50 Years Of Radio 1
In September 2017 Radio 1 turns 50 years old and numerous events and on-air features have been created to help celebrate this landmark. At some stage in our DJ careers we will have all listened to Radio 1 and in this article I'll explore the influence the station had on me and my decision to become a DJ.
My earliest memories of music are being huddled round my parents’ transistor radio listening to the rather crackly music emitting from the 2-watt built-in speaker. It was the early 1970s and mum would always have the radio on in the kitchen whilst preparing meals. I would stand at the side listening to the songs being played whilst helping roll the pastry for the topping to one of her legendary meat and potato pies!
The transistor radio gave you the choice of listening to Medium Wave (MW) or Long Wave (LW) by pressing the chunky silver button on the top and moving the ridiculously large aerial around until the required signal was obtained. This process would often result in my father banging the side of the radio really hard with his hand or shaking the unit violently in a vain attempt to make the signal slightly better than it was, much to the amusement of the rest of the family. The radio was, at best, temperamental so once tuned to a station it was agreed that it be left alone. The stations available were limited, and often the strongest signal would dictate which one would be listened to. In the case of my family, our radio was tuned to 1214 kHz Medium Wave (247 meters)... the frequency for BBC Radio 1. Noel Edmonds, Tony Blackburn and Ed Stewart were amongst the DJs on-air at that time, playing a variety of current and retro hits to millions of listeners across the UK. The biggest stars on the station quickly became household names and as famous as the artists they played on their shows. By the mid-70s I was still a few years away from becoming a professional DJ myself, but the radio station was influencing my passion for music and subliminally planting the seeds for the career I was to choose.
By the end of the decade I was really into my music and had decided that “I want to be a DJ when I grow up”, ideally on Radio 1. Despite my parents having a new TV sitting proudly in the corner of our living room, it was the radio that remained my choice for entertainment. Each morning I would tune into the Radio 1 Breakfast Show, dreaming that one day I would have that job, and enjoy the music and banter that became synonymous with that show. I vaguely remember Noel Edmonds hosting the show (1973 - 1978) and Dave Lee Travis (1978 - 1980) but it was to be the turn of the decade when Radio 1 would change my life forever!
'The Happy Sound of Radio 1' moved into the ‘80s and with it came a new set of DJs. Mike Read took the reins of the Breakfast Show and the station introduced us to names like Peter Powell, Simon Mayo, Bruno Brookes and Steve Wright. The latter’s show pulling in over seven million listeners a week thanks to its unique 'zoo style' that was a huge hit with the public. I loved that show and the way Steve Wright linked sketches, features and music together. It was wonderful radio and a joy to listen to.
There was no internet back then and the only way to hear your favourite songs was to go out and buy the record or listen to the radio. Radio 1 would play all the songs I liked, which was a good thing as I couldn't afford to buy many records at that time. In 1983 my music world turned upside down when Frankie Goes To Hollywood burst onto the scene. 'Relax' was gaining air-play and steadily climbing the charts until Radio 1 took the decision to ban the song... luckily for me I had managed to tape the song before the ban was imposed! As a music producer who understands the importance of eradicating music piracy, I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I was guilty of this crime in my younger years. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who would listen to the radio and tape my favourite songs? If you did then you will understand the importance of a pencil during the recording process!
Radio 1 was, for many years, the only way to hear the latest music and new releases. I remember once being on a family holiday and sitting in the car listening to Radio 1's ‘Round Table’ show that previewed new songs. They were going to play the new single by Feargal Sharkey called 'Listen To Your Father' that also featured my favourite band Madness. The only way of hearing this track was to listen to this show so whilst my family built sandcastles on the beach I sat in a roasting hot Ford Cortina estate and waited patiently for the record to be played.
Radio 1 DJs would also host Top Of The Pops, the weekly music show that featured live performances and videos of songs in the Top 40. Every Thursday night at 7pm the TV was switched to BBC 1 and I would park myself as close to the screen as possible for the next 30 minutes. As much as I loved the music that was played, it was the DJs that fascinated me. It was part of the joy of watching the show, seeing which Radio 1 DJs were presenting and the style they used to introduce each artist. Some presenters were naturals and their backgrounds as mobile or club DJs allowed them to present the show with ease. DJs like Mark Goodier and Gary Davis were equally at home on TV as on the radio, not because they were great TV presenters but because they came from a DJ background and had an obvious love for the music and artists they were introducing. Steve Wright, however, is a journalist and broadcaster, and a very good one at that, but you could tell that he didn't have the knowledge or interest in the music he played as much as other DJs who cut their teeth in clubs or on the mobile DJ circuit. Ironically, over 30 years later, Steve Wright now includes his ‘Serious Jockin'... no G’ feature as part of his Radio 2 show where he DJs in a style used by many of his Radio 1 colleagues back in the day!
One of the other delights that Radio 1 provided was the legendary Radio 1 Roadshow. I absolutely loved this concept and always dreamed of hosting it one day... along with many other DJs I'm sure! Sadly, for me, that never happened, but the roadshow remained a huge influence on my career as a DJ.
The Radio 1 Roadshow was a regular feature as part of the summer holiday schedule, with the show touring the UK and offering listeners the chance to see their favourite DJs live on stage. The show was usually broadcast from 11am to 12:30pm and included loads of great music, live acts and silly games including the legendary ‘Bits & Pieces’!
I would sit at the side of my parents’ Hi-Fi system, headphones plugged in, volume cranked up and wait patiently for 11am to come around. The iconic Radio 1 Roadshow jingle would start... “Today, live from (insert location here) with (insert DJ name here)”. The jingle would be quickly followed by huge cheers from the live crowd, and some additional canned cheers, before the first song was played and the DJ would deliver their introductions with impeccable timing before the vocal of the track kicked in. It was brilliant, especially for a 14 year old with aspirations of one day hosting the show!
I started my first mobile disco service in 1985 and would use Radio 1 as my main source for deciding on which records to buy. In the summer of that year something very special happened. It was the six week school holidays and we were on a family holiday in Cornwall. As a surprise, at the end of our two week vacation, my parents took me to the Cornwall Colosseum at Carlyon Bay to see... The Radio 1 Roadshow! I remember walking towards the site and hearing the music and crowd getting louder and louder the closer we got until at last there is was in all its splendour and glory! The stage, the iconic logos and even the ‘Goodie Mobile’. It was more beautiful than I had ever imagined and it was right in front of me... give or take a few hundred feet! The atmosphere was electric. Thousands of people had turned out in the sunshine to be entertained by Mike Read. He played his guitar, sang a few songs, played a few records and even hit some signed tennis balls into the audience of which one was caught by yours truly. I still have that tennis ball as a reminder of the one and only time I ever saw the Radio 1 Roadshow. It was one of the greatest live events I have ever been to. It was everything (and more) that I expected it to be and I went away from the show buzzing from the experience.
I made a mental note of the records that Mike Read had played and went out and bought a large selection of them later that day. I had a little stash of the money that I had saved from the pound coin my parents had given me each day to use in the amusement arcades. They were completely unaware that I had simply walked around the arcade for several minutes and spent nothing! By the end of the holiday I had saved enough to buy several records including 'Tarzan Boy' by Baltimora, 'I Got U Babe' by UB40 & Chrissie Hynde and 'Excitable' by Amazulu. I even managed to pick up a picture disc version of 'Banana Banana' by King Kurt, which is still in my collection and a constant reminder of that special day in 1985.
1985 was also the year of one of the most iconic music events of all time – Live Aid. The show was shown on BBC 1 and simultaneously broadcast on Radio 1. It was Radio 1's Richard Skinner whose voice signalled the beginning of the event: “It's 12 noon in London, 7am in Philadelphia and around the world it's time for Live Aid. Wembley welcomes their royal highnesses the Prince & Princess of Wales” and Tommy Vance who introduced the first act to the stage: “And now to start the 16 hours of Live Aid would you welcome... Status Quo”. Both introductions were delivered impeccably by two DJs at the very top of their game. A few years later, in 1989, it was Radio 1's Gary Davis who took to the stage to rescue the Brits Awards which was crumbling apart before our very eyes thanks to the inept presenting of Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood. In fairness to them both there were technical difficulties throughout the show, but it was a Radio 1 DJ who restored sanity to the proceedings… if only for one award.
I can't write about Radio 1 and not mention the Top 40 Chart Show. Of all the shows on Radio 1 this was the one that was most influential to me as a DJ. I would tune in religiously at 5pm, 4pm from 1986, on a Sunday evening and for the next two hours the official UK Top 40 was counted down. Tommy Vance, Richard Skinner and Bruno Brookes were the presenters who hosted the show during the 1980s, but it was in 1990 that a new voice took over the chart and for many DJs of a similar age to myself he was, and always will be, the voice of the Top 40. He is of course... Mark Goodier! If ever you want a lesson on how to DJ with passion and perfection then this was the show to listen to. I tuned in with pen and paper at the ready, and a pencil of course... ahem!, and would write down each track as Mark counted down the chart. I would include information on each track including: chart position, number of weeks on chart and whether the track had gone up or down, using coloured biro pens to log the various information... well it kept me off the streets I guess! The next day I would visit my local record store and buy every single from the new chart that I didn't already have in my mobile DJ collection.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 85, Pages 56-60.