Would it surprise you if I said I felt like writing about Rainbow? Of course it bloody wouldn’t. Have you met me? Actually you probably haven’t met me, but you get the idea.
Rainbow wasn’t just middle aged men dicking about. It was also full of music, performed by middle aged groups who liked to dick about. Where would we be now if we hadn’t been party to songs about shapes and the postal service? Probably in prison, that’s where.
As such, I’m going to have a look back at Rainbow‘s resident tambourine bangers and harmonisers. And by no means is this limited to dungaree festooned ménage à trois Rod, Jane and Freddy. Rainbow has a rich and varied history of dungaree festooned groups, soloists, and people who clearly wanted to be Mick Jagger (I’ll get to that).
Let’s take a look back at these often forgotten musical behemoths, and their contribution to songs about wanting to be a circle.
If this was a movie, I’d do the Wayne’s World wiggly line flashback thing, but since it’s just a mediocre and quite annoying blog, I won’t.
Telltale were the group who started it all. Not only were they the first musical act on the show, they also wrote the flowers-and-LSD theme tune. Originally a 6 piece, I have no idea what happened to half of them, because by the time the first episode of Rainbow aired they were a trio.
The three that didn’t quit/get murdered/get bored and wander off were Tim Thomas, Hugh Portnow and Hugh Fraser. Fun fact: Hugh Fraser went on to have a successful acting career, including Patriot Games, Sharpe and Poirot.
Anyway, in the video above, you can see the regret oozing from the pores of the one who wants to be a circle, as he laments the fact that he’s not currently in the Rolling Stones, sniffing coke off a hooker’s arse. Chin up dude, it takes a bigger man than Jagger to keep Rainbow viewers entertained. Hold your head high.
Telltale left the show in 1974, and were replaced by…
Charmian, Karl and Julian
Seriously, these guys rocked. That’s Clapton level guitar playing right there. They were maybe too good for Rainbow; they managed to make a song about a horse sound like something you’d hear at Woodstock, thanks, in no small part, to Charmian’s Joan Baez-esque vocals.
I’ve just re-read the above sentence. This is the point at which I should maybe stop and take stock of my life choices.
Anyway, Charmian, Karl and Julian were in 89 episodes of Rainbow, before going on to solo music and acting careers. Karl Johnson (the ‘Karl’ of the trio you idiot) appeared in Rome and Lark Rise To Candleford, among other things, and has an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University. He must have known I’d end up living near Birmingham. Charmian went on to have a solo career under the name Charlie Dore, and Julian Littman racked up countless tv and film roles, including Evita and the more prestigious Tucker’s Luck.
Next up – a bona fide supergroup…
Rod, Matt and Jane
I wish to god I could find some video footage of Rod, Matt and Jane, but it’s about as common as a gold plated tampon that also has wi-fi. There is an episode featuring the trio on the newly released ITV at 60 box set, but I haven’t bought a copy yet.
However, take a look at the guy on the right (hint – it’s not Rod or Jane):
That hunk is none other than Matthew Corbett, who would go on to be Sooty’s dad and all round water pistol target. Matthew only left the trio in order to take over the Sooty helm from his father Harry, after Harry began to suffer ill health.
Corbett left Rainbow for The Sooty Show in 1976, paving the way for…
Rod, Jane and Roger
In my opinion, Roger Walker isn’t given nearly enough credit in Rainbow lookbacks. His jaunty, Chas-and-Dave-alike singing stile, and his enthusiasm for looking silly fit in perfectly with the show’s ethos. Did I seriously just use the word ‘ethos’ in an article about Rainbow? My god.
Roger is possibly most famous for appearing in the infamous ‘Rude Rainbow’ episode, which I’m sure everyone knows about by now. If you don’t know the story behind Rude Rainbow, check out this article, which someone actually paid me to write. The mind boggles.
Roger sang about hats and feeling a bit sad from 1977-1980, before going on to star in, among other things, short lived BBC soap fail Eldorado. His departure from Rainbow would spawn the greatest line-up in history, namely…
Rod, Jane and Freddy
At last, we have the holy trinity. Rod Burton, Jane Tucker and Freddy Marks, who were alternately (if the rumours are to be believed, and they’re not) shagging Jane, shagging Bungle, and shagging each other. On a more musical note, the trio racked up some 20 years and approximately 3 billion songs during their tenure on Rainbow. Highlights include a song about Sports Day, during which Rod wears increasingly short shorts, a rock opera in which they’re all milk bottles, and the earworm If You’re Going Camping Too, featured above. Don’t listen to it if you have anything at all to do for the rest of the day that doesn’t include singing.
RJF also had their own show on CITV, the imaginatively titled Rod Jane And Freddy. The show consisted of sketches and songs, not unlike Rainbow, except Jane wore these odd stripey tights quite a lot. The trio left Rainbow in 1991, leaving most of the show’s musical duties for the remaining episodes to be undertaken by two people: Christopher and Dawn.
Christopher holds the dubious honour of having the silliest name of anyone who ever appeared on Rainbow. But fans of the show also hold him in high esteem for being a good sport, and for inclusing the others in his songs. He’s also fondly remembered for being able to put instant reverb on his voice with no equipment whatsoever.
Christopher also appeared in… hang on, I need to say something.
The text in this document got mixed up as I was writing it, and I ended up with the sentence “Christopher also appeared in Dawn Bowden.” This is wrong, and shall be stricken from the record immediately.
Anyway, Christopher presented Flicks, ITV’s answer to Jackanory, between 1983 and 1988. He is also credited as a writer on The Fimbles, that weird, over-hyped BBC show about stripey mouse rat things. And there was a mole who read books, or something. He now lives in Greece and writes novels under the name Dominic Ranger. As far as I know he has never appeared in Dawn Bowden. Which brings us on to…
After Jane left the show, Rainbow needed another woman one. Incidentally, I wrote something about ‘woman ones’ a while back, if you’re interested. I don’t blame you if you’re not.
So Dawn took over from Jane in the role of the woman one. Not the matriarch though – that honour was reserved for Carry On star Patsy Rowlands, who was apparently Geoffrey’s auntie, as well as Bungle, George and Zippy’s auntie.
Back to Dawn. Rarely seen without her trusty Casio keyboard in tow, Dawn lived next door to the Rainbow gang, and was forever popping in on the off chance they all wanted to sing some nursery rhymes. My dad fancies Dawn, although he also fancies Jane, and Fiona Bruce, and that weathergirl off Sky News.
In the above video, Dawn does some very sexy dancing with Bungle.
The exact nature of Dawn and Geoffrey’s relationship was never made clear, although I think she did once knit him a jumper. In the Rainbow universe, knitting Geoffrey a jumper is the same as getting engaged to him, so I think we’ve got our answer right there.
Details of Dawn’s career after Rainbow are hard to come by, but I did stumble across this website, and I am 99.9% convinced it’s the same Dawn, although there’s no mention of Rainbow, so feel free to call me wrong and an idiot. If the site does indeed belong to that Dawn Bowden, then she now works with children and adults with learning disabilities, as a Drama and Arts tutor. Also, she’s aged incredibly well, and I’m jealous.
If Rainbow ever comes back on TV, I plan to offer my musical services. I’ve already written 3 and a half songs in preparation for this, including The Menopause Song, Why Did That Thing Do That, and I Forgot To Put The Bins Out. You heard it here first.