Various Artists – Music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

This is the week of Doctor Who, and the TV series is inexorably linked with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the sound magicians who helped bring the alien worlds and environments of the series to life. But their work wasn’t limited to Doctor Who, as this lovely box set of four 10″ singles demonstrates. It’s experimental, and often extremely silly, but you’re also very aware that you are listening to the very beginnings of electronic music.

Disc 1 is performed by Delia Derbyshire, whom you will of course know better from the Doctor Who Theme. Side A, track 1 is a charming track called Mattachin. Then in a couple of her battier moments, Derbyshire covers Happy Birthday in jaunty fashion and Bach‘s Air.

But the first moment of absolute genius comes with the wonderfully titled Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO, a piece of alien psychedelia which is somehow both badly dated and intriguingly contemporary.

The next track that really grabs you is Time to Go, in which Delia turns the pips briefly into a daft melody, and then explodes the whole thing in a medley of sound effects, which lead us to the end of Side A.

Side B contains just three tracks, starting with the excellent Blue Veils and Golden Sands. So atmospheric is this piece that it appeared in Doctor Who as well, although that’s not where it originally appeared. The Delian Mode follows, even more avant garde and atmospheric, and is followed by Towards Tomorrow to bring Delia Derbyshire‘s selection to a close.

Disc 2 is dedicated to John Baker‘s slightly less innovative sounds (this can be both a good and bad thing), starting with his lovely Radio Nottingham jingle. The sounds of the 1960s are considerably more audible in Baker’s works, with tracks such as Factors sounding like electronic rock ‘n’ roll.

Most of Baker’s tracks are very short, which leaves room for over twenty of them in total, including rearranged traditional pieces Boys and Girls (as in, “come out to play,”) and The Frogs Wooing, which I’d never heard of before either. Side D opens with a very chirpy track entitled Fresh Start, before launching into a series of short jingles and longer pieces. Some, such as Brio, grab you briefly, but nothing else on this disc really grabs you in the way the first one did.

The last two discs are split between other members of the Radiophonic Workshop, starting with the rather odd sounds of David Cain. The highlights are the horrific War of the Worlds and his Radio Sheffield jingle. Finally, the last track on Side E is Richard Yeoman-Clark‘s decidedly odd Waltz Antipathy.

Dick Mills then kicks off Side F with Crazy Dazy, a bizarre cover version of Daisy Daisy complete with bird and motorway sound effects, which isn’t entirely listenable. Paddy Kingsland‘s two brief tracks, The World of Science and The Panel Beaters, are considerably more pleasant, as are Roger Limb‘s pair Kitten’s Lullaby and Geraldine.

The fourth and final disc is shared between Malcolm Clarke and Glynis Jones, starting with Clarke’s Bath Time, and working through the brilliantly named La Grande Piece de la Foire de la Rue Delaware towards the final side of music. Jones’s three tracks are more experimental again, more atmospheric than melodic, but generally very pleasant pieces to close with.

Released in 2004, this box set brings together tracks which were mainly released between 1968 and 1975, and makes for a charming collection of early electronic music. Highly recommended.

You’ll need a bit of luck and a lot of judgement to find a copy of this box set – here it is on Discogs.com if that helps track it down.

Playlist for stowaways – Who

This week everybody who cares is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who, and this blog is no exception. It’s also an ideal occasion to put together a Who-themed Playlist for stowaways.

Some of the music and sounds are from the series directly. Others are from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop; tributes to the series; or other things that are generally related and seemed to fit.

You can hear it here.

The tracks included are as follows:

  1. Brian Hodgson – TARDIS Takeoff
  2. Delia Derbyshire – Doctor Who Theme (1963 Version)
  3. Brian Hodgson – Dalek Control Room
  4. Soft Cell – Tainted Love (2XS Remix)
  5. Brian Hodgson – Quarks Chuckle
  6. Jack Dorsey and Orchestra – Dance of the Daleks
  7. David Darlington – Excelis Dawns
  8. Delia Derbyshire – Blue Veils and Golden Sands
  9. Jon Pertwee – Who is the Doctor
  10. Delia Derbyshire – Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO
  11. Peter Howell – “She’s Seen Too Much!”
  12. Dick Mills – TARDIS Doors
  13. Frazer Hines – Time Traveller
  14. Paddy Kingsland – Summons to Gallifrey
  15. Brian Hodgson – Dalek Spaceship Lands
  16. Roberta Tovey – Who’s Who
  17. Brian Hodgson – The Master’s Theme
  18. Delia Derbyshire – Doctor Who Theme (Delaware Version)
  19. Rotersand – Exterminate Annihilate Destroy
  20. Brian Hodgson – Chumblie Constant Run
  21. Dick Mills – Nova Device Countdown and Explosion
  22. The Human League – Tom Baker
  23. Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
  24. Brian Hodgson – TARDIS Lands
  25. Mark Ayres – The Storm Breaks
  26. Lynda Baron and Tom McCall – With Rings on Their Fingers
  27. Glenn Miller – Moonlight Serenade
  28. Delia Derbyshire – Liquid Energy
  29. Martin Slavin – Space Adventure
  30. Pet Shop Boys – Radiophonic
  31. Brian Hodgson – Chumblie at Rest
  32. Orbital – Doctor?
  33. Delia Derbyshire – Time to Go
  34. Dick Mills – TARDIS Landing Bleep