Radio Memories – Fist Of Fun.

Fist Of Fun (BBC Radio 1, 1993)

This is a comedy sketch show that I didn’t hear first time round, but there have been several repeat runs on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra in more recent years, and this was another one that also eventually transferred to TV. Comedy double-act Stewart Lee and the human being that can be identified by the name of Richard Herring (or whatever elaborate way he used to introduce himself) were writers on BBC Radio 4’s On The Hour, before going into a trilogy of their own radio series.

Firstly, there was BBC Radio 4’s Lionel Nimrod’s Inexplicable World, where they investigated the unexplained, and this ran for two series. And this was followed by Fist Of Fun, which is my favourite of the three. Lee and Herring presented this one from various universities around the country, they offered their observations of life and what was in the news, and sometimes this could be rather cynical.

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This was an alternative comedy show on BBC Radio 1 in 1993, when the station was in the early stages of its somewhat painful upheaval, meaning that there was something of a clash of eras and styles with most of the schedule, and they didn’t miss the opportunity to make plenty of jokes about the overdue departure of Simon Bates, and so on.

Also among the contributors were Rebecca Front and Peter Baynham (who unlike Lee and Herring worked on the On The Hour TV spin-off The Day Today). Peter was rather scruffy and unhygienic, and he would offer some money-saving recipes, that simply sounded rather horrible, never mind actually seeing some of them when he also featured in the TV version. I do remember the recipe for Easy Toast though, maybe that is one worth trying myself.

There was also a guest appearance in one edition from Dale Winton, who had recently become the host of daytime game show Supermarket Sweep, so naturally the audience of students were rather pleased to see him turn up, and it was at that moment that he realised that the show was going to be a big success and give his career a boost.

After this, their third radio series was BBC Radio 1’s Lee And Herring, and this ran for three series. They were very insistent that there would be no listeners called Ian though. Fist Of Fun then transferred to BBC2 and ran for two series. This then led to their second TV series This Morning With Richard Not Judy which also ran for two series, and they then went their separate ways (rather bitterly it seems) to concentrate on solo comedy projects.

Radio Memories – Radio Tip Top.

Radio Tip Top (BBC Radio 1, 1995-1996)

Recently I looked back at Tip Top TV, a rather unusual one-off music show on ITV in 1994. There wasn’t a full series of this, but Kid Tempo and The Ginger Prince were given a second chance when they transferred their format to radio. In the mid-90s, Radio 1 experimented with various comedy shows in a late-night slot, this being one of them. I don’t remember this from the time, but after seeing the TV show again, I thought that I’d give the radio version a go, and they picked up where they left off really.

They took over the airwaves for an hour every Wednesday evening, what would they fill the time with? Kid Tempo was insistent that Radio Tip Top (the station with the happy difference) was coming to listeners courtesy of Lynewyre Technology in Total Spectrasound (that still isn’t a real thing and he was still going on about it), and their aim as always was to put the fizz back into pop.

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Radio Tip Top was around the time that Britpop was at its height, but you were unlikely to hear much of that type of music here, because this was an attempt at something rather different, and this show had a rather retro feel, with lots of songs and jingles from the 60s. The Ginger Prince would be at The Starlight Rooms with all of the biggest pop acts, some of them were world-famous, and you could do The Slosh to their songs, which is ever so good for you, everyone was clearly having a good time.

And there was also a club that could be joined for free, thousands of people did this, because they had smartly realised that this was the hip thing to do. You would be sent a newsletter and membership number, and you could also request a song to be played, what great times. Shows ended with the Tip Top Top Ten, a highly accurate showcase of the hottest sounds around.

There were two series of Radio Tip Top, and the duo did attract something of a cult following with their style, making sure that they were almost certainly the final people to play a song by Ken Dodd on Radio 1, but after this came to an end, they were barely heard of again, and I’m not aware of any repeat runs. I presume that 25 years on they still don’t send out the newsletters.

Radio Memories – Mark And Lard.

Mark And Lard (BBC Radio 1, 1993-2004)

Mark Radcliffe had been a producer of radio shows for many years, while Marc Riley had been a musician and cartoonist. By the early-90s they had combined to host a late-night show on BBC Radio 1 up north, along with having a music magazine column, and it was by this point that they started to be known as the double-act Mark And Lard. In 1997, they were promoted to the high-profile Breakfast slot, but this wasn’t a success, and didn’t last long.

In 1998 they moved again, this time to the afternoon slot, and this was where I heard them for the first time and got into them. There were lots of memorable features (or “quality items” as they would call them), and I’ll pick out a few of my highlights. There were phone-in competitions for listeners to win big prizes including The Wheel Of Misfortune (which was later renamed The Circle Of Chance). vlcsnap-00001

There was also The Cheesily Cheerful Chart Challenge (based on The Teasingly Topical Triple Tracker), where listeners could choose three songs that had some kind of link to a story in the news, One Man And His Frog, with breathless commentary from Scoff Cruddle, Vague News, and Lard’s Classic Cuts, where difficult to find vinyl records from Lard’s rather large collection were played, because he is more passionate about music than you, although they weren’t in very good condition, that was one of the funniest.

By the late-90s, Mark And Lard were hosting several shows on the little-watched UK Play channel, and they also released two albums under the name The Shirehorses, parodying some of the indie hits around at the time. We mustn’t forget the music either. It was clear that they weren’t very keen on the playlist, but they would always be able to choose a Record Of The Week.

This was usually by an up-and-coming indie band, and their plays on the show would often be their only radio exposure, much in contrast to all of that pesky dance music that was featured. Almost none of them ever became hit singles though. I also remember when they had a bizarre argument about Kraftwerk one day. And all of this was accompanied by “Sleep On The Left Side” by Cornershop.

By 2004, Mark And Lard had won many awards for their show, but it was at this point that they decided to leave BBC Radio 1 after about a decade, leaving their jokes and catchphrases behind and going their separate ways to go on and host various other shows on BBC Radio stations, along with making the Football Nightmares DVD. And at all times they were terrific value for money.

Radio Memories – The Radio 1 Breakfast Show.

The Radio 1 Breakfast Show (BBC Radio 1, 1967-present)

As I have now done several pieces in this series, I thought that I would begin this one by taking the opportunity to write a little more about my listening habits. When I was younger, around the early-90s, I didn’t really listen to the radio that much at all, and when I did, it was almost always BBC Radio 1. I don’t recall ever listening to the likes of Capital or Kiss, Virgin and Heart hadn’t launched yet, and BBC Radio 2 and LBC weren’t really aimed at me.

And I have always lived in an area where there have been a large amount of pirate radio stations, and although I never went through the dial much back then, I did hear a lot of them, usually playing rave or techno or whatever genres were big in the clubs at the time. And when I did listen to Radio 1 in the early-90s, it wasn’t much beyond The UK Top 40, and maybe also occasionally Pick Of The Pops, or Steve Wrightintheafternoon.

And as a consequence, this was the only time when I was a regular listener to the Breakfast Show. Before I went to school, I remember that I would usually have the TV on, and it would be either TV-am or The Big Breakfast. But I also went through a period when the radio was on, so I became rather familiar with Simon Mayo, who hosted the Breakfast Show for over five years. mayo0001

Mayo joined Radio 1 in 1986, and in 1988, just two years later, he was promoted to Breakfast. Now I’ve never really been sure why this is considered to be the prime-time slot in radio where it’s most important to get the listeners, but Mayo quickly proved that he was suitable. And he would also go on to have something of a career in TV, joining the list of Top Of The Pops hosts around this time too, and he also appeared in adverts, so he was soon a familiar face as well as voice. vlcsnap-00400

Mayo would become known for having a posse, consisting of the people who hosted to news and travel, and were encouraged to join in. One of the memorable things that he did were his campaigns to get rather unlikely songs to be released and make the chart, including Monty Python’s “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”, and this did indeed make the Top Ten.

Regular features included On This Day In History, The Identik-Hit Quiz, and most famously, Confessions, where people would write in and reveal something rather outrageous that they had done. This was then turned into a BBC1 series with a game show format, but some people were uncomfortable with people being offered prizes for admitting to doing unsavoury things, so this was dropped for the remaining series, and turned into a straightforward “embarrassing secrets revealed” show.

Radio 1 was changing a lot by the time Mayo left the slot in 1993, and although I did become a regular listener to some afternoon shows later in the decade including Chris Moyles, I didn’t listen to that slot again, so I never heard any of his replacements, including Steve Wrightintheafternoon, who of course because of this had to briefly change his name to Steve Wrightinthemorning.

Mayo then moved to the late-morning slot, where he stayed until 2001. He then moved to BBC Radio 5 Live (where his film review show became popular), and later BBC Radio 2 (where he often told us to “enjoy yourself”). He also hosted BBC Radio 4’s comedy panel game Act Your Age, and did some more TV work, including the game shows Winning Lines, and one of the many revivals of Blockbusters. Mayo is still working in radio all these years on, and many other people have enjoyed his work.

Radio Memories – The Chris Moyles Show.

The Chris Moyles Show (BBC Radio 1, 1997-2012)

Chris Moyles started his radio career in the early-90s, by the mid-90s he was on Capital, and in 1997 he became the self-styled “saviour of Radio 1”. In 1998 he moved to the 4pm slot which was where I heard him for the first time. He definitely came across as someone who liked fiddling about with jingles and music, and he also had a group of hangers-on, er, I mean sidekicks, including “Comedy Dave”.

Chris had also made some attempts at breaking into TV with various shows on channels including UK Play, Channel 4, and Channel 5, but he never seemed as comfortable there as he did on the radio. I know that his bigmouthed style isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I have enjoyed some of his radio work. I thought that I would look back at three moments I remember that were rather awkward (although not in a probably being fined and suspended way, but an amusing way). These are only from memory but they went something like this. vlcsnap-00500

1. In the early days, just after moving to the afternoon slot, on Fridays Chris would often be joined by impressionist Jon Culshaw (who was still up-and-coming at this time, but I remember that he said he made his TV debut on Keith Chegwin’s talent show Sky Star Search, where he had an awful mullet hairstyle, it would be great to see it). So Chris would say things to him like “what do you think of that song, Dale Winton?”, and he’d do the impression and so on, and there were plenty of laughs. I also remember when Chris did a parody of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, with Jon as Chris Tarrant, and random celebrities where phoned and tricked into thinking they were the “phone a friend”.

One Friday, Jon couldn’t make it into the studio because he was stuck in traffic, and they got him on the phone to explain this. Chris said that the would give him the chance to do a sketch, but it would be later on. So about every 15 minutes or so, Chris would check if he was still there, and Jon would say that he was, and Chris would that they’d go to him soon.

It was becoming clear that the joke was going to be that he wasn’t going to let him do a sketch and leave him hanging on the phone for the whole show. About the third or fourth time that Chris did this, when it was almost 5pm, Jon finally snapped, and said in an actually rather angry tone of voice “look I’ve had enough of this, you can stick your job up your arse, goodbye”, and hung up. Chris seemed to be rather surprised by this sudden outburst, he’d pushed him too far!

2. One thing about being famous on the radio is that you have lots of showbiz friends, and easier access to them. I remember Chris once told the story of when he found an answerphone message that had been left late at night from a rather drunk sounding Ant (of “and Dec” fame), Chris played a bit of this that began with Ant slurring “Moyles, is that you?”, before he finished by mumbling something that sounded like “muhuhwuh”, and then Chris kept playing this over the next song or two, which was really funny.

Later on they managed to get a much more sober-sounding Ant live on the phone to explain what he was up to. I am also reminded of when in a magazine interview Chris was asked if he ever forgot himself and said something rude. He said in one of the first shows he ever did on Radio 1, he interviewed Ant and Dec, who were promoting their album “The Cult Of Ant And Dec”, which Chris mispronounced the title of, and he said that they sat there pointing and laughing at him for the next ten minutes.

3. Chris once hosted a show on his birthday. I know this because Chris kept saying “it’s my birthday”, he isn’t modest about these things. Then near the end of the show, his team said that they had a surprise for him. There was then a live performance of a song by U2. Chris clearly wasn’t expecting this and sounded really surprised, and his team said would you like to talk to them, but then they said it wasn’t possible because the line had gone down.

Chris was still busy going “oh, wow!”, presuming that this world-famous band had taken the time out to go in the studio and do a special performance just for him. The team later confessed that the reason Chris couldn’t talk to U2 wasn’t because the line had gone down, but it was a pre-recorded performance made for a different show and it wasn’t for him at all! Chris had been pranked, but he tried to see the funny side, I bet he gave them a verbal seeing-to after though.

Chris moved to the Breakfast slot in 2004, before leaving Radio 1 in 2012, and he can now be found in the morning on Radio X if you’re that bothered.

Radio Memories – The UK Top 40.

The UK Top 40/The Official Chart etc. (BBC Radio 1, 1967-present)

This is a look back at a radio show that I remember on a music station. This was one of the few radio shows that I listened to regularly in the 90s, as it was always something of a big event, and it could be rather exciting, the pop stars themselves listened to this one supposedly. The way that the Top 40 singles chart has been compiled and announced has changed a lot over the years, but I do remember those Sunday afternoons on BBC Radio 1.

By the time I was a listener, the host was Bruno Brookes, who took over in 1986, and advancements in technology meant the chart could be announced quicker and be more accurate than ever. This event was worthy of a Radio Times cover, and the computer they used had a whole megabyte and everything. The show had been going long before I was a listener of course, and finding out more about the earlier days made me realise that there was a problem.

Curiously, the show only had a two-hour timeslot, which isn’t actually long enough to feature all of the 40 songs. They got around this by not featuring some of the songs going down on the chart, and playing only about two minutes of others. By 1991 the show was extended by 30 minutes, and again in 1992 by another 30 minutes, which meant every song could finally be featured. In 1990, Mark Goodier took over as host, before Brookes returned in 1992. vlcsnap-00001

I must admit that despite my interest in all this, I never actually bought any singles around this time, and like plenty of other people it seems, I did on one or two occasions get the tape recorder out and try to capture a few highlights. In 1995, Brookes was still the host, but the show was beginning to sound like it was in a timewarp a little, and he was just about the last of the hosts at the cheesier end of the scale to be let go during the difficult restructuring of Radio 1 in the mid-90s. Mark Goodier then took over again.

One interesting thing about the show at this point was that because by the mid-90s every song was played in full, there were lots of indie bands around that had small but dedicated fanbases, meaning that their singles briefly entered the lower end of the Top 40, leading to what would often be their only play on daytime radio, so along with the big mainstream hits it could be argued that the show was unintentionally the most eclectic on the station.

In the mid-80s, the show gained a rival that went out on various commercial radio stations across the country. This went through several relaunches, among the most popular was The Pepsi Chart (which also had a TV spin-off). This chart was based more on airplay than sales, so all of those pesky indie bands didn’t get a look in, meaning it was much more populist, and there were also opportunities for advertising and competitions that couldn’t be done on the BBC.

This meant that this one often achieved higher ratings than what was on Radio 1, which I always thought was a little unfair really. Goodier continued to host the show until 2002, although the format could be claimed to be a little stale by this point, continuing to concentrate on simply playing the hits and mostly being gimmick-free (I did enjoy the TV spin-off live on the CBBC Channel around this time though). Following Goodier’s departure, there was an attempt at some change.

The much younger Wes Butters (who seemed to say little beyond “hi this is Wes”) took over, and they decided to fill the time with more nonsense, and less on the actual songs. By the time JK And Joel took over, downloads were introduced to the chart. Things were changing now, and I was beginning to lose interest. I’m too old to be interested in chart music now, the last time I listened to the show seemed to consist of someone endlessly shouting “who’s gonna be Number One today?”. How fascinating.