Saturday, February 20, 2010

Exercise and British Old-Time Radio

As someone who spends a lot of time sitting in front of a computer (I work from home, and most of my volunteer and other activities involve computer work), I've been very conscious recently that I'm not getting enough exercise. I recalled Stephen Fry on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (and elsewhere) talking about how he'd lost a lot of weight and become fitter by walking. Being someone who easily got bored by exercise, he had discovered that he could cover long distances without realizing it, simply by listening to audiobooks on his MP3 player while walking. This appealed to me, so I decided to do a similar thing. I would start walking in the vicinity of my daughter's school before picking her up, listening to my MP3 player on the way.

Being a cheapskate, I thought I would try to find some free audiobooks online. After asking around on Twitter and my Facebook page, someone suggested trying The Internet Archive. This site is a vast repository of texts, audio and video in the public domain, all free to download. I discovered a lot of audiobooks, but what caught my attention was that there were also many old-time radio shows. I downloaded some and I have been listening to them on my (mostly) daily walks.

Being a good son, I usually talk to my parents on the telephone every Sunday. During a recent call, I mentioned to my Father that I had been listening to these old-time radio shows. He started talking about some of the radio shows he remembered from his youth. On a whim, while we were talking, I did a search in The Internet Archive, and found a collection of episodes of radio shows from the 1940s. These were all shows that he had loved.

ITMA, one of the most popular of these shows, starred comedian Tommy Handley. ITMA was an acronym coined by the newspapers when reporting about Hitler's activities, and stood for "It's That Man Again." Other shows in this collection included Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh, Merry-Go-Round, The Will Hay Programme, Life With The Lyons, (which featured American couple Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels and their children), and Band Waggon, the first regular comedy series on British radio. There's an amazing array of famous comedians and actors who appeared in these shows; Tommy Handley, Arthur Askey, Kenneth Horne, Hattie Jacques, Jon Pertwee and Charlie Chester, to name a few.

Of course, there are many "in-jokes" and references to long-forgotten events that go over one's head. But a lot of this stuff is still really funny. Not only is it a great way to pass the time while exercising, but I shall also be making a CD compilation of these as a gift to bring back some memories for my Father.

I thoroughly recommend spending some time exploring The Internet Archive to rediscover an old favorite, or to find a new one! Let me know what you find, or share some memories by making a comment.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget stations like radio 7 which has plays all day. The Hitch Hikers Guide started off as a radio show too. Listening to test matches on the radio is experience from another age

Graham said...

I remember hearing The Hitchhiker's Guide on radio in the late 70s. I love radio plays!

Only problem is that I need shows I can download to my mp3 player, for my walks.