The Long Tail of Pinky and Perky
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 16 October 2008
The Guardian in a recent article In Praise of … preserving digital memories felt that “It ought to be reassuring that while governments are living a day-to-day existence trying to prevent a global financial implosion, some people are thinking centuries ahead“. The article went on to add that “If all goes well, we will have the capacity to preserve as many of our memories, personal and national, as we want“.
But what memories is it that we may wish to preserve? I was thinking about this during a recent trip back home to Liverpool for my Mum’s 80th birthday. After a trip on the ferry across the Mersey with a friend we became nostalic about the music of our past, the 60s and 70s, which included the tacky music of that period. I found that my feeble attempts (Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep) were trumped by Pinky and Perky singing Yellow Submarine – a cheesy TV programme of my youth; the link with The Beatles while we were in Liverpool resulted in me conceding. And if you don’t believe me listen to this double A side taken from YouTube featuring Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machine (sadly it seems that their version of Yellow Submarine is not available – for copyright reasons, perhaps?).
But if you’d prefer to see what Pinky and Perky looked like then I’ve embedded a video clip from YouTube of their version of Let’s Twist Again, which is taken from their TV show.
But what does this have to do with preservation you may ask? Surely preservation is concerned with preserving the quality memories? I would argue differently. The poor and the tacky, as well as the good and the worthy, are significant parts of our personal memories and shared culture.
And such memories can help us in the discussions we have today. I was convinced that Pinky and Perky pre-dated The Beatles but the evidence from YouTube, together with the entry in Wikipedia and the various Pinky and Perky Web sites provides further information which I was unaware of – including the fact, from the H2G2 Web site, that the show was banned in 1966 for being too political!.
Who, I wonder, can provide help and support for people who may be interested in gathering such information and sharing it with others who have similar interests? In the case of Pinky and Perky this is likely to be small numbers, but let’s not forget the long tail which can apply to Pinky and Perky as well as niche books available in Amazon (and as the show originated in Czechoslovakia and had a long TV run in the US, there may be a global interest in the history of the show.
My view is that the cultural heritage sector can have a role to play in supporting individuals or small groups who wish to engage in such activities. I think it’s important to remember that the cultural heritage organisations need not be restricted to managing and curating objects in their own organisations, but provide support to others who may be interested in preserving our shared memories.
And this is one of the many reasons why I feel it is important to support staff within these organisations so that they can support their own communities. And this might include providing advice and supporting in making use of services such as Wikipedia and YouTube. I’d like to explore this idea at the next Web 2.0 workshop I will run, on behalf of CyMAL in Bangor in November. Are any readers of this blog involved in making use of Web 2.0 to support groups who have interests in topics which may be classed as part of the long tail?
And finally, for this, the 450th post on my blog, my friend has childhood memories of watching an automated puppet show of Pinky and Perky near the beach at Christchurch, Dorset when they sang Yellow Submarine. Now I can’t remember a Pinky and Perky automaton ever visiting Liverpool. Was their tour restricted to the south coast? Or were they concerned over copyright infringment if they visited the home of the Beatles? Or perhaps more seriously (but only slightly) was there a single Pinky and Perky automaton or were they mass produced? Who made them? And are any left? Sadly it seems I’m developing an obsession :-) But perhaps the long tail of others who have an interest in automatons can help? And I notice that the Wikipedia entry doesn’t have much on twentieth century example – an opportunity for someone, perhaps.