The works of Alan Simpson and his writing partner Ray Galton have been an ever-present part of my life since the early eighties. It would have been about 1980 when, rooting around in my parents record collection for something of interest, I found two LPs – Steptoe & Son on the Pye label (The Bird on side one, a selection of series one highlights on side two) and the Golden Guinea LP of Tony Hancock’s The Blood Donor/The Radio Ham.
They may have already been twenty years old, but they didn’t feel like crackly relics from another age – instead they seemed quite fresh, even if some of the references were rather obscure (it took me years to work out what the Blue Streak was!) For me that’s one of the many reasons why I love their work – it may be rooted in a specific time but it’s also strangely timeless.
The blog’s been on a bit of a G&S trip recently, with the Paul Merton series, and once that’s done I’ll be moving onto a series of posts about series one of the television incarnation of Hancock’s Half Hour. Although only the scripts are left, the quality of the writing is so good that even without Tony, Sid and the others you can still get an excellent impression about how they would have played out. Which is a true testament to the skill of Alan and Ray.
Although Alan Simpson’s health had failed a little in recent years, he was still able to witness how the scripts he wrote with Ray Galton all those years ago continued to connect with fresh audiences. When they attended one of the R4 re-recordings of HHH a few years back they received a very warm reception (and a standing ovation) but Alan seemed more touched that the audience still responded enthusiastically to the script, just as they had sixty years ago.
Which returns me to my earlier point. Classic comedy is timeless and will endure long after more transient fare is forgotten. Nobody can tell what will be remembered in fifty years time, comedy-wise, but if anything deserves to be, then it’s the work of Alan Simpson and Ray Galton.