Anything from the pen of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson is always worth a listen, and while I prefer the boiled-down pathos of Steptoe & Son over the broader comedy of Tony Hancock, I still love listening to this.
It’s also nice to hear Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques plying their trade in radio comedy before they became household names in the ubiquitous Carry On films.
Galton and Simpson’s liner notes from this record describe Hancock perfectly:
Mr. Hancock’s performance has been described by some critics as the epitomisation of the struggles, frustrations and disillusionments of a romantic in a materialistic society. It has been described by other critics as the epitomisation of the struggles, frustrations and disillusionments of a materialist in a romantic society. Mr. Sidney James, on the other hand, describes him as ‘a bit of a twit’ which is as good a definition as any.
A nice touch for this record is the reappearance of Hancock’s voice at the end of the first side. After the credits for The Wild Man Of The Woods, he reappears to say:
“Well, that’s it for this side. You’d better take the needle off now; otherwise it’ll hit that metal bit that sticks up through the hole in the middle. We never used to have that trouble with the cylinders. Never had to turn them over either; all on the same side. Progress? Cor, dear. Well go on, turn it over.”
At the start of the second side, he appears again:
“Done it? Good. Well hang on, they’re not ready to start yet. Otherwise we finish too far away from the label and it looks bad, you know. Well, you can’t charge these prices and finish up halfway across the record. I told them to put a bigger label on but they wouldn’t listen. I wonder if they had labels on the cylinders? No, I expect they used to put a little note inside them, like you do in milk bottles. Right, well I think we’re ready to go. We’ll just hang on for a few seconds for those who were a bit slow in turning it over. All ready? Right…”
And then finally at the end of side two:
“Well, there it is. Could have happened to anybody. Anyway, I’d just like to say thank you for buying the record. Or if you’re listening to it in a record shop, don’t mess about, buy it. Not for me, but think of the bloke who owns the shop, the poor devil. He’s got a living to make, the same as the rest of us. Well, thank you again, that’s all. When I count three, take the needle off. 1…2…3……………………There’s no more.”
Hit: The Wild Man Of The Woods
Hidden Gem: A Sunday Afternoon At Home