Friday, October 24, 2008

The Blue Peter Files #1

“Here’s one I/we made earlier” is a phrase that has become commonplace in the British English language during the last 40 years or so. Certainly during the last few weeks you will not have been able to open an English newspaper without encountering it, and with good reason. This phrase has its origins in the children’s TV show Blue Peter, which celebrated its 50th birthday last week and is now apparently the longest running children’s TV show in the world. Blue Peter holds a special place in many a British person’s heart, especially those of a certain age, e.g. like me who, at 50, can truly be said to have grown up with the program.

The picture here is of my Blue Peter badge. I seem to remember getting this for collecting and sending in milk bottle tops (for one of their annual charity appeals). This would have been sometime in the sixties and demonstrates that Blue Peter were ahead of the game in the recycling stakes. There was also a deluxe version of the badge which had a dark blue background and the ship picked out in gold (or silver?). I seemed to remember you had to do something a bit special to get that one, although the Wikipedia entry says that it was just issued to those who already had the white badge. In any event I never managed to get one, but I’m sure my next door neighbours did – they were pretty gung-ho about most things.

Now I just have to show you this….

When they weren’t cocking a snook at the old adage “never work with children or animals”, amongst other things, the Blue Peter presenters were always showing us things to make with any old bit of tat and general stuff that you were bound to be able to find lying around the house. Coat hangers, empty washing up bottles (well, empty after you had deposited the contents into a glass or some similar receptacle, inviting mum’s wrath), sticky back plastic, cornflake packets, that sort of thing. After some enthusiastic instruction they would, with a flourish and the words “here’s one we made earlier”, produce a completed example of their industry.

Happy days.

Right, now it’s time for some music, and I thought I would use “here’s one we made earlier” as the theme of this, and my next post.As I have no doubt described before, my love of music really started in the early seventies and I quickly developed a love of soul and funk music. In Britain Soul to the masses was Motown if nothing else. Motown had become established as something of a mainstream sound, and for me, through continued radio airplay and reissues of classic sixties hits, the lineage of acts such as Stevie Wonder and The Temptations was clear.

But I was also discovering all sorts of great new artists and groups. At least I assumed they were new groups. Then I gradually became aware that these acts weren’t new on the scene at all, they had been around for years – way back into the sixties – and they were just reinventing themselves, embracing new musical technologies and trends, and giving us vital new music. A cynic might say they were deserting their roots and simply riding a commercial wave. But there is nothing wrong in moving with the times, and you have to make a buck to eat.

When you juxtapose the output of these groups from the different phases of their careers (and yes I know the nucleus of both these groups goes back even further than my starting point here) you realize just how much their sound changed and, indeed, that of soul and funk music in general. You also realize there was true musical genius at work here.

The Parliaments – Don’t Be Sore At Me 1967

Parliament – Star Child outro / Unfunky UFO 1976

The Ohio Players – Here Today And Gone Tomorrow (mp3) 1968 *

The Ohio Players – Fire 1974

* I've featured this one before, and have no hesitation in doing so again as it is such a great record.


Davy H said...

What a lovely post.

I was a huge fan of Blue Peter - John Noakes is an icon to me - but I never wrote in or got a badge. I certainly collected things for the appeals, made the 'makes', got the annual every Christmas (still have them). Truly though Darce, your badge is a wonderful thing.

Didn't know the Ohio Players had a straight soul past! Nice.

marmiteboy said...

Blue Peter was my favourite programme when I was growing up. I'm a Val, John and Pete man myself but I still watch it sometimes and I'm 43 now (although this may have been to do with Konnie Huq).

Magpie was for a completely different type of child in my opinion. Magpie wasn't really there to educate but Blue Peter mixed fun with education. My favourite bit was when they told the story (with great pictures) of some old British hero like Florence Nightingale or an historical figure like Alexander the Great.

It has changed with the times of course and is now a bit too funky but when John Noakes was a household name it was the best programme on the telly.