March 18, 2012
The tenth anniversary of BBC 6 music brought to mind Clement Atlee’s famous comment after the 1945 Labour landslide – ‘we’re the masters now’. Anyone who remembers the absolute dross that was most of Radio 1 in the 70’s and 80’s can’t help but feel smug satisfaction of the ‘I was right all along’ kind when they crunch their cornflakes to Can or Public Image or the Horrors.
6 Music isn’t an indie music station, it is just a station that plays great music. It has taken the eclecticism of the Peel show as its blueprint, so you’ll hear Leadbelly alongside Echobelly; Nick Drake and Nick Cave; King Tubby and King Crimson; Robert Johnson and Anthony and the Johnsons; Captain Beefheart and Captain Sensible. Well maybe not much Captain Sensible.
It’s like we won the war. Broke the shackles of the Radio One Playlist, smashed Smashie and Nicey, crushed the Hairy Cornflake underfoot. It’s worth watching those reruns of TOTP 2 to remind yourself how excruciating the ‘superstar DJs’ had become – DLT, Noel Edmunds, Tony Blackburn and the truly bonkers Jimmy Saville. They may have been a breath of fresh air in the 60’s but by the mid 70’s they’d become stale, safe and irrelevant. And the music they did play between the inane chatter, ‘jokes’ and oh so funny pranks was mostly dross. There’s been so much revisionist crap written about Abba and Queen, who dominated the airwaves, but punk happened as a reaction against them, not against prog rock, which you never heard on daytime radio.
It’s become a cliche to say that Peel was a beacon of light, but he truly was. Other than the few nuts who could tune their shortwave radios to Radio Tirana or Radio Tehran, there was no alternative to the state control that was the British Broadcasting Company. Independent Radio was the same – as Strummer so eloquently put it in his tirade against Capital Radio “we got the hits to play, to keep you in your place all day’. Or as the Poison Girls said, ‘ state control and rock and rock are run by clever men.
And I’m sure those clever men would love to shut down 6 Music – they tried last year. Thankfully it was saved and I can carry on bouncing round the kitchen to James or Primal Scream when I’m putting up the kids’ lunch boxes. DLT must be choking on his beard.