The Complete Radio London Fab Forties
January 1965 to August 1967
Joint-Webmaster Mary Payne explains how it all came about

The way in which the complete set of Fab Forties came to appear on the Radio London website needs some explanation,
as the tale does not begin at the beginning, but approximately half-way through!

'Fab Alan' Field owned a set of hand-written Fab Forties which he had meticulously compiled when he listened to Big L as a lad. These ran from the beginning of May 1966, to the final chart in August 67. When we met Alan in 2000, he very kindly offered to type-up his charts in a format which would allow them to be transferred to the Radio London website via Dreamweaver, the program which we use to compile our website's pages. From May 2001, we commenced adding a Field's Fab Forty to the site weekly, with dates corresponding with the appropriate week in the Sixties.

Fab Alan's charts often differ from those listed by Brian Long in his self-published book 'The London Sound', because Brian was working mainly from written sources – either original typewritten office documents, or playlists that were reproduced in various publications.

As if this mismatch was not enough, the lists that were typed in the Curzon Street offices often failed to tie-up with the batch of records sent out to the ship. Indeed, with the inevitable time delays and amendments made between the office typewriter and the list's arrival on the Galaxy, the records and the track titles frequently differed from those which were actually aired on Radio London. The Curzon Street information merely represented what had been intended to be that week's playlist; it was very much subject to human errors and second thoughts!

Alan's charts, however, represented his personal record of the discs he had heard on the station at the time. He says:

"The notes (example, left – click for large version) were double-sided, written on a page ripped out of one of my school exercise books! Back in the day, it was sellotaped into a scrapbook with all the rest (attached on the left side only, with a kind of sellotape hinge device on the right – to keep it down most of the time, but still enable it to be turned over to view). The green writing (date and Fab 40 show presenter) was originally the heading and footer for the chart in the scrapbook. I transferred that information many years later when the scrapbook finally fell apart and I just kept the charts, as separate pages.

Incidentally, I wrote down the Fab 40 records as you see them, as the show was broadcast, working up the page (which is why I never had separate lines for two records that were jointly-placed). I noted down the climbers in draft, during the Fab 40 show and throughout the week, and then added them to the chart page on the Sunday, just as the next page was being started. This enabled the climbers to be listed in some kind of order, reflecting in most cases the current Radio London programme schedule and the DJs sitting in for those on shore leave. It wasn't consistent though, and I couldn't always make proper sense of it when I started posting the charts on the site, so when I was typing them up in 2001 I put the climbers primarily in DJ-alphabetical order instead. I think the unallocated climbers are generally in the same order as they always were. It might indicate at what stage I first heard them played, but not reliably so."

When the final Fab was placed on the site in August 2002, both the Big L webmasters and Fab Alan were under the misapprehension that it was also the final Fab to be added to the Radio London website. However, we were subsequently contacted by Gert van der Winden, who had unearthed some Fab Forties compiled by listener Machteld Meijer, from early 1965. Fab Alan once again gallantly stepped in to liaise with Gert and type-up Machteld's new charts in the required Dreamweaver format. Because we believed we were only putting up a short run of charts, covering a matter of weeks, we called them 'The Early Fab Forties'. Click here to read about Gert and Machteld's childhood interest in Radio London, its music and its charts.

Brian Long then kindly gave permission for his more recently-updated charts from 'The London Sound' to be added to the website, to bridge the gap between the Early Fabs and Field's Fabs. In April 2004, the Radio London website finally contained a complete set of Big L Fab Forties and we amalgamated the index pages for 'The Early Fab Forties' and 'Field's Fab Forties'. The headings of the charts and their separate colourings have been left in the form in which they originally appeared, to distinguish their different sources.

The compilation of these charts has been a major piece of teamwork.
Radio London offers grateful thanks to Gert van der Winden, Machteld Meijer, Bert Bossink, Brian Long, Holger Postelmann and most of all, Alan Field, our chart compiler extraordinaire. I (Mary Payne) have converted their work into web pages and most of the musical research has been conducted by me and checked by Chris Payne. Sometimes, a resulting feature has proved so lengthy, that it has been given its own page.

In the UK, record companies usually reserved picture sleeves for the more expensive EPs, but on the continent, singles were frequently released in them. Gert van der Winden took the trouble to scan picture sleeves from his personal record collection to accompany the Fab Forties.

(Right) Machteld's original notes

Holger Postelmann from Münchengladbach contacted us in January 2004. Holger started listening to the Radio London Fab Forty Show every Sunday from 2nd January 1966 and always noted down the chart. He has kindly provided copies of his personal Fab Forty listings for the period January to April 1966. Alan Field liaised with Holger and Brian Long and Holger's listings have been used by Alan as an additional resource.

It seems unlikely that the Fab Forties will ever be finished. There is no complete playlist for the first few weeks of Radio London's life, although Alan has also complied a feature that we've called 'Fossilised Fab Forties', where he has painstakingly pieced together snippets of information regarding the early playlists. (See Features Index.) We still know little about the contents of the climber lists of 1965, and have yet to identify which of the DJs presented which countdowns that year.

Obtaining a definitive answer as to whether or not singles heard on Big L were designated climbers, is virtually impossible. There are several tracks that are known to have been played (the Untamed, 'I Go Crazy', is a good example). These can't be called climbers because we don't know for sure that they were ever on the official list, or exactly when they were heard. Another problem arises from given dates of recordings frequently being incorrect. Alan identified some of these when he compiled the 'Fossilised Fabs'.

In 1967, the Ballad Box and Soul Set were introduced in order to extend the regular Big L playlist. Brian Long was able to gather some information about these additional tracks from the Curzon Street listings when he compiled the charts for 'The London Sound', but no complete weekly listing is available. The Ballad Box and Soul Set were merely a means of extending the playlist and were not announced on Sunday alongside the new Fab Forty and climbers, as if part of the chart.

There are still many photos to be added and many tales to be told. This is especially true of the Fab Forties' lesser-known recording artistes; every so often, we are contacted by one of them, providing us with personal information to add to our unique charts.

I cannot do better than repeat here the accolade from Tim Gillett to the team responsible for the Radio London website's Fab Forties:

"It was the information from the Radio London website and its Fab Forties that helped me put together such a memorable playlist for Pirate BBC Essex. And I should like to thank Mary and Chris Payne for providing some of the songs which were enjoyed by millions of listeners."

Tim Gillett, Programmes Editor, BBC Essex, 2004

In conjunction with Radio London, every Sunday at 1100 UK time, Oldies Project brings you a Big L Fab 40 as first broadcast from the mv Galaxy this week 49 years ago! The chart is repeated the following Wednesday at 1800 UK time.

During the rest of the week, Oldies Project plays a great mix of music, with a couple of Fab 40 faves each hour, preceded by a great original Big L jingle!

We have only limited Fab 40 information prior to 24th Jan,
as detailed in Alan Field's comprehensive feature.
If anyone can supply missing listings, please get in touch!
We are particularly interested in identifying climbers and DJ climbers
The full index of Radio London Fab Forties 24th January 1965 – 6th August 1967
The index of features connected to the Radio London Fab Forty
Check 'What's Happening' for recent amendments

Interested in the Caroline charts? The Stonewashed Collection, complied by Jempi Laevaert, is attached to the Radio London website and updated periodically.

Dave McAleer has a fascinating website feature explaining how the main UK charts (which we refer to as 'the Nationals')
were compiled in the 1950s and 60s


Back to Fab 40 Home
Back to 'Lil's 60s Scrapbook'
Radio London Home