Sunday, March 06, 2005

RADIOBIT: RADIOBIT: The death has been announced of Tommy Vance, long-serving voice of Rock for Radio One and the man who sold a million compilation CDs.

Born in Oxford in 1943 (his mother called him Richard Hope-Weston), as a teenager Vance ran away to sea, discovering the sound of American radio while on a journey and hawking himself round stations looking for a slot. His original radio name was Rick West, but the change to Tommy vance came as a result of being in the right place at the right time: KOL Seattle had invested heavily in promoting a new presenter called Tommy Vance; when the real Vance didn't show up to take up his contract, KOL needed a replacement, and offered it to West providing he'd change his name to match the billing.

Vance got his big break the 1960s with KHJ, then the top-rated station in LA; he moved back to Europe to take up a slot on the quasi-legal Radio Luxembourg, but as he didn't like life in the Duchy, he decided to try dodging the Department of Trade and Industry working with full-on pirate station Radio Caroline. After six months on Caroline, he swapped to rival Radio London, where he would present their last programme before going legit. He was an early presenter on Radio One, but then swapped again to be part of Capital Radio's line-up when commercial music radio made its first appearance on British soil.

He made the Friday Rock Show his own for what seemed like years and years, trying hard to avoid cliche but with an ear attuned for a neat catchphrase - "This is TV on the radio" being his, long before the band picked it up. Although often thought of as being just a rock monster, Vance was given Radio One's plum job of presenting the Sunday evening Top 40; he took over the slot from Tony Blackburn and threw just as much weight behind the St Winifred's School Choir going up one place to number three as he would behind an exclusive session from Whitesnake. To Vance, everything was IMPORTANT and to be STRESSED; and if something was really important, it just deserved A LITTLE MORE STRESS. If Vance was a typewriter, his italics would lean a little further than everyone else's; it was the knack of being able to sell any information that saw him signing up to provide voice-over information for everything from the expected (Monsters of Rock CDs) to the less likely (Meaty Chunks of Dogfood).

After he left Radio One - it seemed, more or less, that he just got shuffled out the schedule rather than actually fired - he found a new home first on Virgin, and then later at VH1. He moved behind a desk to be the boss at digital service Total Rock; he also made a foray back into mainstream TV as part of the Hell's Kitchen reality show.

Tommy Vance died at four am this morning, following a stroke. He was 63.


Robin said...

Terrible news. Vance was the finest Top 40 presenter, a man whose genuine love and enthusiasm for music shone through at every turn ... compare him to the Curran / Trethowan establishment pimps (Browne, Bates), and the pure pop jocks of several generations (Blackburn, Brookes, Butters) and you understand better the qualities he brought to that show. He was the only presenter to take Alan Freeman's blueprint and really push it further ... significant that the Top 40 presenters who either did heavy rock shows or the mid-evening indie-rock show (Freeman, Vance, Skinner and - I insist, although I share your reservations about whether or not he was a natural Evening Session man - Goodier; you could stretch it to include Jensen as well, although he rapidly became an ageing self-parody on the Network Chart) were easily the best; a wider understanding of music helps, not hinders as some idiots insist, your understanding of chart music.

Anonymous said...

Also worth noting that when Vance was on Capital, for the most part he presented a funk & soul show... a far cry from the rock that he would be permanently associated with. Not to belittle the achievement of the Friday Rock Show, which spearheaded the NWOBHM, launched a generation of patched denim-wearing denizens and gave first UK airplay to virtually every rising rock and metal behemoth of it's time.

Goes to show, as Robin said, the guy just loved his music. Another great radio voice lost - a real shame. And as with Peel, there's no-one to fill the shoes...

Anonymous said...

Couldn't believe it when I saw your obit. Tommy Vance was a big part of my teenage years - I used to listen to the Friday Rock Show with the volume turned down to almost nothing, so as not to wake my grandparents in the next room.

There's not much else I can say, other than to echo the other comments here - he was one of the few DJs on Radio 1 who obviously cared about the music he was playing. Heaven got louder when Peel died. Now that Tommy's gone, hell's going to be banging on the ceiling, telling them to turn it down up there...

Eleanor G

Anonymous said...

TV on the Friday Rock Show was a huge part of my life in the 80's and I miss his show and him terribly since those days. Also, I miss the music a lot and theres a need to bring it all back to the fold. TV rest in peace man, i'll never forget you!!


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