The television that we had in our home when I was growing up in the sixties was a black and white receiver called a Peto Scott. (Receiver T.V. 1273). All of my friends parents seemed to have TV’s with well established household names like Grundig or Philips and many, as I recall, seemed to be rented from a company called Radio Rentals. For some reason my parents, particularly my Dad, frowned on commercial TV: the good old BBC being the preferred choice for ‘quality, education and stimulation’. I think it was more to do with the fact that he hated his programmes being interrupted by advertisements: oops, sorry, commercials. Choice of viewing was very limited. Until 1967 with the introduction of BBC 2 there had only been two choices: ITV or the BBC: that was it. In those days we had to physically change the channel on the television itself. Remote control was a thing of science fiction and, even if it had been available my Father would probably have said that it had been designed for use by the lazy. Once the television had been switched on we all had to wait as the huge valves inside slowly heated up, burning dust as they did so emitting a distinctive ‘telly now switched on smell!’ The black and white picture would suddenly appear, as if by magic although, often due to what we all called atmospherics, the vertical and horizontal hold might require adjustment before we could settle down for an evenings viewing. I seem to remember that the broadcast output would end every night at around 11 o’clock just after the playing of the National anthem. The screen would go to black save only a small white dot in the centre. If one were to watch the dot for long enough a hideous continuous high pitched tone would sound, reminding one to switch off the set. In those days children’s viewing was strictly limited with every programme proposed vetted by ones parents. However, there was one programme that nothing on this earth would have stopped me watching. Even if it meant going to a friends house so to do. Every Thursday evening at 7.30 it was Top of the Pops night. Since it’s first broadcast in 1964 I had been riveted to that programme. All of the pop stars and groups would appear in ones living room singing their latest two or three minute hit single. The Beatles or the Stones would be introduced by DJ’s made famous in their own right from the pirate radio stations or from BBC radio’s light programme. (Radio 1 didn’t come along until 1967). My friends and I would imagine what it must be like to be that famous, so much so that your talent would warrant an appearance on Top Of the Pops.
Amazingly, in 2005 at the invitation of the BBC, I made my one and only appearance on the show alongside Fearne Cotton and Girls Aloud. It’s a funny old world and I’ve still not fully understood how ‘atmospherics’ can affect ones viewing pleasure. What are atmospherics? I think it’s got something to do with the weather.