Late Night Line-Up: “Isn’t It Hot?”, Said Florence

Julie Christie as Liz in Billy Liar (1963).

Although you wouldn’t really be able to work it out from the title – yes, that was probably something that needed a little more thought – Late Night Line-Up: “Isn’t It Hot?”, Said Florence is an hour of me playing and talking about lesser heard pop music, movie soundtracks and comedy records from the sixties. This was originally essentially a tryout for an online radio show called Late Night Line-Up after BBC2’s sixties arts show of the same name, that ultimately didn’t happen due to scheduling conflicts but it would have involved me taking a similar approach on a different overall theme each week, using an episode title from a sixties television as a thematic starting point.

This initial one used a title from an early episode of The Magic Roundabout but through a process of free association ended up going off on a similar tangent to Late Night Line-Up itself, concentrating on the sort of arty, European and or controversial topical concerns that might well have found themselves profiled by Joan Bakewell and Tony Bilbow long after most sensible people had gone to bed, with Liz from Billy Liar used as the show image on account of the fact that the theme from the movie is featured in it and not because I have been self-defeatingly obsessed with her as a misleadingly unattainable romantic ideal since childhood and anyone who claims otherwise is lying. I also decided for artistic reasons to record the show at two in the morning for added ambient effect, which ended up basically just making me sound like I was struggling to stay awake. In case you were wondering, subsequent shows would have included Planet Of Decision, named after an early episode of Doctor Who and opening with the Tardis take-off effect followed by William Chalker’s Time Machine by The Lemon Tree and the Fireball XL5 incidental track Formula 5; The Monkees-riffing The Devil And Peter Tork showcasing the sounds of Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Association, SMiLE-era Beach Boys and vaguely psychedelic close harmony company; The BBC Entry For The Zinc Stoat Of Budapest – which an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus claimed to be one week – which would have taken a decade-closing trip through the assorted works of Soft Machine, King Crimson and the Mary, Mungo And Midge theme; and Miss Lovelace And The Mayor’s Hat, which I hadn’t figured out what to do with yet but let’s face it, there had to be a Trumpton episode title in there somewhere.

Anyway, rather than it sitting on the shelf like the Mainly For Men pilot here’s the full show, which is hopefully a lot more musically interesting than I may have made it sound there, and I hope you enjoy it and that it introduces you to some new sounds. If you do enjoy it, incidentally, you can always buy me a coffee here. Now, where’s the big hand pointing…?

Roger Fiske – Play School Clock Music (BBC2 1964)

The naggingly insistent tick-tocking clarinet refrain from the BBC’s long-running pre-school programme Play School that had generations of younger viewers jumping up and down with excitement about what makeshift prop for Fred Harris, Jemima and Humpty to improvise a story around might be under the clock, and generations of now slightly older younger viewers silently cursing the fact that they could not get the tune out of their head during physics exams. As an interesting side note, I had to take this from the late eighties BBC Video Play School Replay VHS compilation as the full version of the clock music never actually appeared on any of the Play School albums. Well, part of it did show up interspersed with vocal interjections on Play School – The Tale Of A Donkey’s Tail, but you can find more about what did and didn’t appear on what Play School album in Top Of The Box Vol. 2, the story behind every album released by BBC Records And Tapes, here. Meanwhile, if you want to find out what seasonal shenanigans Play School got up to on Christmas Eve in 1970, festively decked out clock and all, then you might want to have a look at Christmas With Children’s BBC: Play School, Christmas Eve 1970 here.

The Tony Hatch Sound – Man Alive (Pye, 1965)

The breezily jazzy harmonica-led Pet Sounds-alike theme music from BBC2’s ‘real world stories’ documentary strand crammed with pedestrians being vox popped about their thoughts on the ‘permissive society’ on that excessively grainy and washed-out ‘Weird London’ film stock. One of the most controversial programmes ever in its time, and the carefree theme music has a suitably ‘well, you can’t stop us, can you?’ vibe to match.

Mr. Acker Bilk – Billy Liar (Columbia, 1964)

Richard Rodney Bennett’s original score from 1963’s cinematic masterwork about a woman failing to convince a man to run away to London with her has frustratingly never been issued anywhere in any form, so instead here’s a fairly close approximation by the bowler-hatted clarinettist, as originally featured on his bizarrely named album Great Themes From Great Foreign Films. Not quite the note-perfect accompaniment to Liz pulling faces at shop window displays but it’ll do. Incidentally you can find some chat about how great Billy Liar the movie is here, how great Bllly Liar the sitcom isn’t here, and the bizarre story of how Acker Bilk was originally responsible for the baffling raga-tinged theme music from highbrow BBC quiz show Ask The Family here.

Robert Mellin And Gian-Piero Reverberi – Catching Dinner (Philips, 1965)

Franco-London Films’ atmospherically minimalist eighteen million episode retelling of The Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe made the first of eighteen million appearances in the BBC children’s schedules late in 1965 – alongside a certain other redubbed French import we’ll be hearing more about shortly – and arrived complete with an entirely new soundtrack due to rights reasons, courtesy of the composer that Collins And Maconie’s Hit Parade knew as ‘Sergio Bongadini’. Only the legendarily haunting main title theme and the incidental track Adrift found their way onto a much sought-after single at the time; many years later, Mark Ayres and Silva Screen rescued and reassembled the original tapes into an absolutely outstanding ‘Beat Boom’-meets big screen dramatics soundtrack album. You’ll never guess what scene this one accompanied.

The John Barry Seven And Orchestra – Fancy Dance (Ember, 1963)

Originally the b-side of the modishly if daringly named for the time Kinky, this moodily jazzy 6/8 waltz would later find itself becoming better known as the theme from The Newcomers, the BBC’s Mary Whitehouse patience-testing mid-sixties modern estate meets rural community soap opera that tackled all the major issues of the day from adoption scandals to computer dating scams in a disarmingly low-key fashion. If that that sounds like your kind of hip swinging with-it ‘bag’, you can find an in-depth look at an episode of The Newcomers here.

Peter Cook And Dudley Moore – The L.S. Bumble Bee (Decca, 1966)

There’s a case for arguing that Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were the first ever ‘rock and roll’ comedians, given that they both understood and appreciated pop music at the same time as mercilessly honing in on the inherent absurdity of it, and this salute to the psychedelic visionaries preaching hallucinogenic claptrap – taken from the 1966 Not Only… But Also… Christmas Special, which also featured John Lennon as a toilet attendant – is often mistaken with worrying vehemence for a Beatles outtake but was in fact the Dudley Moore Trio’s direct parody of The Beach Boys’ newly-released Pet Sounds. If you want to read more about my obsession with the even more parody-inviting abandoned Pet Sounds follow-up SMiLE, and how I was actually more interested in it before they finally slotted it all together, then you might want to have a look here.

The Kinks – Where Did My Spring Go? (Pye, 1969)

Sadly most of the fascinating-sounding comedy shows broadcast by BBC2 during its first decade are long gone – leaving behind only the odd clip, spin-off book or record and set of off-screen photos – and few of them sound more fascinating than Where Was Spring?, a two series sketch and satire hybrid in which Eleanor Bron and John Fortune took a wry look at romantic notions ancient and modern, interspersed with thematically appropriate songs by The Kinks and animations by Klaus Voormann. Not even all of The Kinks’ numbers from the show still survive, but thankfully we do have this bleakly witty offcut from the same sessions as The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, sung from the point of view of a woman lamenting her mental, physical and spiritual deterioration while trying to live as society expects her to rather than how she would personally prefer to. Not exactly Brown Eyed Girl, you might say. Incidentally The Beatles were almost certainly amongst Where Was Spring?’s regular audience, and you can find some further thoughts about their evident enthusiasm for BBC2’s now sadly archivally obliterated sixties output here.

The Ivor Cutler Trio – Cockadoodledon’t (Parlophone, 1967)

Very much a familiar face to early BBC2 viewers, the gleefully idiosyncratic poet and humourist Ivor Cutler actually enjoyed a brief moment of something approaching pop stardom in 1967, not only featuring in The Magical Mystery Tour reputedly at the enthusiastic behest of Ringo Starr, but also recording an album with George Martin backed up by his short-lived ‘trio’, which included this catchy singalong ode to the joys of flinging a shoe at people, wildfowl and, erm, sandwiches that are annoying you. Incidentally, there’s much more about Ivor Cutler’s lengthy career of radio-based drollery in Fun At One here and The Larks Ascending here.

Alan Klein – Age Of Corruption (Parlophone, 1965)

With anti-materialistic folk rock in the commercial ascendant, pop music’s forgotten original parodist turns his attention to the peace and love merchants flogging their wares on every last available inch of broadcast space, and in particular Barry McGuire’s cheerful and optimistic international chart-topper Eve Of Destruction, whose booming drums and thrashing guitars were emulated so closely that it led to a complaint about copyright infringement and the single was pulled from release. Not quite in keeping with the message of the original song, you might well think. Incidentally, Alan Klein also recorded an album full of razor sharp Beat Boom sendups called Well At Least It’s British, which languished in obscurity for decades until a certain Damon Albarn chanced upon a copy in a charity shop… but you can read more about that in Not On Your Telly here.

The Yardbirds – Ever Since The World Began (Columbia, 1966)

So heavily in thrall to the influential Chess label that they devoured their groundbreaking world music compilations every bit as eagerly as they did Sonny Boy Williamson’s latest live album recorded at a completely different venue to the audience, the riff-rocking trailblazers from London’s r’n’b circuit had started to ‘go weird’ even before psychedelia really existed, resulting in records like this sinister fusion of monastic chants and Mod-friendly mover about how money and evil all too often go hand in hand. Eric Clapton had of course left the band by this point, citing the fact that they had got too tuneful and interesting for his liking. There is no reason whatsoever for mentioning this here, obviously.

The Poets – I Am So Blue (Decca, 1965)

More misfits from the live club circuit, Glasgow’s The Poets were discovered by The Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham and set about scaring Metropolitan audiences with their Robert Burns-inspired stage getup and liking for experimenting with ‘found’ sounds, such as on this oddly tranquil lament for a lost love augmented by some echo-drenched clattering kitchen utensils.

Love – Signed D.C. (Elektra, 1966)

People after likes and retweets might well like to scoff that all sixties pop music was either misogynistic or demanding peace, but it would be interesting to find out how they would explain the disconcertingly spooked presence of Arthur Lee and his sarcastically-named band of mixed-race malcontents and their lyrical fixations on societal segregation, secret service racial profiling, Cold War wiretap paranoia, and on this occasion, a heroin addict bemoaning his life choices in the throes of an overdose. As you have probably gathered, there is a good deal more to say about Love and indeed a good deal more to read about them, for example in this feature about songs you discovered via compilation tapes here or the one on their extraordinary debut album in Can’t Help Thinking About Me here.

Françoise Hardy – Dame Souris Trotte (EMI Marconi, 1970)

French creative types had plenty to make pointed topical commentary about in the sixties, and enigmatic perpetual poser behind branches with a few remnants of rain on them Françoise Hardy was no exception. Here she takes Paul Verlaine’s 1899 symbolist poem Impression Fausse and gives it a lyrical tweak and children’s singalong record-esque arrangement as a sort of wry sideways look at whatever it was Georges Pompidou had got up to in his first weeks in office. Of course you would probably need to actually speak French in order to fully comprehend what all this was about, and if you did, you probably wouldn’t go around showing off about it via compilation tapes you’d made for someone you fancied or anything. Especially not here.

France Gall – Les Yeux Bleus (Philips, 1968)

Presentable girl next door type Eurovision hopeful turned lysergically-skewed Hendrix-jacketed Serge Gainsbourg collaborator with a beatnik jazz-tinged thinkpiece on how all of those pretty shy boys need an, ahem, hungry woman to whip them into sexually dynamic shape. France Gall and her astonishing 1968 album 1968 in particular was one of the main reasons why I originally fell in love with French sixties pop music, and you can read more about how I first discovered her records here.

Brigitte Bardot – Moi Je Joue (Philips, 1964)

Not that she really gets mentioned much often at all these days, but whenever Brigitte Bardot is discussed now it’s generally in reference to her supposed status as a ‘sex kitten’, which not only diminishes her diverse screen career but also entirely sidesteps her enormously successful musical side projects, which began with her strumming a guitar to herself in 1962’s hardly exactly sexy or kittenish Vie Privée and wound up with sitar-drenched tales of having interdimensional sex with aliens. In between there were plenty of coffee house-friendly acoustic frugs including this risqué ode to the joys of having it away, doubtless to the chagrin of whoever the French Mary Whitehouse was. Incidentally there’s more about her arresting – or not, as the case may be – duet with Serge Gainsbourg Bonnie Et Clyde here.

The London Jazz Four – Song For Hilary (Polydor, 1966)

The hugely significant role that mid-sixties London jazz scene played in the paisley-patterned expansion of the arts is invariably overlooked in the rush to debate who actually said Ringo isn’t even the best LSD-taker in The Beatles, which is somewhat ironic given that this notably influential lot were responsible for the first ever full album of serious reinterpretations of Fab Four faves. You can read more about Take A New Look At The Beatles itself here; this self-penned number originally appeared on the b-side of their single It Strikes A Chord, and can also be heard in Looks Unfamiliar with Hilary Machell here because, well, there aren’t really very many appropriate clips with the name ‘Hilary’ in them.

Cleo Laine And Johnny Dankworth – Dunsinane Blues (Fontana, 1964)

Speaking of influential fixtures on the mid-sixties jazz scene, Johnny and Cleo were right at the forefront of whatever the broadsheet arts sections’ equivalent of mind expansion was with their patronage of modern art, fondness for studio experimentation, willingness to bash out abstract movie soundtracks to order and liking for ambitious concept albums such as Shakespeare And All That Jazz, from which this swinging sonnet is taken. If you’re interested, there’s an in-depth look at the hidden highlights in Cleo and Johnny’s sixties discography here. If you aren’t, you could always post that niiiice GIF I suppose. Nobody has ever thought of that before.

The Tubby Hayes Quintet – Down In the Village (Fontana, 1963)

The mercurial multi-instrumentalist jazz bandleader was scarcely off screens in the sixties – including performing the Roy Castle-scuppering ‘voodoo’ music in the superlative horror anthology Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors, which you can hear much more about here – and this impressionistic sound portrait of a 1962 visit to New York, recorded live complete with standard issue ‘did someone fall over or something?’ contextless outburst of applause, may have even been the closest that some listeners back then had actually come to experiencing Birdland-adjacent nightlife. That said, it’s possible that the more I’m Waiting For The Man-aligned aspects of his visit may have been tactfully excised.

Jacques Bodoin Avec Margote – Le Manège Enchanté (Festival, 1964)

The French Florence and Mr. Rusty essentially explain the basic premise of The Magic Roundabout before the BBC got their Eric Thompson-reinterpreted hands on it in mildly existential terms to the tune of something that you might vaguely half recognise as a distant relation of the more familiar iteration of the theme music, only rearranged as something more suitable for Juliette Greco staring into the middle distance after being stood up and/or dumped in a café bar called Le Chat Avec La Carte De Bibliothèque or something. No, there isn’t an extended version where Paul, Basil and Rosalie also get a verse each. If you don’t who who they are, have a listen to Samira Ahmed and myself having a chat about Dougal’s Cook Book here.

Tim Buckley – Morning Glory (BBC2 1968)

Finally, from Late Night Line-Up itself, here’s everyone’s favourite Monkee-endorsed free-jazz folk-rock yodeller taking his 1967 minor hit musing on how those who preach the loudest about how much others should be doing for charity are the first to run away when they witness real poverty themselves and transforming it from a baroque pop torch song into an almost hymnal meditation that seems to transcend into devotional nirvana as the last thing seen on television that day fades away into the tranquility of, well, late night. A truly moving and powerful moment that I had much more to say about here. So, about that Planet Of Decision

Julie Christie as Liz in Billy Liar (1963).

Buy A Book!

You can find much more about all of the artists features in this and more Can’t Help Thinking About Me, a collection of columns and features with a personal twist. Can’t Help Thinking About Me is available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.

Alternately, if you’re just feeling generous, you can buy me a coffee here. That’s the sort of think you’re supposed to think of when you’re recording a radio show at two in the morning, really.

Further Reading

I’ve Heard Of Politics, But This Is Ridiculous is the story of how, a long time ago, I found a copy of the That Was The Week That Was book in a charity shop and it changed the way I thought about pretty much everything; you can find it here.

Further Listening

If you enjoyed this then you’ll definitely want to listen to me on the radio playing a load of lesser heard movie themes – and some old cinema ads – here.

© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.