Radio 1 is Won-der-ful 

29 September 2017

It’s 6.50am on Saturday, 30 September, 1967, and I’m excited. In fairness, I’m 17 and an unhappy bag of hormones… But the other thing that excites me is that the UK is about to get its first terrestrial, home-grown pop music station.

Essex Boy that I was, I’d enjoyed the attentions of Caroline… Radio Caroline, that is. And Radio London. Groovy baby. And the ‘rents even tuned into Radio 390’s music for oldies. I remember a seaside day trip to Frinton one summer (Frinton?? The notices, “No parking on the greensward”, tell you all you need to know about Frinton! BOR-ring.) Borrowing Dad’s binoculars and looking out to sea, I could see a tiny speck on the horizon. A Pirate Ship!! I was transformed into a happy teenager for the rest of the day, a miracle. Not quite in the Lourdes category, but I’m sure Mum and Dad were grateful for any small improvement. Teenagers, eh?

Anyway, back to me and my little AM radio that Saturday. The BBC Light Programme had disappeared from the airwaves the previous day, and Radio 2’s Paul Hollingdale had been stoically broadcasting “discs” augmented by “resident bands and singers of the week” since 5.33am. He knew full well that a huge chunk of his audience was about to disappear as 247m MW, like a rebellious teenager, flounced off to do its own thing. He’d be left with 1500m LW and VHF, blinking in a confused manner and wondering what all the fuss was about.

The build-up to 7.00am was fab.

Robin Scott (Controller of BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2): “Now, with the clock ticking slowly up to 7am…” (“slowly” – can the Beeb change the passage of time? One tick = 1 second, surely? Always. Sorry, I’m an excited teenager once again.) “…it’s going to be time to welcome Radio 1’s first daily show on 247 metres medium wave, while ‘Breakfast Special’ continues on Radio 2. (Pause) Ten seconds to go before Radio 1 / Tony Blackburn, and Radio 2 / Paul Hollingdale. Stand by for switching. Get tuned to Radio 1 or 2.

“5 – 4 – 3 – Radio 2 – Radio 1… GO!!” (Brilliant!)

This, dear reader, is a transcript of the actual Radio 1 broadcast that glorious Saturday morning. What I cannot find is a transcript of the corresponding Radio 2 output. What happened at 07:00:01? Maybe time for a quiet sigh, then the Radio 2 News jingle fires up? Anticlimaxville!

But back to # “The Voice of Radio 1!” #

# “Just for Fun – Music – Too Much!” #

Tony Blackburn: “And good morning everyone! Welcome to the exciting, new sound of Radio 1!”

(cue “Beefeaters” theme tune on cartridge, complete with Arnold the Alsatian’s barking)

Blackburn: “Yes indeed, we’ve even got Arnold back!”

The return of Arnold! Because Arnold had been with Tony Blackburn in his pirate days, first on Caroline in 1964, then on Radio London. On BBC Radio London (no relation), the DJ later recalled: “When I jumped ship from Radio Caroline to Radio London, Arnold came too. And when Radio London was forced off the air by the Government, Arnold and I opened Radio 1.”

Blackburn: “Hello everyone. Welcome to the first of the Tony Blackburn shows. I shall be waking up every morning (except Sunday) between 7 and 8.30. So let’s AWAY!”

Complete nonsense, Tony, but we loved you for it.

(cue explosion sound effect)

Blackburn: “If this one doesn’t wake you up, nothing will! This is number 3 this week in the (pause, to make sure he said it right?) Radio 1 Fun 30. From The Move, it’s called ‘Flowers in the Rain’.”

There is much debate on the internet about whether “Flowers in the Rain” WAS the first record to be played on Radio 1. Wasn’t it “Beefeaters”? Yes, we are all nerds. It depends on what you mean by “record”. For Arnold’s sound effect bark to be added to the record, “Beefeaters” would have had to be transcribed to tape. The experts say that the recording was also slowed down slightly to accommodate Arnold. So, if Tony Blackburn’s theme tune – of necessity – had to be on a cartridge, surely it wasn’t the first record to be played?

That argument will be debated by middle-aged men in overstretched T-shirts at beer festivals for ever more.

Another thing. Arnold barks twice each time. Because, I imagine, that was the only sound effect Tony Blackburn could find. It drives me nuts. Arnold should bark THREE times to fit the rhythm of the tune: bark; bark-bark. Nowadays it would be as easy as anything to get it right on a laptop. But presumably Tony just had two tape recorders and a non-magnetic razor blade. For its day, it was cutting-edge (no pun).

It wasn’t the first time that “Beefeaters” had been a theme tune. The John Dankworth and his Orchestra recording had previously been used for Rediffusion’s “Search for a Star”. Dankworth and Mike Vickers had composed it: I imagine they were very pleased that the theme had come back on-shore again and they would start to receive royalties once more.

But, David, what were the records played on Tony’s first show for Radio 1? I’m glad you asked:

1 Beefeaters John Dankworth (programme theme)
2 Flowers In The Rain The Move
3 Massachusetts The Bee Gees
4 Even The Bad Times Are Good The Tremeloes
5 Fakin’ It Simon & Garfunkel
6 The Day I Met Marie Cliff Richard
7 You Can’t Hurry Love The Supremes
8 The Last Waltz Engelbert Humperdink
9 Baby, Now That I’ve Found You The Foundations
10 Good Times Eric Burdon and the Animals
11 A Banda Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
12 I Feel Love Comin’ On Felice Taylor
13 How Can I Be Sure Young Rascals
14 Major To Minor The Settlers
15 Homburg Procol Harum
16 You Keep Running Away The Four Tops
17 Let’s Go To San Francisco The Flower Pot Men
18 Handy Man Jimmy Jones
19 You Know What I Mean The Turtles
20 The House That Jack Built The Alan Price Set
21 Excerpt From A Teenage Opera Keith West
22 Reflections Diana Ross and the Supremes
23 King Midas In Reverse The Hollies
24 Ode To Billy Joe Bobbie Gentry
25 Then He Kissed Me The Crystals
26 Anything Goes Harpers Bizarre
27 The Letter The Box Tops
28 Beefeaters John Dankworth

Herb Alpert on Radio 1, eh? Those were t’days.

Fast forward (credit to Radio Rewind for much of this material):

Blackburn: “Sixteen and a half minutes past eight o’clock. David Ryder has just come into the studio. Say good morning, David!

David Ryder: “Good morning!”

Blackburn: “That’s enough. I don’t want… I’m not having anyone stealing this show on the first morning! Just like to remind you that at 8.30, just after the news… What do we have for you… I’ve lost me… Ah, we’ve got Leslie Crowther and Junior Choice…”

Which brings me to Radio 1’s durrrty secret back in the 1960s. Brash and confident as they were fielding Tony Blackburn from the outset, Radio 1 had nothing to compete with “The Laughing Policeman”, “Nellie the Elephant” and “The Runaway Train.” Leslie Crowther outpointed any twentysomething off the pirate ships if you were 8 years old, so at 8.32 that morning, Radio 1 re-joined Radio 2 for Junior Choice and only got back into its stride at 9.55 with a trial run of Crack the Clue, while Radio 2 listeners gained spiritual comfort from Five To Ten, the dagger † in the “Radio Times” schedule indicating not the religious nature of the programming but the fact that it was pre-recorded.

And so on, throughout the day on Radio 1, Keith Skues, Emperor Rosko (even as a naive teenager, I saw through him!), Jack Jackson (really?), Chris Denning (yeah), Pete Murray, Pete Brady and (for me at least, as a Rediffusion viewer) Pussy Cat Willum’s best mate, Wally Whyton. Johnny Moran brought daytime programmes on Radio 1 to a close with, amongst other features, an exclusive interview with George Harrison, the † showing again that it was a pre-record. To be fair, though, practically everything else on Radio 1 that day was live.

And not one of the presenters was obliged to dress in a dinner jacket.

On Saturday, 30 September, 1967, the BBC took a huge leap forward. A good couple of years before Neil Armstrong.

The BBC is launching a “pop-up” station, Radio 1 Vintage, on DAB and online to coincide with the 50th anniversary. The schedule looks… fab!

You Say

9 responses to this article

Joanne Gray 29 September 2017 at 9:43 pm

I was born in 1971 and used to tune into Tony Blackburn’s Junior Choice every Saturday morning in the early 80s. By then he had been joined by Maggie Philbin and Cheggers (who were married at the time) and the show still used the Dankworth theme with “woof woof” greetings from Arnold (who also had his own comic strip (usually about 3 frames long) in the Look-In magazine).

Mark Jeffries 29 September 2017 at 10:37 pm

As the BBC newsreader assigned to Emperor Rosko’s first show announced, “And now, the news–in English.”

Paul Mason 1 October 2017 at 10:44 am

The Johnny Dankworth tune (thanks for the info folks) surely wouldn’t be counted with the discs being played.

Of the DJs, Chris Denning is best forgotten as a resident of a HMP somewhere.
Paul Hollingdale of Radio 2 sadly didn’t live to see the anniversary having died in the summer.
The divorce of BBC Radio 1 and 2 was to take almost 23 YEARS as although Radio 1 got its own mushy AM frequencies now occupied by Talksport, they had to share the 88 to 91 MHz FM frequencies until the 97 to 108 MHz band was freed for broadcasting purposes in the late 1980s, Radio 2 finally giving up its AM frequencies to Radio 5( now 5 Live) in August 1990. Radio 1s original 247m (1215 KHz) passing to Radio 3 from 1978 to 1994, becoming Virgin/Absolute Radio.

Now here is something. Its a Saturday, but where’s the sport? It couldn’t have been on Radio 3, and I can’t imagine it on Radio 4 ,so where on earth was it? Before the original Radio 5 started Radio 2s 909/693 MHZ covered sport on Saturday and FM was Radio 1. If someone has that Radio Times, where’s the Saturday sport?

Paul Mason 1 October 2017 at 11:02 am

I forgot about BBC GENOME of course and By Jove I found the answer.
Sport was on Radio 3!!!But eventually it moved to Radio 2, probably on 1500 m(200 KHz) first before moving to 909/693.
Sport on Radio 3 for heavens sake. Can’t get over it!

Paul Mason 1 October 2017 at 11:07 am

P.S I am aware of Test Match Special which was on Radio 3 AM from 1978 to 1994, on 3 FM in 1995/to the annoyance of classical music lovers, before settling on Radio 4 LW, the old Light Programme frequency.

Jerry Ralph 1 October 2017 at 3:35 pm

Rosko’s news reader was, of course, John Dunn.

Paul Mason 16 October 2017 at 7:22 pm

2016 robbed us of four early Radio 1/2 personalities, Ed Stewart and Terry Wogan, followed later on by Dave Cash and Jimmy Young. This year we lost Brian Matthew who while not on in the early days later presented My Top 12 and The Beatles Story in 1972.

Willie Bone 2 September 2018 at 9:22 am

Needle time restrictions besides, the only thing that marred Radio 1 back in the late 1960s was nightime co-channel interference and the folly of rolling out Radio 1 on a single frequency network!
The output suffered from after dark noise distortion in many areas,added with Radio Tirana’s seriously high powered transmissions to China! What made things worse, a Soviet satellite country (maybe Bulgaria) used a dead phoneline sounding jammer to block out Radio Tirana’s antiSoviet rants!
Actually, the background (sometimes foreground) noise endured on 1214 kHz after dark, was enough to put people off AM listening for life!
Fact being, I purchased my first radio back in 1970 with added VHF and only listened to Radio 1 occasionally after that!
When Radio Clyde came along on Hogmanay 1973, listening away from Radio 1 in stereo sound became an exciting alternative..

Barry Green 21 March 2019 at 3:30 pm

Enjoyed reading your articles about the birth of Radio 1
I have a question about the show ‘Where It’s At’ which was presented by Chris Denning.
I have a fan club letter that says the theme was sung by PP Arnold with backing by Twice As Much but cannot find any recording of this so far on the Internet.
Have you ever come across this ?


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