In the early nineteen seventies I would listen to FA Cup replays on the radio. These matches were gritty affairs. David versus Goliath battles fought out on damp, foggy nights in the North. This was before FM and live football on the TV. The games were broadcast on Long Wave. The BBC signal was relatively weak. As the matches progressed, and the tension of the game increased the interference from other stations grew louder. One particular turgid eight note fanfare that recurred every three seconds was dominant. Not a constant signal but waves of sound lapping over the match, reaching a crescendo in the last few minutes of the game, rendering it impossible to listen and forcing me to switch off during the nail biting climax and before hearing the result. 

Years later, having whistled these few notes and mimed the Pinteresque pause between them to a lot of mystified people, I found out that it was a jamming signal transmitted by Radio Tirana, the state run radio station of the Albanian Republic. Much as I admire the peoples of Albania I vowed revenge on Enver Hoxha, the evil dictator who had commissioned the spiteful ditty that had mired my youthful enthusiasms. 

I asked my mates Tom Hickmore and John Thursfield, both musicians if they could remember the tune. Neither are footballing types and my off key whistling held no clues, but they could starkly recall something that blocked out BBC Radio One’s In Concert, a lamentable prog rock programme broadcast during the same era. We sketched the notes out on guitars as closely as we could. John synthesised it on his computer, deciding that the gaps were as important as the fanfare. How do you accurately remember a pause after thirty five years? Also, I asked John to make a version of the fanfare that blossomed in a cheesy, new composers, aural glasnost kind of way. Something to throw into the mix as a means of relieving the relentless tyranny. 

For the Signal broadcast I laid our remembered version of the jamming signal over the whole soundtrack of Enver Hoxha’s wretched funeral. On the CD it is laid over the misguided wailings of some of his supporters. To hear how accurate our memory of the tune was check ‘with rifle and pick’ on you’ll get the gist. 

Note: Any recollections of the great football matches or broadcast pop concerts of that era need to be put in this context. The world cup in Mexico, Liverpool's domination in Europe, Ziggy period Bowie at Earls Court, Brian Clough’s wisdoms, they weren’t the wipe down glitch free digital products that are offered as historical record. Perhaps for stickler accuracy and the sanity of those who lived through that period there needs to be a reintroduction of some form of interference, aural roughage to provide texture for your memory buds to grip onto. Irritating though the fanfare is, perhaps Enver Hoxha and his cronies were providing a public service after all. 

Commissioned for Signal

Jonathan Swain is an itinerant artist. His mission to wheedle the unpredictable from the most banal and parochial contexts.