A friend was taking me back to my bingo Caller days in land-based Live Bingo Halls, many moons ago. He too was a Caller and reminded me about the strict no-noise code during games. I think that’s still the case- it certainly was when I went to my nearest Bingo Hall a few weeks ago for an evening. Then we shared notes about the music that was played before and after games...
The protocol seemed to be that when you arrive, and buy your cards, grab a drink and maybe order your chicken in a basket (no Cordon Bleu here!), the music would be playing. Unfortunately it tended to be middle of the road music that you would be likely to hear on Radio 2. Easy listening inoffensive background music that you’d be doing your ironing to, or watching paint dry, at home. It was often provided by the Hall Manager’s wife who had prepared a cassette of her favourite music, and it was often turned over and then repeated once both sides of the tape had finished. It was often also played each day there were Bingo games. Now because I’d be setting up I’d notice this seemingly endless loop of Engelbert Humperdink, the Archies, and Enrico Ross. It was so bland that I wanted to scream, but you quickly realise that no-one is listening to the music. It is just aural wallpaper. They could be putting on the soundtrack to Fidel Castro’s infamous nine hour speeches to his Cuban people... no-one would notice. Bingo Players just wanted something to soak up any silences in-between the chatter, clink of glasses and scrape of cutlery on plates. Sort of sonic sawdust.
But even that excuse for music was too much when the game started: The MC or Caller announced the game, and people scurried off to their tables, with clothes draped over them to denote ownership- akin to continentals’ towels on sunbeds around swimming pools around the Mediterranean. At that point the music was killed and an expectant hush descended over the Bingo faithful, like some enraptured congregation waiting to receive alms or secrets of immortality.
As soon as Bingo (or some other suitable call) had been shouted and the numbers checked against the card, there were a few minutes of music to cover the “fag and loo break” before the next game. It was usually, you guessed it, the Manager’s wife’s cassette tape on again- this time the James Last Orchestra or Dana’s greatest hits (wasn’t there only one- the Eurovision song contest winner back in the Dark Ages?)
Finally at the end of the games, the music returned like a bad penny in a pocketful of change, as people left the Hall, or knocked back their final drinks. I think I used to detect that the music was a few decibels louder at this point- perhaps trying to drive the people out to their homes, lest they stay and become musically insane.
You know what? Writing this, I think I actually miss that “music”- I’m going to have to start assembling, as best I can, a Bingo compilation on a blank CD to remind me of those days!
Ears closed for a Full House!