It is sometimes said that people
were happier in the fifties than today. I wonder if this could be
partly due to having more music in our lives.
In earlier times, the
BBC's Home, Light and Third programmes, used
to broadcast music of all kinds during the day and evening.
There were big bands, dance orchestras,
accordion bands, Hawaiian serenaders, banjoliers, mandoliers, jazz
bands, octets, sextets, theatre organs, and so on. All had
their own individual sounds, and they were tuneful.
The popular classics could be heard
in lunch-time and evening symphony concerts, and most days would
include a military band concert. Whether working or
not, "Music While You Work" was our cue for coffee and tea
breaks. The evening might be rounded off by late night dance
music, perhaps by Lou Preager's band from the Hammersmith Palais.
Most of that music was "live" or
specially recorded on tape. There were strict
regulations governing the use of gramophone records, or "needle
time" as it was called.
Our everyday lives could be helped
along by music on the radio. Does anyone remember Fred
Hartley's theme song: "Life is Nothing Without Music"? How
true it could be today.
It was in the mid sixties when
things went wrong. The BBC tried to replace the pop pirates
by Radio One, with Radio Two converging with it, after starting as
a poor substitute for the Light Programme. As commercial radio
became legalised, hundreds of pop stations sprang up all over
Britain. Music as we knew it had become almost completely
ousted by pop.
The trend is understandable.
Commercial stations make their money from advertising. Young
people have the money to respond to it, and young people like pop
music. That is straight logic, and we don't want to deny the
young their pleasure, but is it fair to deny the middle aged and
elderly their choice of music? Would it not be better for the BBC
to satisfy these groups instead of competing with the pop stations?
And I don't mean
with just a few scratchy old 78's and "golden oldies". I
find it hard to believe that new tuneful music is no longer
written, but if all its writers get the same reply from publishers: "We
are interested only in the current pop scene", what hope is
there? Where the established music industry has failed,
does new technology provide a solution with self
publishing and the internet?
The fact remains. The older
generation deserve the real experience of their kind
of music, and not just memories of it. A worrying thought
perhaps is that, as time goes by, there will be fewer people to
remember what we have lost.