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When music can whisk you back in time

PUBLISHED: 16:47 17 November 2017

Born too soon: these Great Yarmouth Grammar School boys, lining the entrance to their new wing in 1937, were adults by the time youngsters were enthralled by the post-war radio serial Dick Brton - Special Agent. The Mayor, Harry Greenacre (wearing chain), who was also a school governor, formally opened the new wing.
Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

Born too soon: these Great Yarmouth Grammar School boys, lining the entrance to their new wing in 1937, were adults by the time youngsters were enthralled by the post-war radio serial Dick Brton - Special Agent. The Mayor, Harry Greenacre (wearing chain), who was also a school governor, formally opened the new wing. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

Archant

The power of music cannot be over-emphasised. Everybody has their favourite, and hearing it evokes memories of past occasions, family, friends, pleasures, places... Sometimes it transports us through the decades.

A children's fancy dress competition at the Marina. Band leader Neville Bishop is at the back, second from right. A children's fancy dress competition at the Marina. Band leader Neville Bishop is at the back, second from right.

Recently I was channel-surfing on the television in Peggotty’s Hut when I heard some exciting music which whisked me back to my schooldays post-war. I doubt if I had heard it in the intervening 70 years.

It was unmissable and compulsive listening for me and my chums, inspiring animated chatter on the Corporation blue bus to school from Gorleston’s Green Ace Garage to Yarmouth about the 15-minute radio adventure serial it heralded five nights a week. And on the ride home we anticipated the forthcoming evening’s episode, discussing how our heroes might have succeeded in extricating themselves in the nick of time from another do-or-die precarious situation and lived to fight another day.

Dick Barton – Special Agent, thrilled lads (and possibly a few lasses) of my generation, our hero and his trusty side-kicks Jock and Snowy outwitting many a dastardly criminal mastermind in true stiff-upper lip British style, ingeniously extricating themselves from fiendish traps set by megalomaniacs planning world domination.

Often the villains were former high-ranking Nazis who had evaded justice and were now criminal masterminds. Time and time again, our trio saved themselves and the nation with seconds to spare - before that music kicked in again.

Bathing beauties line up at the outdoor Marina, probably in the 1970s, for judging in the Miss British Isles competition. Vincent Hayes is the compere.
Picture: GNA PICTURES Bathing beauties line up at the outdoor Marina, probably in the 1970s, for judging in the Miss British Isles competition. Vincent Hayes is the compere. Picture: GNA PICTURES

That theme was The Devil’s Galop, by Charles Williams, a fast-moving piece capturing the urgency and excitement of the plots. The music – orchestrated exactly as it was in its wireless heyday – was on Talking Pictures, a channel new to me.

It seems to specialise in British black-and-white productions from wartime and the Fifties, like The Blue Lamp which we watched last week - the film whose murdered London “bobby” hero (played by Jack Warner) was resurrected for the BBC Saturday night television’s long-running Dixon of Dock Green..

And yes, the film I saw on TV featured Dick Barton! The radio trio were not the film threesome, but they’d still have given James Bond or Indiana Jones a run for their money!

Post-war radio entertained us with a wealth of programmes probably still fondly recalled by us “oldies”. When Dick Barton and comrades took some well-earned leave, the gap was filled by The Daring Dexters, a circus trapeze act that never gripped me and my chums.

Even so, I still recall the night one of the aerialists attempted a new death-defying somersaulting record. Drums rolled as he swung higher and faster (conveyed to listeners by his team’s awed hushed commentary). The circus-goers fell silent, apart from massed intakes of breath, as the performer left one trapeze and strained to clutch the other.

There was a horrified gasp when it looked like “mission impossible” and a fatal plunge to the circus ring was inevitable...then a burst of relieved applause when, of course, he safely grasped the other trapeze.

I doubt that Dick Barton’s theme music was ever in the repertoire of Neville Bishop and his Wolves, the hugely popular versatile band resident at our open-air Marina for years post-war, entertaining with a blend of big-band music, variety and knock-about fun - his seasons recalled in a recent column.

Subsequently I have read a 1988 Mercury nostalgia feature when a Scottish woman told readers about the variety of children’s shows Neville staged in high summer 1947, 70 years ago when she was on holiday here. She wrote: “It was great fun with the talent shows, competitions, fancy dress, singing and general fun.

“What a laugh to follow Neville Bishop and his band, with Neville leading everyone with a conductor’s stick to the tune MacNamara’s Band. We used to go out of the Marina, across the Marine Parade to Barron’s Amusements and through there, then back over the road to the Marina to the few people left inside.

“The scene was electric, and everyone loved it.”

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