‘The Remarkable Tale Of Radio 1’

An insightful and fascinating read on ‘the nation’s favourite’, writes Ange Chan.

For anyone interested in pop culture, BBC Radio 1 has been embedded in our collective psyche for the past fifty plus years.  Born out of pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline, so called because they initially broadcast from ships just outside British waters and broadcast not wholly within the law, this book charts the progress of the radio station, its charismatic (and sometimes notorious) presenters, and reflects on social change throughout the decades and how musical styles and fashions shaped who we were, and who we are now.

For most people in the 1970s and 1980s, music shaped the people we were, and Radio 1 formed the soundtrack to our lives.  Who remembers taping the Top 40 on a Sunday night, John Peel’s ground-breaking discovery of our new favourite bands, or the breakfast show with Mike Read banning Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’?  Commanding up to 24 million listeners a week, it was not only the UK’s favourite radio station but also the best listened to station in the world at the time.  In the 1980s, Radio 1 was livings its best life, and we all bought into that dream in some way, shape or form.

Now revered as one of the BBC’s best brands and having somewhat of an iconic status due to its history, the author Robert Sellers investigates the socio-cultural impact that the radio station has had over the decades, by drawing on archive material as well as first-hand interviews with the radio DJ stars who made their names via Radio 1, right through from its beginnings in 1967 through to its somewhat controversial reorganisation in the mid-1990s and the effect which this had beyond those times.

Sellers has an impressive track record of writing many authorised books of Kenny Everett, Ernie Wise and Oliver Reed as well as best-selling books about Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris and furthermore, has written about Ealing Studios, Handmade films, and the James Bond series of films.

The book talks about the rise of the station and the people who contributed to that rise, whilst also tackling the backdrop of changes in management styles and how these complex relationships shaped the station, for better or worse.  It discusses examples of the relationships formed between the DJs, and musicians and how these relationships were sometimes abused (by both parties) causing friction and play list changes. It touches on controversy around the station, more recently in the form of Operation Yewtree and how Radio 1’s image was destroyed, then built back up again for today’s young audiences.

The book also covers many iconic positive milestones and inside stories, too numerous to go into any kind of spoiler detail here, from employing Annie Nightingale as the first female DJ, through to the challenges of broadcasting the world’s largest outdoor broadcast in Live Aid in 1985 and being the poignant last recorded interview of John Lennon just two days before he was murdered in cold blood outside his Dakota Buildings apartment in New York City.

All of the DJs who presented on the radio station became household names, some becoming more popular than the musicians and bands they were playing on their turntables.  Many went on to become television broadcasting heroes such as Noel Edmonds who started life as a Radio 1 DJ but is now better known for Multicoloured Swap Shop, Noel’s House Party and Deal or No Deal.

The Remarkable Tale of Radio 1 lives up to its title and was an insightful and fascinating read.  Essential reading for anyone who has ever listened to the most iconic of radio stations at some point in their lives, and it is wholly relatable to anyone, as it spans the decades of its existence.

❉ Robert Sellers: ‘The Remarkable Tale of Radio 1: The History of the Nation’s Favourite Station, 1967-95’ was originally published May 2021 by Omnibus Press, RRP £20.00.

 Ange Chan is a Freelance Writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry. A prominent contributor to Me and the Starman (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon) and lifelong lover of music, Ange is also We Are Cult’s Social Media Administrator.

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