BBC Radiophonic Music

BBC Radiophonic MusicThis album, remastered and re-released on CD for the first time just a few years ago, represents the first ten years of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, formed in the late 50s to provide the BBC’s television and radio productions with “special sound” through unconventional and electronic recording techniques. Even mentioning the words “BBC Radiophonic Workshop” conjures up the old newspaper clipping about how the Queen herself once responded to a mention of the Workshop by saying “Yes, Doctor Who?” – and indeed, that’s the mental leap that most of us make when the now-defunct outfit is mentioned. This album proves that there was a lot more to the Workshop than that.

That said, if you find the original recording of the Doctor Who theme to be inpenetrably weird, you probably won’t find much enjoyment on this album. The most accessible piece is a short electronic rendition of “Happy Birthday”, while fans of more out-there fare will dig such items as a selection of John Baker’s music from a BBC Radio production of War Of The Worlds, or the truly strange (and yet oddly compelling) “Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO”, assembled by Delia Derbyshire (who also, not surprisingly, was the creator of that most famous rendition of Ron Grainer’s Doctor Who music). The latter especially is nearly timeless, with its mixture of backward vocals, found sounds and a thumping, throbbing beat making it seem almost current. And for a track that’s very nearly 40 years old at the time of this writing, that’s not a bad trick. The Workshop was so far ahead of its time, you’d think they had a spare TARDIS in the back at the Maida Vale studio.

Many of the pieces on this album are very short, being either jingles or music beds meant to be talked over by the voices of the BBC’s various regional radio stations at the time. Not being completely familiar with the context, I’m sure I’m missing something here, but it’s still interesting (if occasionally odd) listening.

Best described as what the future used to sound like, this album will appeal to fans who are already familiar Rating: 3 out of 4with some of the Radiophonic Workshop’s more well-known work and are curious about what they were doing when they weren’t doing Doctor Who. Fans of analog synthesizers and early electronic music will probably enjoy it too. Folks more accustomed to mainstream fare, however, may find that this album is far too disjointed a collection of sounds that are far too strange for their ear.

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  1. Radio Sheffield (0:51)
  2. Radio Nottingham (1:21)
  3. Boys And Girls (1:02)
  4. Mattachin (1:15)
  5. Pot Au Feu (3:21)
  6. Time And Tune (0:25)
  7. Tomorrow World (1:10)
  8. Reading Your Letters (0:14)
  9. Blue Veils And Golden Sands (3:33)
  10. The Missing Jewel (1:03)
  11. Artbeat (0:40)
  12. Fresh Start (0:27)
  13. Christmas Commercial (0:48)
  14. Sea Sports (0:50)
  15. The Delian Mode (5:38)
  16. Happy Birthday (0:36)
  17. The Frogs Wooing (0:40)
  18. Milky Way (1:44)
  19. Structures (3:02)
  20. New Worlds (0:46)
  21. Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO (1:50)
  22. Festival Time (0:30)
  23. The Chase (1:45)
  24. Towards Tomorrow (1:11)
  25. Quiz Time (0:59)
  26. P.I.G.S. (0:52)
  27. Autumn And Winter (2:03)
  28. Door To Door (0:30)
  29. Factors (0:38)
  30. War Of The Worlds (4:55)
  31. Crossbeat (0:30)
  32. Air (1:43)
  33. Time To Go (0:24)

Released by: BBC Music
Release date: 2003 (originally released in 1968)
Total running time: 47:06