Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop Book, 1978 (SCANFEST 2010: Pt 4)

Scanfest 2010 continues with by far the most interesting find from our archive yet. Yes, even more interesting than the FA Cup Final programmes from 1986 and 1989. First published in 1978, and costing a princely sum of £1.25, this was possibly our favourite book when we were five years old. It can only be THE MULTI-COLOURED SWAP SHOP BOOK (by Rosemary Gill and Crispin Evans). As, er, you’ll probably have already ascertained from the title up there.

(*How do we know we were exactly five years old when we were in possession of this? Because we’d written our age in a competition form inside that book. Our handwriting hasn’t improved much since then, to be honest.)

A bumper scansplosion taking in 36 pages from the book is after the “Read Post” link (we’ve skipped only the really boring bits, and the pages where we’d scribbled glasses and moustaches on people). To tease you all, here’s a tiny preview of a very definitely non-boring bit:



[Click on the images to see the full-sized versions in a new window.]

The front cover sees Noel beaming in an avuncular manner, with very messy hair and a neatly trimmed beard. No ‘team photo’ on the cover here, and little promise of what might be inside, other the the chance to “Win a day at Swap Shop”. Colour us intrigued. 


Skipping the title page inside the book (which a tiny BrokenTV had scribbled all over trying repeatedly to get the ‘k’ in their name facing the right way), it’s onto a short factfile on the man himself. Birthday: 22nd December. Hobbies: Decorating, motor racing, photography. Cars: Jag XJS, Triumph TR7, Ford GT40. Fave food: Chips and brown sauce. Favourite football teams: West Ham and Radio One. We’re off to a cracking start!

Onto a proper introduction, but there’s no need to conform to the rules of regular book-reading. “You can start here, or you can swap around and begin somewhere else!” reads the subheading, but why on earth would you want to do that when there’s a lovely run through what’s to come? There’s even a lovely photo of the Swap Shop telephone operatives, or as we prefer to call them, the 01 811 8055ettes.


We’re already off to a cracking start (if one that isn’t really about Swap Shop), with the story of Radio One FC taking on a team from Radio Scotland, led by a mysterious masked figure who could well have been a member of Scotland’s 1978 World Cup squad (but who turned out to be Archie McPherson).



Back on topic with the next mini-feature, on the BBC cameramen who “stick [their] noses in everywhere to see what’s going on” during an average episode of Swap Shop. Not only is the feature packed with splendid factnuggets (“Did you know the BBC canteen cooks over 90 tonnes of chips every year?”), but it ends with - “if you have the qualifications and are absolutely serious” -  the address for The BBC Engineering Recruitment Officer. Marvellous stuff.

SS006 SS007


Next up, factfiles for the remaining 66.7% of the main Swap Shop presenters (Maggie Philbin not clambering aboard until the following year, of course). John Craven’s hobby is “writing books about other people’s hobbies”, and he supports both Liverpool and Newcastle (we actually mistyped that as ‘Newscastle’, which was inadvertently apt). Cheggers likes to wind down by playing piano and guitar, skating and reading, and when it comes to football, he’s all Liverpool.



Silly Snaps! A lot of these really don’t cut the whimsical mustard in this age of Tumblr, and surely they were more under the remit of That’s Life, but enough cynicism. We think this was possibly our favourite part of the whole book as a tiny child.


“Would Cheggers become Britain’s most travelled TV personality?” Yes! Oh, hang on, what about Alan Whicker?


Accompanying the a photo of a giant Cheggers stomping on Hampshire, we’ve got some top facts about Britain from a pre-Game For A Laugh Jeremy Beadle. “If all of Britain’s 16 million cars were spaced evenly on Britain’s 222,000 miles of road, there would only be about 70ft between each one!”


To paraphrase another Saturday morning TV institution of the era, this is what we want! A photo of the entire Swap Shop crew, all 59 members of them. In a slightly disappointing decision from the editor of the book, they’re not all named, but the role each has on the show is listed. We can confirm that the tea lady IS included in that team photo.


Here, scanned fairly badly (hey, this book is a treasured part of our childhood, we’re not ruining the spine of it for anyone), is a look at the two times Swap Shop set about forming their very own Supergroups - “just for one glorious session”. Here, for the sake of record, are those line-ups:

Swap Shop Supergroup One:
DRUMS – Kenny Jones of The Faces, BASS: Suzi Quatro, PIANO: John Christie, LEAD GUITAR: John Miles, VOCALS: Leo Sayer.

Swap Shop Supergroup Two:
DRUMS: Cozy Powell from Rainbow, BASS: Brian Robertson from Thin Lizzy, LEAD GUITAR: Chris Spedding, KEYBOARDS: Alan Price, VOCALS: John Miles.



This is a book that just keeps on giving, isn’t it? The “Pop Shots” feature sees a chat with BBC photographer Joan Williams, who at that time was tasked with photographing the acts appearing on Top Of The Pops, so that the shots could be used in the TOTP chart rundown. The article also includes, as you’ll have noticed (unless you’re reading this about five years from now and all the image links are broken), slides for many of the top chartbreakers from 1978, including Abba, Blondie, Baccara and (yay!) The Goodies.



It wasn’t all popstars and photos of funny signs, Swap Shop was a programme that was there to educate as much as entertain, as we can see here in this photo article on, er, cloud types. The jolliness quota IS however raised by a photo of Noel pranking Cheggers with a watering can and stepladder.

One of our earliest memories is that we bloody loved things like this as a kid. Cloud types, the highway code, the Richter Scale, we were all over that stuff. Christ, we must have been annoyingly precautious.



Back to the FUN! A photo of Noel on a sit-down lawnmower, and three awful knock knock jokes.



Now it’s time for a look at some of the collectors that Swap Shop had featured on the show, including “shells, rings, speedway badges, India rubbers, snow storms, mice, stones and rocks”.



Turning out to be pretty much a Pound Shop Glasto, the Swap Shop Rock Garden Party saw turns from Showaddywaddy, Darts, Patti Boulaye, and (Yay! Again!) The Goodies.



In order to be officially recognised as a BBC Children’s show in the late 1970s or early 1980s, a Royal Decree was passed stating that Richard Stilgoe had to crop up at one point to perform a wry ditty, and he didn’t disappoint here. Appearing as a guest alongside Penelope Keith, gardening guru Geoffrey Smith and a studio-bound Cheggers, Richard was challenged to compose a song about the ingredients of that particular episode, and given the opening notes to use from each of six callers (E, G, F, A, D and C, if you’re wondering). As the included lyrics sheet shows, he didn’t disappoint, performing the still-wet tune at the close of that week’s show.



“Have you ever wanted to chat up a top sportsman?” Erm, no. We did meet David Wilkie once, though.



We’re on the road with the Swap Shop crew now, as they take a glance behind the scenes of the Radio One Roadshow. You might notice on the second of these pages, a tiny BrokenTV has drawn in several satirical takes on the wigwam (“WigWARM”, “WigSLAM”, etc). We can’t help but feel we’ve been struggling to better that comedic highpoint ever since. Haven’t done so yet, but keep on dreaming, eh?


Towards the end of the book now, and there’s just time to give a page to Noel’s pet Great Dane, Alpha. ALPHA DOG OF THE WEEK! (A reference for that Swap Shop/Colbert Report crossover audience, there.)


And so, onto the back of the book. End credits roll.


And, that’s it! While, admittedly, we do wish we’d been able to find some of the Tiswas comics we used to own instead of this, the Swap Shop Book is a lovely little artefact of times gone by, and pleasingly it doesn’t just pad out the page count with dozens of word searches or full-page photos of celebrities that you might have seen in spinoff books from competing shows.


If you want the full lot, but understandably can’t be bothered click-saving everything to your computer, here’s a zipfile containing the whole bally lot.


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