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 pic.twitter.com/ojsEn3SL

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.

 

GLR – Where are they now?

It’s a well-known fact that GLR was probably the best radio station that there has ever been. Ever. It went off the air in March 2000 but its memory lingers on. Here’s a quick update on some of the old GLR presenters: where are they now? Most of the updates come from Twitter.

David Hepworth has announced this week that the music magaize The Word will publish its final edition next month. It’s been going for nine years, and I feel slightly guilty that I haven’t bought every edition nor subscribed to it. But then, I haven’t been buying or subscribing to other music magazines either. There’s just too much other stuff going on, I haven’t got the time. It’s one of those magazines that I really enjoy when I do dig into it. Crikey, it takes all week for me to get through Saturday’s Guardian newspaper.

Danny Baker usually broadcasts on BBC London 94.9 on weekday afternoons and on 5 Live on Saturday mornings. But he’s taking a couple of months off as he is working with Jim Henson’s company writing the scripts for their new project, “No Strings Attached“. And we mustn’t forget, his long-awaited autobiography will be published… eventually.

Gary Crowley has been sitting in on BBC London for the last couple of weeks and continues to present his Saturday 1970s/1980s show there.

Jeremy Nicholas continues to speak after dinner and to present some funny items for the BBC East Midland local news. His main job is to be the stadium announcer for West Ham. But just last night, he was the announcer at a Twenty20 cricket match at Trent Bridge. His book “Mr Moon Has Left the Building” is a fantastic read, very funny, even for a non-football fan such as me.

Emma Freud is currently working on the latest Richard Curtis movie “About Time” which I have traveled into the future to watch, and I can highly recommend it. She is also a regular contributo to Radio 4’s Loose Ends, and her recent interview with Simon Le Bon was fantastic, very funny and one that I, unusually, listenedto a second time. And I’m not even that big a Duran Duran fan.

Not to be outdone, Gideon Coe recently reported that he is to be the DJ at his son’s school’s Summer fair. Oh, OK, he still presents a great show on 6 Music at 9pm Monday to Thursday.

Loose Ends on Radio 4

Loose Ends has been broadcast on Saturday evenings since 1998. It’s the kind of programme I ought to love, and, to be fair, I often do. But there’s something about it that doesn’t quite work for me.

The original presenter, Ned Sherrin, was someone I didn’t quite get on with. Whether his humour went over my head, or if he and I were on different wavelengths, I don’t know. I did meet him once, briefly, at a charity bike ride and he seemed like a nice, decent bloke in real life.

The programme is now hosted by Clive Anderson. Sadly, he’s someone else I don’t really get along with. Even on  TV, he annoys me. And to this day, when he turns up as a panellist on, for instance, QI, I groan inwardly. Can I put my finger on why I am not a Clive fan? No, not really. But being so rude to The Bee Gees in that infamous interview doesn’t help. And I generally dislike being negative about anyone. After all, I couldn’t do that job. As I said before: the format of this programme should make it unmissable listening for me.

But when I do tune in, I usually love the rest of the show. The guests are entertaining and/or informative.

Last week, for instance, there were Jack Davenport, Rufus Wainwright, Amy Lamé and Brenda Blethyn.

Tonight’s edition includes Anna Chancellor, Cerys Matthews, Richard Bacon and Claire Sweeney.

Loose Ends is sometimes presented by Peter Curran while semi-regular interviewers include Emma Freud and Gideon Coe. In the past we’ve heard Robert Elms too. What’s special about this motley crew is that they were all, at one time, presenters on the late, lamented GLR. See? Another reason why this show should be in my top ten.

Loose Ends on BBC Radio 4.

 

Danny Baker

Danny Baker broadcasts on BBC London 94.9 every weekday afternoon from 3 to 5pm. I listen to the show most days and i have been known to participate once in a while.

There is also a Danny Baker Show on BBC Radio 5 Live every Saturday morning. I don’t usually listen to this one because in its early days, there was too much football for my taste. Plus, there’s only so much Candyman magic anyone can take.

A while ago, Dan suggested he might be sitting in for Chris Evans on the RAdio 2 Breakfast show for a couple of weeks in April. Well, we now know this was either a hoax, or wishful thinking, maybe a genuine mistake or possibly a fishing expedition.

Instead of Danny Baker on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show, while Chris Evans was away watching a game of golf, we had that Richard Madeley off TV. I wouldn’t have been able to listen anyway, most days, but I know at least one person who had to turn off the radio and play a CD on the drive to work instead.

One of my pet peeves (if you’re interested) is that Radio 2’s bosses think that you can take a ‘celeb’ off the TV and think they’ll be good on the radio. A few are, but by and large, they just can’t do it. The sense of intimacy that we like radio for is just not there with some people.

But back to Danny Baker. His radio career started with GLR back in 1988. Banging on the desk in the studio (until the producer, one Chris Evans told him to stop), he declared himself the new sheriff in town. Before that, he was a TV presenter. Not only famous for the Daz adverts, he reported for, amongst others, Janet Street Porter and with  Michael Aspel on the Six O’Clock Show in the London LWT region.

From GLR, he moved to Radio 1, Talk Radio (with his friend Danny Kelly), to Virgin Radio (with one Chris Evans) and then back to GLR’s replacement, BBC London. He returned there despite having been told by one radio controller that he’d never work for the BBC again. He returned to present the breakfast show; his co-presenters greeting him each day with ‘Good morning, Candyman’. This greeting is the preferred option with co-hosts and with listeners, even now his daily show is on in the afternoons.

A few years ago he became DJ of the Year at the Sony Awards – at a time when he was not allowed to play records during his show. The irony of this accolade, and the not so subtle message to BBC London management still raises a smile.

The show would be nothing without the listeners who, given the most obscure and unlikely subject matter, come up with some very funny and/or fascinating stories. He can now play music and comes up with some great stuff. Currently, at the slightest excuse, he will play some (or all) of Bernie Winters’ flop 1972 single It’s Bernie. This theme is likely to become the modern equivalent of one of his worst ideas ever: The Cats v Dogs Superbowl. Believe me, if you don’t know already, you don’t want or need to know its details.

Yeah, I know Danny Baker isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think he suffers a bit from the hanging out with Chris Evans and Paul Gascoigne a few years ago. All I would say to anyone is, give him another listen.

Danny Baker on BBC London 94.9

Danny Baker on BBC 5 Live

Danny Baker on Wikipedia

By the way, he’s currently writing his autobiography, so that’s something to look out for as Christmas approaches.

Broadcasting House

Very disappointed not to win the BH competition again this morning. I don’t always know the answer to their quiz, but when I do, I do like to enter. I say ‘quiz’, because that’s what Paddy O’Connell calls it, but it’s not really, it’s a montage of sounds that are clues to a news item that occurred during the week.

I won’t tell you the answer but you can listen again here.

It may have escaped your notice that it is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. It took me by surprise too when I half heard something mentioned in passing on the radio this morning.

Hah… actually, towards the end of today’s BH, Steve Punt does a pretty good job of exposing the over-exposure of the Titanic ‘celebrations’, not only on Radio 4, but pretty much on every other radio and TV station too. Skip to 57m08s for Steve Punt if you don’t want to hear the rest of the show.

Earlier on, while searching for some Titanic-free output, I heard Norman Jay on Nemone’s show on 6 Music. I haven’t heard him on the radio for quite a while but he always used to keep me company on a Sunday night on his GLR show, while I did the washing up. And every time(*) I’ve been to the Notting Hill Carnival, I always make a pilgrimage to his Good Times bus.

In other, totally unrelated news, this is a long but very interesting review of a couple of new books about David Bowie. Can’t help noticing the writer’s name is Thomas Jones. Major Tom? Related to Davy Jones (aka David Bowie)? 

(*) I just checked: I haven’t been since 2005.

 

Jools Holland on Radio 2

Broadly speaking, this weekly programme is in two halves. The first half hour is usually old records, jazz, boogie-woogie, music from the 1920s up to the 1950s. And in the second half, there’s usually a guest talking about their music and playing a couple of tunes.

Last week’s guest was Judie Tzuke whose voice is as delicious as it was when we first heard her all those years ago. If you’re quick, you can catch this show on the iPlayer.

Jools performs with his rhythm Section, I guess a few members of his Big Band. I can only imagine how crowded the studio is.

I also like Later with Jools on BBC2 TV I think there are two series each year plus a special Hootenanny show for new years eve. This is, I think, the only ‘live’ music show on TV at the moment, not a bad replacement for The Old Grey Whistle Test, but it would be nice it it were on every week!

Meanwhile, the radio show is very entertaining and informative, exactly what the BBC should be doing.

Actually, I’m a little cross with Jools. Back in 1999, he said he would chain himself to the piano in the basement to protest against the demise of GLR. He didn’t do so … and look where we are now.

So that’s Jools Holland on Radio 2 Monday nights at 11pm.

So farewell, then, Mark Thompson

Yes, Mark Thompson has announced that he is stepping down as Director General of the BBC.

That news is a fantastic birthday present.

Just a few weeks ago, he admitted that the BBC had got it wrong on women, “that the broadcaster does not have enough older female newsreaders and presenters“.

No. I’d say he‘s got it wrong. After all, who’s in charge?

And I’d say he’s got it wrong in so many other ways too.

He totally underestimated the popularity of BBC local radio. The BBC Trust has forced you to reconsider making huge cuts to local radio which would result in a much less local service. Making us wonder, what’s the point of having local radio at all?

Before that, he wanted to shut down BBC 6 Music. He thought it was just another pop station. But the great British public stood up and told the BBC Trust what the pioneer DAB digital radio station means to them. So (until the next useless out of touch DG comes along) 6 Music has been saved.

Great to see Broadcasting House being refurbished of course, but why was it so over-budget? Who’s in charge? That’s my licence money he’s been wasting.

This big move to Salford: I don’t know but I suspect the BBC will live to regret that decision. London is the nation’s capital, an eighth of the population lives within striking distance. It’s the cultural centre of the nation, whether you like it or not.

Selling off the iconic Television Centre. I don’t know but I suspect the BBC will live to regret that decision too. In the same way they now regret erasing all those Doctor Who tapes. Because we need more empty office blocks in London. If this building is no longer needed for producing programmes, surely it can be turned into a money-making tourist attraction? Decades of history available, radio,  TV, film, documentaries, technology, props: it would appeal to everyone.

But I can’t resist this opportunity to recall the first time I became aware of Thompson’s existence, back in 1999. The BBC radio station for London, GLR, was threatened with closure. The campaign to save the station ultimately failed but Mark Thompson’s true colours came to the fore:

IN THE light of the BBC’s recent “Train Week”,
viewers and listeners may be interested to hear the
unexpurgated opinions of Mark Thompson, the
corporation’s grandly titled director of nations
and regions, towards rail safety.
Thompson aired his views during a recent staff
meeting at Greater London Radio – which, unhappily
for him, was secretly recorded. The main topics on
the agenda were the proposed reduction of music on
GLR, and Thompson’s Guardian article criticising the
station for playing “pop” music on the day of the
Paddington train crash. Also on the panel was Jane
Mote, head of London and south-east regions…

GLR staff member: “If you turned on GLR in five
years’ time, what would you want to hear?”
Jane Mote: “Mark’s not going to give you a schedule
now because there isn’t a schedule.”
Mark Thompson: “I could do, I could do.”
JM: “No, please! [Thompson laughs.] Paddington
train crash!”
MT: “YES, lots of train crashes please!” (MT carries
an laughing.)

Later in the meeting, Thompson returned to the
subject.
JM: “I think music is an expression of cultural life in
London and therefore it has an important role to play
and…”
MT: “I just want to hear about train crashes.”
JM: “…and Mark just wants death and gloom.”

Thompson seemed to find this all vastly amusing,
apparently regarding the Paddington disaster as
nothing more than a way of jacking up the ratings for
extended news coverage. But he was rather less
amused when staff challenged him about the
Grauniad article in which he revealed that he had “hit
the roof” when he heard a pop song on GLR on the
morning of the crash.
The song in question, Mambo No 5, was played
on Kiss FM at 8.31 that morning and on Capital
Radio at 9.01am – but it wasn’t played on GLR at all
that day, not least because GLR was too busy
providing, er, extended coverage of the disaster. It
transpired that Thompson is so incompetent he hadn’t
even tuned his radio to the correct station!

That’s from Private Eye No 993 Friday 14 January 2000.

Mark Thompson will not be missed.

But on a more positive note, what else did I get for my birthday? Well, a couple of CDs related to radio shows that I like. What a lovely surprise!

The Old Grey Whistle Test 40th Anniversary Album

and

World Routes on the Road