BBC Listeners’ Archive

Great news. After all that time, I have finally managed to get rid of a large proportion of my cassette tapes. It’s a long story, so go and grab a cup of tea.

One of my most favourite Christmas presents ever was in 1971 when I was given a portable Sanyo cassette plater/recorder. Like many teenagers at that time, I started to record everything, in the house, trying to get my family to talk, but especially pop music from the radio.

It still fills me with shame to think that I would try to get my Mum to stop bashing the pots and pans while cooking a meal, because I wanted a ‘clean’ copy of the Bee Gees’ latest single. Sorry, Mum. And at that time, of course, I wouldn’t have known that the word ‘clean’ meant that I wanted the song without any extraneous background noise. Equally, I didn’t know that there was any way to tape off the radio other than by holding up the supplied microphone.

Thus started a, well, let’s say ‘hobby’ rather than ‘career’, of recording broadcast material.

Through the late 1970s I specialised in Capital Radio, when it was worth listening to. We had the likes of Kenny Everett, Tony Myatt, Roger Scott and Little Nicky Horne. I still have some of these tapes, including Ev’s World’s Worst Wireless Show, featuring 30 of the worst pop records ever made.

Mostly I was now recording programmes to listen to at a later time, rather than individual songs, trying to edit the DJ out on the fly.

The bulk of my tape collection comes from the 1990s, most notably from what has been described as probably the best radio station that has ever existed, the BBC station for London, GLR (Greater London Radio). So many current radio (and TV) presenters began their careers on that station, or at least spent a formative part of their career there. Notable GLR alumni include Fi Glover, Gideon Coe, Chris Evans, Danny Baker, Robert Elms, Peter Curran, Johnnie Walker, Bob Harris, Janice Long, Charles Carroll, Shaun Ley, Emma Freud … In fact, whenever someone turns up on radio, or TV, and I inform anyone in the room with me that this person used to be on GLR, I usually now have objects thrown at me.

But what’s important is that I have kept all my tapes for all these years in the hope that one day they might be of interest to someone else.

GLR was replaced in 2000 by what is now BBC London 94.9 after which the amount of my taping was vastly reduced. And it came to a complete halt just a few years later when the cassette recorer/player section of my stereo system gave up the ghost.

Since then, other methods of listening to the radio on time-delay have been devised and I am very grateful for BBC’s iPlayer in particular.

So here I am at home with almost 300 tapes, any of which might contain some fascinating gem of radio broadcasting. My labelling wasn’t all that diligent. And as for dates and times, well, it jyust never occurred to me to jot such things down. The tapes were re-used, so any tape might have sections of several generations of recordings.

300 tapes is a lot of shelf space, so it came to the time to clear out. But what if there was something there worth keeping? The question was answered by what has turned out to by a favourite birthday gift. Its an Ion Tape2PC device. It plays cassettes and the sound can be saved on a PC in MP3 format. Perfect. But the tapes have to be played and copied in real time. So over a period of well over two years, I played a tape each day, noting its contents in what is the biggest Word document I’ve ever created.

At the same time, I tried to contact the BBC Archive departmet to see if they were interested in these tapes. I thought they might even want the old Capital Radio ones. But I could not find a contact address. I still didn’t have my shelf space back, and I didn’t want to just throw the tapes away.

So imagine my delight when just a few short days ago I saw this:

BBC – Media Centre – BBC Radio announces The Listeners’ Archive.

Yes, the BBC want MY old tapes. Bring them along on October 11th to one of the following venues… ah, London’s not listed. Elation to deflation in a second. So near yet so far. Anyway, I sent an email with a pretty full description of what I had to offer and heard nothing.

Until 4pm the day before.In which I was invited to take the BBC tapes to Western House in London. So that’s exactly what I did. I had a bag of just under 100 tapes, and I can tell you, that’s a heavy load.

I delivered to Western House into the safe hands of a young lady who may have been Sophie (I should have asked) .

So what a result!

I was feeling pretty good until I read this on Twitter:

Jon Holmes @jonholmes1
2/2 … There’s an amnesty table in reception where an old man has just handed in this GOLD @gidcoe

Old man?? Well that just made my day…

What tapes do I have left: Capital Radio, several are albums that I recorded to listen to on my old Walkman and a few odd ones from odd radio stations.


Johnny Vaughan

Unexpected news today that Johnny Vaughan is leaving Capital FM’s Breakfast Show after eight years. Nowhere near the longevity of his predecessor, Chris Tarrant!

It seems he’s leaving with immediate effect. Not that it bothers me, really. At that time of day, I’m at work and the radio station on in the background is very rarely Capital. Often, though, it is another one with the same kind ‘personality’ led music show: a bloke and girl combo where the bloke is the funny one and the girl is the ditzy sidekick who has to laugh at all the bloke’s gags and well-rehearsed ad-libs and one-liners.

Johnny Vaughan said: “I have just loved doing this job but after all these years of getting up in the middle of the night, I really think the time is right to hand over the microphone to someone else. It’s been a joy waking up London every morning and a thrill to have been part of the broadcasting tapestry of this great city.”

On Twitter, Christian O’Connell said: “For record..Johnny Vaughan very very funny and so smart. Was so intimidated by his talent when i took over from him on Fighting Talk. Dont know whats happened and why at Crapital.”

Crapital? I haven’t heard it called that since the early days in the 1970s when it was called Capital Radio and often went off-air at unexpected times. The reason given was that the cleaners would turn up and disconnect some vital piece of equipment so they could plug in the vacuum cleaner. Or maybe that is apocryphal, who knows?

Anyway, Johnny’s off after eight years. Prior to joining Capital, Johnny presented  Channel 4’s Big Breakfast show, which was felt to be close enough in format to a radio programme. He had also worked on the old BBC Radio 5 and on the top BBC station for London, GLR.