BBC Radio 6 Music’s New Evolution
IN THIS PHOTO: Lauren Laverne presented her first (excellent) breakfast show on BBC Radio 6 Music today/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
reviewing Lauren Laverne’s debut breakfast show – the position Shaun Keaveny used to hold at BBC Radio 6 Music. I was deeply impressed by Laverne’s first outing and other have shared my positive vibes. In fact, there was a load of love for her on Twitter and people were impressed with her great selection of music and a casual yet immediate delivery that made us feel upbeat and spirited by had a calming effect. It is what you want from a Monday and, alongside the great music, there was a couple of new features. One, Cloudbusting, is a Monday Motivator equivalent. People got to choose some ace tunes to lift the nation and, on this first outing, we had Stevie Wonder and Florence + the Machine in the pack. The three hours seems to zoom by and I finished listening at 10:30 A.M. with loads of memories, highlights and smiles. It was a great first show and I am excited to follow Laverne as she rides the breakfast show horse. I got to see the last-ever Shaun Keaveny breakfast show at Maida Vale in December and, whilst it was sad he was moving on, he was going to a better place – I’m making him sound like a smelly family dog that is taking his final trip to the vet! What I mean is the renewed and refreshed Keaveny gets a lie-in and gets to tackle a new time slot.
I was listening to the last embers of Mary Anne Hobbs’ show – she ended her first mid-morning show with PJ Harvey’s Man-Size – and was readying myself for the new, awake Shaun Keaveny. He kicked things off with some Arctic Monkeys and, after asking an obvious question with an easy answer – “Have you missed me?” – he was off to the races. There was talk that he would open the show with a song by a quartet...I assumed it would be a Beatles classic. Lauren Laverne kicked off her breakfast tenure with Prince and, in all its creaminess and smoothness, it was a great way to open the morning. I knew Keaveny would go for guitars and a rawer take: a good idea to open with The View from the Afternoon. A lot of the Arctic Monkeys stuff I have been listening to on BBC Radio 6 Music has been their new album. It is good to hear something from back in the day; a good slice of northern wit to get the show kicking – joined, soon enough, by some norther wit from the host himself. It wouldn’t be a Shaun Keaveny show without some sound effects and a quick change of pace. After some monkey chatter we had some Lover Chanting from Little Dragon. From the all-male quartet offering grit and slam to a female artist with a cooler and more calming song, it was certainly quite a change of pace. That is what you want from a new show: a bit of unpredictable air but a lot of the same elements that you know and trust.
IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keaveny proudly sporting a fan-sent gift/PHOTO CREDIT: @shaunkeaveny
I think the first ten minutes or so are crucial when it comes to getting people in, landing those punches and getting back into the ears. It has been a few weeks since we last heard from Shaun Keaveny and, yes, we have missed him. Like Lauren Laverne, he has had a couple of test runs of his new show (that were not broadcast) and he has been experimenting. When he came to the microphone and did his introduction, I was half-expected his usual beds and show. It took me a little while to realise he was not on breakfast anymore and this was Keaveny 2.0. After making his first mistake early on (naturally...) he was back with, dare I say it, a smile! Getting used to his new afternoon digs, it was great to hear this new show unfold. Keaveny’s introduction showed a mixture of professionalism (welcoming us in and being all calm) and some general chaos. Matt Everitt’s return was announced – Georgie Rogers has been filling in on the music news whilst the usual anchor has been tending to his family. Steve Mason was announced on the show; a live session after 3 P.M. and, whilst we were still drinking that in, the first banger of the show: Ain’t No Love by Sub Sub (ft. Melanie Williams) was a classic slice of 1994 gold and got me in the mood! I loved listening to Lauren Laverne and Mary Anne Hobbs but the absence of old-school club bangers left me pining!
sorry about that..— Shaun Keaveny (@shaunwkeaveny) January 7, 2019
Quite a dizzying and diverse first fifteen minutes of the new show! What I learned from the first few songs was that it was very much business as usual. One of the things I loved about Shaun Keaveny’s breakfast show was the eclectic selection of music and the fact there was this jump. After getting his head around an in-studio twenty-four hour clock, we had the first whiff of his beds. He had left a few behind and he asked whether we had any suggestions. It was comforting to hear a catastrophic error from Keaveny early on! He did a couple of pilot episodes, as we know, and the whole show was rehearsed. They were supposed to start the show differently and Keaveny managed to make a slip. For those who thought a more sleep-refreshed Keaveny would be slick, a plate-spinning genius were instantly slapped down and humbled. It was actually a great start and, whereas Laverne read praise and we saw this positivity, Keaveny was reading approbation and complaints – all done with a light heart and a grin. Just when you though the tuneage couldn’t get any better, again, another 1990s classic: Cornflake Girl by Tori Amos. One thing Keaveny and team does very well (among many others) is giving us those blissful tracks. After only twenty minutes, I was lifted and filled with energy. Maybe a few pre-planned decisions and additions were forgotten – poor Phil Smith! – but, hey, this is what we know and love from the man.
In the way Lauren Laverne transplanted her mid-morning show to breakfast with a few additions; Keaveny easily replicated his sonic mixture but, as it is a later slot, he has made some amendments. It was strange not hearing his usual routines and beds – what would the general public make of this reinvented and slightly changed D.J.? I was tracking Twitter right from the start of the show and, as you’d expect, there was genuine praise and all the love you’d want. Missives started to come in and it was good to hear from the public. They were full of praise and fear and, once again, we had a twist: Small Claims Court survived! I did not think that would survive the move but it sure did! On the line was a caller, Adam, who gave the studio a scare by not being on the line! It was almost fated: how could we have anything else but a misfire?! It was hard not to laugh after the build-up and as new Specials played – a cracking tune from them – I guess there was a panic, trying to get Adam back or whipping another Small Claims Court caller into action. The news came to relieve the fleet at 1:30 P.M. and, with only a couple of hiccups, it was a great start. It is a shame the caller dropped and there were a few niggles but that is always going to happen on radio – Keaveny is masterful when it comes to regaining control and keeping things steady.
IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keaveny and team broadcasting their last breakfast show from Maida Vale Studios on 16th December, 2018 (check out the handsome dude at the back of the shot with his hands in his pockets!)/PHOTO CREDIT: @shaunkeavny/@BBC6Music
It is clear to see there is a definite voice of each of the shows – Lauren Laverne, Mary Anne Hobbs and Shaun Keaveny. Laverne was playing a mixture of Electro, Soul and R&B mostly (softer but with plenty of uplift) and Mary Anne was playing her usual blend of Rock, Electro...and pretty much every other genre around (a supremely varied and wide-ranging mix). To get us into the afternoon with a jolt, we’d need a playlist with some guitars and definite volume. Like his breakfast show, Shaun Keaveny brought out the bands, the bangers and the noise – a gutsy and high-quality selection that definitely got us standing to attention! Arcade Fire’s Normal Person was an unexpected song choice – but a great one – and that was followed by a nice jingle. Again, a little blip: Keaveny ‘mixing’ the jingle to the next song! It didn’t 100% come off and, with some laughter in the background, we had Stealing Sheep to the rescue! I couldn’t help smile thinking about the boo-boos and the slips: it is classic Keaveny and, even though he is getting more kip, it seems like the tanker will run into the rocks once in a while! After fluffing a song announcement (confusing Stealing Sheep with Red Blood Shoes) we heard some laughter from Matt Everitt. It was good to hear Everitt’s voice after a gap and back in his usual seat.
IN THIS PHOTO: Matt Everitt and Shaun Keaveny sharing a joke/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC
I am glad the music news came across to the new show because it would not be the same without Keaveny and Everitt together! Instead of the older, brief music news sting we got a longer one. It was done in the style of a news broadcast and was a good introduction. After introducing the new Blood Red Shoes single – cue some argument and crossover in the studio after Keaveny’s slip – we heard Eye to Eye (a pretty great track!). Before long, we had the dynamic duo chatting and Matt Everitt delivered his music news. We heard about a certain U.S. female being booked for Glastonbury and all the other developments/goings on. We heard about other Glastonbury tips. Everitt talked about the odds for headline acts on the Pyramid Stage – The Cure are favourites to take one of the slots (where ARE all the female acts?!). The Queen film, Bohemian Rhapsody, was mentioned as it did well at The Golden Globes and was an unexpected winner. Just before 2 P.M. we had seen the end of the music news and one essential continuation of the old breakfast show. When I was reviewing Lauren Laverne’s show, I was looking at the music selected and what sort of sounds she was favouring. We got funkiness and soulfulness but there were some unexpected choices and it was a nice assortment.
With Shaun Keaveny, the diversity is even greater. By the end of the first hour we had moved through Rock and Alternative; had some new cuts and seen a couple of classics on the block – heading into the second hour with Bess Atwell’s Grace (a great new artist who is one of my tips for 2019!). Maxïmo Park’s Our Velocity was the first tune of the show I was not hot on – never been a fan of the band – but its energy and alacrity was perfectly in keeping with the show’s momentum and sound. I like the fact that, like Steve Lamacq, a certain rush and grunginess defined Shaun Keaveny’s show. I am trying to cast my mind back to his breakfast broadcasts but I can sense more Rock and Indie on afternoons. Maybe it is a way of keeping the momentum going until 4 P.M. but I noticed a lot more guitar-based songs in the first hour-and-a-bit of his new show; more than his breakfast show at least. That was fine by me because it provided that much-needed early-afternoon boost and some great tunes to boot! It seems like well-oiled chairs were left back in the van when setting up Shaun Keaveny’s studio because, lo and behold, there was some squeaking and creaking soon enough (get some WD-40 on that!). After reading out some texts/emails – one person asked whether Keaveny could use Radcliffe and Maconie’s Tea Time Theme Time on his slot – we heard a talent about some D.I.Y. drama.
IN THIS PHOTO: Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson alongside Matt Everitt at Rough Trade Nottingham back in November/PHOTO CREDIT: @matteveritt/@RoughTrade
I saw a picture on Keaveny’s Twitter feed where he successfully built a wardrobe after many hours of patience and swearing! I was missing the off-kilter humour from the hirsute Shaun W. Keaveny so it was nice to have one of his anecdotes come into play before he spun some Self Esteem (Rollout). Like Lauren Laverne’s show, I glanced away from the time and looked back and noticed how quickly things had gone by! We were almost an hour and a half through the first show and, again, it was a very comfortable routine and very easy to slot into the new show. The most pleasing thing I observed regarding Laverne and Keaveny’s shows is that there was not a lot of change. Both had regular features that have not travelled with them but the general tone and the music was largely untouched. I really enjoyed hearing emails and texts read out and the great tangents Keaveny provided. It was like an old friend being back on the radio and picking up where he left off! Black Science Orchestra’s New Jersey Deep provided a nice surprise and took us away from guitars and back to more club-based, classic-cut territory. I was assuming the playlist would be quite bloke-heavy but there was a nice balance regarding gender. I guess the men did shade it but, by 2:30 P.M., we had already heard great tunes from Courtney Barnett, Bess Atwell and Self Esteem.
Some epic Thomas Dolby (White City) took us up to the news and provided another welcome shift. A nice cut from 1984 sat seamlessly against the newer songs. By the time we got to 2:30 P.M., we were half of the way through and, giving my half-time assessment: pretty damn good, all in all! We expected some fluffs and the odd error; we had Matt Everitt back and there was the traditional blend of humour, great music and the occasional sound of a man on fire running around the studio. Anyone expecting a few hours extra in bed would dull Shaun Keaveny’s unique blend of skills were pleasantly corrected. The humour kept coming after the news and it involved newsreader Niki Cardwell – Keaveny getting a bit confused who was on news and admitting, with great lies, that this was his only mistake so far. Again, if we saw a refreshed and super-slick Shaun Keaveny in the chair I think we’d mutiny. As we headed towards 3 P.M. it was confirmation that the same boy we’d always known was just where we left him! Following some classic Smiths (Bigmouth Strikes Again) it was on with the show! After a bit of Mozza crooning we were ‘treated’ to a rather creepy children’s song that just said “good afternoon” over and over – almost like a government agency tormenting their captor into confessing extra-quick! It was an unexpectedly quirky and unique jingle that led into some Maribou State.
IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keaveny doing some last-minute show inspections/PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music
I liked the way the music kept nimble and darted between years but I wonder, like I did when reviewing Lauren Laverne’s show, whether there was another female input. I am not sure what the breakdown was up until this point but I yearned to hear someone like Madonna or PJ Harvey interject between the male majority. It is not a big thing with any station/show but I hope BBC Radio 6 Music gives a more equal split regarding gender ratio moving forward. That is a small quibble but not one that dampened my love of the show in any real way. We soon got some new missives and, among the listener gripes and requests, Matt Everitt was back! We learned that Gary Oldman and David Bowie have joined forces. There was an interactive exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum (in London) that proved hugely popular. On 8th January, an augmented mobile app is out and allows you to interact with the original exhibit. It mirrors the museum and you can move along in virtual-reality. Gary Oldman is narrating and one can get inside David Bowie’s wonderful and peerless world. It is good to hear the music news back on BBC Radio 6 Music and extra-special having some David Bowie news. We not only mourn three years since he died this Thursday but tomorrow would have been his seventy-second birthday...and three years since he released his final album, Blackstar.
IN THIS PHOTO: Our new afternoon presenter is all smiles for the camera/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC
Following a rare David Bowie live clip, it was into the jaws of The Prodigy and Timebomb Zone. Nobody could accuse the afternoon show of lacking spark and explosion. Another banger to add to the list and, for those struggling to stay awake at work, a shot of adrenaline that is more potent than a syringe of coffee to the eyeballs! Cassius’ Feeling for You provided some much-needed female tones and a perfect way to head into the final hour. With the promise of Steve Mason on the horizon, I looked back at the first two hours and how quickly it sped by. It is a better start than I thought and I can tell, despite some self-deprecating shots, that the rehearsals and dry-runs have paid off. I actually think the rigid and precise beds that were on the breakfast show took away some spontaneity and I found myself missing them less than I thought. I like the slightly looser feel of the afternoon show and the fact the energy levels, from Keaveny and the music alike, is definitely different.
IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keaveny celebrates the completion of a tricky wardrobe build/PHOTO CREDIT: @shaunkeaveny
Boxed In’s Jist was a good start to the final hour and, whilst another geezer-led song, its dance and catchiness provided a fruity and warming blast of uplift. A lot of D.J.s would take a while to bed a new show in and spend too much time reiterating their coda and explaining the format etc. Instead, Keaveny was keen to include everyone but there was not a desperate sense of recruitment or the need to walk people through the afternoon show – we are all on board now and happy he is back in our ears. Keaveny was then moving into the live room and introducing Steve Mason. There were not that many people in the room so the band essentially had to applaud themselves after the introduction. Although it was the first live session for Shaun Keaveny, he had a natural bond with Mason and proved himself a natural in that environment. There is one live session a month on the show and I am looking forward to seeing who else is coming up! It is rare to hear a live performance at 3 P.M. on BBC Radio 6 Music – as Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie didn’t really do that sort of thing much – and it provided a real treat. The first track was Walking Away from Love and it is from the forthcoming album, About the Light. The band was tight throughout and the song was performed incredibly.
A romping, stomping and awesome performance; it was a great kick-off for the live sessions and a perfect way to keep the energy high and the mood funky. Mason and Keaveny chatted and we got some interesting anecdotes. Mason stated, when The Beta Band were signed, they took five-grand in cash out each and walked down Oxford Street. Mason handed fifty quid to every homeless person he saw and, when he looked back, he saw them running delighted. We learned more about his and the band’s process and how the music comes together – better when there is someone at the driving seat but allows for democracy and everyone pitching in. Stars Around My Heart was, incorrectly, announced as the next song up and that sent the band into a panic. It was another classic boner but one that was styled out by Keaveny and Mason. Instead, we had something else but I missed the title and Google was no help when I put the lyrics in! Anyway, it was a great performance and delivered with complete conviction and charm by Mason and the band. Taking us up to the news was Stars Around My Heart and the ship was sailing in the right direction. When Lauren Laverne was doing live sessions on her show, there was a slight break between tracks and it allowed the artists the time to chill a bit and come back. I like the fact this was a more rapid and punchy set; getting three songs out fairly quickly so that the final half an hour could be dedicated to more music and wrapping things up.
IN THIS PHOTO: Steve Mason limbering up before performing for Shaun Keaveny/PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music
After the final news report of the show ended, I was priming myself for the last half an hour and what tunes would take the show down to land. I was relieved to hear Utah Saints’ Something Good. Not only because it is a stone-cold banger and classic but it has a female voice at the front (two if you include the Kate Bush sample from Cloudbusting). I like the fact the team threw in these great cuts from the past (mainly the 1990s) that took you back to when these songs ruled the roost. If the show was all guitar-based or similar then its charms would wear thing. We had plenty of chunky and thrilling gems to get the blood racing; perfectly sitting with the more modern and conventional tracks. The charm and success of BBC Radio 6 Music is giving the audience what it wants but throwing in the odd surprise. Utah Saints is definitely a firm favourite and I couldn’t have been the only one raving like a demon! The final twenty minutes provided a good mixture of songs and the second appearance of John Grant’s Preppy Boy on the playlist (I think it was played by Lauren Laverne or Mary Anne Hobbs earlier in the day). Keaveny put out an appeal for new show beds and stuff to give the show a new lick of paint.
A welcome return of Jeremy Vine on the show – his ‘cats in gangs’ bit – was a lovely little injection and then another plea: any new or old tracks that the public want to hear, get in touch. Keaveny mentioned accosting Huw Stephens outside Wogan House and asking for tune recommendation. Calva Louise were recommended and we got to hear Tug of War on the show. I am familiar with the band and they have a nice mix of 1980s Pop-Punk and modern-day Indie. It is a great shout and will open many listeners’ eyes to this great new band. I do like the fact BBC Radio 6 Music can mix in the embryonic and newborn with the legends of music. It means there are no divides regarding demographic and the shows appeal to a wide spectrum. I like the idea for the new feature, Liked and Shared, that means listeners can let people know which old or new track they are vibing to. Bit by bit, we are getting to know the new features and how afternoons will sound. The Light by Common was another welcomed addition. I have not heard the song for ages and, like Lauren Laverne’s breakfast show, wild eclecticism and range is top of the agenda here. Any reservations about diversity and parity were dispelled by the final two tracks.
IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keaveny looking focused/confused/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC
A gorgeous Adrianne Lenker tune, Blue and Red Horses, was new to me but instantly got into my brain. As Steve Lamacq sat outside the studio waiting to get in, we heard the final song: Getting Away with It by Electronic. Once more, we had a banger before us and a beautiful, uplifting way to end the first Shaun Keaveny afternoon show. Despite some expected rough edges, it was a fantastic opening show and good to hear him back on the radio. I am interested to see how the afternoon show develops and what features come and stay. I loved the mixture of music and the Steve Mason live set; the good mishaps and the great chat/interaction between Matt Everitt and our bearded leader. I will tune in tomorrow to see what happens next but, on the evidence of the first afternoon show, Shaun Keaveny will get some new fans. Many feared the changes and rotations would damage the station and create disharmony but, as Lauren Laverne, Mary Anne Hobbs and Shaun Keaveny have shown, these little alterations have resulted in...
IN THIS PHOTO: A sign of things to come?/PHOTO CREDIT: @shaunkeaveny
A big impact.