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We Were First!

more accurately: We were among the first!

This web page is purely and simply an outlet for my frustration at the number of people who seem to have jumped on my own personal bandwagon. Maybe you know the feeling. You discover a nice little unkown book / album / TV programme which you thoroughly enjoy, and within a decade or two suddenly everyone is saying how wonderful it is and the popular hype somehow detracts from your simple, cultured, under-stated appreciation.

So here are some examples where the Cockburn family were in (almost) from the beginning.

Terry Pratchett

You can't go into a bookshop these days without tripping over piles of the latest Discworld paperback. Terry Pratchett is churning them out at the rate of a few a year. I have read the first 25 in the series, which does not quite bring me fully up-to-date.
But back in 1986, I can still remember the pleasure of The Light Fantastic appearing in the shops. A sequel to the delightful Colour of Magic. Wonderful! Now there was another book to read about the comically quirky discworld!
I can also remember going off the series after about 4 or 5 books, because I felt the spark of originality had gone. Looking back, I was wrong. Pratchett hit his peak with Pyramids and Guards! Guards!. After that he has been going slowly downhill. The only reason I keep reading them is that they are familiar, undemanding and relaxing. Long gone is the excitement of those opening pages of the first book in which the Great A'Tuin the turtle moved ponderously through space according to either the Big Bang or the Steady Gait hypothesis.

Alan Partridge

Whether you find Alan Partridge amusing, irritating or both, you will probably have come across this wonderfully inept character on television. I knew him and loved him when he was only on radio. Alan was the sports presenter in the magnificenly bizarre On the Hour, later reincarnated as The Day Today on BBC television. His first big break was as host of the chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You on Radio 4. Although he did achieve his dream of taking the same show to television (Knowing Me, Knowing You, with Alan Partridge), the six radio programmes remain classic comedy.
My favourite line: "You've just written your autobiography. What's that about?"

Theme tune for Big Break

You know the relentlessly cheerful theme song for the game show Big Break? Maybe you thought someone wrote it specially for the programme. Wrong. Our family had come across it years beforehand on the album The Hunting of the Snark by Mike Batt. This particular track was called The Snooker Song and was sung by Captain Sensible, who had previously achieved brief fame for his cover version of Happy Talk.

Harry Potter

Four members of the Cockburn family had read and enjoyed Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone prior to the second book of the series being written and long before Harry Potter became a household name. (The fifth member became a fan with the publication of book two.)

Dungeons and Dragons

Somewhere in the loft I still have a copy of the original rules, a flimsy blue booklet from about 1980 which predates the more familiar Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

The Satanic Verses

Sue and I once heard an interesting debate on the radio between Salman Rushdie, whose new book seemed to make derogatory remarks about the prophet Mohammed, and a Muslim representative who found the book offensive. Although the two parties strongly disagreed, the discussion remained civilised, informative and largely academic. We never imagined that The Satanic Verses was soon to be the centre of a major international diplomatic crisis.

The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (almost)

One day I discovered my father listening to some weird radio programme. I asked what it was and he told me The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy, adding that it was quite funny. To me it just sounded baffling. How was I to know that it was towards the end of the second episode when the various characters are discovering the range of improbable coincidences that the Infinite Improbability Drive had generated? I just missed out on the first broadcast of a great series.
I did become a fan when the second radio series was broadcast, and at least that was before the trilogy of five books and the TV version.

Welcome back, my friends...

When Jim Davidson took over The Generation Game and the theme tune became "Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends..." I wasn't sure whether to be delighted at the recognition given to one of the greatest rock ensembles of all time, or to be horrified that such stupendous music should be linked to such a trite TV programme. (On balance, I am horrified, especially when I discovered that Jim Davidson is an ELP fan!) The theme tune is of course from the track "Karn Evil Nine - 1st impression", from the album Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.


I am the proud owner of an Oasis album produced ten years before Noel and Liam Gallagher ever put lips to microphone or plectrum to strings. In 1984, a group called Oasis produced a nice middle-of-the-road easy-listening album. The members of Oasis were Peter Skellern (pianist and crooner), Mary Hopkin ("Those were the days, my friend" - remember?), Julian Lloyd Webber (cellist with a famous brother), Mitch Dalton and Bill Lovelady (two other guys). No-one else has heard of them. Even the All Music Guide website fails to recognise this first Oasis. But they did exist and I still have the LP to prove it.
(Postscript and apology: All Music Guide do now include this group on their database, but they didn't until recently.)

Various Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors

Here are some authors who went on to produce popular books and/or series. I can claim to have read their first book (or at least their first famous book) when they were just starting out.
The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Magician by Raymond E. Feist
The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay
Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind (good first book, but then he developed it into a never-ending series....)
Mindstar Rising by Peter F Hamilton
Daggerspell by Katherine Kerr
Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (another tedious never-ending series, though I couldn't be bothered to continue beyond book one)

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