United Biscuits Network. The sound of '70s cookie baking.
July 4, 2017 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Throughout the '70s in the UK, factory workers making Digestives, Jaffa Cakes, and other United Biscuits products did so to the sounds of the United Biscuits Network radio station. Inaugural broadcast, 1970. Final broadcast, 1979. Between songs, UBN aired worker service announcements like “Ever thought of the jolly things you could do with compressed air? Compressssssed air can kill!”

In the factories there were speakers at regular intervals along the production lines, with one for every group of three or four workers. While they could adjust the volume (or even turn it off), they couldn’t switch to another station, so it was important not to alienate them.” Content consisted mostly of popular music, though some specialty programming was available. Promos between songs covered "various subjects, such as workers' personal safety and the importance of hygiene, but there was no ‘management propaganda’, such as orders for people to ‘work harder’!”

1973 BBC report on UBN. The report notes that the station cultivates “short-term happiness” among workers and it includes a clip of a presenter wishing a departing factory line employee well.

UBN tribute video with photos of the studios, presenters, and news clippings about the station (see 2:56 for the calling card workers used to request songs).

The station “became a honing ground for” to-be well-known radio and TV presenters like Dale Winton, Nicky Horne, and Roger Scott. Former presenters organized a reunion in 2006, with invitation design based on the listener calling card.
posted by dayintoday (17 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
“Ever thought of the jolly things you could do with compressed air? Compressssssed air can kill!”

These two statements do not necessarily contradict each other.


target one: cake-supporting SCUM
posted by lalochezia at 7:45 PM on July 4


I would never have believed this. It sounds like something from a particularly goofy sitcom or maybe a children's book. And they played real music, not Muzak or someone noodling around on a Hammond organ!
posted by Countess Elena at 7:55 PM on July 4 [4 favorites]


target one: cake-supporting SCUM

Starts out soft, hardens as it goes stale. That's a cake.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:43 PM on July 4


I now want to go around telling people of the dangers of compressed air. But with lots of hisses.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:37 PM on July 4 [3 favorites]


"I now want to go around telling people of the dangers of compressed air. "

Spoken like someone who has never a) turned compressed air upsidedown and shot it at their colleagues' bare skin or b) created a compressed air bomb (turn upsidedown, spray into film canister, cap canister, walk by and casually roll canister under colleague's desk, to explode with a noisy pop in about 5 minutes as the compressed air warms up).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:04 PM on July 4 [2 favorites]


To be fair, those pranks sound like they involve canned "compressed air", which is generally a liquid propellant rather than actual air.

The compressed air the UBN warnings were presumably about would be industrial compressed air, which comes in much larger volumes at much higher pressures and is, indeed, not to be pisssssed about with.
posted by flabdablet at 11:18 PM on July 4 [5 favorites]




I remember one of those stories going around when I was a kid concerning an apprentice at his initiation having compressed air forced up his backside causing rupturing of his bowels and unpleasant death.
posted by biffa at 2:28 AM on July 5


Another underappreciated power of industrial compressed air is the ability of a leak from a high pressure line to cut flesh like a sword edge.
posted by flabdablet at 3:24 AM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Stupid Navy Machinist Mate's pastime: Danger Nut. Take a nut (the kind that goes on a bolt) and slide it onto a screwdriver shaft. Use compressed air to accelerate nut to ~10,000 RPM. Flick nut off of screwdriver. Nut will carom around engine room like a bullet. Blindly avoid getting hit, hope nut bullet doesn't impact anything breakable. Adrenaline release is good for about 5 minutes of wakefulness.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:12 AM on July 5 [7 favorites]


I only ever had tools using a compressor. They made us sign a contract stating we would never play "William Tell" with the nail or staple gun. So we shot at scrap mat targets instead.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:57 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]


Also, if you get a chance, unhooking the pressure hose from a compressor-driven stapler and blowing the air all over your head is delightfully refreshing, one of the only things I regret about leaving that job.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:54 AM on July 5


I remember one of those stories going around when I was a kid concerning an apprentice at his initiation having compressed air forced up his backside causing rupturing of his bowels and unpleasant death.

I heard this urban legend, but it involved people sneaking up to the airhose at a gas station after hours and getting themselves killed. Considering the amount of lying that people do about objects found in the rectum, I'd say it was plausible that either of them happened at least once.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:58 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]


It sounds like something from a particularly goofy sitcom or maybe a children's book.

I would watch the hell out of that sitcom. It has potential for pretty much all of the sitcom tropes!
posted by dayintoday at 11:24 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]


I'm enjoying the farewell broadcast greatly, and getting a little sad at the ending of a station I'd never heard of.

From the “In the factories" link, a truly bizarre bit:
Another who got his first professional radio job with UBN was Dale Winton. When he joined the station it was common practice at that time for new presenters to be re-named, so they could be given one of a generic batch of name jingles that had already been produced. As a result, Dale became ‘Simon York’, but eventually succeeded in persuading the powers-that-be to let him use his real name. So, one Friday, ‘Simon York’ “left” and ‘Dale Winton’ “started” on the following Monday. Shortly afterwards, UBN apparently started to get letters from listeners asking what had happened to Simon York; “He was much better than this new presenter!”
That's how this business goes!
posted by languagehat at 1:55 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


I used to work at UB during the holidays at the end of the 60s and I don't remember any music.
Mind you it was the night shifts - and extemely hard work shovelling dough into the hoppers.
posted by Burn_IT at 3:26 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]




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