Sunday 24 June 2018

Archive Tape Digging: June 2018

I started the month with no new video tapes to look at and a slight sense of apathy seeping into my television archaeology exploits, but the month ended quite spectacularly. Not only have I now got an improved VHS player, I've also managed to uncover my oldest footage yet.

First things first, the new VHS player. I say VHS player, but it's actually an S-VHS player which means I can now dig through S-VHS tapes. S-VHS didn't launch in the UK until the late 1980s, so I'm not going to find anything ridiculously old on S-VHS tapes, but the picture quality is fantastic.

The actual player is a Panasonic NV-SV121 and comes complete with 3D Dolby Noise Reduction and Time Base Correction, so the picture quality is better than that of my Sanyo DVD/VHS combi. I now hook the Panasonic player up to the Sanyo and record to DVD before ripping.

As I said earlier, the number of VHS tapes to explore at the start of the month was zero, but I managed two pickups this month. The first collection came via a Facebook Marketplace ad  I had spied and contained around 120 VHS tapes. It sounds quite the haul, but the pictures clearly showed that around 80% of them were pre-recorded tapes.

However, I could see, in amongst the Only Fools and Horses and The Howling tapes, that there were also some fairly old blank tapes. There wasn't too much on them, but I found a couple of clips going back to 1984. Nothing amazing, but I've picked up worse batches before. Much worse.

Thankfully, almost all of my VHS dreams would be realised a couple of weeks later when I headed to Luton to pick up close to 200 tapes. Now, before we go any further, I need to explain that I've had a bit of an obsession with finding material recorded before I was born. My birthday, if you're thinking about getting me a card, is in September 1982 and VHS footage from before 1984 is pretty tough to track down.

The oldest I had previously found was some BBC News dating from December 1982, but anything older seemed to be out of reach. These tapes, nestling in Luton, however, went all the way back to 1980. I hadn't even been conceived by that point.

Anyway, you're probably not interested in anything relating to my conception, so I'll stop waffling and show you what I've dug up this month:

09/12/1980 - BBC1 - Nationwide John Lennon Tribute (Clips)

First up are selected clips from Nationwide's tribute to John Lennon which aired on BBC1 the evening after his death in December 1980. It's exciting enough to find such old footage, but the most striking aspect of the piece is that it features a relatively young looking Hugh Scully compared to the silver fox of more recent memory. Unfortunately, due to Apple's stringent copyright demands, I can't place all the footage I have up on YouTube, but these are the most interesting clips.

02/01/1981 - BBC2 - Girl in a Glider

Someone recently commented on my YouTube channel that my videos of television from yesteryear are like a form of therapy and I think Girl in a Glider is proof of this. A genteel documentary featuring the exploits of 16 year old Judith Mountford as she prepares for her first solo glider flight, it features the beautiful landscapes of the North Yorkshire moors and the most dreamy soundtrack imaginable. The perfect antidote to the stresses of the modern world.

16/02/1981 - BBC2 - Did You See? (Partial)

Found at the end of a tape containing the first five episodes of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this clip comes from an episode of BBC2's television review show Did You See? Ludovic Kennedy, as ever, hosts the event and discusses Douglas Adams' classic with Patrick Moore, Alan Plater and Julie Welch. I suppose the modern day equivalent of Did You See? would be Gogglebox and I think the fact that we've fallen so far may be a modern tragedy.

16/10/1981 BBC2 Continuity

Here's a snippet of BBC2 continuity for the continuity fans out there. And not only does this contain a slide for Starsky and Hutch, but there's also a trailer for the new series of Russell Harty. For some reason, Harty isn't sat in his studio and, rather inexplicably, is sat in front of a tent on a green.

15/02/1982 - BBC2 - Riverside

A few weeks ago, I was bemoaning the availability of any episodes of Riverside and, lawks a lordy, I only ended up with a few complete episodes after picking up my latest batch of VHS tapes. Riverside, if you haven't seen it, is a fantastic programme looking at the cultural trends of the day. This particular episode - hosted by Mike Andrews, Nicky Picasso and Steve Blacknell - is packed full of retro brilliance such as a trip to a Leicester pub which has recently installed a new fangled video jukebox.

15/02/1982 - BBC2 - Not the Nine O'Clock News

Not the Nine O'Clock News was a sketch show blessed with an exceptionally talented cast and equally amazing writing. Repeats have been far and few between whilst commercial releases have been limited to a couple of compilations. Quite why the series has never had a full release is a matter of debate. Some point to the topical nature of the material and the royalties/rights attached to the myriad contributors, but you could say the same about Spitting Image and that's received a complete release on DVD. Anyway, here's a complete episode from the final series and it's absolutely brilliant.

03/05/1982 - BBC1 - Multi-Coloured Music Show 1982

A compilation of the best music videos/performances from the last series of Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, this edition of Multi-Coloured Music Show features Noel Edmonds in a hilariously bad jumper providing links between the videos. Copyright restrictions, again, mean that it's difficult to put everything up, but I've included the majority of Edmonds' links and the opening titles.

Jan 1985 - Sky Channel - The Sky-Fi Music Show (Tony Blackburn)

Now this is a very exciting find. Back in the 1980s, various cable TV packages sprang up in several cities around the UK which offered new channels to subscribers. And one of these was the Sky Channel. The majority of the programming on offer was American imports, but there were a few offerings of original, homegrown programming and The Sky-Fi Music Show was one of them.

Essentially just a music video show, the episodes had continuity provided by a number of presenters such as Tony Blackburn, Pat Sharp and even Holly Johnson. And here are several of the links provided by Tony Blackburn way back in January 1985. What's most interesting about this footage is that the master tapes are long lost, almost everything from the early days of the Sky Channel is missing. Thankfully, due to home recordings, we can piece together what those early days of multi-channel TV were like.

BBC1 - 1987 - Sportsnight (Partial)

I'm always happy to find anything that features football from the 1980s and, tagged on at the end of a tape, I managed to find an early 1987 football feature from Sportsnight. It takes a look at the inaugural play off promotions taking place for the first time at the end of the 1986/87 season. Graham Kelly, Barry Fry and Peter Swales all feature and provide an insight into the changes taking place in the football league.

More Finds to Come?

So, it's been a bumper month and, the good news is, there is still loads to come. I've barely scratched the surface of those 200 tapes I picked up and I'll be busy with them for the next six months. I am, of course, always open to receiving new tapes (in particular, S-VHS tapes), so if you have anything that's particularly old then get in touch.

Having achieved my previous objective of finding material recorded before I was born, my new aim is to find some 1970s footage on VHS. This is going to prove incredibly difficult as VHS was only available from 1978 onwards and tapes from that era have either been recorded over countless times or chucked out. However, there must be some lurking up in attics or at the backs of cupboards, so who knows?


  1. Ooh some great finds here! I'll be sure to check out Girl in a Glider and the full ep od NTNOCN!

  2. Patrick Moore has already reached his conclusion about Hitchhikers, and isn't prepared to consider it further, instead just repeating what he's already said throughout the discussion. The other two thirds of that Did You See? would be particularly enticing to see (for me, anyway!) with Moore, Plater and Welch also reviewing Alan Clarke's Beloved Enemy and City!, Granada's remarkably candid documentary about Manchester City.

    It's interesting both to be able to see The Diagram Brothers and to hear them play something other than (John Peel favourite) 'Bricks' ( ). I'm very taken with their postpunk literalist anti-pop songwriting, although every song tended to be written to the same template.

  3. Watched Girl in a Glider today and I have to agree with you; a wonderfully soothing half hour of television. I miss documentaries like this, I really do. Has anyone else tried to track down Judith since? In the closing moments the narrator relates that she hopes to study medicine and there is a Dr Judith Mountford practicing in Derbyshire it seems - I wonder if this is her? I wonder if she still has her passion for the skies?

    1. Yes, that is the same Judith, there's a photo of her on the practice website and it's certainly the same person. No direct contact details for her unfortunately. And I don't really want to bother someone at their work address, especially a doctor. Hopefully, she'll Google about it on a whim one day and find it.

      And, if you like relaxing TV, then you wait for the episode of 'Flower of the Month' from 1985 that I've dug up. It will soothe the soul of even the most stressed individual!

  4. Oh God yeah you don't want to go bothering her, just wondering if anyone else who was transfixed by that little doc did a google search almost immediately after! Ooh I'll keep my eyes out for Flower of the Month then!

  5. Would you be able to re-upload the 'Did You See' segment w/o the 'Hitchhiker's clips (which must be why the Beeb has had it pulled).

    Also, what is your beef with 'Gogglebox'? Admittedly, I haven't watched it for a couple of years, but I found it rather charming and uplifting, in the main.

    1. Ah, yes, I keep meaning to re-edit that clip. Oddly it took them a few weeks to take it down. Maybe it was a manual search which showed it up as breaching copyright. Usually they get pulled instantly due to databases and algorithms etc.

      Googlebox? I found nothing of value in it and mostly irritating. You can't please everyone!

    2. I guess not! I didn’t like everyone who was on it, but it still struck me as a reasonably authentic social portrait of mid-2010s Britain. It was also a handy way of keeping up with current trends on TV without having to watch a whole episode of Eastenders or Downton Abbey or whatever.

      Was a bit irritating when they pretended to be shocked by something on the news despite clearing watching it a couple of days after the event, and it’d be fair to say that the intellectual level of the show is a whole ladder below something like ‘Did You See’ - whose nearest current equivalent is surely ‘Newsnight Review’, if that’s still going - but there where some surprising delves into more esoteric territory, and several tear jerking moments. I don’t think I’d have heard about the Cambodian TV show that reunites families torn apart by the Khmer Rouge without ‘Gogglebox’.

      I think the concept was worn out when they watched the show win a BAFTA though. Never quite the same once they’d acknowleged their own celebrity. It’s since been superseded by ‘Taskmaster’ on Dave as my favourite modern show.

  6. Was that Grange Hill/London's Burning actor John Alford in that Not The Nine O'Clock News song about the train driver?

    1. Yes, it's a very young John Alford - well spotted!