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2023/4 Albums Thing 283 - Public Service Broadcasting “Inform-Educate-Entertain”

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Public Service Broadcasting somehow got access to the archives of British Film Institute (BFI) and The National Archives (UK) and trawled through old public information films to lift snippets of dialogue that could be set to music to form “songs”. It’s a weird yet intriguing idea, and it really works.

PSB are a 4 piece who go under pseudonyms adding an air of mystery to the whole thing. Mainman is J. Willgoose, Esq. who handles stringed instruments and samples,  Wrigglesworth plays drums, piano and electronic instruments, J F Abraham plays assorted other instruments and finally there is Mr B who looks after visuals for live performance. I’ve never really had it explained how they got access to the BFI and National Archive collections but the “songs” on here cover subjects like road rage, the navy, Spitfires, Mount Everest and overnight mail delivery.

Opening and title track “Inform-Educate-Entertain” is like an overture, featuring snippets from other tracks on the album. It’s on second track “Spitfire” whet it becomes clear how this idea can work. Over a thumping dance beat including a groovy guitar riff we have snippets from he 1942 movie “The First Of The Few” a bio pic about  RJ Mitchell the designer of the the Spitfire aircraft. The track is interspersed with spoken pieces by Leslie Howard playing Mitchell, things like “The birds fly a lot better than we do…It isn't exactly a bird I'm creating, is it?…A bird that breathes fire and spits out death and destruction” and my particular favourite “It's gotta do four-hundred miles an hour, Turn on a sixpence, Climb ten thousand feet in a few minutes, Dive at five-hundred without the wings coming off…”. All this and still a dancefloor banger.

“Theme From PSB” features Marie Slocombe, who founded the BBC Sound Archive in 1936 talking about it in 1942. “Signal 30” hurtles along and is based on a film shown to high schoolers in Ohio right up to the 80’s about the risks of dangerous driving. The film features actual dead people ! I’m sure there’s some dialogue in here from a 50’s Looney Tunes style cartoon about the same thing but I can’t be sure. “Night Mail” is another subtly groovy thing with dialogue from a 1936 film about the trains that transported mail across the country overnight. I’m vaguely recall seeing that film in the cinema when I was a kid. Read the “lyrics”, they have a lovely natural rhythm to them

 This is the Night Mail crossing the border

Bringing the cheque and the postal order

Letters for the rich, letters for the poor

The shop at the corner and the girl next door

Side 2 has two really cool tracks. “Lit Up” is based on commentary by Thomas Woodrooffe at the Coronation review of the Fleet at Spithead in 1937.  Woodrooffe was a former Navy Lieutenant Commander turned BBC commentator who, before watching the fleet, met up with some former colleagues on his old ship HMS Nelson from where he was to broadcast. The old friends had a few drinks which led to Thomas being extremely inebriated and by the time he got on air it was obvious not only was the fleet lit up, as he kept telling listeners, but so was he! He was taken off air after a few minutes and the BBC suspended him for a week, later saying he was “tired and emotional”.

That is followed by “Everest” and whoever thought that gentlemen describing the climbing of a mountain in textbook Received Pronunciation could be funky, I certainly didn’t but here it is ! A beauty of a keyboard driven dance tune featuring poetic dialogue like “Two very small men cutting steps in the roof of the world, Why should a man climb Everest? Because it is there

“Inform-Educate-Entertain” probably shouldn’t be quite as successful as it turned out to be. The very idea of it is strange, one or two tracks maybe but a whole album…naaaaah. You may need a vague interest in social history for it to appeal but I’m weird like that.

Everest - https://youtu.be/vhgfzEm3CWU?si=7bMsVglJshVH2-Fh

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