Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Now, let's have some music

Who remembers calling Dial-a-Disc?

For those whose memories don't go back that far this was a GPO (pre-BT) service through which you called a number and listened to a chart hit. Usually you'd come in in the middle of the hit and either wait to hear it again or hear another one. They had about three or four on a rota, and that was kind of it. I remember hearing - appropriately enough - Meri Wilson's Telephone Man.

This was the Seventies - I don't remember it being around in the Eighties - so you couldn't put it on speakerphone or anything, you had to hold the phone to your ear to hear a record. So why not just put the radio on? I think it's one of the oddest ideas of all time.

Ever use it? I'm sure we just called it because it was there, usually when mum and dad were out between prank phone calls to people telling them we saw their husband kissing the woman from number 14 outside Peter Dominic, saw their daughter on the back of a black man's motorbike (well it was the Seventies), or that their Chinese meal was ready, complete with comedy accent. Oh those salad days.

So thinking about it, I'm at a loss to think of a good reason to have Dial-a-Disc other than it being a revenue stream for the GPO. It's not like you could listen in quadrophonic stereosound or anything. At best it was tinny AND fuzzy. But listen we did.

What was the number? Three digits, surely? How long did it go for, when did it start and is it still going?


Anonymous said...

The number was 160!

office pest said...

Ah yes, but before that, in the olden days it was 16.

You could also get cricket scores, a weather forecast amongst other things by dialling different numbers. The GPO used to give you a little booklet with all the info in.

I remember phoning dial a disc a couple of times, from a phone box (2p call!). Either Dreadlock Holiday or Rubber Bullets by 10cc was on.

It was pretty bad quality though, but I suppose it was the novelty of it for an under-ten, not having records and things at home.

Chris Hughes said...

I remember Dial-a-Story, too. And there was something called Dial-a-Santa, where you could actually speak to the great man.

Someone should do a Dial-a-Disc app for the iPhone.

Chris Hughes said...

Oh, it's all flooding back now. When EastEnders started, there was a BBC line you could call, with Pauline Fowler giving updates on that week's episodes ("'Ere, you'll never guess what Sue said to Ali on Thursday!") in character.

Five-Centres said...

The internet has done for all that now, sadly.

Bright Ambassador said...

I was a Dial-a-Disc regular during the school holidays. Pre-itemised billing of course.
It was still going in the 80s. In fact, I seem to to remember it being sponsored by Woolworth's. Just like the Speaking Clock being 'in association' with Accurist.

There was a time when all football teams had a Clubcall for all the latest news on Wigan Athletic et al.

Anonymous said...

There was also one which told you what was going on in London that week. The number was 246 8007 if I recall correctly.

Five-Centres said...

"What was going on in London" - that phone call must have been very lengthy and expensive!

Ishouldbeworking said...

Dial-A-Disc was ferociously expensive, as I remember - about 50p a throw (or a MINUTE? Surely not...). It was irresistible to bored kids, even if you hated everything that got played (though I remember being well pleased by 'Dolly My Love' and 'Philadephia Freedom' over one summer.).

Another thing we used to do was dial 100 for the operator. It always rang for ages and ages, and you could hear other kids shouting their numbers out in the background, below the ring tone. Then you'd phone them, find out if they knew anyone you did, and usually end up trading insults with them. All pre '1471' days, so they could never ring you back. Oh, the jollity.

Five-Centres said...

Never got that one, ISBW, but I wish I'd known. It was so much fun making prank calls. Of course if someone were to do that to me now I'd be furious. It was all harmless.

Simon said...

Never paid to call it, but we used to take it in turns to dial from a call box and get around 5 seconds to try and guess the song from.

Mondo said...

It was all the rage summer of 78, round our way. Mainly to listen in the 'she's a slag etc..' middle eight in Jilted John.

We had a run on prank calls a bit earlier (76?) until one bloke replied "I'm a policeman and can trace your number" and mum and dad asked questions about the sudden spike in the phone bill.

One mate phoned the local Indian restaurant to place a bogus order of 'Tandoori and chips' - he came away with swift shrift and sharp abuse.

Whatever happened to crossed lines - loved getting on one of those

Five-Centres said...

Crossed lines were great. We had one relatively recently.

And what about party lines, where you could listen in?

JM said...

Around 1984 time I used to like listening to the Telefun show which was a weekly updated comedy programme that lasted about five minutes with sketches and gags etc.

All put together by Mitch Murray who hosted and put his name to it. I can even remember the song that used to play at the end before it repeated:

"Thank you all for listening to the Telefun Show/
Thank you for the Telefun show/
If you enjoyed this crazy line/
We'll be bringing you another in another week's time."

Matthew Rudd said...

Given that Telephone Man was under two minutes long, it would have been one of the cheaper Dial-a-Disc calls. Or did they charge per song rather than per duration?