Past Radio 1 

3 October 2007

For every listener there is a first time. That first programme. The one that makes you stand up and think “hey, this is good. I think I’ll listen to it again”.

The 1990s. Radio 1. Jakki Brambles. 6-7:30pm every weekday night. At 13, I quickly became a fan. Radio 1 would often be on my hifi as I sat in my bedroom trying to do my homework – the first time I really began to listen to Radio 1 on a regular basis.

Quite what was good about the shows, I can’t for the life of me remember. It just seemed to be quite good. Well except the simulcast of Top of the Pops that is.

Ironically it wasn’t even Jakki Brambles herself that features strongly in my memories of Radio 1 of that era – it’s actually of station controller Johny Beerling who was in the hot seat for the “Press Conference” segment of Going Live – the segment where children would ask questions from either the studio floor, or from home via the telephone.

One of the questions remains in my mind to this day – why are there no women DJs on daytime Radio 1? Beerling’s answer? People just don’t want to listen to women presenters during the day.

Thinking now, it still seems completely insane that a mere 17 years ago, that’s what kids were being told on live TV. However I knew it was one that was also completely wrong. I knew for a fact that I’d love to listen to Brambles on daytime radio.

As it happened, I wasn’t the only one. The popularity of Jakki’s late drivetime show saw her replacing Gary Davies on the lunchtime show in 1992 – BBC Radio 1 had finally introduced its first ever female daytime presenter. And so my listening to her show also ended – what with being at school during the day.

Instead I moved on to such delights as Mark Goodier’s Megahits, which I confess never really took the place of Ms Brambles. My listening also moved later into the evening, as I became a regular listener of Nicky Campbell’s 10 to midnight slot. I can still remember being quite sad upon hearing the news that he was to leave the station to take care of his partner who was ill.

His replacement was a presenter who had been at Radio 1 for a couple of years – presenting a Monday night music show called Out On Blue Six, and later a Thursday night arts show called The Guest List, of which I was a keen and regular listener. Despite being an arts show, nothing was ever taken too seriously, and the one programme that continues to stick in my mind, featured a story about a former underground public toilet, being turned into an art gallery. It seemed such an odd concept at the time – but then, some years later, I went to one in Shepherd’s Bush which had been converted into a bar…

Knowing Mark from that, I’d high hopes of his move to the slot that quickly became known as the Graveyard Shift.

From that very first show – which was always started with a version of the theme tune to TV programme Dangerman) – Mark Radcliffe, and his co-host Marc Riley (known forever to many as the Hapless Boy Lard) blew me away. Well everything apart from the music which for the first six months or so, I didn’t take much interest in until the Britpop era really exploded and changed my musical tastes forever.

The Graveyard Shift became cult listening for many – a hardy band of fans tuning in every night to listen to its eclectic mix of new music, old music, comedy sketches (including some done by a young Craig Cash and Phil Mealey – later of BBC sitcom Early Doors) and, poetry, book readings and live sessions.

At the time Radio 1 was experimenting with a series of radio drama productions which included a Batman story. To compete with these high quality daytime productions, The Graveyard Shift featured versions that had been released on vinyl record in the 1970s, including notably bad versions of Batman and Star Trek. To make things even more weird, the programme would often dedicate its last half hour to ambient music and whale noise.

With a potentially geeky mix, it’s not that surprising that the Graveyard Shift became the inspiration for a number of new fangled things called websites – at the time just beginning to break out of the universities and into the home. One of the first things that got put in my very first website was a page about Mark and Lard. They still form part of my personal site to this day. A huge community was also built up online, on internet newsgroups and forums.

The Graveyard Shift introduced me personally to a huge number of new bands – some who turned major, and some who didn’t. My favourite band of all time, Out of My Hair – who firmly fitted in the latter category – were introduced to me by that show. They performed two live sessions on the programme, and lead singer Simon Eugene, read extracts from Enid Blyton’s The Magic Fareawary Tree.

It also gave me my own – rather limited – exposure to the nation when film critic Mark Kermode set a competition to win some Dads Army videos. The question was to work out which of three wasn’t a catch phrase from the programme. Cue an assorted collection of phrases including one which went “I’m free”.

Naturally I entered, adding the comment that the answer was one which any half-witted semi-deranged moron could get, which prompted Mark Kermode to read it out on air and proclaim that it was absolutely true and proceeded to give the prize to the only three people who had actually entered the competition and had got the wrong order, on the basis that they needed the prizes more! Well you can’t argue with that!

The Graveyard Shift was a late night success and that success couldn’t be ignored by Radio 1’s management – leading to fill in slots at Breakfast, which saw the mayhem continue, ableit without the more intellectual stuff.

In early 1997 it was announced the duo would be moving to the Drivetime slot and an era was drawing to an end. That move never happened thanks to Chris Evans’s abrupt departure from the station, and as history records, Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley were thrust into the limelight. It was a ratings disaster, and the show lasted a mere eight months before the pair were moved over to the afternoon show, which in contrast was a huge ratings success once more.

Their move to daytime once again though, limited my exposure to a favoured radio presenter. My late night listening instead moved to people like Steve Lamaq, Andy Kershaw, Giles Peterson and Mary Anne-Hobbs who I became the soundtrack to my studying sessions at university. And like many before me, I became hopelessly addicted to John Peel who became a focus for another of my websites – the now world famous John Peel Sweet Eating Game, which was featured on the Peel programme on 25 July 2000 much to the amazement of a stunned author sat in his scanky studio flat in West London, initially panicking that the great legend of Radio 1 would take offence at what was written. As it happened, he spend much of the show awarding sweets, or deliberately not doing so in order to thwart those wanting to scoff some more mint humbugs.

It was at university that I began to drift away from most of daytime Radio 1. I quickly got fed up with the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show possee, which appeared when the wonderful Kevin Greening was booted off the flagship programme, but the real crunch point came one Bank Holiday listening to Scott Mills spent what felt like an eternity talking about S Club 7. I sat there, listening, and slowly realised that I just didn’t care. Not one bit. From then on, daytime Radio 1 became a no go zone bar my beloved Mark and Lard. My evening listening also reduced – as it often does when you cease being a teenager stuck in your own room, moving instead to watching TV in your own living room.

With few radio stations really playing my favoured music, I began to listen to more talk radio – mainly Five Live. Moving to London after my studies, I experimented with XFM, before finding a temporary home with BBC GLR until that station was closed and replaced in 2000. It took two years for me to find a new radio heaven – BBC 6music quickly filled the gap and remains my music station of choice to this day.

My listening of Radio 1 really came to an end with the final Mark and Lard show. Their departure on 26 March 2004 was the end of an era for them and an army of fans who had, like me, begun to grow out of Radio 1. With the sad death of John Peel a few months later, I had no more excuses to listen to a station which had been a big part of my life for most of my lift.

When I was a kid I proclaimed to myself that I’d never give up on Radio 1. I’d never stop watching Top of the Pops. I’d never stop caring about what was number 5 in the charts. I said it – many kids said it – because we look at our parents and decide that we don’t want to be like them, listening to their “sad” music, or complaining aboops out “that dreadful noise” blaring out of the TV set at 7pm on a Thursday.

We say that, then we get older. Each generation has to have their own music; their own bands. The chance to discover music on their own terms. Music is constantly being re-invented (yet strangely often staying pretty much the same!) yet our tastes don’t always move on with that re-invention. And as the music moves on, so does Radio 1. I may only be 30, but I’m past it as far as Radio 1 is concerned. I said goodbye to that old friend a long time ago. So it was for me. So it was for most of its listeners.

But that friendship was bloody good whilst it lasted.

In a piece of blatent self promotion, the author would like to draw your attention to Fancy A Brew and The John Peel Sweet Eating Game. Go on. Visit. You know you want to.

Andrew Bowden recalls his introduction to Radio 1. And more…

Your comment

Enter it below

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Saturday 24 February 2024