Monday, September 24, 2007

Radio One More Time: Johnny Beerling

Probably the most famous of all Radio One's controllers would be Matthew Bannister, who not only broke cover by rebuilding the network in public in the mid-1990s, but then went on to present radio progammes as well, most notably for Five Live. Andy Parfitt, the current boss, has also attracted attention - he's been handed the BBC's Teen Tsar job, which recreates the original problem his network had (the assumption that 'teenagers' radio' and 'pop radio' must be the same thing.)

But, for us, Johnny Beerling remains the personification of a Radio One boss, managing to be just that vital distance from his audience to give the sense of a proper, well-meaning but at-sea, management figure. Bannister you could imagine sitting down sipping a rum and coke at a Nirvana gig; Beerling, forever, occupied a similar mental position to that of Jeffrey Fairbrother at Maplins: somehow finding himself organising fun despite a built-in detachment.

Two Beerling incidents fix him in our minds. The first was his decision to not play The Boiler by Rhoda Dakar and the Specials, explaining that if you took the screaming out at the end, it was "useless" as a warning about rape, but if you left the screams in, it was unpleasant to listen to. He never, as far as I can recall, insisted that all songs played on daytime Radio One offered warnings about rape, nor explained how pleasant a song about rape should actually be to make it onto his network.

The other golden Beerling moment was when, after someone pointed out that there were no women on Radio One during daylight hours, was to claim that "listeners don't like to listen to women's voices." He did relent a little towards the end of his reign, although whether because he changed his mind, or simply because he thought on medium wave the audience couldn't tell, was unclear.

[Part of Radio One More Time]


1 comment:

Robin Carmody said...

By the end of his reign it was on FM though.

I would still say that Beerling's departure was a very, very important moment in the process where everything that once distinguished and separated pop from Official British Culture has been eroded.

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