Firstly, let me give you a warning. I know Iowa may be somewhat
distant from your usual stomping grounds, but if you are planning to
maroon yourself in the hawkeye state in the interests of identifying
with this musical gem, please read the Department of Public Safety's
warning for stranded motorists, in order to avoid any untoward
Now: on to the good stuff!
The song opens with a very mellow female voice, offering some facts
and figures. No doubt the desire to find the origin of this wondrous
siren has plagued you for years, so this researcher can now enlighten
you (and the enthralled masses) that this is, in fact, the British
Broadcasting Corporation's offshore shipping forecast, broadcast twice
daily on their Radio 4 FM frequencies (useless for inshore sailors,
who instead should listen to the forecast for inshore waters) and 198
LW, a frequency which reaches much further.
Why Mr Mann picked this to open his song remains a mystery.
The waters near Britain are divided up into regions, all given
suitable (Thames, Dover) or not so suitable (Dogger, Lundy) names. On
BBC Radio 4, at 00.45 (and also in the morning, when this researcher
tends, alas, to be in deep slumber) a forecast is read for each of
these regions, detailing the barometric pressure, whether it is rising
or falling, and the actual weather conditions.
Shipping regions: http://www.met-office.gov.uk/leisure/shiparea.html
Offshore shipping forecast:
Inshore shipping forecast:
This forecast continues for approximately 15 minutes, whereupon the
national anthem, God Save the Queen, is played with full gusto, and
the station then goes off the air (and is replaced by the BBC World
It would be nice to try to talk in a little more depth about the
song's actual meaning, but since spending many fruitless hours in
contemplation of the chorus to Blinded By The Light, this researcher
has decided to give Mr Mann's lyrics a wide berth (even in stormy