Tuesday, January 20, 2015

We gentleman of a certain age still live in Hancock's world

I had to smile this morning when someone tweeted the old Tony Hancock line "have they forgotten Magna Carta? Did she die in vain?"

In the early seventies I shared a flat with a load of blokes. Between us we had three budget Hancock LPs on Pye's Golden Guinea label. We played them on Sunday afternoons when nothing was open and there was nothing else to do.

Thus we committed every word of The Blood Donor, The Radio Ham, The Missing Page, The Reunion  and the others to memory. There are a few comedy series that stand up to repeated viewing and listening but I don't know another where the individual lines linger quite as much.

Not a week goes by I don't quote one either out loud or just in my head. Handing around the wine gums at the theatre the other day I found myself saying "don't take the black one", which then led to "they do tubes of all black ones nowadays" and then "I know, but you can't always get 'em".

Galton and Simpson were great writers, they were coming up with lines for great comic actors and most of them were tried first on the radio, which may account for their peculiar savour, for the way they only lend themselves to being said in the way the actor in the original production said them.

I know them like other people know poetry. 

"Given, no. Spilt, yes."

"We're not all Rob Roys, you know."

"Last one in the Reichstag's a sissy."

"We're going to Margate this year, if any of you young nurses fancy it. No funny business."

I walked in on my youngest Skyping mates all over the world the other day and couldn't stop myself saying "send a bread pudding to Kuala Lumpur".


  1. Come in, Tokyo.

  2. Fawlty Towers, perhaps a close second. High praise, I reckon...

  3. "Men like you should be locked up."
    "I agree, but not without knowing why!"
    Still love watching and listening again. Recently Radio 4 have done 5 missing Hancocks with Kevin McNally in the role. Well worth searching out.

  4. "Heres one for the teenagers! George Arliss."

  5. isn't the definition of an intellectual someone who can hear the 1812 Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger?

    I am quite prepared to say in public that I cannot hear poetry being recited without thinking, 'straw in the wind, straw in the wind'.

  6. We played them on Sunday afternoons when nothing was open and there was nothing else to do.

    "Ah dear... Ah dear, dear, dear... Dear me... Oh, I'm bored!"

  7. There's a statue here on the Isle of Dogs (near Island Gardens DLR station) that looks the image of Hancock's effort in 'The Rebel'. Every time I walk past it I say to myself "Aphrodite at the Water Hole". I just can't help it.

    I also use the line "the colours are the wrong shape" more than is healthy for a grown man.

  8. I'm more of the Python generation - where the albums came loaded with extra sketches and links.

    'Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition'

    'My hovercraft is full of eels' -


    Even at a band rehearsal recently the drummer was wandering around mumbling 'Beautiful plumage' to himself - for no other reason than it was still lodged and looping in his brain..

  9. The Missing Page & Blood Donor are the only LPs I have ever worn out. Plus probably the best Christmas presents ever.

  10. A pint ! That's nearly a whole arm !

  11. It is are raining here also.

  12. On hearing that Fred's Pie Stall (my favourite episode) is to close...

    Hancock: 'It's a bitter blow to us gourmets.'

    Fred: 'Yeah, I'm pretty choked about it meself.'

  13. A few years ago I was listening to Hancock on the iPlayer. I am sure he told the police siren/ice cream van joke, years ahead of Morecambe and Wise. I am a big fan of the latter, but a bigger fan of Hancock and, if my memory serves me well, then I think it is time for history to be rewritten. At least in terms of police cars and ice cream vans.

  14. Great piece, thank you.
    For me, it will always be Not the nine o'clock News.

  15. I've recently been having medical treatment that involves having a pint (well, 500 millilitres actually) of blood taken on a regular basis. I've used the "that's nearly an armful" line to quite a few people and got disappointingly blank looks from most. Makes me feel a bit sad and quite old.

  16. Blimey. Pye economy labels. Marble Arch is one I recall and “Pye’s Golden Hour” is another. I still have “Pye’s Golden Hour Of The Searchers”.
    Can’t remember the price, though. Twelve and Six? Or was that EMI’s “Music For Pleasure” label?
    Somewhere alongside “The Radio Ham/The Blood Donor,” I’ve also got an LP of “A Sunday Afternoon At Home” and “The Wild Man Of The Woods”. The whole gang, Sid, Hattie, Williams and Bill Kerr.
    Hancock to Kerr: “What do you want to keep playing things for?”
    Williams to Hancock: “I expect you’ve made your pile.”
    Hancock: “Oh yes. No need to work for at least a fortnight”.
    Williams: “It’s raining.”
    “Oh so that’s what’s making the road wet”.
    And when somebody asks Hancock why he’s picked a particular location to set up home as “The Wild Man,” he says, “So I’ll be near the shops”.
    Hardly what you’d call hilarious, but they crease me up.

    I’ve just had a look in the dust cupboard and at the cover of “This Is Hancock,” the one with “Sunday” and “Wild Man.” It’s on the Pye Plum label. The sleeve notes were written by Galton and Simpson and provide some biographical insight into Hancock and his chums. Very funny. Interestingly, alongside photos of the four regulars is one of Uncle Bert & Aunt Edie.
    During this search, it looks as if I’ve also “mislaid” a Pye 45 with Hancock teaching Williams to fly. As I say, hilarious.


  17. "Are you a doctor?"

    "Me? No ... I never really bothered."

  18. My mum's 80 and not in the best of health these days. A surefire way to lift her spirits is to swap favourite lines from Hancock's Half Hour.

    She's in hospital at the moment, looking forward to:
    "A packet of crisps and a pint of winkles."

  19. "I'm not mending your bed again"

    And to Andy Brim (above) it was the William Tell Overture.

  20. Hancock: [to woman going to give blood] Just think, Cliff Richard might get some of yours! [to himself] That'll slow him down a bit...

  21. "Stone Me".
    We can all say it. But not like Hancock

  22. Just the book title 'Lady Don't Fall Backwards' still makes me chuckle

  23. 'Lady Don't Fall Backwards' was (deliberately) referred to as a genuine novel recently in one of those Sunday night dramas - I think it was 'Poirot'.

  24. To get out on an American limb, you might want to give the roughly contemporary "Car 54 Where Are You?" a try via YouTube. Same producer as Bilko, and disconcertingly it shares actors with that, the addams family and the munsters, but has a great manic grip on trends of the time and the preposterously imaginative plots of the best radio Hancocks.