Saturday, 30 September 2017

SHOESTRING: George Fenton

GEORGE FENTON (composer/arranger Shoestring theme and incidental music)

On 17 April 2013, my Shoestring website pal Nick Stewart and I attended a very enjoyable event in my home town of Ballymena: "From Attenborough to Hollywood: An Evening with George Fenton" was being hosted by The Braid Arts Centre.  Host Tim Burden interviewed the BAFTA-winning, Oscar-nominated film and TV composer George Fenton about his long career and it was an evening worthy of the BFI.

Topics included his work with director Sir Richard Attenborough on Gandhi, Cry Freedom and Shadowlands before moving on the diverse likes of Clockwise, Memphis Belle, Groundhog Day and Ever After.

George Fenton (l) with host & interviewer Tim Burden at The Braid in Ballymena, 2013

In the Q&A Nick asked Mr. Fenton about Shoestring and he was so delighted he even went over to the piano and played a section!  He said the theme was inspired by Eddie's ambling walk.  He also recalled recording as many different cues for the programme as they could manage during the session.  Interesting as only some of these must have made it into the show.  I wonder do the tapes still exist somewhere?  The Lost Themes of Eddie Shoestring...

George Fenton very kindly signed my copy of the Shoestring 7" single!  Good old BBC Records & Tapes.
The Shoestring signature tune and incidental tracks were recorded by George Fenton in an eight hour session at the famous Lansdowne Studios in Holland Park, London (now an apartment) on 14 July 1979.  Instruments used by the seven musicians were: Alto Sax, Harmonica, Electric Guitar, Bass Guitar, Drums, Grand Piano, Clarinet & Synths.

With thanks to Tim Burden, George Fenton, The Braid Arts Centre, BBC Written Archives Centre, Rex Features, and Nick for asking the question!

George Fenton being presented with his BAFTA for Original Television Music, 1982 by Lulu while host Denis Norden looks on.  He won for Bergerac, Going Gently, The History Man and the BBC News theme.  The previous year he had been nominated for Shoestring, Fox and Bloody Kids.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

"SSH…IT'S SHOESTRING": An interview with TREVOR EVE from 1980

Charles Catchpole on the private side of a top TV private eye

(Daily Mail, 4 October 1980)

In the cocktail bar of a Devon hotel an elderly lady with a refined accent was telling anyone who would listen about her encounter with Mr Shoestring.

“Such a charming young man,” she fluted.  “Do you know he’s the first person I’ve asked for his autograph since Tom Mix”.

On his bar stool, Trevor Eve rocked with laughter.  It was just the kind of quirky, unexpected comment that would have delighted Eddie Shoestring, the unconventional private detective whose scruffy clothes, shaggy hairstyle and off-centre view of life have made him the unlikeliest popular hero on television.

The success of Shoestring – the first series last autumn topped the ratings with record figures – surprised even the BBC.

Admittedly the ITV strike helped, but the second series, which starts tomorrow night, will clearly confirm Eve’s position as the most promising young actor in British showbusiness.

Already there is talk of a third series.  Meanwhile, Eve has signed to bring the eccentric Eddie to the big screen in a £2 million movie for Robert Stigwood.

The future for a man who, only a few years ago, was a trainee architect looks very bright.

Yet the 29-year-old Eve seems curiously unexcited by it all.

“I do wish people would realise that I am NOT Eddie Shoestring,” he says grumpily.  “I am a trained stage actor, and I like to think I could move into light comedy or back to the stage.

“I could shave off this moustache, cut my hair and no one would recognise me.  But journalists have started calling me Trevor ‘Shoestring’ Eve.  It really annoys me.  Alan Alda was in MASH for nine years, but when he does a movie no one calls him Alan ‘MASH’ Alda.”

So why is he talking about a third series only a matter of weeks after declaring that he would never play the part again?

His sombre features break into a schoolboyish grin.  “I just can’t make my mind up!  I change from day to day, depending on my mood at the time.”

Eve is almost as enigmatic as Eddie.  He is serious and thoughtful, yet given to sudden bursts of hilarity.  He delightedly signs autographs for everyone, but hates ‘the star routine’ and when dragooned into attending publicity junkets, turns up late and unwillingly.

He has a reputation for being ‘difficult’ with journalists.  Yet during a three-hour interview, at the end of a long and arduous day on location, he was amusing and polite and didn’t duck a single question.

He doesn’t like about his private life – he is married to actress Sharon Maugham and says it is irrelevant to his work.  But he admits to being an avid reader of the ‘tell all’ interviews given by other actors.

“I’m a strange cross between an actor and a fan,” he says.

“I’m not conscious of being difficult with journalists or anyone else.  But I’m a fairly private sort of person, and I just can’t be outgoing all the time, it’s not me.  I try to be polite and helpful, but when people get things wrong, I think “why bother?”

“The other day at a Press conference, someone asked me about my marriage to Pamela Stephenson.  I just walked away.  I knew the names of the reporters and what papers they worked for, so why should I bother with someone who apparently thinks I am Nicholas Ball (TV’s other private eye, Hazell, who is married to Ms Stephenson).

“I just can’t put on the act to please other people.  I know there is this argument that you owe something to the public who have put you where you are, which actually, I agree with.”

He cackles uproariously, “I really am a mass of contradictions, aren’t I?”

He cannot explain the phenomenal popularity of Shoestring.

“I don’t believe in analysis.  I’m just happy that it seems to work.  But I think Eddie appeals because he has an open minded questioning approach to everything.  He won’t pre-judge people.  Introduce him to a man who robs banks, and Eddie won’t automatically assume he is a monster.

“Also, he has a certain vulnerability.  He’s not the kind of cool, confident hero who walks into a situation and everyone knows he can cope.  With Eddie, you are never sure if he will cope.  In fact, it’s most likely that he won’t.  I think people can identify with that.

“Then there’s his disturbed background.  He had a breakdown, was in a mental hospital, and that gives his behaviour a dangerous edge.  You are never sure if he’ll crack up again.

“Don’t ask me if I am anything like him, because I am most definitely not.  But I can identify with him.”

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The music of SHOESTRING (Series 2)

With thanks again to John Riley, here is a list of the commercially available music heard in Shoestring series 2 (1980).  It's a much longer list than for series 1 and surely explains what has held up these episodes on DVD for so long.

Have Network Distributing managed to clear every one of these tracks? I guess we'll find out soon.

Mozart's Clarinet & Strings in A Major - AEOLIAN STRING QUARTET
Several pieces by Rachmaninoff - LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
"The Cuckoo" by Daquin - GEORGE MALCOLM
"Red Sails in the Sunset" - JACK JACKSON AND HIS ORCHESTRA
"Like An Old Fashioned Waltz" - SANDY DENNY
"Personal Column" - JAKE THACKRAY
"Between Seventeen and Twenty" - ELTON JOHN
"The Bed's Too Big Without You" - THE POLICE
Ambient 1: Music for Airports - BRIAN ENO
"Accidents Never Happen" - BLONDIE
"Can't You Hear Me Knocking" - THE ROLLING STONES
"Dance With Me" - THE REAL THING

"The Teddy Bears' Picnic" - THE RAY ELLINGTON QUARTET
"Summertime Blues" - THE HELLRAISERS
"Rain on the Hill" - JUDIE TZUKE
"Sympathy for the Devil" - THE ROLLING STONES
"Honky Tonk Woman" - THE ROLLING STONES
"More Than I Can Say" - LEO SAYER
"Sportscar" - JUDIE TZUKE
"Eight Miles High" - ROXY MUSIC
"Silly Love Songs" - WINGS
"I've Got You On My Mind" - HOT CHOCOLATE"
"All the Way from America" - JOAN ARMATRADING

"In Search of Peter Pan" - KATE BUSH
"At the End of the Day" - SANDY DENNY
"Bogey Music" - PAUL McCARTNEY
"I Get A Kick Out of You" - GARY SHEARSTON
"(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear" - BLONDIE
"Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" - ELTON JOHN
"Rock Around the Clock" - (cover version by unknown)

"Travellin' Light" - CLIFF RICHARD
"Lights of Port Royal" - THE TREMELOES
"Start!" - THE JAM
"Open Door" - GENESIS
"Top Teen Baby" - GARRY MILLS
"Down in the Hole" - THE ROLLING STONES
"Catch the Wind" - DONOVAN
"Bus Stop" - THE HOLLIES
"Over You" - ROXY MUSIC
"Halfway to Paradise" - BILLY FURY
"I'm Alive" - THE HOLLIES
"Emotional Rescue" - THE ROLLING STONES
"Time and Time Again" - MIKE RUTHERFORD
"Tonight You Belong to Me" - PATTI LYNN
"Johnny Angel" - PATTI LYNN
"Half" (??) - BRIAN ENO

"Baggy Trousers" - MADNESS
"What You're Proposing" - STATUS QUO
"I Never Go Out in the Rain" - HIGH SOCIETY
"You're Lying" - LINX

"I Didn't Have the Nerve to Say No" - BLONDIE
"Bring On the Night" - THE POLICE
"Night Boat to Cairo" - MADNESS
"Dreaming" - BLONDIE
"White Riot" - THE CLASH 
"You Are So Beautiful" - JOE COCKER

"Don't Ask A Friend" - OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN
"In the Midnight Hour" - ROXY MUSIC
"You To Me Are Everything" - REAL THING
"Sunday Girl" - BLONDIE
"Every 1's A Winner" - HOT CHOCOLATE
"Apache" - THE SHADOWS
"Venus in Blue Jeans" - MARK WYNTER
"Turn Back the Hands of Time" - TINA CHARLES
"On the Horizon" - ELKIE BROOKS
"You're Lying" - LINX
"What You're Proposing" - STATUS QUO
"Will Anything Happen" - BLONDIE
"Trouble" - GILLAN
"Atomic" - BLONDIE
"Reggatta de Blanc" - THE POLICE
"When I Need You" - LEO SAYER

"Gotta Pull Myself Together" - THE NOLANS
"I Could Be So Good For You" [theme from Minder] - DENNIS WATERMAN WITH THE DENNIS WATERMAN BAND
"One Man Woman" - SHEENA EASTON
"The Earth Dies Screaming" - UB40

"Elstree" - THE BUGGLES
"Mozart Forte" - THE SHADOWS
"Turn It On Again" - GENESIS
"Hot Charlesdog" - J J PERREY AND G SIGRIST
"Yesterday" - THE BEATLES
"Superman's Big Sister" - IAN DURY AND THE BLOCKHEADS
"Johnny and Mary" - ROBERT PALMER
"Banana Republic" - THE BOOMTOWN RATS
"Canary in a Coalmine" - THE POLICE
"Ticket to Ride" - THE BEATLES
"It Shows in Your Face" - THE GAS
"Paint Your Pretty Picture" - ELKIE BROOKS
"Army Dreamers" - KATE BUSH
"Fade to Grey" - VISAGE

"Christmas Time" - THE BRANDY SNAPS
"Merry Xmas Everybody" - SLADE
"Another Brick in The Wall" (Part 2) - PINK FLOYD
"The Tide is High" - BLONDIE
"Ding Dong Merrily On High" - THE CAMBRIDGE BUSKERS
"I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper" - SARAH BRIGHTMAN AND HOT GOSSIP
"Stop The Cavalry" - JONA LEWIE
"There's No One Quite Like Grandma" - ST WINIFRED'S SCHOOL CHOIR
"Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" - ELMO & PATSY
"December Will Be Magic Again" - KATE BUSH
"Captain Beaky's Christmas Carol" - ST PAUL'S CHORISTERS
"Needles and Pins" - THE SEARCHERS
"A Merry Jingle" - THE GREEDIES
Also, traditional carols and songs performed "live" by the Bristol Salvation Army Band, and 'Wolverine Blues' and traditional songs performed "live" by The Blue Notes Jazz Band.


Robert Banks Stewart, 2001:
“Richard Harris and I wrote "Shoestring - the Movie" for the Robert Stigwood Organisation and Rank.  Alas, the production arm of Rank was folded - and our movie with it.”

Yes, there was to have been a Shoestring feature film.  A victim of bad timing, it was cancelled amid the greater collapse of the British film industry in the early 80s and alas we can only speculate on how it would have turned out.


[from Screen International, 16 February 1980, p.22]

Big screen SHOESTRING via Rank and Stigwood

Shoestring, the popular BBC private eye series, is to be made into a feature by the Robert Stigwood Group and the Rank Organisation.  It is the first ever collaboration between the two companies.

Trevor Eve, who plays the downbeat radio detective on TV, will reprise the role for the big screen.

Beryl Vertue, co-deputy chairman of the Robert Stigwood Group, will produce the film, which will be written by original creators Robert Banks Stewart and Richard Harris.  There will be a soundtrack album which will be handled by Stigwood and released on the RSO label Worldwide.

Sold overseas

The film is scheduled to go into production at the end of the year, although no definite date has yet been set.  No further production details or casting news is available as yet.

Shoestring is one of the most popular BBC drama series of recent years.  It has already been sold to a number of overseas countries including Germany, Australia and Scandinavia.

Worldwide release of the picture will be by Rank.  Negotiations for distribution in the US and Canada will be handled by the Stigwood Organisation.

London, February 23rd 1968. Robert Stigwood and Beryl Virtue (left) celebrate the amalgamation of ALS Management and the Robert Stigwood Organisation with clients the Bee Gees, Frankie Howard and Alan Simpson & Ray Galton.  Beryl Virtue also represented Shoestring co-creator Robert Banks Stewart.


In 2006, Robert Banks Stewart very kindly donated his copy of the script to Kaleidoscope,the classic television organisation, for auction with proceeds going to their nominated charity, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Here, with kind permission of Kaleidoscope and Christopher Perry, is a synopsis of Shoestring: The Movie:

Called in to see the tax man, Spender, Radio West “private ear” Eddie Shoestring is given a deadline to prove his earnings for the last five years or face an investigation.  As receptionist Sonia Price searches for receipts, Eddie is approached by a man named Pyne, who works for the powerful media mogul Bruce Hamilton.

Pyne is worried because Hamilton’s daughter Sarah has taken a prize trophy and won’t return it.  Eddie agrees to speak to Sarah and return the trophy.

Unfortunately, Sarah is not at school.  Pyne claims that she has been tricked into visiting her mother in the US to cause Bruce problems.  Eddie is asked to go to New York to bring Sarah back.

Arriving in the US, Eddie meets Hamilton’s ex-wife Josie who reacts very angrily and has him kidnapped.  Josie protests Sarah is not there, and indeed Sarah has been abducted by a loser called Tony...


The kidnap is all an elaborate bluff set up by Bruce Hamilton.  Sarah believes Tony is her lover and is oblivious to the plan.  Pyne and Tony have staged the kidnap on the orders of Hamilton so that he can pay a ‘huge ransom’ – money he will then no longer have to give to his wife in a US divorce court, so that he can keep it in a secret offshore bank account.

Eddie sees through the bluff and broadcasts the whole story on Radio West, leading to Sarah leaving her father, but not before Hamilton has Tony blown up on his luxury boat.

Bruce Hamilton is a broken and discredited man, and threatens to get even with Eddie Shoestring…

SHOESTRING: The Movie was co-written by the series' creators Robert Banks Stewart and Richard Harris


[Daily Express front page headline, Saturday June 7th 1980]

"Cut! Rank Films Shock" by Danny McGrory

British film-making was gonged last night when the Rank Organisation pulled out of the business.

Its recent movies have been successful – but these days only blockbusters pay.

So one of the biggest names on the screen since the 1940s has decided it cannot afford it – which, as a spokesman said, is “a sad day for us and the industry”.

The decision will be a blow particularly to British producers seeking finance for homegrown films.

Also at stake are eight new features including “HMS Ulysses” and “Rocking Horse Winner” and full-length movie versions of TV favourites To The Manor Born with Penelope Keith and Shoestring with Trevor Eve.

Only last month Rank – whose screen symbol is old-time fighter Billy Wells striking a giant gong – proudly announced its film-making plans at the Cannes festival.

But last night its spokesman said: “After a long, hard look at the books we decided film-making was just not profitable enough.

“It’s big business making films and the return on the capital is not quick or big enough to justify going on”.

Rank films – Silver Dream Racer (David Essex), Bad Timing (Art Garfunkel) and the remade The Thirty-Nine Steps and The Lady Vanishes were “popular with the industry, the critics and the public”.

But, says the spokesman, “they were still not what you call blockbusters and the capital return wasn’t there”.

Last year Rank Film Productions lost over £1,500,000.

At present Rank has no films actually started, so company chiefs thought it a good time to call “Cut!”.

“We hope some other producer comes in and takes over the titles” the firm said.  “This is a blow for the British industry but we hope it continues and we wish it well”.

The company said it will continue with its successful investment in Pinewood studios renting it out.  The cinema and distribution chain will carry on.  So will the making of advertising films.

The pull-out announcement came on the day MPs were debating the state of the British movie industry.  They agreed to write off a £13 million debt to the National Film Finance Corporation and lend a final million.

But later top producer Bryan Forbes said the Government would need to pour in £400 million to match Hollywood.  “If our actors, writers and directors are to survive”, he warned, “something will have to happen very quickly”.

A shame we never got to see the Shoestring regulars in a feature film. Right now I'd be lobbying for a Blu-ray release.


British TV history would’ve been different if this film had got made.  Tentatively scheduled for production after Series 2, which wrapped in November 1980, I suspect there would have been a Series 3 for a start.

Everyone, reluctant star Trevor Eve included, would have understood the importance of keeping the property alive at least until the film’s release, probably late in 1981.

Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, with the project's cancellation coming around the middle of filming on Series 2.

It was perhaps an unusual venture.  Film versions of popular British television series were plentiful in the early 1970s but for budgetary reasons they tended to be comedies rather than dramas, although examples of the latter are Henry VIII and his Six Wives in 1972, Callan in 1974, and later on Sweeney! and Sweeney 2.  But in any case 1980 was the tail end of the cycle, with the lacklustre Rising Damp and George and Mildred the final two releases.

Who would have directed?  One of the series’ regulars (Marek Kanievska or Ben Bolt would've done a handsome job) or someone more experienced in features?  And who would have co-starred?  How about Donald Sutherland as media mogul Bruce Hamilton?

And most importantly, how would it have been received?  Euston Films got away with their two The Sweeney movies with reputation intact, but critics weren’t generally kind to TV spin-offs.  Would it have damaged the show’s legacy?  We’ll never know.

Bill Owen, Brian Wilde and Peter Sallis in the 1983 Last of the Summer Wine special, directed by Alan J W Bell. It was the first in a series of film versions of popular shows made by the BBC for TV transmission.

Ironically, had it been just a few years later, it would perhaps have been picked up by the BBC themselves for TV production, made on 16mm film rather than 35mm but otherwise with production value intact. 

Pioneered in 1983 by Last of the Summer Wine, for a decade or so the BBC made their own “film” versions of TV shows - often with splendid results.  Only Fools and Horses.... “To Hull and Back” eclipsed the higher-budgeted Minder on the Orient-Express when they were shown in competition on Christmas Day 1985.

And from 1986, Shoestring successor Bergerac enjoyed six consecutive festive feature-length specials.  Eddie could’ve been there first.

Monday, 25 September 2017

An interview with BOB BAKER, Shoestring writer & script editor

K-9 creator Bob Baker needs no introduction to fans of archive TV.  From his work with Dave Martin on the original series of Doctor Who to collaborating with Nick Park on the multi-award winning Wallace and Gromit films, he has written for many different film & TV genres for over 40 years.

In 1978/79, Bob Baker contributed a script to a new BBC1 detective programme called Shoestring, and subsequently became the 2nd of the series' script editors.  In this interview from 2011, he talks about the experience.

How did you come to be commissioned to write for Shoestring?

It was after Dave Martin and I had split and I hadn't got any work for nearly a year, when I had a call from Robert Banks Stewart who told me Richard Harris and he were doing a new private eye series called Shoestring and would I be interested in having a go at an episode?

It was to be set in Bristol and a bit of an influence came from the telefilm Dave and I wrote called Machinegunner.  So, I went to see Robert at the BBC and we hammered out a story, finally called "Knock For Knock".

A precursor to Shoestring was comedy thriller "Machinegunner" (1976), an HTV telefilm written by Bob Baker & Dave Martin.  It starred Leonard Rossiter as a seedy Bristol debt collector turned private investigator.

This was presumably very early on, given that “Knock for Knock” was only the second episode produced – and is still setting the situation up.  How much freedom did you have in the character and story?

I was delighted to be given episode 2 which was the first episode with the character up and running, so to speak.  I worked closely with Robert to ensure a tight story and then got about the business of writing it.

As Robert said on the phone this weekend "what a cracking episode that was" - and perhaps groundbreaking, for the time, in that we used a black lead guest character.

In Bob Baker's "Knock for Knock", a patient under dental anaesthetic (actress Cassie McFarlane) remembers important details about the car accident which killed her husband.

Did the ideas for “Knock for Knock” come from anywhere in particular?

I really wanted to have a go at rogue antique dealers, members of my family had been 'done over' by a charming young man who took them to the cleaners!  There was also a piece in a newspaper that took my eye, about a patient under anaesthetic, remembering details of a certain events.

Guest star Shirley Anne Field with Trevor Eve in "Knock for Knock", set in the world of antiques dealing. With thanks to Werner Schmitz for the image.

Was the production team influenced by anything specific when formulating Shoestring?  Robert Banks Stewart has mentioned The Rockford Files as a possible influence – anything else that you recall, either from the world of film/TV or literature?

I think this is a question for RBS, he has always made striking and pretty original stuff.  I think he liked the energy of good American productions like Rockford plus of course an engaging and likeable lead character.

I must say RBS has a knack for good casting.  We used to talk mainly of feature films and I suppose, tried to make each episode like a mini movie.

Amongst Bob Baker & Dave Martin's last work as a writing team were three episodes of Shoestring's predecessor Target (which also had a West Country setting)

Would an all-film production like Shoestring – still relatively uncommon at the time - be written differently from a videotape show, and if so how?

No, it was not written any differently than other film/TV scripts, but you had a wide selection of locations to draw on.

Was there a show ‘bible’ for Shoestring’s writers? Or was it all in Robert Banks Stewart’s head?

Yes, there certainly was a 'bible' which every potential writer would see to get the main thrust of the show and characters.

Did Bristol, the setting for the show and your home town, dictate the type of story the programme would deal with – and in what way?

I think the stories were pretty universal, having Bristol as a background was an added bonus I think.  Naturally some were "provincial" subjects, but the drama and emotional situations were more important. I think episodes such as "An Uncertain Circle" had a resonance with a coastal town like Bristol, as you say, my home town.

I might add that using Bristol as HTV did for films such as "Thick As Thieves" drew the comment from a critic, that the whole piece was "absolutely specific, and therefore universal".  I feel that could apply to Shoestring too.

Trevor Eve and guest Anna Nygh in "An Uncertain Circle". An all-film series like Shoestring was still unusual for the BBC of the late 1970s.

At what point were you asked if you’d like to become script editor?  And what was your reaction?

Robert came to Bristol and asked me to show him some locations, it being my "patch".  During our tour of the town Robert asked me if I'd like to be Script Editor.  I of course accepted.

It was fantastic, and a real boost after the work famine I'd experienced.  It was also the beginning of a move toward producing which I finally got round to when I worked at HTV in the 80s.  However, I found it damned hard work, but I learned an awful lot.

How were the writers commissioned?  Did they work to suggestions for stories from yourself and Robert Banks Stewart, or did they have ‘carte blanche’?

Either way.  Usually we would meet with a potential writer and ask if they had an idea they would like to work on.  If this was, for some reason, not viable, i.e. too like another story, or just plain out of the story parameters, we would try and re-focus the story or beef it up in some way.

You simply cannot give "carte blanche" to writers on a series, there has to be a continuity and a sort of special feel to the series, shaped by its creator.

How does the structure of a 50m detective drama differ from, for example, a four-part Doctor Who?  Is one easier to write than the other?

Doing a one-off episode has to have basically three acts - act three solving the problems uncovered in act one and investigated in act two.

A 4-part Dr Who is a different kettle of fish, not only do you need to have each episode building to the end of episode 'hook' where our hero is in mortal danger, but also mini-shocks at around every 5 minutes, situations of conflict, a chase, or confrontation... I enjoy writing either way.

Both are hard to write, believe me!

Around the time of his stint on Shoestring, Bob Baker also penned his only solo Doctor Who story, "Nightmare of Eden".

Did writers ‘get’ the concept of Shoestring easily, or did the commissions tend to need work to be ready for production?  And if this was the case, what kind of problems were you coming up against?

The main problem I think was that some writers couldn't seem to grab the sheer excitement of the Shoestring concept, and things like the links with the radio station were ignored.

Some writers didn't get it at all and came up with unacceptable scripts, sometimes rejects re-jigged from other series!  So that meant 'muggins' as script editor had to get to work on it.  Again Robert and I would thrash out a revised story-line and I'd come back to Bristol and write it over a weekend!

Your credits as script editor are for the episodes “Listen to Me” (written by Terence Feely), “Higher Ground” (Dave Humphries), “An Uncertain Circle” (Robert Bennett -- pen name for Robert Banks Stewart himself), “Stamp Duty” (John Kruse), “The Link-Up” (Peter King) and “Find the Lady” (Philip Martin). Is there anything in particular you recall about working on any of these episodes with their writers?  Any favourite episodes?

I remember "The Link-Up" best, because I was a keen yachtsman at the time (on other people's yachts of course!); also, Dave Martin and I had begun research into the Round The World Race yachtsman who had cheated.  So I was well placed to infuse a bit of knowledge into the script.  It remains my favourite episode after "Knock for Knock".

Bob Baker's script editing credit for episode "The Link-Up", written by Peter King and directed by Douglas Camfield

What did the experience of script-editing Shoestring, and working with Robert Banks Stewart, teach you as a writer/scriptwriter?

I really learned a lot working with Robert and I am eternally grateful to him for the chance of getting involved with all aspects of the production process, which held me in good stead afterwards.

I think he taught me that you have to be tough to script edit, and I think that's what I learned, to think of the quality of the show, believe in it, and make sure scripts are of a very high standard, and if they're not, then intervene.

Do you think the series could be revived?

If only.  It is still a viable story concept.  I actually wrote a concept idea for local radio.  Three minute links between music, where Eddie told his story.  The local radio station was keen, but couldn't afford to pay for it!

No, I'd love to see a revival and I know loads of other people who remember it fondly.

Many thanks to Bob Baker for recalling his time on Shoestring.  There is more from Mr. Baker on the series in his autobiography, "K-9 Stole My Trousers" (Fantom Films Ltd, 2013).  Visit his website here.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

The music of SHOESTRING (Series 1)

The music heard in Shoestring can be divided into three categories: George Fenton's theme music and incidental tracks; so-called library or production music augmenting the latter; and commercially available songs, of which there were many heard throughout the series, given its backdrop of a big city radio station.

Presented here thanks to the exemplary work of Shoestring fan JOHN RILEY is a list of the commercially available music heard in the episodes in series 1.  Series 2 to follow.

Music rights have proved an obstacle to releasing Shoestring on videocassette and DVD. The BBC Video release in 1984, featuring the episodes "Private Ear" and "Find the Lady", was missing 45 seconds to remove Blondie's "Heart of Glass". And the 2011 2Entertain DVD of Series 1 was unable to licence "Lucky Number" by Lene Lovich.  Fortunately all issues appear to be resolved for the Network complete series release due 16 Oct 2017.

Without further ado let's tune in to Radio West, where the year being celebrated is 1979...

"Heart of Glass" - BLONDIE
"Do I Love You? - HUTCH
 "Singing in the Rain" - PASADINA ROOF ORCHESTRA
"Weep No More My Baby" - JACK BUCHANAN
"Ain’t Love Easy" - NEW SEEKERS
"Move and Shake Your Body" - ALAN PARKER ft. MADELINE BELL
"Lucky Number" - LENE LOVICH
"Needles & Pins" - THE SEARCHERS
"Bobby Shaftoe" - CHRIS BARBER
"Dippermouth Blues" - KEN KOLYER'S JAZZMEN
"Kite" - KATE BUSH


"If I Don’t Be There By Morning" - ERIC CLAPTON

"24 Hours from Tulsa" - DUSTY SPRINGFIELD
Elgar's Dream Children Op. 43, numbers 1 & 2 - ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

"When You’re Young" - THE JAM
"We Don’t Talk Anymore" - CLIFF RICHARD
"Duke of Earl" - DARTS
"Hold On To My Love" - LEO SAYER
"Love and Affection" - JOAN ARMATRADING
"When I’m Dead And Gone" - McGUINNESS FLINT
"Angel Eyes" - ROXY MUSIC

"Heaven’s Just A Sin Away" - PHILOMENA QUINN
"It’s A Cowboy Lovin’ Night" - PHILOMENA QUINN
"My Mother’s Bible" - PHILOMENA QUINN
"Too Good To Be True" - TOM ROBINSON BAND
"Sound System" - STEEL PULSE

"Beast of Burden" - THE ROLLING STONES
"Respectable" - THE ROLLING STONES
"When the Whip Comes Down" - THE ROLLING STONES
"Long Live Rock" - THE WHO

"Stay With Me Till Dawn" - JUDIE TZUKE
"Ooh, What A Life" - GIBSON BROTHERS
"I Don’t Like Mondays" - THE BOOMTOWN RATS
"Reggae For It Now" - BILL LOVELADY
"No American Starship" - QUANTUM JUMP
"Breakfast In America" - SUPERTRAMP

"Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" - ELTON JOHN
"Magdelena" - LEO SAYER
"Cracking Up" - NICK LOWE

"Victims of the Riddle" - TOYAH (used as incidental)
"Neon Womb" - TOYAH (on-set performance by Toola's band)
"Give A Little" - JULIAN LITTMAN*
"Waiting" - TOYAH (on-set performance by Toola's band)
"Video Killed The Radio Star" - THE BUGGLES
"Message in a Bottle" - THE POLICE
"I Don’t Like Mondays" - THE BOOMTOWN RATS
"Danced" - TOYAH (on-set performance by Toola's band)
Also one unidentified piece, playing as background in a bar

*who plays Radio West DJ Vincent 'Din' Dinsdale in this and three other episodes

"Meet Me By The Clocktower" - JOHNNY G
"Quantum Jump" - THE LONE RANGER
"Time Goes By" - MADELINE BELL
"I Am A Cider Drinker" - THE WURZELS
"No Secrets" - THE INVADERS
"He’s Gonna Step On You Again" - JOHN KONGOS
Bach Overtures - performers unknown

"Never Feel Shame" - OMEGA
"You Gotta Survive" - TOM ROBINSON BAND
"Love is All" - MADELINE BELL
"Ribbon of Darkness" - TERESA DUFFY
"Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" - RAINBOW
"Let Me Fly" - STATUS QUO
Haydn's String Quartet No. 4 - AEOLIAN STRING QUARTET