It is exactly sixty years ago today that the lumbering walrus-moustached psychopathic serial killer Babinsky made his appearance on the radio programme Squalid Criminal Lair Discs. This was a short-lived offshoot of Desert Island Discs, the difference being that the guest was invited to choose what music he would take to a squalid criminal lair rather than to a desert island. The programme proved controversial, not least because Babinsky took the opportunity to hack to pieces with his axe and slicer the presenter, one Roy Plum. That is why it was a short-lived show. In fact, the Babinsky episode was the only one ever recorded.
But the on-air slaughter of the presenter, and Babinsky’s daring escape from the studio pursued by Detective Captain Cargpan and his coppers, were not the only sources of controversy. There was much comment, in The Listener and the Radio Times and elsewhere, regarding the fact that Babinsky’s choices were all self-penned songs, including titles such as “Homburg”, “Conquistador”, “Mabel”, and “Repent Walpurgis”. (Many years later, much reworked and faffed with, and with the more terrifying passages excised, the songs were rerecorded, and claimed as their own, by a popular beat combo.) For Squalid Criminal Lair Discs, however, Babinsky engaged his own band to perform the songs, a one-off grouping including the jazz maestro Dollar Crane, the mysterious science fiction writer – yachtsman – cult leader L. Ron De La Car, the Dancer Lola R., and Errol D. Canal, alter ego of Dr. Leon Clara, the so-called “Lala Crone Dr.” whose work with various lala crones predated Dr. Arthur Janov’s primal scream therapy. It was the bloodcurdling screaming of the lala crones that made Babinsky’s songs so puissant.
In his flight from the studio, Babinsky stuffed into a sack not only Roy Plum’s head but the master tape of the programme, which he carried back to his squalid criminal lair. Neither head nor tape has been seen since that day, sixty years ago. Nor, for that matter, has anybody seen hide nor hair of the lala crones, despite searching for them high and low in various Mercy Homes for the Bewildered and the Fraught and the Baffled and the Lala.
Reading between the lines, I suspect that Hooting Yard’s pestilential anagrammatiser is being invited to take the rest of the day off!