Boom Radio SIXTIES TURN SEVENTY (part two)
by Norman and Dee Warwick
Unless the statistics of chart music and radio listenership are properly explained, (as we hope we did last week in our article Sixties Turn Seventy + bits and pieces) then a fight over the most popular music of the sixties, between a station with a listenership of fourteen million and another with a listenership of, at present, less than 400,000, might seem like a storm in a tea cup.
However the relative success of Boom Radio and the perceived shift of direction from BBC Radio 2 has drawn some hard hitting opinions from a veteran broadcaster, ´diddy´ David Hamilton who has come out punching.
´Back in 1959, on the cusp of the Swinging Sixties´, he wrote in The Daily Mail online last week, ´I was posted to Germany as part of my National Service and quickly found myself a new niche.
In those days, the Forces radio station played an endless diet of Bing Crosby and Peggy Lee (left) — both wonderful singers, but their music was the sort of thing we young servicemen associated with our parents.´
Surely, though, ever since music began each young generation has turned its back on the music of the older generation, even on timeless classics like Peggy Lee´s Fever.
¨We wanted something different, something to call our own — and we’d found it in rock ‘n’ roll.
Powerful and energetic, these new songs had exploded on to the music scene to become the anthems for our changing times.
My fellow squaddies couldn’t get enough of them on the Sunday afternoon show where I cut my teeth as a DJ, the career in which I would go on to make my name.
This was the dawn of two decades which would usher in some of the greatest music ever made and the greatest lyrics ever penned — written and performed by bands and solo artists whose names are now etched in the music hall of fame.
From Elvis and the Beatles to the Rolling Stones and The Who, Bob Dylan and the Kinks, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Queen — the music that emerged from that era has more than stood the test of time and is loved by baby boomers and their grandchildren alike.
Yet not, it seems, by the bigwigs at Radio 2´.
Can the BBC really afford to alienate those who have traditionally tuned in to her the music of the generation, those of us who now see our sixties turning to seventy?
As the Mail reported yesterday, it appears that the BBC have quietly asked their radio 2 DJs to ‘scale back’ on playing songs from the Sixties and Seventies in favour of music from the Eighties onwards.
Less Stones, more Spice Girls and Take That.
I can’t say I’m surprised by the news. After all, the station is known for its ultra-loyal band of middle-aged listeners — many of whom happen to be over 40, with an average age of 51 — and dear old Auntie is obsessed with chasing an ever-younger audience.
The suits at Radio 2 are particularly keen on women in their mid-30s to mid-40s, a demographic some focus group or other has branded ‘mood mums’, who came of age in the later decades of the last century.
And that, they believe, means feeding them a diet of the music that reminds them of those heady times and jettisoning what came before, enforcing a musical cut-off line somewhere around 1980.
I’m sure I can’t be the only one who is baffled.´
Perhaps it would be wrong of us, though, to think that only the music of our generation has any value.´
¨Yes, the Eighties and Nineties produced some terrific music, but it seems sheer folly to deprive the Radio 2 audience of some of the hits from the decades before — whatever their age.
When it was decided that the likes of the Beatles and the Stones (right) were no longer appropriate for Radio 1, fans could gravitate to Radio 2 where they were still flavour of the month. But where can these listeners go now? The BBC’s other music stations, Radio 3 and Radio 6, devote themselves to classical music and alternative sounds respectively.¨
If that really is the current radio áttitude then where are we sixties turning seventy to find the music of our youth.?
The answer is the commercial sector, where the likes of Heart FM will be delighted to pick up disaffected Radio 2 listeners, and streaming services such as Spotify.
In a world where a growing number of music-lovers use virtual assistants such as Alexa to request their favourite tracks, they are likely to lose yet more listeners to that sector.
In such a context, the BBC’s approach appears almost suicidal. At a time when it has never been under more pressure in an increasingly variegated media landscape, it is driving away one of its most loyal audiences.
Little wonder that many of my peers don’t want to tune into the station any more, arguing that while the BBC is very keen for them to pay the licence fee, it doesn’t seem prepared to cater to their needs in return.
The hits that are being banished, after all, transformed the cultural landscape for ever.
Their timeless lyrics and memorable melodies retain their potency to this day´.
So, the music David Hamilton is talking about must still have some relevance today.
´Don’t take my word for it, just watch the ad breaks. Decades-old songs are still used in commercials by advertising executives who see their value, even if radio broadcasting bosses don’t.
The truth is that, half a century on, bands such as the Stones are still able to fill stadiums around the world with fans of all ages.
Their tunes are for everyone: the youth will always have their own music as, of course, they should, but the march of time has democratised the way we listen to it.
Back in the Sixties, while we all knew we were in on the beginning of something, we had no idea of the longevity that some of these burgeoning new artists would have.
At the time, hosting music shows on television, I did one of the first TV interviews with a band called the Beatles who were then playing gigs for ten shillings (50p) a ticket.
No one knew then that they would become the greatest pop group of all time, although when they came back from conquering America to be greeted by more than 100,000 fans at Heathrow Airport — a scene never rep-eated since — I had an inkling.
In 1964, I introduced another new band, the Rolling Stones, who were playing at the Palace Theatre in Manchester.
I remember I had a little red MGB sports car that I parked at the back of the theatre, which fans mistook for Mick Jagger’s.
Someone scratched a message to him on the paintwork and, for a week, I was driving round with ‘I love you, Mick’ on the bonnet.
There were many others.
In the Sixties we discovered soul, Motown, rhythm ‘n’ blues and embraced the burgeoning number of talented black artists, such as Marvin Gaye (left) and the Supremes.
With the Seventies came disco, funk and punk, alongside some of the best singers and songwriters ever: so no apologies for mentioning Rod and Elton again, or for adding Neil Sedaka and Simon and Garfunkel. By the time I joined Radio 2 in the late Seventies, after several years at Radio 1, the rock ‘n’ roll earthquake had settled, and it was no longer just the preserve of rebellious youth but of everyone.´´
David Hamilton knew the music revolution, though, was not then over.
´Yet even then the high-ups were gunning for change.
I left the station at the end of the Eighties when a new boss arrived who, unbelievably, wanted to turn back the clock, playing Max Bygraves (right) rather than Mud and T. Rex.
I knew it wasn’t what people wanted to hear — which is, after all, a radio station’s very simple remit.
Now here we are again, faced with DJs being asked to truncate Radio 2’s varied playlist to focus on more recent decades. Even Pick Of The Pops, a show fronted by my friend and veteran broadcaster Paul Gambaccini which looks back at music charts from bygone decades, last featured a hit from the Sixties back in September.
It’s one of the reasons I signed up to present a show on Boom Radio, a still relatively new station playing music from the Sixties and Seventies and later, including new music.
As its name suggests, it’s aimed at baby boomers — although I like to think it will attract fans of all ages.
Of course, the BBC — which remains an admirable institution — has to keep things fresh, and in this modern era of podcasts and multiple digital stations at your fingertips woe betide any broadcaster that rests on its laurels. I understand, too, the instinct to attract younger listeners, even though they are a more fickle generation who do not listen to radio with the same commitment that their parents and grandparents do.
Why should they whine when there are so many digital options available to them?
Yet I fear that in striving for pastures new, Radio 2 is in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water.
However loyal its listeners may be, they will eventually reach for the retune button if they continue to feel neglected.
At a time when the captive home audience during lockdown has learned the importance of listener numbers and their own power in shaping them any radio station’s bosses ignoring them does so at their peril.´
David Hamilton was also seen over the weekend on a documentary about Ken Dodd. Mr Hamilton spooke as positively and expansively as he invariably and his admiration for the late comedian was patently obvious.
Here at Sidetrtacks And Detours we reckon Mr. Hamilton´s observations are an accurate reflection of radio at the moment and although I am in love , and proud of, the playlists I compile for myself, my wife Dee and I do listen to Boom Radio, with its very similar playlists,….and in case you might think that, being based on Lanzarote we don´t have a dog in this fight, we would remind you that Graham Torrington, a Boon Radio DJ, presents his shows from Catalonia on mainland Spain,…. around the corner from us.
Another Boom Radio presenter, Nicky Horne, (right) even played Anna On A Memory by John Stewart the other day.
I know at least one of our readers, Peter Pearson,, will see that, as do I, as a sign of real progress !
My wife has been a deciated Boom Radio fan ever since our friends Martin and Sarah Boyle introduced it to us siz motnhs ago. In fact Dee has enjoyed musical accompaniment from Boom today, as they commemrorated the Pirate Radio ships that were so important to the growth of poip music in the sixties.. In fact she was delighted with the event aqnd sent me an e mail from the lounge yo my office twelve fet or soa way yo say what a great day she was having.
It was an absolute pleasure to listen to Johnnie Walker on Boom Radio today, 14 August, 2022. The programmes on Boom Radio were to celebrate and highlight that it was on this day 55 years ago that the Pirate Radio Stations, ie London Radio and Radio Caroline were made illegal and were forced to close.
Johnnie Walker explained that he and a colleague, were the last to broadcast and leave Radio Caroline and that he himself faced prosecution for two years following the closure. Johnnie Walker has a wicked sense of humour. He spoke to Roger Day during the programme reminiscing and noted that Roger was a big Beach Boys fan and therefore Johnnie said he would play a Beach Boys track especially for Roger; he in fact played a Beatles record instead.
Johnnie Walker, says Dee, (right) still has a very soothing voice which reminded me that many years ago I used to travel home from work every night in what often to be a fifteen mile traffic jam, listening to the Drive Time Show and Johnnie´s dulcet tones. He made the journey bearable. The programme today included songs that were popular at that time, including the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and many more, together with snippets of information about the tracks and referring to his time on Radio Caroline. Thank you Johnnie Walker for a wonderful and memorable programme. I´m going to e mail about it to my husband, who is in the other room, to tell him what a wonderful day I am having.
For those of you who prefer your to listen to jazz rather than pop might like to know that this week the Hot Biscuits programme presented by opur friend Steve Bewick features the music of Simon Deeley‘s Blue Haze Band from his recent CD. Also included is jazz from Derek Nash, Kornel Kurina and friends, Richard Iles & Paul Kilvington, Sarah Moule with a Duncan Lamont intro. If this sounds interesting to you share with friends and follow us at www.mixcloud.com/stevebewick
Listeners to Ribble fm on the radio might hear a few plugs for the next big live festival due in the area of the UK. This region of the UK is beautiful countryside and the name of Ribble Valley Jazz And Blues Festival is synonymous with all that is good in live festival events.
Today the Valley people remind us this coming weekend is when Newcastle Jazz Festival takes place.
The weekend begins on Thursday, it seems, when Strictly Smoking Big band kick off the event.
On Friday 19th August you can see sessions from both Northern Monkey Brass Band and the Harry Keeble duo.
The two days of the weekend, however, deliver full programmes.
Saturday 20th presents the Ivo Neame Quartet, Joe Harrop and Jamie McCready, Graham Hardy Quartet, Alter Ego and Riviera Effect.
The Newcastle jazz festioval closes on Sunday with performances by Emma Rawicz, Ben Gilbert trio, Dave Gray Flextet, Knats and Hand To Mouth
We will bring you details from Ribble Valley Jazz and Blues closer to the time of other festival events later ion the year..
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This article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.
Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve Bewick, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Four.
As a published author and poet Norman was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (for which he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.
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