Possibly the fabbest Fab Thing of 2008 – even fabber than the reissue of Red Box’s The Circle & The Square with a ton of unlistenable bonus tracks – is this splendid retrospective of the output of those Wobulator-toting legends of the budget-conscious musique concrete in-house soundtrack, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Compiled by Not The Other Mark Ayres, it’s basically the rare-as-Randall-And-Hopkirk-(Deceased)-theme-singles albums 21 and Soundhouse, rearranged into chronological order and joined up with as many gems again from other sources, many of them never previously released. Personal highlights would include…
- the ringtone-friendly full original Tardis take-off effect, which only does the ‘Vworp!Vworp!’ bit about three and a half times
- the opening screech (you couldn’t really call it ‘tune’) from Victor Pemberton’s semi-legendary Quatermass-riffing £3-in-Zavvi radio serial The Slide
- John Baker’s trademark ‘Jazz From The Maltings, West Of Mars’ arrangements of Bobby Shaftoe and The Lambton Worm
- Forgotten gems Tros Y Gareg and Good Morning Wales; how come the Welsh got all the best Radiophonic stuff in the seventies? Was it some kind of cultural compensation for the national shame of ‘Uncle’?
- Delia Derbyshire’s Nosebleed Techno-inventing Dance From ‘Noah’
- the theme from Radio 4′s PM, surfacing like some sort of tribal memory flashback to a depressing early eighties afternoon full of Cold War tension and Thatcher cheering on police beatings
- tons of never-thought-I’d-see-that-on-CD much-loved misfits from BBC compilation albums, including The Astronauts, Swirley, Mainstream, Paddy Kingsland’s sitar-tastic The Changes, and the none-more-big-telly-in-schools plinky plonky theme from Merry-Go-Round, while Jonathan Miller fans are more than amply catered for by the inclusion of the the main theme AND superlative Greenwich Chorus from The Body In Question
And there’s loads of blink and you’ll miss ‘em incidentals from both Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 to boot. Disc 2 is a little less listenable, though no less interesting, containing as it does music from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Ghost In The Water, Dead Entry, Slambash Wangs Of A Compo Gormer (no, me neither) and – yes – Captain Zep Space Detective, as well as a load of fascinating attempts at doing ’proper’ soundtracks from the last couple of years of the Workshop’s existence.
It’s still a little sad that this most touched by demented genius of hit factories fell victim both to dull John Birt-inspired creativity-crushing accounting and indeed to its own pioneering vision being caught up with by everyone else, but this compilation is a fine way to remember what the presenters of Tomorrow’s World invariably referred to as “…those clever chaps – and chapesses – at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop”.