Kate Chisholm

Split decision | 5 October 2017

Plus: the importance of stuff and the 93-year-old climber who used to scale rockfaces in a bikini

Think back to that morning in September 1967 when the Light Programme was split in two, Tony Blackburn launching Radio 1 with a jaunty new jingle announcing it was all ‘Just for Fun’ while staid old Radio 2 went on with the Breakfast Show and told its listeners to ‘Wake Up Easy’. What is so surprising is just how radical the changes at the BBC were. On that unsuspecting morning, as the Pope urged for peace in Vietnam and a cannabis farm was discovered in Bristol, the Beeb’s radio output was completely overhauled.

It was not just that a new station was launched, addressing the problems posed to the BBC’s listener profile by the lurid temptations of the pirates — those radio stations anchored offshore and unbound by the protocols on which Auntie was run. Much more drastically, the Light Programme, Third Programme and Home Service were all done away with and replaced by networks known only by number. How on earth could listeners identify with something called merely 1 or 2, let alone 3 and 4?

No wonder the powers that be were anxious. Early-morning listeners on 1500 metre Long Wave would have heard the controller warning them in advance: ‘We can only hope they [the new stations] will find acceptance.’ No rehearsals had been possible, so ‘like a new pair of shoes we shall be breaking the networks in until they fit properly. We must crave your indulgence if the shoes squeak a bit.’

Last weekend’s pop-up vintage Radio 1 station (only available in digital format), taking us back to those heady days of Fluff, Emperor Rosko and the inimitable Kenny Everett, was a trip too far down memory lane for some of us. While younger listeners must have been bewildered by some of the accents (so ultra RP), the cheesy jingles and the overwhelming maleness of it all, to me it was too much of a blast from a very long-distant past to feel comfortable.

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