Saturday, April 26, 2008


As the Supervising Editor of Fate Fades Down the Trumpet Knob of Destiny…

The sad deaths have been reported of two rather marvellous octogenarians who’ve often brought joy to my ears (though not in the way Samantha might).

Tristram Cary

Tristram Cary was a ground-breaking composer, scoring films such as The Ladykillers and Quatermass and the Pit and pioneering electronic music. In Doctor Who’s early days, his inspired contributions ranged from comedy ballads to the eerie musique concrète which accompanied the first appearance of the Daleks (appropriately, repeated a couple of weeks ago in commemoration of Verity Lambert).

Humphrey Lyttelton

And now Richard has just woken me in need of a cuddle at news of Humphrey Lyttelton, patron saint of young people who are a bit clever and want to mystify people with the rules of a strange game they’re apparently playing while simultaneously indulging in terrible double entendres. Well, that’s one of the reasons I loved him when I was at college, anyway. That, and the letter sometime in the ’80s – before I understood what most of the innuendos meant – from an irate listener to the Radio Times about how these shocking old lechers mistreated ‘score-girl’ Samantha. I understood what the problem was there, anyway. And just last year I was at Tenth Planet while gravel-voiced Paul Darrow – of the once and future Blake’s 7, confirmed to me on Thursday by Zen – was warming up for a signing by reciting some of the filthiest Lionel Blair jokes imaginable from Humph the previous week. As shocked parents steered their children away from him, I cackled and realised that, tragically, my days of not understanding them are long gone. Now, tragically, there won’t be any more.

My parents playing Humph’s jazz programme on a Sunday never really caught on with me, but I haven’t a clue about any memory before his antidote to panel games. I’m sorry. I’ll miss him, as will any other listener to Radio 4. And I hope someone from the Office of Government Commerce is there to comfort Samantha.

And Now the Radiophonic Workshop and Dick Mills on TV

Onto a happier note for fans of strange noises. If you’re not taking a Saturday lie-in and want cheering up, by the way, turn on BBC Breakfast News in a few hours and you’ll see young whipper-snapper seventy-something Dick Mills – whose first contributions to Doctor Who sound were alongside and even before those of Tristram Cary, and who is still going strong – explaining how to make peculiar sounds and marking fifty years since the foundation of the BBC’s legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop. I met him just a couple of weeks ago, and a nicer chap you couldn’t hope for, inspiring to hear talk about the Workshop (complete with PowerPoint presentation) and lovely to chat to. I spent most of yesterday curled inside a duvet on the sofa coughing in pleasure at Genesis of the Daleks, many of Dick’s evocative special sounds for which I’ve known by heart for three decades. And, in memory of Humph, when I was next to Dick sorting out a few shiny silver discs for him to autograph the other week, a friend whose name coincidentally is Robert Dick asked if I’d seen everyone I wanted. “Not yet,” I piped up, distracted and rather too loudly, “I’ve just got to grab Dick.”

Now back to bed, and my distraught beloved.

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