The Infinite Jukebox: The Gang Show’s ‘The Crest of a Wave’


Well might you blink at the inclusion of this one. We are really delving into pre-history when it comes to my experience of music.
Before pop it was nursery rhymes and kid’s songs, Housewives’ Choice and Workers Playtime on the Light Programme whilst Mam did her housework at Brigham Street. At Burnage Lane, Dad bought a stereo radiogram, a massive piece of furniture on which to play records or listen to the radio. When he wired one set of speakers through into the Breakfast Room, we could have music whilst we ate, especially at Sunday teatime.
Their records, their music, and no avenue, if there had been the appetite, for me to know better.
Some LPs stand out in memory. They had one of those cheapo ‘Soundtrack’ albums, forerunners of the ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘Hot Hits’ series, session musicians and singers recording tinny, feeble versions of hit singles and rushing them out for a fraction of the price of a normal LP. Maybe we had more than one: I know we had The Sound of Music and I know we had one on which Dickie Henderson sang, and I don’t think they were the same. The actual Soundtrack album was too expensive for parents who loved Musicals.
We did have George Formby’s greatest hits, whether that was the actual title of it, which I loved, and so did my little sister, although I got precisely none of the innuendo. It was silly songs with singalong melodies.
There was one album that Dad had, that had personal significance to him as a former Boy Scout. That was another singalong, but not of silly songs and far too upstanding to have any truck with innuendo. It was a staple of Sunday teatimes and I had forgotten it for a very long time until the random access butterfly of memory waggled its wings again, and I wondered if it was on YouTube, and it was.
The Gang Show, which persists to the present day, was a Boy Scout amateur production, created by Rover Scout Ralph Reader, a man with theatrical interests and talents. It began as a London show in 1932, was repeated in 1934 and became an annual event. It’s a mixture of song, dance and skits, performed entirely by Scouts, resolutely amateur. Every Scouting Association can put one on, anywhere, and they’re all Gang Shows. They were so prolific that they used to say that every night of the year a Gang Show is being performed somewhere.
We had, or Dad had, an album of twelve such songs, energetic singalongs by mass voices. At this remove, with not the faintest idea of what album it was, I suspect there was also a nautical theme to the songs, which would make it doubly personal to Dad, an ex-Navy man.
‘Crest of a Wave’, like many other Gang Show favourites, was written by Reader. It was the Gang Show theme song, the finale of all their concerts, and the finale of our album, that we learned to listen for, for its simple, almost naïve ebullience, and as the climax of the disc. It was never imposed on us, my sister and I would ask for it.
The video is a clip from the film version in 1937. Don’t ask when our album was recorded, the only thing I can tell you is that it was a live performance and the memory of it is as sharp as a knife in the heart. Not all the music on The Infinite Jukebox is my choice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.