Growing up in 60’s London meant having to put up with parental choice of radio programmes. And we all had to put up with really boring stuff like Housewives Choice and Worker’s’ Playtime. (You can hear a sample here.)
Its cultural influence in the UK was immense and it is rightly regarded as one of the main forces for the popularisation of rock’n’roll in Britain; those who equate popular culture with politics argue that this is ironic for a station based in mainland Europe.
In the 1960s the station had to compete against the pirate radio stations located closer to the UK on ships or abandoned World War II sea forts, and was disadvantaged by its inability to broadcast by day. The tendency of its signal to keep fading in and out also put many listeners off.
Ah, but the music …..
Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman, who died on Monday aged 79, was one of the first voices I heard. He joined the BBC in 1960 and only came back into my hearing when he presented Pick Of The Pops, first on the BBC Light programme and then on BBC Radio 1 which was set up in 1967 to replace the pirate stations.
He later hosted the Saturday Rock Show featuring music from the progressive, hard rock and heavy metal genres from 1973 until September 1978. Acts featured were diverse as Pink Floyd, Jean Michel Jarre, Jethro Tull, Caravan, Genesis, Steve Hackett, Yes, King Crimson and Vangelis.
I don’t recall anyone else playing those genres; most stuck with pop and the top forty, so his shows were a relief from the muzak of those times. His nickname, incidentally, alluded to a fluffy sweater he used to wear rather than his choice of music, his delivery or catch phrases. Not arf.
His passing is not as sad as that of John Peel a couple of years ago; John was still playing the music he liked to his public whereas Fluff was in a rest home for aged performers and blasting out his true musical love, opera.