Delia Derbyshire

“Who’s in the magazine this month so I can write about them?” he asked. Interesting we thought. “It’s Delia Derbyshire,” we said. What could possibly go wrong…

I envy Delia Derbyshire and all the music she magically made from toasters and wooden spoons and fart cushions. When I faff around all day, smearing my belly with guacamole to add texture to my sexts, I’m “procrastinating” and “avoiding my responsibilities” and “behind on my bills”. But for Delia Derbyshire, faffing became an artform: she’d whack some nipple clamps onto a lampshade and suddenly you’ve got ‘Doctor Who’.

It was difficult to make music in the 1760s when Delia was from, because the instruments were black and white, so they all looked the same. These days you have gold Korgs and red Nords and green Blorbs and I’m pretty sure I made one of those up. Walking into Delia’s studio must have been like walking into a custard cream factory where it’s one beige biscuit after another so after a while you can’t tell the difference between all the custard creams even though I once convinced myself that every custard cream in a custard cream packet had its own personality. Here’s Colin Custard Cream. He has an NVQ Level 1 in catering and is afraid of bicycles. Here’s Caroline Custard Cream. She’s the daughter of a wealthy millionaire and will one day get her pearls stolen by a mallard. Where was I? Oh yes, Delia Derbyshire.

Delia did a thing called musique concrète, which is an anagram of “queer comic tunes”. Concrète is Welsh for “concrete”, which is English for “concrete”. This means the music sounds like wobbly paving stones, and when you tread on a wonky one in a rainstorm, it splashes all up your pants. Compare this to the dull sounds of, say, Pitbull whose music sucks so much atmosphere from the room, your trousers end up very dry indeed. Delia worked with magnetic tape, which is like normal tape but deeply sexually attractive. I’ve only given her Wikipedia page a cursory glance, but it looks like she also worked with the dance duo Reel 2 Reel whose lyrics include the line “bibidy, bom bi bom, mek, house go mad”, which is how people spoke in Delia times. Wait, I’m wrong. Apparently reel-to-reel is a kind of tape, like Scotch, Sello or Sex.

She’s famous for attending a thing called a BBC Radiophonic Workshop, although she was very clever and didn’t need to go to a workshop to learn stuff. Other members of this workshop included Daphne from ‘Scooby-Doo’ and some Daleks. One of the remarkable things about Delia Derbyshire is that she was a woman. A cis woman is a human who has an extra X chromosome, which is fine because I always have an extra sausage roll at a buffet and no one’s ever complained. 

In the past, men decided that women weren’t allowed to innovate or have money or vote or go more than six minutes on Twitter without being harassed. Thankfully despite our western world being apparently governed by overgrown penises in blond wigs, that is all changing. Nearly two decades after her death, Delia Derbyshire is the icon she deserved to be, posthumously splicing the patriarchy onto the cutting-room floor like some scissor-wielding spectral ninja.

I’m glad you’ve turned to this page to learn proper things about Delia Derbyshire, unlike the rest of this magazine which might as well have been created by a rhinoceros rogering a Speak & Spell. I’m a pioneer, me. One day I’ll have my own workshop and I’ll wet my pants right up to the crotch and I’ll create all the music for ‘Babylon 5’. You just wait.

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