Listen With TV 'Girl' (Test Card)

Bang On A Drum - Songs From Play School And Play Away

Between 1969 and 1973, BBC Records And Tapes released a couple of dozen LPs on their short-lived 'Roundabout' imprint. Specifically aimed towards younger listeners, and presumably named in honour of a certain animated show that would have been very much on their radar at the time, the Roundabout series of albums started out strange and got even stranger, with a short and unwarranted outburst of sensibility in the middle. Here, then, is a guide to what you might expect to find if you chance upon one of these decidedly odd records lurking at the back of the 'Soundtracks' section in one of the larger charity shops...

RBT1 Fun At The Zoo

BBC Records And Tapes - Fun At The Zoo

Leading naturalist Eric Simms invites us along on an All Back To Mine-style rifle through his personal collection of sound captures from zoos in That London. All immaculately recorded and sounding nice and nice and punchy in that mono field recording kind of a way, but it's debatable how much 'fun' this actually is for the young listeners, let alone the poor old elephants and tigers. You had to be there, I guess. Paul Simon's views on the album are not on record.

RBT2 Come To A Party

Perhaps indicating that they weren't quite ready to fork out for any actual actors or presenters to do the roundabouting duties just yet, BBC Radio producer Gordon Snell takes the frightfully well-spoken lead for a series of party games and songs, including quick Radiophonic Workshop-assisted rounds of Musical Bumps, Guess The Noise, O'Grady Says..., Polly Put The Kettle On, Oranges and Lemons, and, erm, 'Islands, Balloon and Parcel'. No, us neither. He also gets to read out one of his self-penned nonsense stories, 'How The Plonks Got Their Hair'. It's even weirder than you're thinking.

RBT3 Listen With Mother

Only three whole releases in, they've finally opted to put one out based on an actual recognisable children's programme, with the cast of long-running stories, songs and percussion radio hoedown Listen With Mother ushered into a recording booth to re-interpret some of their greatest hits for the listening masses. So basically the tambourine-thumped expected likes of Ring A Ring O' Roses, Little Bo Peep, This Is The Way The Ladies Ride and The Grand Old Duke Of York, alongside such slightly more esoteric fare as A Fishing Rod For Carlos, A Pig With A Wig, From The Cabbage Patch To Australia and, erm, Gay Go Up And Gay Go Down. Moving hastily on...

RBT4 Animal Magic

Still persisting with that off-putting generic front cover branding, but at least they've wheeled out a potentially interest-attracting big name this time around, in the form of veteran anthropomorphist and Public Enemy Number Fifty Three Million Johnny Morris, indulging in much the same sort of skidding-penguin-saying-"look-out-below-fellars!" antics as on the televisual version of Animal Magic, only this time without the televisuals. And what do you know, it works pretty much just as well. Plus, thankfully, he doesn't start warbling on about Gemini The Sealion here either.

RBT5 Jackanory

The BBC's kaleidoscope-fronted storytelling slot makes a hazardous book-TV-vinyl triple-jump with a quartet of readings of traditional folk tales - one each from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales - culled from the show itself, complete with that never-explained 'hallucinogenic tree' iconography on the back cover. One-woman vaudeville act and pre-war TV mainstay Maureen Potter, Dempsey And Makepeace-botherer Ray Smith, Jackanory Week One helmsman Lee Montague, and Magnus Magnusson - with nary a 'started so I'll finish' gag in sight - do the royalty-free reading out honours. Distinctly short on grooves.

RBT6 Party Time

Gordon Snell's back, and this time he's armed with tongue-twisters, games of I-Spy and, well, more or less exactly the same as before, basically. The only real difference being that the generic cover art has undergone a less-than-subtle overhaul that might lead more suspicious minds to question exactly what refreshments were on offer at said party. Tizer, Caramac and blackcurrant jelly, obviously.

RBT7 The Wizard Of Oz

The optical cause for concern may well continue, but here for the first time ever the cover-mounted roundabout gets ditched in favour of some of the Hilary-Hayton-meets-Jelly-Tots interpretations of the lead characters from Jackanory's celebrated 1970 reading of Frank L. Baum's film-inspiring fantasy novel, as narrated (and indeed re-narrated for this release) by Bernard Cribbins with bits and pieces of hamfisted sound effects and loungey keyboard music. Nobody has tried syncing this up with The Dark Side Of The Moon as far as anyone knows.

RBT8 Magic Roundabout

Eric Thompson, the theme music, and straight-ahead no-nonsense re-recordings of ten original nonsense-crammed stories complete with obscure characters, incessantly-volumed boings, and Dylan and Brian apparently trying to play Rainy Day Women #12 And 35. Do you need any more qualification? Oh you do? Right, well, maybe somebody's been going on about The Magic Roundabout quite a bit recently...

RBT9 Listen With Mother No.2

The cover art experiments continue and everything's gone a bit E Arth Welcome, suggesting that we're about to be treated to a downbeat spoken word version of There's A Hole In My Bucket over a looped bit of Etienne de Crecy. Sadly, though, it's just a bunch of typical Listen With Mother stories with names like Mrs. Moppingdust And The Lettuce Thief and The Six Thin Brothers, though you do have to wonder if Thom Yorke was listening in for The Unhappy Computer.

RBT10 Play School

As the back cover photos which make the presenters look like they've just spilled out of a 'psychedelic' nightclub in a late sixties British spy thriller suggest, you'll find a far more far-out calibre of stories on here, including bleepy retro sci-fi tone poem The Moon Rocket, freestyle-inviting break-heavy animals-go-prog jolliness Fearless Fred's Amazing Animal Band, and the Radiophonic Workshop-assisted tale of everyday existentialism amongst the Splodges. Sampled by more than one dance artist, despite being a spoken word record. Stitch that, Gordon Snell!

It seems that there never was an RBT11, so instead it's straight on to... 

RBT12 The Adventures Of Sir Prancelot 

John Ryan's oft-forgotten post-Mary, Mungo And Midge middle ages tomfoolery steps into stereo for this epic-length crusade to the Holy Land, which would make this one of the highlights of the catalogue if it wasn't for one major drawback - while the sleeve makes a big deal of the inclusion of the bonkers electric sitar-led Jester-mimed what's-that-got-to-do-with-medieval theme music, it's actually only in heavily edited form and in one speaker. Tell those moogs funks breaks merchants on eBay where they can moog funk break it.

RBT13 Camberwick Green

A straight reissue of 1966's Welcome To Camberwick Green, giving listeners another chance to enjoy Peter Hazel and Windy Miller wandering aimlessly about in a flimsy pretext to cram in crisp clean mono versions of pretty much all of the songs from the show, some of them in vocal AND instrumental versions to boot. It's OK, you can come back now. 'The Clown' isn't on the cover.

RBT14 Music Time

In its original black and white 'Pie Chart'-heralded incarnation, Music Time was a very different show, and leaned very much towards the the Corn Riggs Are Bonnie end of the musical scale. Here letter-e-deficient duo Mari Griffith and Ian Humpris take us through some stark acoustic renditions of folk songs from around the world, including Deaf Woman's Courtship, Goodbye Old Paint, O Waly Waly and the ever so slightly dubious Man In The Wood. Cadet Rousselle was not available for comment. Other than to confirm that he has houses three.

RBT15 Bedtime Stories

Johnny Morris rattles through a selection of self-penned yawn-friendly yarns, apparently derived from 'The Post Office Dial-A-Bedtime-Story Service', and introducting us to the likes of Snapper The Crocodile, Snowdrop The Polar Bear, Tubthump The Gorilla (who presumably gets knocked down, but he gets up again), and... well, you get the picture. He doesn't tell one about that lamp, though.

RBT16 Mary, Mungo And Midge

TV's premier Girl/Dog/Mouse ensemble make it to vinyl with a handful of 'your favourite stories from BBCTV' (which doesn't include the one about the clock so that's false advertising for starters), which might lose something with the absence of the minimalist cardboard cutout animation but at least you get lovely medium-fi versions of the opening narration and closing music. There's also reputedly a 'break' hidden away on there somewhere, but even Spindarella hasn't been able to locate it.

RBT17 Bang On A Drum - Songs From Play School And Play Away

Oh yes, this is everything that cover promises. And so much more. Ridiculous Pickettywitch-meets-Mike-Westbrook Pop/Acid Folk/Brit-Jazz hybrid musical mismatch very much to the fore as various frustrated singer-songwriters who'd been reduced to presenting Play School to make ends meet get the opportunity to rework some of their back catalogue flops for younger listeners, going absolutely musically overboard on the way. Rammed from start to finish with hidden delights like Early In The Morning, Sunbeams Play, The Israeli Boat Song, I Like Peace I Like Quiet, and of course the much-sampled Bang On A Drum itself. Notice also how Hamble appears to just be attacking the air with her fists. Just adds to the mounting evidence, frankly.

RBT18 Adventures Of Parsley

Ten retold tales from the post-The Herbs excursion into free-form scattershot five-minute surrealism, with Parsley and Dill (who - controversially - 'narrates' a handful of them) joined by a procession of Guest Herbs and that Farfisa-blinking-in-and-out-of-dimensional-plane theme music in all of its bass speaker-blowing glory. Wonder if that geezer who was always looking for 'THE HERBS LP' in the Record Collector 'Wanted' listings ever found a copy?

RBT19 Play Away

A pretty good attempt at doing a full edition of Play Away in sound only, meaning that there's sketches, gags, poems and free-form parlour games in between all of the music. Famed combination of Blaxploitation funk and Dawkins-esque rationalism Superstition is the obvious standout, though the likes of The Party Is About To Begin, Words Words Words, Umbababarumba and an energetic rattle through If I Had A Hammer are also ever so slightly good, and then on the non-musical side there's the word-walloping playlet Captain Kipper's Clipper. Note also the use of Toni Arthur's arse as a selling point.

As there was no RBT20, let's give thanks to The Lord for...

RBT21 Songs Of Praise For Young Folk

They're all we need to lift our lift our lift our lift our hearts. BBC Records And Tapes' early output was full of these Pete Seeger-inspired 'making worship fun' efforts performed in cahoots with then-struggling now-collectable Acid Folkies - previous offerings had involved the likes of Heather Jones, Dana Stirk and The Crown Folk - and this collaboration between a load of caterwauling kids and the label's in-house psych-heads Trane was no exception, treating listeners to renditions of such oddly-titled God-botherings as There Is A God, O Ru-Ru-Ru, Fisherman Peter and, erm, Love Came A-Tricklin' Down. But while it may be talked about in hushed tones by pillocks with wonky hats nowadays, was it a turntable favourite with youngsters back then? More than likely not.

RBT101 Bobby Lamb And The Keymen

What happened to RBT's 22 to 100 is something we may never know, and sadly listeners would be denied the chance to hear albums based on On The Farm and Mandog, as we leap straight on to... um... Radio 2 favourites Bobby Lamb and his Hammond-hammering wah wah-peddling backing ensemble taking a psych-lounge stroll through a handful of recent top pop disc hits. From a modern day Exotica fan's point of view there's no arguing with the escalating mayhem of their take on The Fool On The Hill, or the slow-burning funk of Harlem Nocturne and Cinnamon And Cloves, and it's rounds of applause all round when Paddy Kingsland of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop shows up to splatter some elastic Moog all over Aquarius, but you really do have to feel for any child who might have been inadvertently bought this when they were hoping for a selection of songs from Hope And Keen's Crazy Bus or something.

RBT102 The Many Voices Of Peter Ustinov

Explorer! Fitness Instructor! Croupier! Lord Mayor's Croupier! It seems we're straying a bit from the original Roundabout brief here, as rather than showing off his best Frank Spencer, TV's That Bloke Where You Were Never Quite Sure Exactly What He Did spends an entire two sides of vinyl deep in 'After Supper Conversation' with those teen sensations all the kids were going crazy for, Cliff Michelmore, Kenneth Allsop and Derek Hart. The latter clearly having left The Bishop Of Woolwich and a Nude Man at home on this occasion.

RBT103 Girl On the Test Card 

Pete Winslow and his not-particularly-onomatopaeic 'King Size Brass' tootle their way through a selection of commercially-available renditions of the non-commercially-available instrumentals regularly heard behind BBC Test Card F; the sleeve notes suggest that this was due to overwhelming viewer interest, though it's more than possible that TV's Scariest Bastards simply marched on BBC Records And Tapes and demanded the release themselves. To be honest, from Take Your Time to Menorcan Mardi Gras, it's all rather jolly, perky and ultimately 'beat'-free fare - even the misleadingly promisingly-titled Six Two Five 405 - but hidden away right at the end you'll find the nigh-on seven minute intergalactic groove of Space Chariots. How come it suddenly gets so interesting? You are not entitled to ask.

RBT104 S'Wonderful

You must remember that huge seventies craze for big band swing, when all the kids downed spacehoppers in favour of dusty old wax cylinders of The Edison Concert Band? No? Well it clearly happened, as here's BBC Records And Tapes' attempt to cash in on the phenomenon with a handful of lively toe-tappers cobbled together from other previous non-Roundabout releases and a distinctly un-childfriendly cover. Either that, or 'Girl' and 'Clown' really did manage to get their feet under the musical table - indeed, as if to underline this, there's a track from Girl On The Test Card included here - and this change of direction was taken merely in the desperate hope of keeping them happy. In which case we would like to categorically state that this is all jolly good, and well done everyone involved, and now please move on as there is nothing more to see here.

RBT106 Jumping To Fame - The Story Of Showjumping Today

At least some semblance of an acknowledgement of what young people like here - well, a certain percentage of them won't shut up about wanting to own a horse - with a cut-down version of a Radio 4 series featuring Jeanine McMullen chatting to equestrians great and small about their Square Oxer shenanigans. It also clearly jumped RBT105 too, as there's no record of that ever having been released.

RBT 107 With Brass And Strings 

Another collection of stuff culled from other extant Big Band-friendly releases, including renditions of the themes from those top children's favourites Softly Softly, Owen M.D., Van Der Valk and the Shipping Forecast (and another tip of the blue triangular hat to TV 'Clown' and 'Girl'). And with that, the Roundabout experiment was quietly retired. Or, if you will, stopped rotating. Sorry.

Top Of The Box, the story behind every single released by BBC Records And Tapes (including more from 'Girl' and 'Clown', but don't let that scare you away), is available here.