Monday, 27 July 2015

Holiday Reading

Roger Mosey is a chap you'd certainly want to meet. He witnessed what the Queen might have called the BBC's 'annus horribilis'. Savile, Newsnight et al. His perspective of that hugely challenging spell is thoroughly illuminating; and offers insight into how it must have felt deep inside the Corporation on those dark days.  His book, 'Getting Out Alive', kicks off with those witness accounts of the BBC storm, and then pedals through his career: from his spell at the birth of Pennine Radio in Bradford; past the Today programme; being Valerie Singleton's boss; off to control 5 Live; and beyond.  It's a brilliantly-crafted book, and a rewarding read.  Like many tomes by ex-BBC staff, there is a tolerance of the Corporation's headaches and silliness, combined with a huge amount of love and respect.

It's tough to conjure up a single epithet for John Myers. Is he a consultant? A presenter? A programmer? A businessman? His biography calls him a 'radio executive', so I shall stick with that label, although it does not really do justice to this canny and much-loved larger than life figure.  He's known by everybody anyway, so it matters little. His "Team, it's Only Radio" book is an easy and entertaining read, with John's rich stories of the characters and key events in commercial radio's first age told with the gift of a great Northern story-teller. I gather he may be considering a sequel. I'll buy that too.

In 1988, a woman turned up at Broadcasting House with a gun, frustrated at not being able to receive Radio 4.  Any book which kicks off with that anecdote is certainly worth a read. 'Life on-air: A history of Radio 4' by David Hendy is a meticulously-researched account of a network with a special place in the nation's heart.  It's maybe a little detailed for the sun-lounger, but a fascinating account of how the network found its feet and claimed its current territory. A lighter, but nevertheless painstakingly assembled, account of the station is offered in 'For the Love of Radio 4', written with deep affection by Caroline Hodgson. Lots of fascinating facts, a smile or two about the close relationship the station enjoys with its audience; and it utters the unsayable: that most Shipping Forecast listeners are actually on land.

You can't help but like Scott Mills. He emerges from his 'Love you, Bye: My Story' biography as a thoroughly lovely, honest guy. His biog is another light read, in the nicest possible way, sharing the trials, tribulations and many successes of his life with utter openness and great humour.  From his cripplingly shy youth and frighteningly typical hospital radio station, through the anxious early days at Ocean Sound, ending up at one of the best places in British radio.  Tales of Scott the radio presenter are interlaced with stories of Scott the man, to huge effect.  Also, witness the tale behind his impressive and still-remembered 'World's worst place to be gay?' TV show.

I'll concede that it's unlikely even the most diligent radio person will wish to thumb through a law book on holiday over the Margaritas, but in a list of radio books, it's a self-evident must. Without one, you may not not have a job to pay for next year's holiday.  Essential Radio Journalism is a book designed to be read and used by people like us; although, as the name suggests, it really is not just about law. Paul Chantler and Peter Stewart show how to do the radio journalist job well; and offer a pithy reminder not to refer to 'huge security operations' or 'trained negotiators' in news stories, given small security operations and untrained negotiators are few and far between. There's even a section on how to sit when you're doing your bulletins. 

When it comes to great radio consultants around the World, a few names stick out. Phil Dowse is one; and another is Valerie Geller.  I still remember fondly my time working with her on LBC, when we ensnared presenters into a luxury West London hotel room for a little counselling. Fascinating times. When you've met Valerie, or heard her speak, you can hear her insistent voice as you plough through her publications.  She's a great performer. Her books are very much a practical offering.  'Never be boring', she rightly says.  This latest publication takes us 'Beyond Powerful Radio', helping us to exploit radio in a changing media world.

Jeremy Vine strikes me as someone who has fairly recently really discovered the depth of his love for this great thing called radio.  From being perhaps best known from TV, he has quietly now become a Radio 2 stalwart, delivering an enviably accessible, entertaining talk show with confidence and immense skill. His casting for that show was inspired; and he's mastered social media too. The quality of writing in 'It's all News to Me', however, shows his journalistic grounding and tells of a humble, likeable guy, "locked inside the BBC for 25 years". Beautifully-written, entertaining stories of a fascinating life; the life of the youngest ever presenter on the Today programme.

One great thing about Kenny Everett is that much audio still exists. Much has been written too; but little with the care and love as this book from James Hogg and Robert Sellers: The Authorised Biography of Kenny Everett'. Affectionate, but utterly well-informed by those who got as close to Kenny's complex character as anyone could.

And there's my own humble publication. Forgive me. I'm never sure whether the title 'How to Make Great Radio' really helps describe it. Yes, there are many suggestions on radio technique, but also some stories too from my decades in this industry, given no-one will likely ever wish to buy my autobiography. I have to say I've been touched by the feedback from people I respect highly; and from those newer in the industry who suggest they've derived huge value from it. I'm particularly pleased that many who've been in the business some years have also suggested it has offered even them some food for thought. Grab it on Amazon, or direct from my fine publishers, Biteback, at a bargain price. Proceeds to the Radio Academy.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Mug or a sticker?

It's the only mug I never drink out of. Such happy red and blue adolescent memories, brought back by the best radio logo in the World. The Radio 1 Thunderbirds logo.  To me, that earthenware mug is worth more than a piece of Clarice Cliff.

Not all radio station merchandising ends up being quite as precious. There was much excitement when Graham Knight, presenter of the then compulsory lunchtime magazine programme at Radio Trent, took delivery of his merchandising.  Gaudy, cheap, purple pens had been ordered, inscribed with the name of his programme 'Trent Topic'.

As Graham  opened the big box, his face fell as he realised the printers, less familiar with the programming demands of the IBA, had printed 'Trent Tropic' instead.  The pens were never sent back to whichever country had printed them; I think we gave them away on the programme one fortunate hot day in what must have seemed like an immaculately planned Summery contest. 

Radio stations loved merchandising. Back then it seemed cool to show the world which station you listened to.  Some individuals would happily live their lives wearing a branded T shirt or sweat shirt.

Pic courtesy of David Smith (Simon Parry)
On acquiring the old Centre Radio premises from the liquidators, the eager marketing manager at its replacement, Leicester Sound, scratched his head on what to do with a million T shirts bearing the name of the station's ill-fated predecessor.  Probably over a drink at the nearby Marquis, the idea was hatched to overprint each with the new logo and word 'recycled' .  An idea ahead of its time, actually.

Leicester Sound loved its merchandise.  We had sweet little teddy bears with logos on their chests; and long promos on-air boasted their merits.  Wonderful Wendy on reception also sold branded, baggy boxer shorts.  These were the Nick Kamen days when baggy was in. They were available in small, medium and large; although a surfeit of the latter appeared to be sold to most of the visiting listeners, as I recall. With male and female options in stock, Wendy would ask whether they sought ones with an opening - or without.  

Thinking back, in those days, Leicester Sound probably earned more from merchandising than the radio business. Mind you, they were tough days for the medium. Profits from the Coke machine even helped. For most stations though, despite the best of intentions, merchandising stock attracts dust and bills. The size of the order inversely proportional to the likelihood of the presenter or station name/logo remaining sufficiently long.

Mouse mats went through a phase of popularity; as did baseball hats and furry bugs. James Cridland reminds me that Viking in Hull offered skimpy knickers bearing the station's mascot 'Eric the Viking', until the idea failed to find favour with the station's new owners. And the there were the Pennine radio rain-hoods for those rainy Bradford days. 

Mugs have been the great survivor. Some stations still have them. You cannot not find  a mug useful. It always has value. Some stations, however, would be well advised to seek advice on the design and wording before pressing send on their order; especially BBC local stations.

Car stickers too endure. Some stations, again, seem tempted to devise creative designs which can only be seen as you crash into the car in front.

In fact, all these years on, everything has changed about our medium: technology; ownership; brand names; music; presenters; regulator; and ownership. The only constants are arguably just those mugs and stickers.  

Do let me have a pic of your favourite example of station merchandising.Just for fun, of course.
BBC Essex egg cup, thanks to Phil Shieber

My book, 'How to Make Great Radio' is out now, published by Biteback.

Stickers from Paul Teague
Memorable, huh?

Happy '60s BBC local days

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Sounds Like You Want to Hear - 40 years on

Reunions are awful things. Bumping into people you'd rather not see again; people you barely recognise; and acknowledging that you really are as old  as everyone else is.

The 40th anniversary celebrations of the first tranche ofcommercial stations are well underway. I gather the LBC celebrations in 2013 went off with a bang; the old Metro, Hallam and Piccadilly crowds really enjoyed themselves; and just a few weeks ago the, old Radio Tees (Tfm) crowd toasted four decades since Les Ross lifted the arm on the turntable for the very first time.

Last weekend saw the 40th anniversary of commercial radio in Nottingham. Radio Trent was the 13th in the list of stations celebrating those forty changing years. 

We were privileged to be allowed to take over the old premises on Castle Gate for the night, thanks to the wonderful co-operation of its current occupants, Base 51/NGY. (@Base51) They manage an impressive new centre for young people in the city, housed in this lovingly restored historic building.  The old car park, home of so many arguments in Trent's day, when presenters would rush up during a two minute oldie to shift their vehicle so the OB Land Rover could escape, has become a surprisingly attractive patio where generations of  the old Trent guard could assemble in the early evening July sunshine.

Ron Coles, who, as MD, nursed the station through its mid-life crises, stood to relay messages from those who could not attend; and Nick Shaw paid tribute to all those who had gone to work in what must now be a very great radio station in the sky, including his dear brother, John.

In a bizarre twist, the new venture now houses Notts YMCA radio/audio (@YMCA_digital) facilities in its basement, so in some senses the old subterranean studios have been restored to their seventies purpose. The breeze block studio walls remain, and even the old sealed window through to the old MCR 'control room'.  John Peters, first voice on-air, stared at his reflection, aged 24, in the glass.

A drink or two had been consumed by the time guided trips around the building began, so emotions were high as the Trent team revisited the scenes of their crimes.  Newsreader, Tim Heeley, drew up a chair in what would have been the newsbooth to deliver a familiar, reassuring late night bulletin, as he had most nights in the 80s.

How brilliant it was to shake hands once again and trade memories with  the journalists, the presenters, the sales people, the traffic team, the creative producers and accounts staff who had captained the old station through its colourful past.  I tingled when I met the characters I'd grown up listening to, whose voices were the reason I worked in radio.

All generations were represented, from the smiling pioneers right through to a welcome smattering of the current Capital crowd, including  Dino & Pete from breakfast who were welcomed as inheritors of the 96.2 crown.  They represented today's necessarily efficient, focused radio stations, which now together deliver significantly greater audiences to East Midlands' commercial radio than we battled for in the vintage, vinyl days.

Returning to our old home was a little like one of those odd dreams where random people from your life gather in an impossible location.  Or being treated to an opportunity to step back in time, and continue, in loco, the conversations which had been severed some decades before.

As we cleared up the venue late that night and restored the venue to its new purpose after a beautiful emotional journey, we slotted our  memories back in their rightful place at the back of our minds.  The old logos, the old jingles, the old pics returned to their cardboard boxes too, like Christmas decorations on the twelfth night. The reminiscences  are over for now. 

Meanwhile, for all those lucky enough to still be working in this great medium and still as excited as ever, let's set out to create some more great times we can, one day, also look back on with similar huge enthusiasm.

  • Base 51 is a Nottingham charity doing great things in the City, welcoming support and donations.  
  • If you came along and didn't get a chance to make a donation to the event, drop me a line.
  • Trent history blog
  • My book 'How to Make Great Radio' is published by Biteback

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Radio. And trust.

Richard Huntington, Chief Strategy Officer, from Saatchi and Saatchi, will never put on weight. His energetic and persuasive presentation today at the impressive #tuningin conference, staged by a new colourful and United RadioCentre, commanded the attention of the usually fidgety throng.

His message was clear, as befits an inspiring speaker. Trust matters to brands. He told with affection the story of Barclays Bank which, like Lloyd's where I worked for a desperate seven months, used to chain its pens to the counter. They were fearful that people might rush in, intent on stealing the lot. They did not trust their customers. And if they don't trust their customers, why should their customers trust them? The story ends happily, as Barclays cannily moved to branded pens, inscribed with the motif 'borrowed from my bank'.

Great brands do not ask for trust, they show it, in the hope their customers will offer loyalty in return. This concept of repricosity is well-established. In my book, I quote the work which suggests that even offering a cup of coffee to someone helps to build an expectation of mutually fruitful dealings. In commercial radio, that repricosity can be shown by delivering entertaining or useful commercial content, rather than shouty ads. 

Radio is trusted. We know that. My station received an email a few weeks ago from an angry listener complaining to us about a client from which she'd had poor service. She blamed us, because we'd aired the ad. She made our responsibility abudundantly clear 'I heard the ad on your station, so I thought it wouldn't be a rip off'. 

Another listener wrote to us last year, having bought a ticket to our marvellous Free Radio Live annual multi-artist gig at the Genting Arena. She asked if we were laying on a train. We, her trusted friend, had sold her a ticket and she felt we might be able to offer her a lift too. The fact that listener invested in tickets even before any line-up is announced is trust again.

Matt Deegan related to me, over a tasty slice of ham at lunch, the angry epistles he receives from parents who feel that the odd song on his Fun Kids station is unsuitable. One sympathises with the agony of selecting songs for a range of kids of all ages.  The listener, however, had no such sympathy. She felt the station she trusted had let her down.   We get the same, with listeners writing occasionally saying 'I know I can normally have you on, but today I worried about what you said when my kids were in the car'.

BBC station BAs will often tell of the calls they get asking the location of a doctor's surgery or what time B & Q closes. Radio stations are trusted to know everything.  

Which is trusted more - radio news or the press?

Expectations are high. When a programme ends its run, or a programme strand no longer can justify its cost, listeners are indignant. How dare you change something? Whether a commercial or a BBC operation, there is an expectation that radio stations are there to provide a public service. A service they trust. 

Radio should make more of the trust it commands. Do people trust ads on a Google search as much as they trust an ad on radio? Do people trust a presenter delivering a commercial promotion more than a banner on a website? 

And, we should be sure that, however, our industry continues to change, we treasure that reputation. We should, in the words of Richard, 'leave something on the table' and not extract every ounce of value from the listener without consideration. 

My book 'How to Make Great Radio' is out now from Biteback publishing. Proceeds to the Radio Academy.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

You’re up to date, I’m Fred Farnsbarns

Why do people insist on proclaiming their own name when they appear on the radio?  

It’s a policy I can defend with energy for regular programme presenters who spend hours each day with their listeners, for years and years.  For those personalities and on most formats, it’s only polite every now and again to shake hands with the dear listener, say hello and announce who you are.

What is a little more puzzling is when ever-changing contributors diminish their short time on air by announcing their name as though it truly is much more important than anything else.  The travel, weather and news headline folk really seem hell-bent on trumpeting their name sufficiently clearly for their mothers to hear. 

On some stations, by the time we’ve got through the station jingle and sponsor, and they've announced the fact that they are about to deliver the travel news and announced their name in full, there’s scant time for the hold-up on the M1.

On others, we are formally introduced to the nasal work experience lad who’s been asked to voice a news report into which he’s had no input, for no discernible reason. His identity is of no relevance and adds no weight to the contribution. He's hardly our Home Affairs correspondent.

This headline position of the contributor's name suggests someone believes it is the most important thing of all.

Again, if you are an expert correspondent in your field, ‘part of the show’, the whole show (whatever the format), or make a regular substantive contribution, there’s a good case to be made for saying who you are.  In those cases, your reputation and familiarity brings value.  On a fast-moving rota, where different thoroughly proficient voices pop up across the schedule, delivering utility information without reputation, do listeners really care too much to whom those honeyed tones belong?

I wonder why we do it.  In my experience, sadly, most listeners to many successful music stations only just remember the names of excellent presenters, even though they appear for hours every day.  How many would actually recall the names of the folk providing the many breathless cameos?

It was not always thus.  Until the ‘30s, British news bulletins simply launched straight into the latest delicate headlines from the Empire, delivered in impeccable tones.  The perils of wartime, however, brought a risk that bulletins from other less reliable foreign sources might be confused with Auntie's. At a time where the first casualty is said to be the truth, it was felt that listeners “must be able to recognise instantly the authentic voice of BBC broadcasting".

The instruction was accordingly issued that newsreaders should identify themselves.  FrankPhillips was first to do it - 75 years ago, in July 1940.

Back then, they made a meal of it too: ‘here is the news - and this is Alvar Lidellreading it’. 

Identifying yourself brings its price too: listeners know who to blame.  One irate listener scribbled a neat note to the DG after hearing Phillips purring from his Bakelite set: "sack that man immediately; we'll never win the war while he is reading the news".

Now, everyone’s cottoned on, and we’re all hissing our names, regardless of the relevance. Maybe we should extend the policy by introducing ourselves proudly by name each night to the checkout operator at Tesco. I could even play my accapella name-checks to them from my phone, come to that.

This July, the habit is 75 years old.  Do we still need quite so many names in quite so many places? Time for a re-think now the War’s over?

That was David Lloyd  reporting.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The RadioMoments Challenge

Sunday, 31 May 2015

It's seventeen before eight - the folly of radio time-checks

‘It’s 17 before 8’ uttered a hugely experienced broadcaster the other day; and one for whom I have huge respect.

‘7 minutes ahead of 8’. '

 23 after 8'. 

'It's 14 minutes past the hour of 6 o clock'.  


Stop this nonsense.

Why do presenters have this obsession with over-complicating or oddly-phrasing something as simple as the time?  They toil over translating it into a language unfamiliar to any citizen on earth.
The rule should be simple: say it as if a response to a friend asking you the time. As with so many matters in radio, say it as you normally would.

In real life, what do we say? ‘Just gone twenty past eight’.  ‘Five to eight’.  ‘Nearly half past eight’.

As I began working to set up Lincs FM, the Chief Executive shared his list of obsessions with me – as CEOs are fully entitled so to do. He hated silly time-checks; and even went as far as spitting out his tea if he heard a digital time-check.  Thus, it was never, ever 17.43 in Mablethorpe. Oh no.

By 1967, Tony Blackburn appeared to have adopted his policy of only telling the time on the half minute.  'Its seventeen AND A HALF minutes past eight o clock'.  He does it to this day. Mind you, Tony can do what he likes – his irony works.

In a recent focus group I moderated, the topic of time-checks came up. Playing devil’s advocate, I suggested they might be redundant nowadays. Not least because we all carry phones with the time on display and alarms built in; digital radios show it even when in sleep mode; and, for goodness sake, even your cooker even tells you the time. The assembled radio listeners were indignantly unanimous in valuing radio’s reassurance and gave me the impression that if the radio said it was ten past eight, and everything else suggested ten past seven, they’d believe the radio. That’s nice.

I was then prompted to ask a similar question of 5000 listeners in one of our sporadic questionnaires last month, just to double-check that it remains correct to glare angrily at breakfast presenters who forget to mention the time.  Maybe life has moved on, I mused.

The result surprised me.  A majority deemed time-checks very useful and 89% found them very or quite useful. Only 3% suggested they really were not needed.

Listeners like their benchmarks vaguely on time too.  Most stations have a policy on how far away from ‘on time’ you are allowed to be.  Some are honest about it on-air: ‘it’s just after eight 'O clock’; or you might hear the journalist who’s been twiddling their thumbs for ages spitting out an angry: ‘It’s THREE minutes past eight’. Some stations pretend it’s still 8 'O clock, when that time is but a distant memory.

Then Pips sound nice, as does Big Ben.   They make things sound terribly important.  A sense of precision and accuracy, even though we know that buffered online listening and digital transmission now mean the pips can arrive in Mrs Miggins’s kitchen at about ten past. As above, it matters not really, a reasonably accurate steer is generally all you need.
The Pips have been sounded since February the 5th 1924; a bright idea from good old Johnny Reith, who was not averse to precision.  The Astronomer Royal, Sir Frank Watson Dyson, duly sorted out some mechanical clocks in the Royal Greenwich Observatory  - after chatting it all over with the chap who invented the pendulum clock. Handy to have mates like that.  Two clocks were used, in case one broke down.  It’s the unique way they’re funded. Mind you, they only cost twenty quid each.

The BBC generate the Pips from within Broadcasting House nowadays.  If that gig ever gets pitched out for independent production, I’m going to turn up in the lobby of BH with my descant recorder.

Thanks to talented James Cridland and cheery John Myers for reminding me about this matter, which is a notable and annoying absentee from any chapter in my book.

But please, no more silly timechecks. And don't bother telling me it's the year 2015 either. I know that. 

My book 'How to Make Great Radio' is published by Biteback publishing.Proceeds to Radio Academy

Saturday, 16 May 2015

A blog about a book: 'How to Make Great Radio'

Over dinner in my favourite Indian restaurant in Nottingham recently, I was rambling intolerably about 'my book' to one of my cynical but lovely radio friends.  I told him I'd learned loads whilst writing it. '"What like?", he asked, as he stuffed a naan bread in his face.

So, when the Jiffy bag finally arrived from the publishers last week, bearing ten lovely-smelling first copies of my humble publication, I thumbed gingerly through the pages, to remind myself what I hadn't known when I started to write it.

Every day in radio is a school day, not least when you're trying madly to justify, or disprove, those 'radio assumptions'.

I thought I was the only competition cynic until I stumbled across the words of legendary American programmer, Bill Drake: "We did a lot of on-air promotions at KHJ, and we did almost none at KFRC in San Francisco. Both stations were successful". In his opinion, "most contests are garbage".  He's surely right; far too many offer little in the way of witness value. They are either too demanding, too dull or too exclusive; with prizes seen as unattainable and mechanics focused on the minority taking part, not the majority listening.  Gone are the days when the radio station was the only place you could win a decent prize.  BBC Local Radio, which suspended contesting in the days when it was discredited, would likely concede that their stations are better without  many of them.  Cheers, Bill. Nice to stumble across substantiation for my prejudice.

Isn't it annoying when 'major names' pop up on radio who fail to grasp the 'one listener' thing.  That 'You' thing.  They drone on about "anyone out there'" and getting my 'thinking caps' on.  For goodness sake, anyone who knows anything about our great medium knows that the most important word is 'you'.  If it's good enough for Ken Bruce: 'People respond to one person – talking to them as one person’; and Wogan: ‘Radio engages because you talk to an individual’, it should be good enough for the rest of us. I also cite some early crackly recordings from the 'first' disc jockey, Christopher Stone, from 1927 who said in his show: 'I know you'd like to hear some more of that, and so would I".  Almost a century ago, and at the very beginnings of our medium, he'd nailed it.

Few candidates in the last General Election stood up to make a speech without offering an anecdote about the chap they'd 'bumped into' the night before.  We know that story-telling works.  The greatest presenters master the art on radio.  The greatest ads call upon it.  Vocabulary, pace and detail create colourful pictures.  In researching the book too, I was drawn too to the words of John Cleese, who spoke of the mental 'skip' the listener makes from the start of a tale to the punchline.  In that skip lies the pleasure and amusement. Too large, it fails, Too small it offers no satisfaction.  One word can make a difference.  Even if just a  swear-word: ‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’

Why do some newsreaders whine every sentence and inexplicably draw out the last word, regardless of its significance?  Accomplished voice coach, Kate Lee, suggests that great reading is often about ‘sounding even more yourself ’. She observes how some readers appear almost intimidated by the importance of the material. Once they say to themselves ‘this is news’, she believes their brain then promptly ignores all all the natural nuances of conversation. Contemporary, conversational news delivery is a real art.

Fascinated by the way the 'mood' in a studio can change what comes out the speakers the other end, it was great to hear the anecdote about a leading performer who used to play the Cagney & Lacey theme tune before starting his show.  Off on that tangent, I then stumbled across how both David Cameron, and indeed Enoch Powell in his time, observed that a full bladder kept their mind alert and their speeches powerful.  Maybe not one to try.

I stumbled across some fascinating material about the voice and how it engages so well on radio.  Including the theory that the 'disembodied voice' on the radio connects with the listener as does a mother's voice to a child in the womb.

And who would not want to know the story of the birth of tight, Top 40 format radio in a bar in Omaha, Nebraska.  Next time one of your listeners complains about hearing the same song over and over again, you'll want to know that tale too. 

And so the list goes on.  I learned a little more about mic technique; commentary; interviewing; the psychological response to words; and getting callers on-air.  I mused about dealing with over-enthusiastic listeners; spoke to some great producers; and delved into the use of social media.  I stumbled across some brilliant old research about the relative merits of male and female voices; and I counted the words per minute which Wogan deployed as he said his last breakfast farewell. 

I was persuaded to add a chapter about how to get into our medium; and I volunteered another about how to keep your job.  And some necessary caution on risk-taking, 'stunting', research, law and compliance.

Given that text books are boring and the chances of any publisher agreeing to my autobiography are slim, I've littered the book with anecdotes from my lucky time in the business.  Lest I forget the two occasions when the police have called into reception; Dale Winton's interview techniques; or the words of advice Mrs. Thatcher's daughter proffered on programme preparation.

And there's the chapter about teasing.

As every 'author' will understand, the awful thing about writing a book is that the second your work is despatched to the publisher, you think of something you should have included. Plus, last Autumn, no-one new what Perisope was. Things now change by the day in our great radio world.

Many thanks to the likes of Matthew Bannister, Christian O'Connell, John Myers, Ben Cooper and Nick Ferrari for offering generous early reviews.  What's useful is that they suggest it's by no means just a book for beginners. 

Radio is rarely a matter and wrong. Some of the greats break the rules brilliantly.  And those who disagree with my mad assertions or theories will hopefully concede that the debate itself is likely helpful. Or they can write their own book.

If it helps, please grab a copy at £14.99 (£10.99 e-book) from my friends at Biteback Publishing.  Proceeds to the Radio Academy

Monday, 11 May 2015

Pictures from the Past

Disc jockeys are meant to be heard not seen.  But these pictures from the Getty archives really do sum up a time and a place.

Enjoy here, one of the launch pics from the opening of Radio 1 in 1967. Sir Tony staring into the camera lens, griping onto a pair of those funny BBC headphones. And what a fine bit of woodwork there from the BBC joiner.

Rosko was the rebel in those days, with his lunchtime show. Look, he's barely clothed here.  John Dunn famously introduced  his news bulletin in Rosko's show with: 'now the news. In English..."

And on the station's first birthday, the presenters famously gather feet away from Broadcasting House, to return to the steps of All Souls Church.  For many of the characters, it is the closest they'll get to singing hymns. The assembly was a little diminished from the parallel shot a year before, not least because the fledgling Radio 1 policy was to hire everyone on four week contracts and see who worked out best.  Canny approach.

Down the road at Capital, in a rare 1973 shot in his office at Euston Tower, Chairman Richard Attenborough is likely none too pleased as he peruses the company's early accounts. 

And the early team at London's LBC were no strangers to challenging accounting. In this shot, a tech op watches as Janet Street-Porter and Paul Callan present 'two in the morning' (get it?) on that launch day in October 1973.  I'd prefer to have been the tech-op, as he got to hammer the buttons on the ITC triple stacks.

Commercial radio, in a fashion, had been heard in the UK much earlier, thanks to the wobbly signal from Radio Luxembourg, after it returned following the War.  Its influence was sufficiently powerful to make stars of people like Pete Murray, later on Radio 2 and LBC. Even the Teddy Boys looked up to him. And Pete's suit looks a lot better than a sweat shirt with your name on which his descendants puzzlingly chose to wear.

Back at Capital, surely 1974 mid morning host Michael Aspel does not surely need quite so many EQ channels on his mixer.

And colleague, Kenny Everett, is evidently aghast at the contents of the Capital Radio manifesto.

As Capital's Graham Dene celebrated 5 years with the station, a cake arrived. With Michael Aspel in it. Thank goodness those rumours of radio being rife with back stabbers are false.  Technics turntables were poised  - alongside the classic Neve desk which was a stranger to PFL.

Kid Jensen arrived in the UK from Radio Luxembourg in 1975, lodging at Nottingham's Radio Trent for a year before graduating to Radio 1. Here he is, in a novel pose.  It is certainly better than clutching headphones, or pointing to an alarm clock or cheque. 

By 1976, the cult of Wogan had begun; and this talented Irishman began to relax and enjoy it. Just keep your feet away from those Gates turntables, Terry. They were truly the best.

Surprisingly little audio exists of Chris Tarrant, despite his long rule at the Capital London helm.  Maybe he was more of a listener's presenter than an anorak's - and there's little wrong with that. Thank goodness we have pictures though. Note how many more screens there are in this 2004 shot, compared with the 1960s BBC shots. 

Frank Phillips is the name of a BBC newsreader better known than many before him. Not least as it was Frank who became the first newsreader to announce his name.  All part of making British broadcasts immediately recognisable as such in times of War.  The habit stuck, and now every contributor of travel, weather, whatever commences their broadcast with a smile and a proud namecheck.  Even though the War's over.

You don't see many of those discussion booths now: minimalist acoustic rooms equipped with just a bouncy table, a mic and a talkback box, thanks to the show engineering happening 'through the glass'.  Pete Murray enjoyed himself here in October 1970, with a pair of those dinky little BBC cans clipped to his 'earoles. 

The old BBC desks were industrial in style. Like cars before power steering, you had to pull these faders down with force when your needed the next jingle from the ITC cart machine.  It was no problem for good old JY, even with the future PM looking on and crashing the vocal in February 1975.

You can always tell a jingle anorak when they  concentrate more on the cart labels in a pic rather than the person pictured. Try this Radio 1 shot from the early eighties. Ignore Adrian Juste at your peril, though.

Thanks to all the photographers through the ages who have patiently witnessed our medium. We are grateful.  

One final shot.  How delicious is this. As the BBC moved premises in 1932 from Savoy Hill to the newly built Broadcasting House, a photographer paused to film the removal men at work. But why has than man got a crate on his head. And who is in the coffin?

Grab my book 'How to Make Great Radio' from Biteback. Proceeds to the Radio Academy