Radio 1 goes on air


Radio 1 goes on air

Shepherds Bush, London The 30th of September 1967 AD

“And good morning everyone, welcome to the exciting new sound of Radio 1,” Tony Blackburn’s opening words at 7am on September 30 1967 for the first programme on the new channel.

While it was exciting compared to the previous BBC pop output, Radio 1 stole shamelessly from the pirate radio stations it replaced. Its DJs were nearly all recruited from stations like Radio Caroline and Radio London which had been closed down following the Marine Offences Act of 1967. It had - for the first time on the BBC – snappy American jingles to liven up the airtime between songs. It had some energy.

The first record played on Radio 1 – remember this as it comes up in every other pub quiz – was The Move’s Flowers in the Rain. The second was Massachusetts by the Bee Gees. They may not seem too special now – they weren’t exactly cutting edge back then – but they were aimed at a young audience which had been tortured by Two Way Family Favourites and similar horrors on the old Light Programme.

The Light Programme regularly featured passionless versions of hit songs recorded by light orchestras and saccharine singing groups whose aim in life appeared to be to phrase every song identically. If they were not ruining pop songs they were broadcasting songs your mother liked. The presenters mainly sounded like they had been to Eton or a Swiss finishing school and that mummy and daddy bought them a pony when they were children. No wonder the pirates, and Radio Luxembourg, had such huge loyalty among the young.

The wonderful BBC managed to retain some of its stuffy attitude for the new station: whilst Tony Blackburn , not unreasonably, called his show The Tony Blackburn Show, officially it was Daily Disc Delivery. Though the likes of Kenny Everett and John Peel were given airtime, so was Jimmy Young , hardly the voice of rebellious youth in 1967. And for part of the day Radio 1 merged with Radio 2, dropping with a clunk back into the old regime.

But Radio 1 was a hit in spite of its flaws. It developed and evolved over the years, its chart programme compulsory listening for teenagers in the 60s and 70s, and the marvellous John Peel a constant reminder until his untimely death of the spirit of musical curiosity that Radio 1 at its best carried on from the pirate days.

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