Nostalgia is a funny thing. It can either be a longing for something from your own past or a longing for a past you never actually experienced. The latter is ever present in the world of design and architecture. Graphics, for example, is awash with remnants of design thinking that has gone before.
Above a delightful spoof 60's style paperback series by an enterprising young designer.
The internet has enabled designers to plunder the past world of graphics at a click, and the source material can be replicated, approximated and adapted to produce convincing facsimiles of that graphic heritage, mostly in the hands of young designers who were either far too young to recall the period or were not even born then.
Nostalgia can be triggered by a smell, texture, taste or piece of music and suddenly you are transported back decades. If I happen to get a whiff of coal, I am instantly propelled to the streets of Dagenham, where I lived in the 1950s. Coal merchants still made daily deliveries of their jet-black cargo to every household. The moment the familiar truck appeared in our street I would rush out, stand by it and breathe in the magnificent aroma of those loose lumps of natural coal.
Sellers, Milligan and Secombe in The Goon Show still running on BBC4 Extra
At night, by the glow of our brown Bakelite radio, I would tune the dial to the BBC Light Programme to hear The Goon Show or Journey into Space,which I was besotted with. I used to remember them fondly – I say used to because, in recent years, both programmeshave been resurrected on BBC Radio 4 Extra and its predecessor Radio 7. Having originally listened to them over 50 years ago, my own fond recollection has now been eroded due to the constant repeats, which have devalued their potency.
A bit of America comes to Britain in the 1950's with, Life with the Lyons
Paul Temple currently rerunning on BBC4 Extra
And it’s not only my particular favourites: there is a raft of 1950s and 60s programmes spewing out on BBC 4 Extra: The Navy Lark, Life with the Lyons, Paul Temple, Ray’s a Laugh, Round the Horne, Educating Archie and many, many more. If you have the radio on all night, like me, you can easily wake up in the early hours thinking you’ve been transported back to the 1950s.
As a teenager in the late 1950s, Sundays were without doubt the most boringly depressing day of the week: shops were closed and nothing seemed to happen. I would normally be drawing, and the smell of the many Sunday roasts on the go emanated from the surrounding houses. All the mums were tied to the kitchen and all the dads would be down the pub. The radio would splatter out an assortment of extremely dull programmes like Life with the Lions or Educating Archie,
Imagine a ventriloquist act on the radio, well, Educating Archie was just that
but the worst of these was the Billy Cotton Band Show, and what a horror it was for me. The humour was out of the ark, along with the appallingly bland music.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, there was a singer in the show called Alan Breeze, who looked like someone’s dad and not the teenage pop stars of the period. Embarrassingly, Breeze would sing the latest hits, be they by Cliff Richard, Elvis, Fats Domino, Little Richard or Buddy Holly. The latter collection of stars would rarely be played on the BBC at the time – for that, you had to tune into the crackly reception of the commercial station Radio Luxembourg. So, we had to put up with Breeze, and it was so depressingly awful for a teenager to have to endure his annihilation of the hits we liked so much.
This is a crystal set. Many of us had these back in the 1950s to tune into Radio Luxenbourg under the bed covers.
At the time, the BBC was awash with programmes like this, all aimed at a ‘family audience’ – teenagers didn’t exist to the corporation. The formula had remained virtually unchanged since the Second World War radio era. And the liberation for teenagers, pirate radio, was still a decade away.
The digital age has given us so much, but it has also devalued the distant and fond memories of radio programmes that seemed so special then but are never quite the same on rehearing. Nostalgia really is becoming a thing of the past.
To give you a flavour of my dreary Sundays back in the 1950's here is a sample of The Billy Cotton Band Show (This is a 1960 TV version, but the 50's radio version was exactly the same).
Click here to be depressed.
And here is a short film of a Radio Luxembourg broadcast, rather hilarious