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Pop Master analysed, again, and the death of a quizzer

During the life of this Blog I have referred many times to Pop Master, the mid-morning quiz on Ken Bruce’s BBC Radio 2 show, broadcast on weekdays. I have mentioned, more than once, that it is the most listened-to slot on UK radio, apart from breakfast shows.

For nearly three years (since April 2017) I have been keeping a note of my Pop Master scores, and in previous pieces have offered analysis of them: 100 Rounds, 600 Rounds, and (from last year) One Thousand Rounds of Pop Master. The top score available from each round of 10 questions is 39. There are 3 Bonus Questions worth 6 points each, and 7 others each worth 3 points. Over the last 1,466 rounds I have managed the top score 33.3% of the time. Last week was a particularly good one for me, with scores of 39 points 6 times out of 10.

It was a different story in February. There were weeks when I only managed one or two scores of 39. I have gone back over the questions to see what’s changed. For a start, there were more questions about recent hits. These often provide the greatest challenge. These two, for example, were from 20 February:

“Stop This Flame” is a recent hit by which singer?
“The Keeper” is a recent release by which group?

I guessed Mabel and The 1975 but the answers are Celeste and Blossoms.

Also, the questions beginning “In what year …” range in difficulty. The easiest ones, for me at least, are those that continue “… did the Top Three consist of …” Next easiest are the ones that ask “In what year did the following songs reach #1 …” The most difficult are those that ask “In what were the following songs new entries on the chart” or “In what year were the following songs at numbers 30, 20 and 10 …” In February more of the year-based questions were about new entries and about the songs at 30, 20 at 10. Over the last week they have mostly been about Top Threes.

Occasionally on Pop Master you hear someone you recognize from other quiz formats. It happened last Monday (9 March) with a contestant from Manchester called Rachael, a familiar face (and voice) to people who watch as many quiz shows as we do round here. The show is available until 6 April 2020 here, and her contribution begins at 1:08:10. She has previously appeared on “University Challenge”, “Mastermind”, “Impossible” and “Who wants to be a millionaire?” In the last-named of these she was in the Fastest Finger First round but didn’t make it to the chair to face Jeremy Clarkson. In each of these shows, apart from “Mastermind”, the question format was adapted to allow for her visual impairment. On “University Challenge”, for example, the picture rounds involved text-based answers so that her team-mates could see the letters and she could read them using Braille.

Last Monday she won the day’s quiz with a score of 36 and came as close as possible to qualifying for Champions League Pop Master at the end of the year, without quite making it. Anyone who scores 39 points makes it to the Champions League format and so does anyone who scores 36 and gets their “3 in 10” question right. “3 in 10” requires you to name 3 Top 75 hits by a specific act within 10 seconds. After her winning score she was asked to name 3 Foo Fighters hits in the allotted time. She named 3 (“Monkey Wrench”, “Learn to Fly”, “The One”) but the last of these only made it to #77 in the UK, so by those two chart places she has probably missed out on an appearance in Champions League Pop Master. (She said “Learning to Fly” as her second answer but that was close enough.)

Immediately after that, when Ken asked, “Is there anyone you’d like to say hello to?”, she paid tribute to top quizzer Dave Rainford who has just died. Sad news. He was also a familiar face to us TV quiz watchers: a regular on “Eggheads” (where he was known as “Tremendous Knowledge Dave”) and a big money winner (£250,000) on “Who wants to be a millionaire?” back when Chris Tarrant was hosting it. This time last year I caught many old episodes of the show, repeated on Challenge (Channel 46 on our multi-channel box), including his appearance. He and Tarrant seemed to get on well. He was going to put some of his winnings towards his wedding, and Tarrant said that he’d be there. The episode in question was first shown in April 2005 and the 250k question was this:

“Which of these people was not born in 1899?”
A Duke Ellington / B Charlie Chaplin / C Humphrey Bogart / D Ernest Hemingway

If you know your cinema history, you could probably work it out. It’s Charlie Chaplin: by 1914 he was all grown up and working in Hollywood, so he couldn’t have been born in 1899.

The 500k question was:

“As what was 18th century-born explorer Mungo Park qualified?”
A Priest / B Lawyer / C Surgeon / D Engineer

Dave thought it was doctor (or surgeon) but didn’t risk it. He said, on receiving his winning cheque, “That’s ample”, and walked away with Chris Tarrant saying what a nice man he was, a sentiment repeated in Rachael’s tribute to him last Monday:

“I’d just like to pay tribute to a good friend of mine who passed away at the weekend, Dave Rainford, who was in my quiz league for many years, a wonderful man, known to many people as an “Egghead” … just a fantastic human being … he was a huge Pop Master fan … He’ll be so missed by everyone who knew him …“

Rest in peace, Tremendous Knowledge Dave.




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