Tiptoe through the Startups – 3 

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Roddy Buxton, (born 1975) continues his trawl through the Transdiffusion archives, looking at daily opening routines for ITV stations, from before he was born. What will a relative youngster make of these cultural icons of their time?

Southern Television – (1965)

One of the longer serving startup pieces, Richard Addinsell’s music ‘Southern Rhapsody’, was used from 1958 to 1981 – except, I am told, for a couple of weeks in 1964. It is one of the stalwart musical commissions of network history.

This daily routine was to be the first to include actuality film of local landmarks in the region it served – the South and South-East of England. This was a novel promotional idea for station identity at the time.

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After brief scenes of Southampton Docks, The White Cliffs of Dover, the New Forest Ponies, hop farms in Kent, Winchester Cathedral, Brighton Pavilion, Corfe Castle, the South Downs and, incongruously, the ugly storage tanks of Fawley Oil Refinery, we cut to the ‘Southern’ star ident and accompanying slogan, “The station that serves the south” – a superfluous piece of information for a company called ‘Southern Television’ surely?

We are shown a station clock a digital mechanical readout, which was probably the first of its kind on Independent Television.

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What now seems a bit tame and touristy was presumably fairly trailblazing at the time. It’s fine actually. We have just become too sophisticated for our own good today and looking back the clock seems unremarkable. I should guess that in the sixties it was the pride of the station!

Independent Television Service for Wales & the West – (1968)

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This particular start up was shown twice or three times daily for only three months during a special interim service provided between the premature end of former contractor TWW in early March and the official opening of the new Harlech Television in late May of 1968.

Two pieces of music make up the daily soundtrack. Accompanying the familiar Picasso

tuning signal is ‘At Pepe’s Place’, a thriller style jazz piece by Syd Dale and after the official transmitter announcement comes a superb orchestral jazz-style working of Trevor Duncan’s ‘Bored With It’. This is heard over a unique and short-lived special ‘Independent Television Service’ slide.

No fancy visuals follow the two themes though. Just four consecutive and accruing lines in a white on black animated caption building a phrase one word at a time:

‘Independent’ ‘Television’ ‘Service’ and ‘Teledu Cymru’ consecutively replacing white on black rectangular bars and each appearing in time with an analogue synthesizer ‘bleep’ over a Sputnik like electronic percussion bed. It sounds like the space race personified and again would have been cutting edge radiophonics for the time. Ah, those sixties!

Rediffusion London – (1964)

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Possibly the best-known and most widely-remembered startup routine of the sixties, this Rediffusion London daily opening sequence imprinted the ‘Picasso’ tuning signal and its impressive music, thrice daily but on weekdays only, on the minds and memories of the young television watchers of the time in London and the South East. It was used for several years.

This stunning piece (‘Widespread World’ by John Dankworth) was probably the most successful special musical commission in the history of the ITV startup genre, and actually appeared as a daily ‘blip’ in the TAM television ratings of the day, as people tuned in early to catch it. It remains the only local ITV startup music ever to register significantly in this way. It is an amazing blend of tone-setting fanfare, military march and astonishingly, an unmistakeable undertow of jazz. There is no ‘rumpity pumpity’ tone to the march – it takes itself more seriously than that and the listener is drawn in to an almost automatic response of respect. It employs a full orchestra – with powerful strings, trumpet fanfares, notable trombones and dominating percussion. A marching band it isn’t.

On weekday London region ITV in the sixties, with only schools programmes during the daytime and with evening programmes not beginning until half past four in the afternoon, viewers could catch this music up to three times a day.

At the build-up to the last verse of the march the ‘Rediffusion’ name and star symbol dramatically appear in all their glory, the star spinning and with the speedy addition of the iconic word ‘LONDON’ beneath the company trade mark, the effect is mesmeric. It’s real spine-shivering stuff this, especially if you like cod ceremonial and can take Rediffusion’s obvious sense of ‘mission’ seriously. Above all it has self assurance: the London weekday contractor was the flagship franchise of the network. And boy did they know it.

For me this has to be my favourite Rediffusion opening, it’s big, it’s bold, it’s like an overture from a heavyweight West-End musical. This is a ‘naval review’ crossed with ‘Starlight Express’ crossed with ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’. No wonder legend had it that the lift boys at the Rediffusion building ‘Television House’ were required to salute the directors of the company. It all adds up.

Granada – (1970)

Colour had just arrived in the four major English ITV and BBC1 regions in November 1969. The advent of this new television era saw station presentation technique begin to explore the potential of logos in colour, clever processing tricks, new styles of graphic design and rainbow gimmicks.

This daily routine from Granada opens with the official transmitter listing announcement and brand new, three tone ‘flag style’ tuning signal which replaced the monochrome ‘Picasso card’ after a decade of service.

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The highlight of this start up is the ‘countdown to start’ clock, not a far cry from the legendary ITV schools clock. The Granada version consisted of a black circle with white dot which literally ‘shuffled’ round the circle, one position clockwise for every second in what was neither a jump nor slide but a sort of hop. In the centre of the screen was a large figure counting down each remaining whole minute to the official start.

The start was deemed to be not the first programme but the appearance of the Granada logo on the screen. This tells you all you need to know about the demands of ITV corporate identity and station branding in the seventies.

Eventually, at ‘zero’ the circle morphed down into a white spot, from which the Granada logo ‘hatched’ with the yellow ‘Granada’ name dropping in from the top of the screen.

At the end of the march, the “G” and arrow form briefly a stroboscopic image of radio waves radiating from the trade mark, ending with a morph into a ‘Good Afternoon’ caption.

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The animation work was accompanied by a specially commissioned piece of music by Sir William Walton, no less (an Oldham lad) – ‘Prelude for Granada’. This is real ‘Spitfires over England’ , ‘Orb and Sceptre’ stuff; quite remarkably royal and military sounding for a company of Granada’s leanings but if you can get William Walton to compose for you, well, you don’t say no. The piece was supposedly commissioned from Walton by Sidney Bernstein himself.

Tyne Tees Television – (1959)

Opening with the primitive ‘Tuning Signal 2′ predecessor to the Piccasso card this caption almost looks as if it was designed in the 1930s.

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The animated company symbol featured an anchor – inevitable symbol of Newcastle as a major port – turning into a letter ‘T’ with two smaller identical letters emerging from behind thelarger, with the name ‘Tyne Tees’ appearing along the top and ‘Channel 8′ at the bottom (Channel numbers in those days indicating transmitter channel numbers, rather than national networks).

The music ‘Three Rivers Fantasy’ (Tyne, Wear and Tees) by the late and relatively unknown Arthur Wilkinson, is a tour de force of North Eastern folk tunes, sea shanties and one-time street seller’s calls – it is one of the grand examples of what delights could be achieved by the then customary commissioning process for the composition of music in this genre.

That Arthur Wilkinson is not better known is one of the injustices of the British light orchestral music story.

The music was named for the originally planned title of the franchise “Three Rivers Television” – a name vetoed by the Independent Television Authority in 1959.

Next time, Roddy takes a final look at some of the startups collection and talks a little about the Archives as a whole.

      

Roddy Buxton

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