For me – as the person who dissected and restructured the story in a form to be told in 30-minute chunks (nearly always culminating with a cliffhanger ending) and as the writer for half of the episodes – it was, and remains, the most significant landmark in my career.
If you've never read the story of how this radio classic (and, after thirty years, I don't need to offer any apology for that description) was embarked upon and accomplished you can do so in my article The Ring Goes Ever On.
As for the Radio Times cover (above) by illustrator Eric Fraser (a legendary embellisher of the magazine), I had, long before, been encouraged in identifying and appreciating Fraser's work by my father (a former commercial artist), so the moment I learned that he was going to create the cover art for the week in which TLotR would begin transmission, I wrote to him care of the Radio Times' Art Editor and asked if I could buy the original art.
Mr Fraser replied in rather mystified terms because he had not yet carried out the commission and couldn't imagine why anyone would want to purchase a piece of his art sight-unseen. I responded that I wanted to buy the painting whatever it looked like because it was my first production to be given a Radio Times cover (there was a later one) and because I was such an ardent admirer of his work. The artist's next letter told me that, if I still wished to buy it when I saw it, it could be mine for 40 guineas.
Thirty years ago, this was a not an inconsiderable sum, but my perspicacity in snapping up his offer was fully justified when, come March, the magazine appeared and the senior, producer on the series, the Head of Radio Drama, the Controller of Radio 4 and the Managing Director of Radio were all competing with one another to buy the original – only to find that it had already been sold!
It now hangs on my wall and is, without question, one of my most treasured possessions.
Here's a reminder of opening theme composed for the series by Stephen Oliver that, for six months of 1981, became part of Britain's Sunday lunchtime routine...
Special thanks to Jen Miller for unearthing and sending me this vintage edition edition of Radio Times!