FEATURE: BBC Radio 6 Music’s New Evolution: Weekend Breakfast with RadMac




BBC Radio 6 Music’s New Evolution


IN THIS PHOTO: Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie are the new weekend breakfast presenters on BBC Radio 6 Music (Maconie is doing it solo until Radcliffe returns next month)/PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music  

Weekend Breakfast with RadMac


ONE of the saddest announcements of last year...


 IN THIS PHOTO: A disguised Mark Radcliffe makes sure he is present for the final RadMac show of 2018/PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music

was that Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe were moving from their afternoon slot during the week and were heading to weekend breakfast. In some ways, it seemed like a bit of a punishment. It is like demoting someone and putting them to a less popular slot; they cannot cause trouble and are out of harm’s way. Another sad thing was hearing their final weekday show last December. They ended things with dignity and positivity – they were not leaving but merely moving – but the fact Mark Radcliffe was recovery from his throat cancer treatment brought a lump to my throat. Wonderfully, he made a brief return to the show in the form of a snowman! With his voice a little sore and hoarse still, it was still the same Radcliffe we all know and love – just a bit unwell and on the road to recovery. Hearing him back on the air made that decision to move ‘RadMac’ to weekends – how could they do this to a much-loved radio partnership?! The BBC had their rationale I am sure – beats me what it is! – but they kept that at the station at least. I was a bit teary hearing the final moments of the weekday show and knowing the two of them would not be in their natural place made me very cross. It was with a cheer and sense of relief that we welcomed the duo back – one-half of it, at least – to radio this morning.

Hearing Stuart Maconie present the first of the weekend breakfast shows was strange but instantly familiar! His voice was not in tip-top shape (recovering from a cold) and that was a fact that was slightly mocked by a welcomed caller during the show! As with Shaun Keaveny and Lauren Laverne opening their accounts – I did not have time to review Mary Anne Hobbs’ inaugural show – that all-important first song was studied. Many people were guessing and wondering what it could be. Laverne opened with Prince whilst Keaveny went for Arctic Monkeys. I know Maconie would opt for something with some swagger from the 1990s. Given the fact that was a ripe and bounteous decade for guitar music, the list of available songs was certainly long! I think he gave some cryptic clues on his Twitter leading up to the show and mistakenly said that a clue would be found above a library in Aberystwyth – the opening line of A Design for Life was unveiled by the band at the Cardiff Central Library. It was a minor factual error but not one that stopped people getting the correct answer! It was a perfect opener to the show, too. If Maconie had gone with something Freak Zone-esque (he presents his Freak Zone on BBC Radio 6 Music) then the tone would have been wrong. If he has chosen something modern then, I feel, that would have not been quite up to the grade. A classic slice of Manics gave us all a lift and a song we could belt out!


 IN THIS PHOTO: Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson is the new voice of The Chain/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Hearing a croaky Maconie welcome us in gave me the shock of my life – thinking he was seriously ill too! I can only imagine how strange it was for him to wake up at God knows what time and traipse to MediaCity in the dark. The fact he is use to waking up at a sensible time and arriving to work in the daylight means this new show was already a bit strange. Armed with some breakfast treats – Twitter photos showed us some orange juice and croissants – he went on with it and laid out the stall. We knew The Chain was carrying over (Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson is the new voice of The Chain; Diane Morgan fills in for Kirsty Young regarding the interstitials/humorous links) and it would have been a mistake scrapping such a long-running institution. (Tea Time Theme Time also survives but we will hear that tomorrow). The music played was a reliably mixed and quality-heavy assortment. It was business as usual in that respect and apart from a slightly more uplifted tone and a few more morning-appropriate bangers...it was the same show in terms of the tunes. The tunes were big and Maconie would play everyone from Dr. Dre and The xx to Stealing Sheep – one of my favourite bands of the moment! The first part of the show was certainly eventful. I was expecting Maconie to be bleary-eyed and stumble through a few links; get lots wrong and be a bit moody...I would be if I was having to adapt to this ungodly waking time!


 IN THIS IMAGE: The Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, was discussed by Clare Crane and Stuart Maconie in This Week in Music (it did sterling business at the Golden Globes where it was noted, by Crane, it is the lowest-rated (by critics) film to win Best Picture since 1986/IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Illness be damned - it was a humorous, warm and humble open. People were getting in touch to offer praise and support for the new show. One of the oddest moments of the show came when Maconie played Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. That was not the odd bit: the fact it was cut short was the baffling bit. The decision to play the song sounded ration to me: another diverse turn so the show was fresh and covered a broad spectrum. I half-expected to hear the news the Queen had died when Maconie arrived unexpectedly quick on the microphone. I am not sure if a producer had stepped in or they got a phone call from the bosses as soon as the song was played. Apparently, it was not ‘appropriate’! If he had played a profanity-laden Eminem song then that’s fair but what was wrong about Tubular Bells?! Maybe the higher-ups felt the tone was too creepy or wrong for a morning show (let’s hope this is not the sort of sh*t that the duo will have to endure as they take to weekend mornings!). The fact they have been screwed regarding their time slot and now have management breathing down their necks made me angry. Maconie handled it well and played The xx instead – I would have preferred a bit of Oldfield to be fair!

Plenty of delight soon came in. A first caller on The Chain kicked things off well (if a little timid at times) and it was good to see this well-liked and established part of RadMac make the move. I was keeping my ears out for new features and we would get a couple. One was This Week in Music with Clare Crane; the other was Sampled Underfoot (where an original song was played and then a song that samples that one...a clever and nice idea). I shall come to those but a welcomed and much-missed voice soon came on the phone – a certain Mark Radcliffe. Not as croaky and tired as he sounded before Christmas, it was good to hear the friends chat again. Radcliffe was, as you’d expect, in sparkling form and very funny. He mocked Radcliffe for sounding rougher than him and proposed a new idea in the show whereby they would each drink a pint of lager during a song – I forget the names he gave for the concept but it will come to me! Radcliffe has a new dog, Ziggy, that has put some pep in his step and he (Radcliffe) sounded very fresh and excited to come back – we were told an early-February return is more than a possibility. Looking at a photo posted of him, he looked very fresh and good right now. I guess the fact Mark Radcliffe is almost back with us sort of makes up for the fact that the beloved weekday show was bumped down the ladder!


 IN THIS PHOTO: Clare Crane, a fixture of the afternoon show, presents This Week in Music on weekend breakfasts/PHOTO CREDIT: @CraneClare

I like the new feature involving Clare Crane. I felt the daily news was a little overkill weekdays. On Shaun Keaveny’s breakfast show, Matt Everitt or Georgie Rogers would deliver the news and then, a few hours later, we would get the same from Clare Crane or Elizabeth Alker. It was good for those who missed the original news but was not really giving Crane or Alker the chance to offer anything new. Now, with This Week in Music, it was a chance for Crane and Maconie to chat about news stories that had cropped up the week before. They chatted about the threat to HMV’s future and made some good points regarding a Guardian article that dismissed the purpose and importance of the music giants; taking to task the somewhat sanctimonious and snotty tone of the piece. They talked about David Bowie – last week marked the three years since he died and his seventy-second birthday – and it was good to see a more in-depth discussion and Clare Crane given the chance to offer her own opinions. I like the feature and feel there is plenty of material to draw from. I am not sure whether she is back tomorrow morning but I guess she will be! A humbling aspect of the new show was people, such as myself, waking up early to catch it.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Mark Radcliffe with his new dog, Ziggy/PHOTO CREDIT: @themarkrad

One might assume the only people up at that time were drunks and the insane but there are plenty of people who listen to the breakfast show because they want to start the day right. A 7-10 A.M. burst of Radcliffe and Maconie sounds like a brilliant way to get the weekend kicking! I cannot wait to hear what comes tomorrow and see the return of Tea Time Theme Time. The music, as I said, was the usual blend of new and old; perhaps with a slight emphasis on keeping things upbeat and not dropping the pace too much. The best aspects of the new weekend breakfast show was the comparative freedom Maconie was given. Apart from stuffy corporate noses objectifying to some Exorcist-scoring sounds from earlier, the show felt quite loose and not like management hands were controlling everything. I felt, at times, the afternoon show was being moulded too much or there were ears and eyes closely monitoring. I suppose weekend breakfast is a different cup of tea and there is a bit less pressure. Anyone expecting nerves or any sort of radical change would have been left disappointed. I love the fact Stuart Maconie provided a dignified, solid and interesting start to the new slot. Not many breakfast shows are genuinely funny, charming and varied so it is a benefit to have Radcliffe and Maconie leading the ship.

I love the fact regular features are sitting alongside a couple of new ones. I do wonder whether one more new addition might complete the set. It does not need to be too radical but I think there is scope for another feature or song-related segment. Maybe that is all to come but one can have no grumbles regarding the new weekend breakfast show. The addition of Mark Radcliffe’s voice provided us with cheer and comfort and the entire three hours whizzed by! For those looking to adapt from the familiarity of the weekday afternoon show and its pace wouldn’t have taken too long to get behind the new breakfast show. I guess Stuart Maconie will get used to the dark start and early alarm call but I was so pleased to hear him back. When he and Mark Radcliffe re-join forces in a few weeks, it will be the first time we have heard them both on the microphone for a whole show in months. I feel all of the BBC Radio 6 Music D.J.s changing slots – Lauren Laverne, Shaun Keaveny; Mary Anne Hobbs and our weekend breakfast hosts – have done really great shows and they sound natural. It will take a few more weekends before we are in the groove and fully converted by the opening show was a triumph. Stuart Maconie spoke with Will Poulter (who plays Colin Ritman) from Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and it was a nice piece. Poulter was articulate, warm and interesting and talked about the new show, his decision to take time away from Twitter and his love of Hip-Hop.

One of the biggest losses is that regular interview segment of the RadMac show. I love their interviews and, through the years, we heard some classics! Given the early hour of the show, it is hard to recruit people. That said, Lauren Laverne is interviewing and, if someone came in after 9 A.M., then it allows them plenty of time to get up! I hope there will be some in-studio interviews because I love the way Radcliffe and Maconie bond with their guests – so long as there is not a Father John Misty-like guest coming in, that is! It is still early and I hope as much of the afternoon show gets transferred across. It is full respect to Stuart Maconie who has helmed most of the shows himself since Mark Radcliffe’s hiatus. I hope they present the first show back together in February but I know Maconie will need a breather in a bit! Many people were wondering whether the new RadMac show would be a different beast to the one we know and love. There is always going to be suffering and loss – the fact they are only on two times a week is the biggest problem. I like that there are no major alterations and there is chance for great features, eclectic music and lighthearted chat. I got up early to listen in and so glad I did!

I’m still a bit pissed about the Tubular Bells one-eighty but everything else was spot-on. Maybe an extra feature would do well – there are plenty of ideas that come to mind – and the decision to retain The Chain is a good one. By the end of the three hours, it was like Stuart Maconie was never away and one of BBC Radio 6 Music’s best voices was back at MediaCity. I do wonder what Maconie will do during the week and I feel like BBC Radio 6 Music could give him an extra show – it seems harsh that a decades-inspiring broadcaster and journalist is just doing weekend breakfast and The Freak Zone. Most of us end the working week with depressive enervation and a need for a huge boost. Stuart Maconie provided that this morning and it will be great to hear Mark Radcliffe back in the fold soon enough! Given the success of the first breakfast show, we are all going to tune in tomorrow and get another burst of goodness! The fact we do not get to hear Radcliffe and Maconie five times every week is a crime and I hope the BBC heads realise the negative reaction to the move – in the sense we all wanted them to stay where they were! – was justified. There are fewer finer broadcaster around and they deserve more than just the weekend. I have every faith Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie will find their way back to weekdays/evenings very soon but, on the first weekend breakfast outing, Stuart Maconie gave us a...


 IN THIS PHOTO: Stuart Maconie enjoying a healthy breakfast before his first weekend show/PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music

TRULY wonderful and memorable show.