New Tunes Tuesday – Week 14 – The Shipping Forecast

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Many many years ago, I wrote a blog post about “The Shipping Forecast” (no, not the incredible pub in Liverpool, but the Radio 4 show that talks about the weather for people out to sea!). The blog post was mostly a brain fart about why I used to listen to it at 12:30am, and how it made me feel. So I thought for this weeks New Tunes Tuesday, I’d (maybe) open your eyes to the importance of “The Shipping Forecast“.

I’ve blogged about this before – many years ago, and my thoughts actually got published in a book (you can buy it here). Utter madness, my name in print next to the legendary Zeb Soanes!

Please bear with me on this – whilst I do enjoy a nice piece of Classical music, it’s not my usual preference, but hey, that’s what this is all about!


Sailing By – Ronald Binge – The Shipping Forecast

I used to have a habit of falling asleep with the radio on – I think it stems from nights staying over at my Grans house when I was younger — she used to have BBC Radio Norfolk on throughout the night – a comfort thing maybe, instead of being alone in the house. The dulcet tones of the old radio, barely understandable through the walls, but loud enough to just be heard as we slept in the room next door were warming, it was like you knew Gran was still there, and you weren’t alone. It’s hard to explain, but anyway, I got in to the habit of falling asleep with the radio on.

Totally out of that habit now, though!

No matter what I listened to during these times, I always ended up on Radio 4 at around 12:30am, just in time for the most strange, random, and yet warming of radio segments;

The Shipping Forecast.

Depending on how much time they had to kill on the air (Radio 4 goes off air at 1am) – they would play “Sailing by” by Ronald Binge. And I would always be amazed by how perfect this piece of music was for a shipping forecast. It’s floaty, choppy, drifty – just perfect.

The forecast that followed was alien to me, and still is. You can listen to them here – but basically, it’s along the lines of:

Rockall, Malin, Hebrides. Southwest gale 8 to storm 10, veering west, severe gale 9 to violent storm 11. Rain, then squally showers. Poor, becoming moderate

BBC Radio 4 Shipping Forecast

I would listen eagerly; I think it was a comfort thing — the music and the forecast would bring home a sense of warmth, security, safety. Knowing that those (albeit) meaningless words (to me) are in fact a matter of potential life or death for the sailors at sea, dark, wet, cold, windy; for me, they’re my lullaby; Warm, cosy, safe.

Inspiration

It’s not just about this piece of music, though. The Shipping forecast has inspired many other musicians with their lyrics, to name but a few:

Blur

Their song “This is a low” mentions the shipping forecast:

And into the sea goes pretty England and me Around the Bay of Biscay and back for tea
Hit traffic on the dogger bank
Up the Thames to find a taxi rank
Sail on by with the tide and go asleep
And the radio says

Blur – This is a low

Radiohead

Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea I’ve got a message I can’t read

Radiohead – In Limbo

Dry The River

Their song “New Ceremony”;

And after we dance to the Shipping Forecast

Dry The River

So next time you find yourself awake at 12:30am, pop Radio 4 on, immerse yourself in the shipping forecast, like so many others have done.

Who knows, maybe it’ll be your inspiration.


If you enjoyed this piece of music, then why not check out similar classical composers such as Ludovico Einaudi (famous for many TV shows and Movie scores), Claude Debussy (you know, Clair de Lune), and Hans Zimmer (Soundtracks to Inception, Gladiator, Interstellar). Honestly, Classical music can be incredibly calming, I strongly advise you to check out some of the great classics, especially if you’re trying to concentrate.

You can also follow our New Tunes Tuesday playlist on Spotify, if you wanted a playlist of all the tracks we add over the coming weeks, or check out previous new tunes Tuesday posts.

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2 thoughts on “New Tunes Tuesday – Week 14 – The Shipping Forecast”

  1. I used to listen to the 5.45am edition when I was driving to work, when I used to go in once a month with a 360 mile round trip over 2 days. It’s so soothing and regular.
    May I recommend the Goon Show episode where Eccles says “winds light to variable” and becomes a superstar.

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