Strange things I started doing during lockdown: Listening to Radio 1 again

Look, I know, I’m a 54 year old bloke. Radio 1 is not meant for the likes of me. It’s aimed at the young ‘uns. Although the last time I used to listen to it regularly I’m pretty sure most of the DJs were older than I am now.

I’m ancient enough to remember Noel Edmonds doing his funny phone calls on the Breakfast Show, the height of hilarity while I was getting ready for school back in the day. Then there was Simon Bates doing that ear-grating ‘Our Tune’ thing before the groovy newbies like ‘Ooh’ Gary Davies and Bruno Brookes arrived to, well, play exactly the same stuff the old geezers had been playing all day anyway.

Then there was that big old kerfuffle when Chris Evans (the one who married Billie Piper, not the one who played Captain America) turned up to revolutionise everything, and then didn’t turn up for a bit, and then left again.

My memory gets a bit hazy after that. Did Mark and Lard come before Evans or after? Where did Zoe Ball fit in? I know she’s on Radio 2 now, but aren’t they all? Steve Wright is on there in the afternoon, all familiar and comforting for us oldies as we slide into our dotage.

That’s what I should really be listening to. Ken Bruce doing Popmaster and all that, so why is my dial (er, sorry, I mean my BBC Sounds app, kids) turned back to Radio 1 after all these years all of a sudden?

You can put it down to boredom and curiosity. When you’re suddenly forced out of an office environment to working at home (alone, in my case) you notice the silence more than anything. The tap, tap, tap of a keyboard is like a Woodpecker going at your brain (an elderly Woodpecker in my case, I’m not a fast typist by any means) so you need something to drown it out.

I’m not short of music to listen to, but I quickly got bored of listening to the stuff I already owned and knew backwards, and I even did that lockdown thing where you pick ten records that influenced you, and listened to all those again just for old time’s sake, but when you can’t go out or go to work to speak to other people for weeks on end, it’s the sound of the human voice I was really missing.

And that’s when I decided to put the radio on, although I don’t even own a radio now. I was vaguely aware of the BBC Sounds app as a concept, but I’d never used it before, but let me tell you, if you haven’t either, it’s a wonder of modern technology. Get it downloaded! It won’t change your life, but it will change your listening habits. Who knew you could listen to a Breakfast Show at teatime if you felt like it, or see what the song currently being played was without waiting for the DJ to mention it?

That latter option has proved invaluable, as I’m so disconnected from the current music scene to not have a clue who any of the artists I was now hearing were, and against all expectations there were quite a few of them I liked.

When I decided to give Radio 1 a whirl, rather than the cosier, more stately vintage of Radio 2, it was on the assumption I’d hate it and turn to more familiar pastures pretty damn quick. I mean, the last time I knew for sure what was Number One in the charts was during the heady days of Britpop, and that’s only because it was either going to be Blur or Oasis. My only exposure to the present day pop scene is the Christmas Day edition of Top of the Pops, and that’s been downgraded to a such a sorry state it’s more a case of who is willing to turn up rather than who has had the most successful year.

I’ve now clocked up enough listening hours to not only know what the current Number One is, but to have become familiar with most of the Top 40.

It’s been mostly an enjoyable experience, and I have been surprised at how much of what I’ve heard I’ve liked, and some of it I’ve even downloaded. The DJs make for pleasant company during an otherwise silent day of lockdown, though whether a 54 year old bloke saying that could be classed as career suicide for them, I wouldn’t like to speculate!

If I have a gripe, it’s the playlist. The same handful of records (can we still call them records?) played over and over on each and every show, regardless of who’s presenting it, to the point where the songs you like start to become annoying, and the songs you don’t like start to make you want to damage something.

At least in the olden days, when the charts were based on what people bought, the turnover of songs was a bit quicker, but now, when it’s all based on streams and views, the same songs seem to hang around the upper echelons of the chart forever, and because of that, they remain on the playlist way too long.

Imagine a future where every song is in the charts as long as Everything I Do I Do It For You by Bryan Adams. You don’t have to imagine it, it’s here.

I’d like to see the DJs given a bit more flexibility to play what they want during the day, rather than what they have to. I also think the chart should be based on first download only, not every time it’s streamed or viewed.

But what’s any of this to do with me anyway? Feel free to tell this old fart to shut up and put Radio 2 on!

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