The Beiderbecke Tapes

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The Beiderbecke Tapes is a two-part British television drama serial written by Alan Plater and broadcast in 1987. It is the second serial in The Beiderbecke Trilogy and stars James Bolam and Barbara Flynn as schoolteachers Trevor Chaplin and Jill Swinburne. When a tape recording of a conversation about nuclear waste inadvertently falls into Trevor's hands, Trevor and Jill find themselves being pursued by national security agents.

The Beiderbecke Tapes
Beiderbecke Tapes.jpg
GenreComedy drama
Written byAlan Plater
Directed byBrian Parker
StarringJames Bolam
Barbara Flynn
Dudley Sutton
Keith Smith
Theme music composerFrankie Trumbauer and Chauncey Morehouse
Opening theme"Cryin' All Day"
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes2
Executive producerDavid Cunliffe
ProducerMichael Glynn
Original networkITV (Yorkshire Television)
Picture formatFilm PAL (576i)
Original release13 December (1987-12-13) –
20 December 1987 (1987-12-20)
Preceded byThe Beiderbecke Affair
Followed byThe Beiderbecke Connection


Trevor Chaplin teaches woodwork and likes to listen to jazz. Jill Swinburne teaches English and wants to help save the planet. They live together and just want a quiet life. Then they meet John the barman who died but is much better now. John gives them a tape, which leads to meeting Dave the wimp. They find out about The People's Front For The Liberation of West Yorkshire. The man with no name called Mr Peterson came to see them. He was followed by the six men in grey suits. Jill goes to see The Oldest Suffragette In Town. Trevor and Jill go on a trip to Amsterdam with their class from "San Quentin High". Trevor and Jill meet The Honourable Order of Elks who are "looking for a bit of action".

The tone throughout is deliberately discursive and undramatic. Trevor and Jill are mistakenly given a secret tape recording, which results in their harassment by security forces, their home being invaded, their private lives used to discredit them at school and their being pursued all the way to Amsterdam and Edinburgh. Eventually the tapes are revealed as just a charade invented by shady government forces as a part of a disinformation campaign.




In the same style as the preceding The Beiderbecke Affair, the plot is less important than the banter and interplay between the characters. The adventure unfolds to a soundtrack of jazz music in the style of Bix Beiderbecke performed by Frank Ricotti with Kenny Baker as featured cornet soloist.

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