I achieved another small goal recently; I had a film review read out on Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review on BBC Radio 5 Live. Now, this might not seem like much to you, but as a radio fan, I was ecstatic. I have always loved listening to the radio; it’s always been there for me, often when I’ve felt no-one else was.
I guess I would have first listened to BBC Radio 1 as a toddler in the late 70s; my parents predominantly raised me on rock and heavy metal, not a taste in music I have followed to a great degree, much to my dad’s dismay. In the 80s, I started to discover music for myself, with Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson being dominant in my record collection.
The radio shows I remember the most from my childhood and early teens are Simon Mayo, presenting the Radio 1 breakfast show and Steve Wright in the afternoon; the latter of the two being particularly important because I was at secondary school by then and had no friends because of bullies. The show started at 3pm, when the school day ended, and I’d run home, through the door and immediately turn the radio on to listen to Steve, ‘the posse’ as they were referred to, and a myriad of funny characters who I felt were my real friends. Then I felt happy and safe as I’d dance about to whatever was on the radio, singing loudly before my mum arrived home with my younger brother.
In my final years at school and throughout college, I listened to Jo Whiley and Steve Lamacq on Radio 1’s Evening Session, filling my ears with indie, rock and Brit Pop, and Mark Radcliffe and Mark Riley, otherwise known as ‘Mark and Lard’, from 10pm. Again, those difficult years, when I was often very low, were made all the easier by the familiar voices coming over the airwaves. This was even more important at university as I was very lonely due to extreme shyness, and those same people kept me company.
Like many listeners back then, I recorded songs and shows from the radio, and especially loved Bank Holidays, when Radio 1 would have an entire day of utterly eclectic tracks, not always aimed at their target ‘youth’ audience and this exposed me to new forms of music; easy listening being one of them, as there was a revival of the genre in the 90s. I put my broad taste in music down to my love of radio, and the opportunity to listen to a variety of stations. I admit, I am biased towards the BBC, but I think they produce the best stations and shows, and I can’t stand adverts. I listened to Classic FM in the evenings for a while, but got fed-up with the constant interruptions. I’ve tried Radio 3 on occasion, and listen to Radio 4 most days for the news and comedy, but my Radio 1 listening-days are long gone.
I still listen to Simon Mayo on Radio 2’s Drivetime show and on the Radio 5 Live podcast for Wittertaiment with Mark Kermode (hello to Jason Issacs). However, the station I am most grateful for is BBC’s 6 Music; without it, I’m not sure how I would still be able to discover new music every day. I love the variety of genres played; you can hear Led Zeppelin followed by The Beastie Boys, followed by The Staves; such a myriad of styles and sounds on a daily basis. No, I’m not getting paid for this, I just love the station where I can still listen to Mark Radcliffe, albeit on catch up via the iPlayer (whoever invented that deserves a medal by the way), who now broadcasts with Stuart Maconie, who I also used to listen to all those years ago on his music review programme with Andrew Collins; Mary Ann Hobbes with her soothing voice at the weekends, and Shaun Keaveny; the only person able to make me smile at 7am.
Since the difficult years of my teens and twenties, I have fortunately overcome my shyness as a result of teaching, so luckily actually have friends now. However, I still love listening to the extra ones I have on the radio, and long may that continue.
So thank you radio, even in the age of YouTube and various other online distractions, ‘someone still loves you’.