FEATURE: BBC Radio 1 and 2 at Fifty




 BBC Radio 1 and 2 at Fifty


ANYONE who says radio is a dying medium…


IN THIS PHOTO: D.J.s Nick Grimshaw and Tony Blackburn

would do well to remember the impact and influence it actually has. The fact BBC Radio 1 and 2 are celebrating fifty years of broadcast shows there is a lot of demand and love for the quality and variation you get on the radio. I will employ my own thoughts but a lot of other sources have been celebrating the milestone anniversary the past couple of days. This morning, D.J.s Nick Grimshaw and Tony Blackburn presented a joint ninety-minute broadcast that featured music from the past fifty years. Radio 1 has launched a ‘pop-up’ vintage station to feature fifty one-hour themes shows (over the next three days). On this morning’s celebratory show was Sara Cox – a current Radio 2 D.J. (who hosted the Radio 1 Breakfast Show between 2000-2003) – whose first record on her show was Robbie Williams’ Let Me Entertain You – she started the job three days early and, tasked with hitting the ground running, put in a pretty great show. She recounted how nervous that first show was but how exhilarating it was.


I shall let the BBC ­take up the rest of the story:

Veteran broadcaster Mike Read, who hosted the breakfast show for five years from January 1981, spoke about the former BBC Radio 1 roadshows.

He told how he once played Wham! classic Club Tropicana with three kazoos on stage at a roadshow in St Ives, Cornwall, alongside George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley.

"We had such a great time that we said 'lets stay for the whole weekend'," he added.

"It wasn't exactly George's kind of weekend so he flew back the following day, but Andrew and myself stayed on and had a crazy time, gatecrashed a few parties and had enormous fun."

He added: "The roadshows were fantastic. I want to go back and do those all over again."



Red telephone

Tony Blackburn, who hosted Radio 1's first ever show, spoke about interviewing The Beatles and Rolling Stones and also of touring with Diana Ross and The Supremes.

"That was the big moment for me. I was standing on the side of the stage and listening to her and watching her. It was fantastic, because I love Diana Ross.

Blackburn also described hanging up on Frank Sinatra, who had the same agent as him.

He described how a red telephone, usually reserved for Radio 1 bosses to call the studio, started ringing one day.

"I picked up the phone and said 'who's that' and he said 'Frank'.

"I said 'Frank who?' He said 'Frank Sinatra' and I said 'oh very funny' and put the phone down.

"I thought it was Pete Murray, one of the DJs at the time. He always used to send us up a little bit and do these things - but it was actually Frank Sinatra."

Meanwhile, Simon Mayo - who hosted the breakfast show from 1988 to 1993 - spoke about his interviews with Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Mick Jagger.

"Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones were part of Radio 1 in the 90s as well. Even then you are dealing with a guy who has been responsible for 30 years of hits."

The show heard archive footage of Jagger appearing on Mayo's "God of the week" section of his show.

New-look stations Radio 1 and 2 were launched on 30 September 1967, from what had previously been the BBC's Light Programme”.


IN THIS PHOTO: Tony Blackburn in 1967

It has been a momentous and eventful day for the stations. Although Radio 1 peaked in the 1970s; it first broadcast, obviously, was back in 1967. It was seen as an edgy and cutting station: Radio 2 a more middle-of-the-road show that could go alongside Radio 1. Before that, there was BBC Light Programme  - it had been broadcasting music and entertainment since 1945. It is interesting to learn about the background and why there was so much anxiety when Radio 1 was launched. We all know about pirate stations like Radio Caroline and Radio London. The former, especially, gained huge notoriety and acclaim during its tenure. It was a rebellious, offshore station that brought music to the people. It was a ‘pirate’ station because it was outlawed by an Act of Parliament. There was, also, an element of swashbuckling about stations like Radio Caroline. Something very cool, outlawed and contemporary – we do not really have any likeminded stations these days. Things have changed so we do not need to moor stations out to sea but there are, I guess, a few smaller stations that have the same sort of vibe as Radio Caroline. It is just as well things did change as radio has become more mainstream and widespread. It would be shocking to imagine a world without radio – if Radio Caroline’s death was the end as we know it. That could never be but it is was a huge relief when Tony Blackburn launched BBC Radio 1 at 6:55 A.M. on 30th September, 1967. He had worked on Radio Caroline and Radio London and was a natural, affable voice to herald in a new era. U.S.-style jingles were used on the station and that was familiar to those who had followed Blackburn during his pirate radio station days. The Move’s Flowers in the Rain was the first full record played and, in its early days, D.J.s like Ed Stewart.


Jimmy Young and Kenny Everett made their voices known. I will end the piece by looking at facts about Radio 1 and 2 – and the most popular BBC D.J.s of the past fifty years. Although there were a lot of great names in those early days; it was Annie Nightingale’s appointment in 1970 that created the biggest wave – she became Britain’s first female D.J. She is the longest-serving presenter and is responsible for more women coming into radio. It is amazing that, until 1970, there had been no British female D.J.s on the air. It would be an outrage if there were no female D.J.s today but, back in the 1960s, it was not seen as that unusual. Pioneers such as Nightingale broke boundaries and ushered in, gradually, a change in radio. Now, we have so many wonderful female D.J.s in the country – that is down to Annie Nightingale and what she created from the 1970s. It is pleasing to hear she is still a D.J. and has such a passion and determination for what she does. I am not surprised she became the first female D.J. as her defiance and love of music can never be extinguished. Over the decades, there were changes and controversies. In the 1970s, there was a sense that radio had become institutionalised and was part of a huge corporation like the BBC. A few of the D.J.s, like Jimmy Young, were in their 40s – and there was the feeling BBC Radio 1 and 2 were bringing in ‘older’ listeners. Before, pirate stations like Radio London, were aimed at younger listeners. Times changed and radio had to broaden and become more conventional. That being said; Radio 1 rose to become the most-listened-to station in the world with many of its D.J.s courting column inches in the tabloids of the time. That was not due to scandals but the celebrity status they had acquired. Owing to a lack of competition at the time – a few periphery stations but no mainstream rivals – BBC Radio 1 and 2 (the former, especially) was free to reign and dominate.


IN THIS PHOTO: Steve Wright

Eventually, Radio 1 became more crossover and took talent from other parts of the BBC. High-profile D.J.s like Steve Wright departed – an unsuccessful move from his long-running afternoon show to the breakfast slow in 1994 – meant Chris Evans was drafted in. Evans was sacked in 1997 and Mark and Lard (Mark Radcliffe and Mark Riley) only lasted a few months when they took over the breakfast show. There were bumps but the rebrand and changes at Radio 1 coincided with the birth of Britpop. At a time when British music ruled and compelled: BBC Radio 1 seemed like the perfect station to soundtrack the explosions, developments and joys of the time. That, alongside Rave and Dance of the 1980s and 1990s, brought in youth-orientated like Pete Tong. He was a D.J. that laid down a mark and saw many age-appropriate contemporaries come to the station. It seemed, by the 1990s, Radio 1 was becoming what people wanted all along: a station with younger D.J.s who played music that definitely did not stray anywhere near the middle of the road. As the station went into the 2010s; things changed even more:

The licence-fee funding of Radio 1, alongside Radio 2, is often criticised by the commercial sector. In the first quarter of 2011 Radio 1 was part of an efficiency review conducted by John Myers.[12] His role, according to Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of RadioCentre, was "to identify both areas of best practice and possible savings."[12]

The controller of Radio 1 and sister station 1Xtra changed to Ben Cooper on 28 October 2011, following the departure of Andy Parfitt. Ben Cooper answers to the Director of BBC Audio and Music, Tim Davie.[13]

On 7 December 2011, Ben Cooper's first major changes to the station were announced. Skream & Benga, Toddla TCharlie Sloth and Friction replaced Judge Jules, Gilles Peterson, Kissy Sell Out and Fabio & Grooverider. A number of shows were shuffled to incorporate the new line up.[14] On 28 February 2012, further changes were announced. Greg James and Scott Mills swapped shows and Jameela JamilGemma Cairney and Danny Howard joined the station. The new line up of DJs for In New DJs We Trust was also announced with B.Traits, Mosca, Jordan Suckley and Julio Bashmore hosting shows on a four weekly rotation.[15] This new schedule took effect on Monday, 2 April 2012.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Jameela Jamil

In September 2012, Nick Grimshaw replaced Chris Moyles as host of "Radio 1's Breakfast Show". Grimshaw previously hosted Mon-Thurs 10pm-Midnight, Weekend Breakfast and Sunday evenings alongside Annie Mac. Grimshaw was replaced by Phil Taggart and Alice Levine on the 10pm-Midnight show.

In November 2012, another series of changes were announced. This included the departure of Reggie Yates and Vernon Kay. Jameela Jamil was announced as the new presenter of The Official Chart. Matt Edmondson will host a weekend morning show and Tom Deacon will return to present a Wednesday night show. Dan Howell and Phil Lester, famous YouTubers also joined the station. The changes took effect in January 2013.[16]

Former breakfast presenter Sara Cox hosted her last show on Radio 1 in February 2014 before moving to Radio 2. In March 2014, Gemma Cairney left the weekend breakfast show to host the weekday early breakfast slot, swapping shows with Dev.

In September 2014, Radio 1 operated a series of changes to their output which saw many notable presenters leave the station – including Edith Bowman, Nihal and Rob da Bank. Huw Stephens gained a new show hosting 10pm-1am Mon-Wed with Alice Levine presenting weekends 1pm-4pm. Radio 1's Residency also expanded with Skream joining the rotational line-up on Thursday nights 10pm-1am.

From December 2014 to April 2016, Radio 1 included a weekly late night show presented by a well known Internet personality called The Internet Takeover. Shows have been presented by various YouTubers such as Jim Chapman and Hannah Witton.[17]

In January 2015, Clara Amfo replaced Jameela Jamil as host of The Official Chart on Sundays (4pm-7pm) and in March, Zane Lowe left Radio 1 and was replaced by Annie Mac on the new music evening show.

In May 2015, Fearne Cotton left the station after almost 10 years. Her weekday morning show was taken over by Clara Amfo. Adele Roberts also joined the weekday schedule line-up, hosting the Early Breakfast show.

In July 2015, The Official Chart moved to a Friday from 4pm-5.45pm, hosted by Greg James. The move took place in order to take into account the changes to the release dates of music globally. Cel Spellman joined Radio 1 to host Sunday evenings 4pm-7pm.



Radio 2 has experienced such shifts but is truer to its original roots than Radio 1. It has maintained its more mature sound and has always appealed to a slightly older target audience. That sounds like a jab but if there were two stations exactly like Radio 1 then there would be no point. Both plays mainstream songs but from different ends of the spectrum. Both stations, between them, have inspired other stations to form and remain the most popular brands in British radio. Against all the turbulence and change over the past five decades – Radio 1 and 2 have launched artists and helped break careers (in the good sense). It is debatable how far the influence stretches but newer stations like BBC Radio 6 Music stemmed from Radio 1 and 2; smaller stations have taken their cue from them and, in fact, most of the new mainstream radio stations would have been influenced and compelled by Radio 1 and 2. One cannot truly underestimate the legacy and continued effectiveness of BBC’s best and biggest stations. Things have changed since the early days. There are a lot more female D.J.s – like Sara Cox and Jo Whiley; Clara Amfo and Fearne Cotton – on the air and demographics have shifted. There are more black and Asian D.J.s and a mixture of the older, established legends and the new breed. It is exciting seeing the continued evolution of Radio 1 and the sturdy establishment of Radio 2. Radio 3 and 4 came later (than 1967) and offer something different – less popular music but a more intellectual and news/factual-driven show with features and discussion shows. Radio 6 Music is, perhaps, the natural offspring of Radio 1 and 2. It seems to splice the two and provide a broader palette.


I will end this by, first, bringing in a list of fifty facts about the stations:

1. The first voice on Radio 1 was Tony Blackburn, right? Wrong. Shortly after 5:30am on 30 September, broadcaster Paul Hollingdale was at the helm, with his Breakfast Special show broadcast simultaneously on both stations.

2. The opening announcement was not what you'd call dynamic...

3. The two stations split at 7:00am. After a five-second countdown, Tony Blackburn officially launched Radio 1 with a jingle promising "too much fun" and the sound of a barking dog.

4. The first song played on Radio 1 was Flowers In The Rain by The Move. Over on Radio 2, it was Julie Andrews singing The Sound Of Music.

5. George Martin's Theme One, however, was technically the first piece of music on Radio 1. Blackburn also played Johnny Dankworth's Beefeaters under his opening link.

6. Blackburn later revealed that the famous film footage of the launch was recorded the night before, and he had to write down the words, so he could replicate them when the station went live.

7. Many of Radio 1's presenters were drawn from the ranks of pirate radio - but they found the BBC a lot more strait-laced. "I was yelled at when a 10-second link lasted 11 seconds," recalled Keith Skues. "'You cannot just ignore Greenwich Mean Time, Skues!'"

8. Weather presenter Rosie O'Day received 12 complaints in the opening weeks of Radio 1 and 2. Why? Because she had the audacity to be a woman. "Please, please spare us from Rosie O'Day reading the weather forecast," complained one. "It sounds more like a children's fairy story. I'm sure she is a charming girl, but let us stick to a man for the weather news!"

9. Radio 2's Ken Bruce has a licence to drive Routemaster double-decker buses, and owns six of them, which he hires out for weddings and funerals.

10. Before his Radio 1 debut, Dave Lee Travis stole the microphone he'd used on Radio Caroline. "The very first pirate broadcasts were made on it, and I thought, 'I have spent so much of my time on this ship, I'm having a souvenir,'" he said. "I just went and got a pair of scissors and cut the cable."


IN THIS PHOTO: BBC Radio 2's Ken Bruce

11. Radio 1 launched half a decade after The Beatles' debut single, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the music industry. Trade magazine Record Retailer accused the BBC of "trailing years behind public taste" and warned "the new station must swing if it is to be effective".

12. Radio 2's own soap opera, Waggoners Walk, launched in 1969. Set in Hampstead, it was often controversial, covering story-lines like contraception and homosexuality.

13. The show was cancelled at short notice in 1980. Some of the cast heard the news on the radio, and the writers responded by having aliens invade Hampstead Heath.

14. Terry Wogan made his Radio 2 debut in 1967, presenting show Late Night Extra - "on the beat with music and news [and] off the record with pop".

15. The Radio 1 Roadshow began in July 1973 with a Land Rover pulling a converted caravan around British holiday resorts. It's now morphed into the Big Weekend, with up to 100,000 fans watching acts like Jay-Z, Foo Fighters and Madonna playing unlikely towns like Swindon, Dundee and Norwich.

16. Between 1967 and 2004, John Peel brought more than 2,000 artists into the BBC to record one of his fabled Peel Sessions. First up were psychedelic rock band Tomorrow, with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, The Smiths, Nirvana, Pulp and The White Stripes coming after.

17. But it was The Fall who recorded the most Peel sessions - 32 in all.

18. These days, DJs are expected to know everything about music - but no-one can be right all the time. Revealing the Radio 1 Top 40 in March 1981, Tony Blackburn announced a new entry by pop newcomers "Duhran Duhran". After several phone calls, he corrected the mistake, saying: "None of us are too big to apologise."


IN THIS PHOTO: Kenny Everett

19. Kenny Everett recorded several interviews with The Beatles for Radio 1 and 2 - but he also helped inspire one of their lyrics after taking an acid trip with John Lennon on the Weybridge golf course (of all places).

"A couple of months after my psychedelic round of golf with John I was in the Abbey Road recording studios where the Beatles were recording I Am The Walrus," wrote Everett in his autobiography. "When he got to the line about getting a tan from standing in the English rain, he stopped and said to me: 'Reminds me of that day on the Weybridge golf course, eh Ken?' to which I replied: 'What'?' I'm sure he thought I was a complete lemon... or was it a bird?"

20. Chris Evans has presented both the Radio 1 and Radio 2 Breakfast Shows - but he got his start in radio as Timmy Mallet's assistant on Manchester's Radio Piccadilly, playing a character called Nobby No Level, whose catchphrase was: "What I don't know - I don't know!"

21. To celebrate its fifth birthday in 1972, Radio 1 released hundreds of balloons from the top of Broadcasting House. Attached to each balloon was a form on which the finder could write their favourite record title and return it to their favourite DJ, who would play it on air.

22. In 2015, Elaine Paige helped Pieter - a regular listener to her Radio 2 show - propose to his boyfriend live on air.

23. Derek Jameson, who presented Radio 2's Breakfast Show from 1986 - 1991, became a broadcaster late in life as a consequence of suing the BBC. The former newspaper editor accused Radio 4's Week Ending of libel for saying he was "so ignorant he thought erudite was a type of glue". He lost the case and was ordered to pay £75,000 in costs - forcing him to accept a job with the corporation he had sued.

24. Many songs have been "banned" by BBC Radio over the years - but one of the first to be censored by Radio 1 was Pink Floyd's It Would Be So Nice. A reference to the Evening Standard newspaper in the opening verse was enough to breach the BBC's strict no-advertising policy.


25. DJ Mike Read got the blame for banning Relax - but he says the decision wasn't in his power. "I didn't ban Relax," he said, "the BBC banned it. I was just a BBC employee." Defending the decision, he added: "The video did have that big fat Buddha bloke urinating from the balcony into somebody's mouth. Even now, that's not terribly good."

26. Read later made up with the band and provided a voice-over on the TV advert for their debut album.

27. Jimi Hendrix, Madness and The Who have all recorded jingles for Radio 1 and 2.

28. On December 6, 1980 Radio 1's Andy Peebles interviewed John Lennon and Yoko Ono in New York, just two days before John was assassinated.

29. In 1976, Tony Blackburn fell to pieces on air, after his wife Tessa Wyatt, star of hit sitcom Robin's Nest, left him. With millions listening, he played Chicago's If You Leave Me Now over and over again, begging for Tessa to return. He has called this his "one big broadcasting mistake".

30. In 1991, Radio 1 managed to persuade Whitney Houston to cover for Simon Bates while he was on holiday.

31. Nowadays, almost every show has some sort of interactive element, but Annie Nightingale's Sunday Night Request Show was Radio 1's first request show. It ran for 12 years from 1975.

32. Taping songs off the radio was a rite of passage days before streaming. It was illegal, of course, but Annie used it to her advantage. "I used to say: 'In a few minutes, I'll be playing Is That All There Is by Cristina,' so it gave people a chance to set up their tape recorders," she laughs.


IN THIS PHOTO: John Peel and Annie Nightingale

33. Nigel Ogden, the host of Radio 2's big organ bonanza, The Organist Entertains, first featured on the show as a player in his teens, before taking over as a presenter in 1980.

34. "Hi there, pop pickers". "Quack Quack, Oops". "Stop!.... Carry on". "One Year Out". "It's Another True Storeeee!" "Not 'Arf".

35. After a Christmas Party got out of hand in 1995, Chris Evans "phoned in sick" for the following day's Breakfast show. He was duly docked a day's pay - reportedly in the region of £7,000. The following morning, he was back on the airwaves, telling listeners: "I feel like I've had a holiday in Bermuda - although it was more expensive than a week in Bermuda, obviously."

36. Simon Bates' first job at the BBC was as a Radio 4 continuity announcer. "I was very bad at it too," he told The Independent. "I never mastered the art of saying 'Radio 4' between the end of one programme and the start of the next. If you try it, it's really very difficult."

37. Early DJs were hired for their skills as presenters, rather than an interest in music. John Peel, the one exception, remembered attending a party at Dave Lee Travis's house when he "suddenly realised that DLT didn't own any records". He asked him about it and Travis replied, "Oh no, it's too much trouble... Anything I really like I've copied on tape. I've got quite a lot of tapes and I play them in the car, you see."

38. Chris Moyles opened his first Radio 1 Breakfast Show in 2004 with a five-minute song crammed with clips of his predecessors. The song concluded with the prescient declaration: "From now until they fire his ass, the saviour of Radio 1 is here".

39. Moyles clocked up eight years in the hot seat before bowing out in 2012 - making him Radio 1's longest-serving Breakfast presenter.


IN THIS PHOTO: Current Radio 1 Breakfast Show host Nick Grimshaw with its former host, Chris Moyles

40. Terry Wogan managed 27 years on Radio 2's Breakfast show, before bowing out in 2009. Bidding farewell, he said: "Thank you for being my friend," before cueing up The Party's Over by Anthony Newley, which features the lyrics: "Now you must wake up, all dreams must end."

41. In 1976, Noel Edmonds presented the Radio 1 Breakfast show live from a flight from London to Aberdeen. During take-off, he played Fifth Dimension's Up & Away In My Beautiful Balloon, the needle on the record skipping as the plane's wheels left the ground.

42. Except they didn't... the whole programme was an elaborate hoax for April Fool's Day.

43. Jeff Young pioneered Radio 1's first dance music programme with his "Big Beat" show in 1987. Pete Tong and Dave Pearce picked up the mantle with Dance Anthems and the weekend Recovery Session - a breakfast show for clubbers - in the 1990s.

44. Amy Winehouse's Live Lounge cover of Valerie by The Zutons was so popular it was later turned into a single in its own right, produced by Mark Ronson. It became one of her biggest hits, charting at number two (higher than the original, which peaked at nine).

45. Emma Freud once introduced a song by an artist she called "PJ and Harvey" - raising the enticing prospect of indie queen PJ Harvey duetting with Ant and Dec's alter-egos PJ and Duncan.

46. Laura Sayers, a former Radio 1 producer, met her husband through a feature on the Scott Mills show, which she was working on at the time. One Night With Laura saw Scott and the team scour the country to find a listener to be her new boyfriend. After trying to impress a panel of judges, the contestants were whittled down to a final four, before an eventual winner was chosen. However, Laura actually ended up marrying one of the runners-up, James Busson.

47. In 1992, a poll conducted by Radio 1 saw listeners vote Stars by Simply Red as their favourite album.


48. The most popular video on Radio 1's YouTube channel is Miley Cyrus's cover of Lana Del Rey's Summertime Sadness - which has more than 35 million views.

49. In 2011, Radio 1 entered the Guinness World Records when Chris Moyles and his then-sidekick Comedy Dave presented the longest music radio show by a DJ team or duo, clocking in at more than 51 hours. Their record has since been broken and is currently held by Belgian DJs Eva Daeleman and Peter van De Veire, who broadcast non-stop for a staggering 100 hours in 2015.

50. When it was first launched, the Radio 1 website had a considerably longer URL than it does now, as Pete Tong found out when he attempted to read it out on air.

The second piece is a list of the greatest BBC D.J.s of the past fifty years:

Sir Terry Wogan has been named the greatest BBC radio presenter of the last 50 years in a Radio Times poll of broadcasting experts.

Sir Terry presented Radio 2's breakfast show for a total of 28 years.

John Peel, who discovered dozens of new bands during his long BBC career, was in second place.

The top 10 includes four women - Woman's Hour presenters Jane Garvey and Jenni Murray, its former presenter Sue MacGregor and DJ Annie Nightingale.


IN THIS PHOTO: Sir Terry Wogan

1.       Sir Terry Wogan

2.       John Peel

3.       Sue MacGregor

4.       Annie Nightingale

5.       Alistair Cooke

6.       Kenny Everett

7.       Jane Garvey

8.       Humphrey Lyttelton

9.       Eddie Mair

10.   Jenni Murray

11.   Brian Redhead

12.   Kirsty Young

13.   John Humphrys

14.   Melvin Bragg

15.   Danny Baker

16.   James Naughtie

17.   Fi Glover

18.   Linda Smith

19.   Nick Clarke

20.   Tony Blackburn

I hope that gives an insight into BBC Radio 1 – and its sister station, 2 – and why its fiftieth anniversary is such a big deal. It has helped shape radio and music and remains and remains one of the world’s biggest brands and a go-to for serious music listeners. It is a time/weekend to celebrate and congratulate a fantastic milestone. Let’s hope the next fifty years since BBC create new stations and secure its existing foundations. We all take Radio 1 and 2 for granted but few of us would have any idea they could have survived when pirate stations like Radio Caroline were sunk. Those first (rather brave) words by Tony Blackburn welcomed in a new era and, with it…


IN THIS PHOTO: The D.J.s that launched BBC Radio 1 on 30th September, 1967

A radio revolution.