Sing something painful’

Old radio isolated on white background.

Sunday afternoons (when wireless meant something you switched on enabling you to listen to Lord Haw-Haw, rather than something you seek out in coffee shops) were epitomised in the 1958 episode of Hancock’s Half Hour radio show; it therefore begs the question, as if Sunday afternoons weren’t turgid enough: why on earth did they invent “Sing something simple”?

This was broadcast every Sunday for 42-years (more than the Krays got).

I was subjected to many of these episodes via the built-in radio in my Balham flat, which was constantly stuck on the Light programme.

It would begin at 6.30 every Sunday evening, a time when you already have a dread of: a. it’s nearly time to go to bed; b. I’m about to be force-fed Bournvita to enable aforementioned sleep; c. have I done my Latin prep?; d. I don’t do Latin, but have I drawn a cat which was the weekend homework? and e. are these songs being played at Guantanamo Bay?

Earlier in the day, leading up to the very worst of British broadcasting, we’d listened to people stationed in RAF Oberammergau (or somewhere like that) requesting anything by Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, swiftly followed by former pygmy, Jimmy Clitheroe annoying “Our Susan” (who sounded, inexplicably, nothing like Jimmy). Top of the Pops was good if, like me, you liked to list things, but you were simply being lured into a false sense of security before you heard the refrain of “sing something simple, as cares go by” – well, they clearly didn’t care and why were the songs simple?  I’d have liked to have heard “Sing something complex”, “Sing something by Stockhausen” or “Sing something so quiet only bats can hear”.

These days you have the Internet for Sunday afternoon entertainment and the ability to watch The Cliff Adams singers on YouTube.


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