Thursday, September 13, 2007

Radio One More Time: Bird or bloke?

Is it a bird? Is it a bloke?
Haven't a clue, mate
Sorry I spoke
Is it a bloke? Is it a bird?
No idea, pal
How absurd

It's not just Radio One where the management value the big, sweeping competitions while the presenters (and usually audiences) would rather have the offer of lots chances to win small, rather than the occasional opportunity to win big. I once came across a memo while working in, shall we say, a large commercial radio station which banned any competition offering anything smaller than a holiday. The management believed that audiences were built by the big bang, thereby reversing the prevailing wisdom in broadcasting that what counted was lots of contact between station and listener. The memo was especially disdainful about giving away CDs. The station felt that sending out hundreds of envelopes with gifts of music in was, in some way, a bad thing for its image, rather than a great way of making a large number of people get a small but significant 'thanks for listening'. It's kind of the way men believe that what counts is the enormous , sweat-drenched, non-stop shagnight, whereas relationships are really built just as much on the holding hands in the supermarket and little kisses when you're heading to the toilet.

Radio One sometimes goes mad for its competitions - Thirty One Days In May being a case in point, where the entire arsenal of the network would be put on standby for what was a giveaway Olympics. Simon Bates voiceovers, all presenters having to do at least one part, prizes that "money can't buy". All presenters - even John Peel was roped in, admitting he felt "nervous as a kitten" seconds before playing his "trigger record" (Teenage Kicks, of course) and then asking some sort of questions which won a caller the chance to go to a European football match with him.

It was all very impressive, but - really - nowhere near as much fun for listening to as something as simple as Mark and Lard's Bird Or Bloke. This was a list of people with ambigendered names - Lesleys or Joes - with an invitation to identify them as a bird or a bloke. (When Lindsey Corkhill came up, I think they needed the third umpire.)

The idea was adapted for Dobbins or Bobbins, where the names may or may not have been horses running that day. The different rules required, of course, a different jingle:

Is it a dobbin?
Really a horse
Or is a bobbin?
Made-up, of course
Will you be stealing
A prize on the spot
Or will you be sobbing
Thick Jack (or Jill) Clot

[Part of Radio One More Time]


karlt said...

Of course, even Mark and Lard eventually succumbed to the 'big prize' idea when they launched "Win a van, with Radio One"

Simon said...

The best thing about Dobbins Or Bobbins was that the overall prize was to have a race named after you, and one televised live on Channel 4 at that. The following day Mark and Lard played clips from the broadcast of all their presenters and commentators stumbling over the name of The BBC Radio 1 (bloke's name) Dobbins Or Bobbins Handicap.

And then there was the electric footspa for We Love Us winners...

James said...

I was once a contestant on the afternoon-show follow-up, Flick or Trick (where the subject was film titles). I did quite well too, getting four out of five right and bagging £20 of costly-disc tokens for my trouble (some of which, naturally, I spent on a Shirehorses album).

I still remember my introduction. I was off work ill that day, and it went something like
"Lard, if you were off work sick and tucked up in bed, who would you want to be tucked up in bed with?"
"Why, James of course"
"He's on the phone now!"
"Is he?!"

Scarily, I can still remember one Bird Or Bloke game, where the birds/blokes were:
A.A. Milne
B.B. King
Cece Peniston
Deedee Ramone
(alright, so I remember four fifths of one game)

Markie said...

James - One would hope the next Bird or Bloke in your list would be e.e.cummings.

Bet it was - that Mark Radcliffe's a right literary type.

James said...

Markie - I think you're right. He certainly knows his books (and his autobiography, Showbusiness, is great fun too).

James said...

Totally agree about the smaller competitions being more fun to listen to, by the way; I can't be the only person who's turned off by those trailers which include clips of presenters yelling "You've just won a thousand pounds!!!" followed by a scream down a phoneline. Considering Radio 1's access to top prizes, one of their most entertaining competitions was Kevin Greening's Mr Whippy game, where listeners had to identify a current chart song as played on an ice-cream van's chimes. It was compulsive listening and the prize, a fridge-magnet, was pretty much a nominal fee, like when a business gets sold for £1.

Ruth said...

There was also Group or Poop, if memory serves.

Anonymous said...

also 'Bard or Blake' - the best bit was the jingle which was something like:
is it the bard, or is it blake?,
how the hell should i know?
sorry thoust spake

David French said...

Ah yes, I remember the themed months. It wasn't a giveaway promo, but does anybody remember "Rocktober" (with Dr Who jingle) from the early 90s? My flatmate suggested they could follow it with "Novambient".

James said...

Good news for Radcliffe fans - He's a guest on Colin Murray's show this evening (Thursday 10pm) to talk about all things Radio 1.

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