Zounds! I know I’ve trashed audiophiles in the past but I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a turntable that can do justice to a 78. My old turntable cabinet, beautiful though it is, produces an unbearable machine hum whenever I try to digitize an old record. That’s why my USB turntable with a 78 RPM stylus is such a blessing. It produces almost no machine hum and it makes it so easy to digitize some of the rarities in my collection. In that spirit allow me to present a wonderful old comedy record — “3 O.L. (A Radio Fan’s Dream)” by Rupert Hazell.
Hazell was an English comedian who worked in Australia for a time and often performed on stage with his wife, Elsie Day. You can find the pair of them in a bunch of videos online from the British Pathé archive, like More Harmonylarity (1935) or Hazell and Day (1933). “Dear Mr Hazell, As a comedian you should go a very long way. How far is it to Siberia?”
That doohickey Hazell is playing is a phonofiddle. The man was good at an instrument that most people didn’t consider worth being good at. The only people who gave the phonofiddle the time of day were comedians in music hall or vaudeville because the instruments were such a great novelty. Hazell was such a fan of the instrument that he invented his own multi-stringed version called the cellocordo, which you can read all about in Alison Rabinovici’s fascinating article The Cellocordo (An Australian Horned Fiddle).
“A Radio Fan’s Dream” parodies the popular medium of radio where Hazell was performing, and specifically the radio station 3 L.O. where he actually broadcast. Hazell uses a lot of topical jokes to Australians and, in particular, Melbournians of the 1920s. Being Australian myself and having too much time on my hands, I have transcribed and annotated the dialogue. If nothing else, take a peek at my note on the “White Australia” policy — it’s quite staggering.
There’s something gloriously trashy about vaudeville-style humor. It’s so different from the way we play comedy today. They used a lot of puns and word-play which were often delivered very quickly. Think about the Marx Brothers — blink and you miss the joke. If you deliver it quickly enough the joke doesn’t even have to be clever — a simple non-sequitur will do the trick. Compare it to modern comedy where the performers will actually stop and wait for the audience to get it. They might as well do a “ba-dum-tss” to let people know when to laugh.
So listen in to Rupert Hazell and see what you think. It’s not what we’re used to hearing in 2012, but then that’s part of the joy of rediscovering these old gems.
3 L.O. Melbourne1, we will now give you the chimes2.
(discordant clock chimes)
3 L.O. Melbourne, the time is now 27 minutes past 12. What a Whale News Service exclusive to 3 L.O. and every other station. The sun will rise in the East and set in the West every morning and night as heretofore until you hear from us to the contrary.
3 L.O. Melbourne, if you stand by for half an hour the studio orchestra will tune up.
3 L.O. Melbourne, we are now to have a song by Miss Construed entitled “Alone”.
(Morse code signals begin to interfere with the broadcast.)
All alone, all alone, all alone. There is no-one in the world but —
3 L.O. Melbourne, we are now crossing over to the Moonshine Valley Racecourse where the race for the village stakes will be described by Shotgun, the sporting editor of the Church Times.
3 L.O. Melbourne, speaking from the Moonshine Valley Racecourse, the horses are at the barrier for the village stakes, Stabim is playing up, he’s thrown his jockey. I think the jockey’s dead. I knew the horse was. The weather is beautifully fine for mid-Summer in Melbourne. A cold sleet is blowing into the stand. This is a very exciting race. And coming up the stakes Jaundice, Grand Nash and Anthrax are racing neck-and-neck. Jaundice’ll win. No, Grand Nash got up just in time. Grand Nash one, Jaundice second and Anthrax third. The judges’ placings are Deformed first, Two-Face second and Airbag third — I knew I wasn’t far out. The winner’s price, judging from its appearance, is about one and eightpence.
3 L.O. Melbourne, we have had numerous complaints about interruption by Morse. We cannot, of course, entirely eliminate this so the studio orchestra will play something that fits in.
(The orchestra plays to the beat of the Morse interference.)
3 L.O. Melbourne, Billy Funny will have his little chat with the children.
Hello children, birthday greetings. Willy… Willy, stop it. Number three the beach Fitzroy, so you’re 98 today, then. You’re getting a big boy now. It was naughty of the boy next door to steal your marbles. I’m so sorry, but only one leg of your Melbourne and Caulfield Cup double came up, but if you look under the kitchen table in the bedroom, you will find four legs!
3 L.O. Melbourne, we are now crossing over to the stadium where the wrestling match between Slapem and Jobel will be described to you.
Go on, bite him, you savage, bite him. The atmosphere here is unusually calm for a wrestling match. Up till now only three referees have been disabled. Slapem has just put the Yale Lock on Jobel, to which Jobel replies by biting off his ear. Go on, kick him in the —
3 L.O. Melbourne, the Woop-Woop Brass Face Band3 will now play.
(orchestra plays badly)
3 O.L. Melbourne we are now crossing over to the Salvation Army, where Commissioner Peace will give us a little talk on brotherly love.
SPORTS FAN 1
I tell you he fouled him, you pimply-faced —
SPORTS FAN 2
You say that again and I’ll knock your block off.
Sorry, that was the stadium. Our great thought for tonight is, “Someday, perchance, mayhap, maybe, one never knows, perhaps” — Ella Wheeler Wilcox4. We are now crossing over to the Commission of Immigration so that you may hear the speeches.
Some prefer a White Australia, some prefer a Black Australia5. Personally I like a drop of Black & White6.
3 L.O. Melbourne, weather report: it will by dry over the whole of the continent, except at the Commission of Immigration.
What shall we do now?
Oh they’ve had enough. After all, they only pay 27/6 a year.
Right-ho. 3 L.O. Melbourne, closing down. Goodnight everybody and go to sleep.
So will I. Look out, we’re on the air! 3 L.O. Melbourne, the time is now Queens or better — er, 2:15. The Woop-Woop Police have asked us to broadcast the following. Will any listener knowing the whereabouts of Hyam Dilley last seen refereeing a football match at Footscray, kindly communicate with his relatives at Kew.
3 L.O. Melbourne, we are now changing back to the stadium for a continuation of the wrestling events.
3 L.O. Melbourne broadcasting from the stadium. This is the fifth round of the wrestling match between Polishimoff the Reckless Russian and Herpantes the Greek Garroter. So far the honours are even. Herpantes has a teeth scissors, face bar, Japanese ear bar, saloon bar and fetlock on the Russian and is slowly forcing Polishimoff’s false teeth down his throat. I haven’t seen anything so uplifting as the Russian’s agony since Aunt Jane caught her nose in the mangle7. He can’t get out of it! He can’t get out of it! He can’t ge— he’s out of it.
Ah, now the Russian’s on top! He’s got a quarter nelson on the Greek, half nelson, full nelson, nelson-and-a-half! I think this is where Nelson lost his eye8. He can’t get out of this. He can’t get out of it! He can’t ge— he’s out of it.
Ah, ah, now Herpantes has got a lovely flying goat and a couple of Boston lobsters. Now he’s got the splits — so have the Russian’s tights. He can’t get out of it! He can’t get out of it! He — he’s out of it.
3 L.O. Melbourne, we are now to have a fashion talk by O.I. Say of Woolwich and Bencock’s.
Hello, listeners. Well, I suppose you’re all wondering what the fashions will be for the coming Winter, but I don’t know so I’ll tell you. For breakfast the fashionable miss will wear a robe of Turkish cowling trimmed with eggs and bacon. For lunch an 18-piece costume with lace excursions running round the hip-hip-hooray. For bathing a two-piece costume as before except at Villierstown, where the council insists on a costume of cast iron trimmed with little bows of black crêpe9. Evening dresses will start a little later and finish earlier than heretofore. I learned from Paris that night dresses will be shorter than last year and in order to be thoroughly in keeping with the festive season they will be trimmed with little sprigs of holly.
3 L.O. Melbourne, our great thought for tonight is “Wake up, Australia”.
3 L.O. Melbourne, we are now changing over to the Spencer Street Bridge so that you may hear the work in progress at that hive of industry, and as we listen in to the sounds of honest labour, every good Australian will thrill with pride.
What pass(?) did you get, Tim?
5:4 and the cow ran like a hairy goat. By the way, Harry, when’s this bridge supposed to be finished?
Some hope! “Oh it must be for years, and it may be for —”11
(TIM breaks off in laughter.)
Here, what’s that noise going on?
Oh, that’s Bill with his hammer. He’s work-mad. He’ll finish up in a giggle factory.
Oh well tell him to stop.
Ay ay ay, stop that hammering, Bill! Have a heart. We can’t hear ourselves speak.
3 L.O. Melbourne, we are now going to rebroadcast an item from 5 S.W. Chelmsford, England.
(Music and narration start up at the same time. The music soon drowns out the man speaking.)
Now boys and girls, you remember I told you about the dishonest little boy who — and how difficult it was for him to get a job. Well now I’m going to tell you about the honest little boy — and they made him the steward at the — Now wasn’t that nice for him.
3 L.O. Melbourne, the item you have just heard was a song “O Peaceful Night” sung by the Russian prima donna Madam Nora Earsoff, rebroadcast by us from 5 S.W. Chelmsford, England.
3 L.O. Melbourne, Culinary Counsel. How to make a hash of a steak. Take two pounds of steak. If the butcher sees you take it, put it back. Take two eggs. If fresh, beat them. If not fresh, give them a jolly good hiding. Mix together one cupful of flour, pint of vinegar, the juice of a nutmeg, two pints of rum, salt, pepper, boot polish and anything else that happens to be lying about. Add water and stew for six hours. If the dog won’t eat it and the cat doesn’t want it, give it to your husband — that’s what husbands are for.
3 L.O. Melbourne, we are now crossing over to the All Trembling Hall so that you may hear the Impunity Singing.
(Piano music starts playing.)
Now then, all together. Hello, people, everybody happy?
That’s the idea. Had your ??, feeling bright and snappy?
That’s the idea. Love from morning till you go to bed, love while you hang your ?? head. Hello, people, everybody happy?
That’s the idea. Well, cheery-ho, everybody.
3 L.O. Melbourne was and still is a real radio station. I don’t know why the record is called “3 O.L.” or why Hazell occasionally interposes the letters. [↩]
“Give you the chimes” means to play the sequence of chimes that tells you the time. [↩]
In Aussie parlance, “Woop-Woop” is an imaginary town in the middle of nowhere. It’s roughly the equivalent of American “the boonies”. [↩]
Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American poet. I can only assume that this string of abstractions is mocking her writing style. [↩]
This is a very politically charged joke. From the very year Australia became a federation they began to restrict immigration on the basis of race. They had, of course, been abusing their own Aborigines since long before that. The term “White Australia” was used to describe these racist anti-immigration policies. My own favorite for its sheer evil ingenuity was the dictation test. If the Australians didn’t like the look of an immigrant they could give him a dictation test upon arrival. This might not have been such a terrible idea if the test had been in English. Actually the immigration officials could administer the test in any European language they liked. So if you were Chinese and they really didn’t want you in the country they could give you the test in, say, Scottish Gaelic. Dastardly, no? [↩]
A mangle is an old-fashioned, hand-cranked washing machine consisting of two rollers you squeeze clothes between. [↩]
A full nelson (etc.) is of course a wrestling hold. Lord Nelson, on the other hand, was a British admiral who was killed during the Napoleonic Wars. He is famous for having lost an eye and an arm in combat before going on to lose his life. [↩]
Australia used to have professional “beach inspectors” whose job it was to make sure everyone at the beach was decently dressed. He measured to make sure everyone’s costumes were a decent length and not too much skin was showing. By contrast, an article from 1938 reveals that beach inspectors in Sweden had to ward off “unsightly specimens of humanity”! [↩]
The bridge was, in fact, completed in 1930, though it had been in planning for decades and was proposed as early as the 1860s. A competition to design the bridge in 1890 resulted in a fistful of designs that were structurally flawed and prevented the judges declaring a winner, although they did pick one bridge that would fall down that they liked better than the other bridges that would fall down. [↩]
The full saying is “It must be for years and it may be forever.” [↩]
Hazell, Rupert. 3 O.L. — Parts 1 & 2. Columbia 0539, 1927. 78.
Hazell, Rupert. 3 O.L. — Parts 3 & 4. Columbia 01274, 1928. 78.