long as I can remember
Humphries weighs every word in his script, switching between what a child would hear in a record and what time has since taught him about it. He speaks lightly, firmly, allusively, letting the listener make connections to the music and its context.