That’s going to need some unpacking, but it is Towel Day (and arguably the forty-second Towel Day at that), so why not.
I first encountered ‘The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy‘ in audio form, but not on the radio. My local library had a section for borrowing music on cassette and vinyl. Tucked away at the back was a shelf of audiobooks, double cassette packages with some titles I recognised, and some that were rather romantic, which included Hitch Hikers. There was a thumb, it had the word galaxy, this should be fun.
I can’t recall now if it was my first audiobook borrowed from the library, because I also have strong memories of listening to ‘Charlie And The Chocolate Factory’ being read by Roald Dahl and ‘The Dam Busters’ read by Richard Todd, but I am sure that Hitch Hikers was one of my first.
For me, the characters in Douglas Adams’ books were broughy to life by a single voice… Stephen Moore. Later I would watch the TV show and realise he was the voice of Marvin, but for me he was the voice of everyone. He captured all the traits and characters in a single voice, and for me it remains a treasured few hours of voice acting.
But was it a podcast? Given I’ve argued heavily that podcasts should all have their own RSS feed, and the RSS standard was created a few days after I listened to the audio book, it’s clearly not a podcast. Yet it had all the hallmarks of a podcast.
Firstly, as it was clearly broken down into four episodes (thanks to the structure of a audiobook on cassette) it ticks the box on serialised audio. To the younger me it was a wonderful twist on using technology that I already had; the layer of discovery required by going to the Library added to the thrill. And it was incredibly personal, I might have been listening on a twin-deck boombox, but I was listening on headphones.
If I compare that to the podcasts I listen to today, especially the fiction podcasts; the checklist of serialised audio, the joy of discovery, and the personal nature of the listening experience is all there.
It’s a podcast and a not-podcast at the same time. Much like Douglas Adams’ tea and no-tea gambit.
Happy Towel Day!
I’m heading over to Soundcloud for what should now be obvious reasons…