Radio 1 memories 

3 October 2007

Roddy Buxton remembers his decades of Radio 1

Being brought up around the live music scene, I became interested in music from a very early age. On television we had Top of the Pops; if mum let me stop up late, Old Grey Whistle Test (I ended up watching video recordings of it), and then came The Tube on Channel 4 for tea-time viewing.

Sadly TV didn’t have that much to offer in the way of coverage of pop music – MTV and the like hadn’t even been thought of. So instead we’d tune our old Hacker in to Radio 1.

The Radio 1 of my childhood is so different from the Radio 1 of today: now it is more radical and faster paced.

For me, chart music throughout the period of the 1970s and 1980s seemed much more varied; each programme itself also seemed more varied. Many of the shows became institutions with the listening public, and crucial listening in many a work place and home throughout the day.

My earliest memories date back to the latter part of the 1970s, listening to Tony Blackburn’s breakfast show on a small radio inside our car- the MW type that went fuzzy each time you went under a bridge or past a large substation!

While getting ready for school, we’d be listening to Dave Lee Travis on the Breakfast show, playing out the chart hits of the day.

Sandwiched amongst the tunes would be various jingles which to me still sound good today – OK, a little dated but as far as radio branding goes, it was almost as good as that on the TV.

At the time, many major radio stations were also beginning to broadcast fully in FM Stereo – where previously it would have been only the odd ‘special’ programme, concert or simulcast broadcast in Stereo. The simulcast of Top of the Pops was one to remember. I would turn up the radio and watch the pictures on the TV- out of sync of course- I suppose it was my earliest experiment with stereo television!

Sundays I would listen avidly to Jimmy Saville’s Old Time Record Show at lunchtime and then tune in at 5pm for two hours of the Top 40 presented by the late great Tommy Vance.

During the early 1980s, the Jimmy Saville show was replaced by Pick of the Pops – hosted by Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman – which ran on Radio 1 until around 1992 and moved to its new home on Radio 2. It’s still on air today, now hosted by Dale Winton.

The Top 40 became crucial listening every Sunday across the land – music industry greats, musicians and most of the country would tune in to hear the chart run-down compiled by Gallup and find out who was at that crucial Number 1 spot. I would listen each week. Sadly a lot of the ‘manufactured’ acts beginning to appear in the charts did not appeal to me – I was more into ‘bands’ – but none the less for me it was must-listening before doing homework!

Another memory is the Simon Bates show, which was broadcast during the morning up until lunchtime during the week. A favourite of mine was the Golden Hour, where songs and news clips from a particular year would be played and listeners could phone in to guess the year. There would be two years, each taking 30 minutes of the first part of the show.

Another part of the show was Our Song – another feature that ran for years and years, where Simon would read out sometimes tragic or harrowing events in the life of a listener who had written in to dedicate a (generally in my view rather soppy) tune to round it off.

Listening to Simon Bates meant two things to me: I was off school ill; and there was nothing worth watching on Schools & Colleges!

For me, the big Radio 1 event of the year was the Radio 1 Roadshow, which toured the country throughout the school holidays. For a whole three hours in the morning we’d tune in to hysterical crowds being entertained by live bands, competitions, music and DJs. The opening drum-roll of the broadcast (in a similar fashion to the great John Benson ‘From Norwich’ announcement that opened each Sale of the Century on TV) would start the great radio song and dance off – had ATV run a radio station, I am sure they would have come up with something like this. It was just pure entertainment – sometimes quite risque too. I attended a ‘Road show’ at Markeaton Park, in Derby, during the summer of 1991- and to date it holds the record for the highest attendance at any Radio 1 Roadshow.

By this time newer DJs had joined the station- Simon Mayo, Steve Wright, Gary Davies and even Nikki Campbell became well known names and continued the trend of good music mixed in with entertainment.

For me, the period of the late 1980s into the mid 1990s was the golden era of Radio 1 – I’d wake up early in the morning with the clock radio turning on to listen to Simon Mayo on the Breakfast Show, and get ready for school. Simon Mayo was still broadcasting his show in the regular weekday morning slot, and in the afternoon it would be Steve Wright in the Afternoon, the latter show now one of the biggest draws on Radio 2.

On a Sunday we’d listen to Dave Lee Travis who was now broadcasting in the mid morning until lunchtime, his quiz show Give Us a Break – based on snooker became a hit with the listening public and was such a success that a gaming company created an electronic game machine based on the format, which appeared in just about every pub and arcade during that era. There are a couple still around today.

One particular edition I remember was when “DLT” was set up for a ‘Gotcha’ Oscar by Noel Edmonds as part of his Saturday evening TV show. Noel was in the studio next door, ‘phoning in’ to take part in the Give us a Break Quiz, and giving ridiculous answers to quite simple questions. and via the use of hidden cameras, the viewers could see DLT tearing his hair out in frustration and getting quite annoyed.

By now Tommy Vance had moved on to other programmes on Radios 1 and 2, such as the Friday Rock Show (another fave of mine), and Mark Goodier took over on the Top 40.

And then it all changed.

During the mid 1990s, new management and controllers were brought into Radio 1, and made quite controversial changes to the entire character of the station. Many shows and DJs (then national institutions) were axed, deemed “Too old” and “dated”, and new fresh-faced DJs were brought in. For me, the golden age of Radio 1 had ended.

Gone were familiar faces such as Dave Lee Travis (who resigned on air during his Sunday lunchtime show), Steve Wright (who moved to Radio 2), Alan Freeman (who also moved to Radio 2) and Simon Bates, whom I believe went into voiceover work and ultimately to Classic FM. DLT opened a small studio at his farm, and was broadcasting on independent radio for a number of years after.

The station seemed to now be aimed at a much younger audience and the music played was determined by a committee: each show would select music from three play lists, “A”, “B” and “C”- each show thus becoming a little repetitive.

Overall the station became faster paced and seemed to only play one style of music- or was I just getting older?

Having listened to Radio 1 recently while writing this article, I think the station is getting back to how it once was, but much faster paced. Indeed, I think my dial may creep up the scale to R1 again soon.

You Say

7 responses to this article

john morris 13 January 2011 at 9:51 pm

just read ur blog and it brought back memories of great radio, and feeling a little nostalgic i tuned my radio to radio 1.

I put up with it for 45 minuits then went right back to radio 2.

paula varley 4 May 2011 at 11:29 pm

I have a great question that everyone might remember on a Dave Lee Travis show back in the 1980s,Question-to start off the show,what does the orcestra tune too,Answer, a lady answered THE BATON,and Dave Lee Travis nearly fell off his chair with laughter and responded THE BATON,.it was so funny listening to it you should have it on again,Brill.

Keith Bowen 10 June 2011 at 12:28 pm

Ah the Beeb and “popular” music

Radio 1 was the answer!!!!

Well it wasn’t, the largest selling and most popular bands from the start of Radio 1 are still capable of drawing audiences, but at best were given lip service by the beeb whilst promoting absolute dross.

Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd etc etc on Radio 1? Not unless there was a “single” or you found the “niche” spots. Well done John Peel and fluff Freeman for playing popular music not 3 minute wonder musak for the masses.

Sadly that is Radio 1 will always be remembered for as far as i am concerned, and as for the the current crop of DJ’s, perhaps if brought together toi dicuss MUSIC rather then musak they might between thm produce a legible coherant sentence that means something and is relevant to the music.

Liz 13 June 2011 at 5:37 pm

Brilliant question Paula!!

gary 14 June 2011 at 10:55 am

can anyone tell me who played at the radio one roadshow at markeaton park derby ?

Deborah 31 August 2011 at 11:00 pm

I think you’ll find that the Dave Lee Travis show featuring “Give us a Break” was aired on Saturday mornings. I should know, because I was one of the contestants. Never mind me, though, it was a great show and DLT was great to talk to.

Sarah Boucher 19 July 2013 at 6:43 pm

BBC Radio 1’s music nowadays plays TOO MUCH Justin Bieber music. Yuck!

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