Feeling My Age

Getting older has its drawbacks – but it's a lot better than the alternative.

1963 Radio

“One of the curiosities of the British music scene in the early ’60s was the so-called ‘needletime agreement’ that had been struck between the BBC and the Performing Rights societies and the Musicians’ Union. Only five hours of recorded music could be played per day. Everything else had to be performed live by a BBC ensemble or a band hired to play on the radio. It generated work for the musicians but also fed all the songs of the day through a strange filter of orchestras on the BBC Light Programme, the musical frequency that ran adjacent to the Home Service You could turn on the wireless in 1961 and believe that it was still 1935. You might hear the strings of Semprini playing light classics, or the polite dance music of Victor Silvester and His Ballroom Orchestra, or even a broadcast of someone playing happy tunes on a cinema organ for an entire hour.”

The BBC Radio Orchestra

“It seemed the BBC would do anything to fill up the broadcast schedule, and it was on the air only from early morning, with the Shipping Forecast, to just before midnight, when it closed with some improving thoughts from a vicar. I’d wait all week for Saturday Club, a two-hour show that featured live appearances by pop groups in between the records. Beat Groups, as they were now being called, would turn up on variety shows and have jokes made about their hair by comedians who might have only been five years older than them. The Joe Loss Orchestra may have seemed square to some ears – one famous beat group member once told me, ‘We used to call him Dead Loss’ – but they made a better job of playing the hits of the day than some of their contemporaries, due to their ingenious arrangements and having at least one very versatile singer. This was often the only may to hear your favorite songs, if not the original artists.”

From Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink
Elvis Costello
Paberback, May 2016

Elvis Costello

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