I had a look through previous threads on this forum and couldnt see the answer to my question, may have been asked before though. Also had a google and couldnt find any satisfactory answers, so I thought I would open it up to you guys here
What I was wondering is thus!! What are the earliest surviving BBC radio programs? I seem to recall a radio play of a christmas carol from maybe the early 30s exists, but i couldnt find much info on it really.
So what are the earliest clips and complete programs from the BBCs early radio output? And also is any of it commercially available anywhere? Can anyone recommend a list perhaps?
Post by Charles Norton on Sept 2, 2009 10:26:41 GMT
There's a lot of news-based stuff that you can buy. BBC Audio brought out a series called 'Eyewitness'. These were six CDs containing little snippets from the BBC sound archive and the British Library sound archive. The CDs covered the period 1900-1959.
If you're interested in drama, then you could buy the BBC Audio CD release of 'Paul Temple Intervenes'. This is a crime drama from 1942.
In terms of what's in the archive - it's pretty sparse in the pre-war years and soon after. There's some Paul Temple from the late 30s. There's some Dick Barton episodes from the 40s and early fifties.
If a radio programme was picked up by the BBC Transcription Service and sold abroad, then the chances are much better that it may still survive. However, the BBC Transcription archives only really go back to the mid-fifties. Anything earlier than the mid-fifities, even if it was copied for Transcription, is probably lost.
The truth is, there isn't much that's commercially available, but keep your eye out. Things might change quite soon.
Thanks Charles, interesting info! I will have to track down a copy of the Eyewitness box set. Sounds like one for the shelf! The temple CD sounds interesting as well. Does anyone know what the earliest complete show recorded is out of interest? Or even the earliest existing sci fi or horror serials from the BBC?
Post by rmackenziefehr on Feb 11, 2023 0:36:13 GMT
This is really late, I admit, but out of a belief that it is better to add to an existing discussion than to engage in a superfluous thread:
The absolute earliest surviving broadcast (and one of the earliest to survive worldwide) appears to be an address by King George V to open the British Empire Exhibition on April 23, 1924.
As for entertainment programs, that answer gets a little complicated, depending on how the term is interpreted.
There are two extant examples from the 1920s of broadcasts from the United Kingdom aimed at an American audience surviving in recordings made in the United States- an experimental broadcast on March 14, 1925 as heard on WJZ-New York (and which, by all accounts, the British segments of the broadcast are more or less inaudible), and segments on a New Years' Day 1926 broadcast of The Victor Hour, also recorded off of WJZ-New York (my understanding is that the British section is also rough, though better than the 1925 recording).
(There is also early surviving shortwave material in the United States that is of non-entertainment programs- there are two such examples from 1930 originally recorded off-air by Columbia University professor W. Cabell Greet, include one of speeches made to open the Five Power Naval Conference on January 21and one by longtime Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler to the Cobden Club on May 7.)
In terms of entertainment broadcasts aimed at a domestic audience: The earliest that I am aware of are a set of segments from early 1931 of broadcasts by various dance bands, recorded off-the-air on Kingston Home Recorders discs. The earliest specific date I have seen is for January 29, 1931, for ten minutes of excerpts of Jack Payne and his BBC Dance Orchestra- however, I have not seen a complete list of dates for these recordings, so this is subject to change. After that, the next-earliest set I am aware of is one of home recordings made off-air in Scotland which have in recent years received some attention under the Greenbank Records name- the earliest of those recordings seems to be from March 5, 1932, of a performance of Ambrose and His Orchestra, but this is also subject to correction.
I make no claim that this list is complete- any further details shall be much appreciated.
The earliest example of a recording of a comedy show that I'm aware of is a 1939 broadcast of 'Band Waggon', starring Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch, from Series 3, aired 30th September 1939. This has been repeated on BBC 7, and exists online at Archive.org, though in fact it isn't actually an off-air broadcast recording.
EMI's records division appear to have sent an engineer and a mobile recording unit to the BBC studios, and recorded a transmission of 'Band Waggon' live on stage as it went out, in the presence of the studio audience, not off the air. It was recorded on disc for a commercial release as a 78 rpm record.
It's apparently the only complete recording of Band Waggon, and nearly qualifies as pre-war, as it was broadcast in the first month of 'the phoney war' in autumn 1939.
From 1940, an edition of the variety show 'Garrison Theatre', aired on 13 April 1940 and hosted by Jack Warner, exists. On 20th December 1944 they recorded one edition of the situation comedy 'The Will Hay Programme'.
There don't seem to be any other comedy recordings prior to 1945. But in April of that year, they recorded an early edition of 'Much Binding in the Marsh'. Also in April a variety show was recorded, 'Studio Stand Easy' with Charlie Chester. And in August they recorded an edition of 'HMS Waterlogged', a situation comedy with Jon Pertwee and Eric Barker.
In December 1945, they recorded a second broadcast of 'The Will Hay Programme'.
Those are the earliest surviving scripted light entertainment broadcasts I'm aware of.
There are various surviving drama recordings. I've heard various 'Paul Temple' recordings, a detective series, from the period 1938 to 1945 (including two 'orphan' episodes from the earliest serials in 1938, aired only on Midland Region). One complete serial survives from 1942.