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Kettering, the fanzine of elderly british comedy

If It's Wednesday It Must Be...
By Peter Gordon

If ever there was a show that typified the phrase "They don't make them like that anymore," then surely it must be BBC Radio 4's If It's Wednesday It Must Be.... The show ran for three series in 1972-73 and was intended to be a children's version of Stan The Week, the grown-ups round table chat show which began Life in 1970 and runs to this day. broadcast during the school holidays, beginning with the summer break of 1972. it replaced the term time programmes for schools every Wednesday from 9.35-1O.15 in the morning. Each show would feature a series of guest stats alt hosted by the naughty-uncIe figure of one Kenneth Robinson. Alt the shows were produced by the man responsible for STW, Richard "Dickie" Gilbert (no relation to Jimmy Gilbert, the then-Head of BBC Television Light Entertainment).

The guests themselves were a strange mixture, Only two guests appeared in every show on the series run. One was Kenny Everett, Radio 1's enfant terrible disc jockey. Everett brought over many of his favourite routines from the Radio 4's hip cousin including the Musicians' Walk Out sketch and his nasal Eleanor Rigby singalong tong, as wet! as taking the opportunity to introduce the station's middle class listeners to the music of The Beach Boys. and, after one his sackings from Radio 1, letting loose a tirade against "those rat bags" in BBC management.

The other ever-present guest was former Bonzo Dog Band leader Vivian stanshall. Stanshall used his slot in a variety of ways. Sometimes he would tell a story weaved around a selection from his collection of old 78s, some of them embryonic versions of what would later become his Rawlinson End saga (which at one point he rechristens "Rawlbottom"), which he was also doing on 51W at around the same time. Other times Stanshall would just play some records and give theme-based chats (for instance feminism, mothers, loneliness) to the audience at home. Anyone interested in the early versions of his Rawlinson End stories, the fabulous, fantastical tales of a secluded pocket of English eccentricity and its strange cast of inhabitants. would do welt to visit the Rawlinson End web site at http://www. rawlinsonend org.uk which includes many transcripts in its Radio Flashes section. At the end of this article we've included an extract from one of his stories. Rawlinson End Part 11, along with Stanshall's slot on the post-Christmas show where he gabbles and meanders away in a most delightful fashion. Another show has him presenting his section from The Edinburgh Fringe Festival where he was doing his Men Opening Umbrella Ahead show, accompanied Bubs White and Casper Lawall, which is where the poem below originated.

Other contributors were a mixed bag indeed, including Scottish absurdist poet Ivor Cutler, columnist and later celebrity alcoholic Jeffrey Barnard (a strange choice for a children's show, but there you are), Benny Green (Cockney band leader and broadcaster). hippy DJ Anne Nightingale and satirist Mites Kingston. Also in the mix were Ron Geesin (a experimental Scottish composer, reasonably big at the time for of his colLaboration with Pink Floyd on the Atom Head Mother album, but very much an artist in his own right), and Lady June, a hippy poetess from the Canterbury scene and part of the Gong/ Soft Machine crowd. The Credibility Gap also appeared, an American satire-sketch group featurin9 a pre-Spinal-Tap-and-Simpsons Harry Shearer.

The show's host, Kenneth Robinson, deserves special mention Once an architect and concert pianist who was constantly getting sacked for playing practical jokes on his orchestras, Robinson had enjoyed a stint replacing Robert "No Relation" Robinson as the presenter of Points OF view on television in the mid-1960s and was making a name for himself as a broadcaster Kenneth was already appearing as a guest on STW, where his speciality was to act as grumpy. rude counterpoint to the presenter Richard Baker's diplomatic politeness. Although he did some other work, including narrating the children's animated series Shadoks (1973) arid a number of appearances on the radio panel game Just A Minute, STW was to be his main job until1986.

During his time on the show he gained a reputation for being especially nasty to any female guests. once reducing Angela Rippon to tears by enthusiastically criticising her book, annoying Esther Rantzen to the point where she could no longer speak and provoking Pamela Stephenson into throwing a jug of water over him on air. The end was in sight when in 1984. during a discussion about dating agencies for the disabled, Robinson quipped "You can hear the wheelchairs banging together all night in some parts of the country." provoking a tidal wave of complaints. when the end finally did come him two years later it cannot be said that he went with good grace. After Richard Baker bade him farewell on his final show, Robinson announced to the listening public "I'm not going. I'm not going. I've been given three days notice after fifteen years. It's a bloody disgrace." He died in March 1994 aged 68.

Here, then is a little selection of Viv Stanshall's contributions to the show:

Poem

Citadels of concrete,
Shell of the eternal electric citizen,
All ready your cold icon hearts are rusted and,
However Snowden-sculpted you seem
From the soft tap and touch of children's games
And laundry bundles shoulder hugged,
To me you are the stuff of shivering shelters stilt
And base foundations.
That's not enough, for folk's sake.
(note: this poem eventually featured among the lyrics on Stanshall's solo album Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead (1974))

Stories

Rawlinson End Part 11 - an extract

The story so far: Gwen and Maureen have become successful wrestlers and spend most of their time trying grips and practicing in mud or fast-setting jelly, their preference being for blackcurrant. Naturally this has somewhat inflamed Great Aunt Florrie, who lives on, remote and aloof as Miss Faversham [sic] at Rawlinson End. In her opinion, loosed from great Olympian height, the girl's choice of career has brought shame on the house of Rawlinson. Hearing of their magnificent win at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon, in a tag match against two shaven bears underwater, she tartly retorted, "So what? My beloved Ralph could play billiards on horseback when he was 18."

Had she but known it, her beloved Ralph was homeward bound and, in mid-Atlantic, was only a few hours from Southampton, and then some moments from Rawlinson End. The idea of seeing Roxanne again excited him. He wondered what, if anything, had changed. Certainly the years had taken their toll on him. A dozen years. and yet it seemed merely the day before yesterday when, clear-eyed, spruce and eager for the expedition, he'd left for Venezuela. Ralph, a well-fleshed six-footer, sported three pairs of legs. He stared moodily at the green-scaled iridescent flying fish. skipping and fluttering as though being spawned under the huge liner as it lunged nearer, through the waves, toward Rawlinson End.

A po-faced steward reminded him that second sitting for lunch was already well entrenched in the entrée. The man had the simian posture and mental stature of a pigmy. Ralph couldn't care less, but at that very moment, snug in London's Soho in Cathartic Lee's Khazi-Kebab And Puck House, his cousin, Peregrine Posonby-Rawlinson, was preparing to order. And Perry, as he liked to be called, knew just how.

[FX: sitar]

[Bertie Wooster-ish voice:] "I say, what say we start with a tandoori chicken numero uno, followed by a sag ghosht, just as a starter, then a 33 and 47, two Bombay duck and a soixante-neuf if I can get enough gin down you?" He smirked at the impressionable young porcelain person he was trying to impress.

"[strangled laugh:] Hnnhnnhnnn," she hnnhnnhnnnded and wondered vaguely what all this was going to cost her in terms of flesh.

"People have such funny ideas about taste. Nobody really makes their own minds up," said Peregrine, knowledgeably. "I mean, stand up the chap or chappess who hasn't got an Aubery Beardsley or Arthur Rakham or 200 Motels - even though it's a load of rubbish including the poster - stuck on their walls."

Porcelain young thing remained respectfully silent.

Peregrine knew a lot about art. and especially the Impressionists: Gaugin, Van Gough. Toulouse Lautrec, Mike Yarwood, Pissaro the Irishman, Mani and Moni the Jewish boys. And Perry grinned and began to stroke the dusk-gray maroon flock mock-William Morris wallpaper suggestively.

"With my looks." he murmured, "you don't expect intelligence too do you. what?" He felt Very Important.

Very Important was sitting at the adjoining table and he didn't want to be felt at all, although he had considered rubber as a student.

"Look here," he gruffed. "Have you any idea how important I am? I'm incredibly important, and I'm getting more and more all the time. And bigger, much bigger." He indicated some spots of greenish effluvia spattered over his thighs and gargantuan-style loom stomach.

"I dare say a spot of the jolly old penicillin and a lie down in a darkened room would clear that up," murmured Peregrine, cooling to the subject.

"Penicillin be damned, it's Peace you toad," said V.I.P.
(note: parts of this story eventually appeared in the book of Sir Henry At Rawlinson End)

A Chat About Christmas

I was going to do something along the lines of "The Spirit Of Christmas Past", but in my case I think "The Spirit Of Christmas Past - er, what was that?, er, sorry yeah -" would be more appropriate... I managed to type that 'appropriate' with three p's. Tuh, it's all go today. What the Dickens am I talking about? I think I'll eat some brazils to calm myself down. 183 calories per ounce, weight watchers [talking while chewing nuts:] Now all I need is a base song or a podge poem or a fat... Fats Waller. Er, no, can't find him. Hmm, these nuts make jolly good radio, don't they? Must research loud food. A loud food party: stuff that you couldn't help making a row with. You invite the most genteel of chums. You can imagine celery crisps, crackling, poppadoms... Poppa Born, wasn't he the voodoo dictator of Haiti? Or was it Papiti? No, Papiti is the capital city of Haiti, as well you should know, where Gangrene. the famous French artist, made pornografitti all over the walls of Papiti and officials with whistles and brushes with bristle had to scrub all the places which Gangrene defaced and they were in their faces in unmentionable places, but later found that the stuff they washed down was worth a small fortune or more.

[MUSIC: Shirley Temple - Come And Get Your Happiness]

Little Miss Wonderful Shirley Temple, and that brings me to parrots. I got an Amazonian green one for Christmas. He or she is as yet unnamed, but it's been called a few things when it manages to nip a finger. It seems to spend most of its time puffing up and threatening or just lazing around listening to records. Here's one I wrote and dedicated to my friend Rodney Rhino Slater. who used to play sax and horns in the old Dog band. Rod started keeping parrots about ten years ago. The main vocal is by yours smarmily, and parrotry - that's a real word, you can look it up - by Mr. Stater.

[MUSIC: Bonzo Dog Band - Mr. Slater's Parrot]

Ere, that takes me back. I wonder... I remember those endless hours stuffed in the back of a transit and the wonderful hospitality of the hoteliers: "Breakfast at 7-30 or 8.30?" What? We didn't get in till four in the morning. "That's [mumbles:] errqerrwerqer tea and biscuits."

My Aunt and Uncle went out to Kenya when I was 10. Immediately I bought myself "Teach Yourself Swahili". and began collecting Africana. My room bristled with spears, bedazzled with beadwork and masks. Then one day I heard a Tommy Steele record, I think it was "Rock [With] The Cavemen" or "Butterfingers" or something. Anyway, the next thing I take all my beautiful carved ceremonial paddles, ostrich egg-shell bead-bags. bracelets, necklets, kabasas and knobkerries round to the local junk shop and swap the lot for the worst finger-biting guitar in the world. I must have been mental. I learnt Donna and [croons:] 'when you find your sweetheart..." Er, Arms, er, whatever that's called - it's four chords and a snifty one. From that I became a rock and roll star. None the less, the urge to explore the dark continent never left me.

[MUSIC: Groucho Marx - Hello, I Must Be Going. After a couple of false endings record with Groucho saying "Ha, fooled you that time, didn't I?"]

Nope, nobody fools Groucho. A genius, my hero. And it's good to play a record in its entirety for once.

But back to Africa, I'm hoping to nip off to Nigeria after the series, so here's some jolly Ghanaian high-life music from Oscar More At Furé. Oscar got his name from people shouting "Oscar, more, more," etc. This song is conveniently called "Ta Ta". So, till next week, cheerio.

[MUSIC: Oscar More - Ta Ta]

If It's Wednesday It Must be episode guide

Resident cast who appeared in every show (apart from the last one, see below):
Kenneth Robinson (host)
Kenny Everett
Vivian Stanshall

Guests:
Ivor Cutter [IC], Jeffrey Bernard [JB]. Ron Geesin [RG], The Credibility Gap [CG]. Lady June
Campbell-Cramer LJ] Benny Green [BG], Anne Nightingale [AN], Miles Kingston [MK]
Producer for all three series: Richard Gilbert.

Every programme was broadcast at 9.35-10.15 AM during the school holidays Summer 1972 to Spring 1973.
Appearances are noted here in square brackets as they were billed in Radio Times.

SERIES 1: 28-6-72 [IC RG BG]; 5-7-72 [IC CG]; 12-7-72 [IC CG] 19-7-72 [IC CC]; 26-7-72 [IC BG RG] 2-8-72 [IC JB]; 9-8-72 [IC BC CC]; 16-8-72 [IC 15]: 23-8-72 [IC RG CC]; 30-8-72 (IC JB BG] 6-9-72 [IC CG]; 13-9-72 [IC CG JB]

SERIES 2: 8-12-72 [LJ CG] 13-12-72 [RG AN]: 20-12-72 [LJ MK]: 27-12-72 [BG CC]; 3-1-73 [LJ CG]: 10-1-73 [RG]
Note: Everett made EVERETT ON EVERETT during this time (BBC Radio 4, 26-12-72 9.15-10.00 PM) also produced by Richard Gilbert. The show featured Everett only.

SERIES 3: 4-4-73 [RG IC]; 11-4-73 [RG LI IC]: 18-4-73 [RGJ; 25-4-73
[The final show was called IF IT'S WEDNESDAY IT MUST BE AMERICA, which Kenneth Robinson hosted from New York.
The show featured none of the other resident cast, and had guests The Credibility Gap and Monty Modyn]