Wednesday, 26 May 2010
RADIOPHONIC MONTH: The Quiet Man
Dick Mills specialised in backgrounds, atmospheres and sound effects and, perhaps because of the unflashy nature of his talent, remains the unsung hero of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, despite putting in more time (35 years!) and having more onscreen credits than anyone else.
He also knows a lot about tropical fish, but that’s outside our remit.
Mills joined the Workshop when it opened in 1958. Primarily a sound engineer, he was employed to simply look after all the begged, borrowed and stolen equipment crammed into its Maida Vale studio but it soon became apparent that he could do much more than that, and he began creating special sound effects for ‘Quatermass’ on TV and ‘The Goons’ on radio, two of the biggest shows in Britain at that time.
The reliable right hand man, Mills spent most of the sixties assisting his better known colleagues rather than taking the spotlight himself but, in 1972, he took over from Malcolm Hodgson as the man responsible for background effects and ‘special sound’ for ‘Dr. Who’ and, with a few exceptions, he continued to do this for every single episode until the programmes (first) demise in 1989.
Mills stayed at the Workshop for a few years after this, but work was harder to come by and less interesting now that synthesisers were common place. In 1993, nearing retirement age and seeing the final writing on the studio wall, Mills turned in his headphones and retired to his Cockatoo Cichlids and Bleeding Heart Tetras. He should be knighted.
Three tracks from the long career of Dick Mills. The inventive musique concrete of 'Crazy Dazy', the sinister ambience of ‘Thomas The Rhymer' and, from 1982, ‘Armagiddean War Games’ which, despite its title, is not a dub reggae track but rather an aggressive electronic soundscape.