Friday, September 07, 2007

Radio One More Time: Studio B15

The nature of music radio made it seem like every day was one long magazine programme; what the Sony Awards used to describe as 'sequence programming' made it easy to flit from a feature to a song to a weather forecast to an interview, which you would have thought would render the need for a separate magazine programme somewhat redundant. Nevertheless, Radio One tried several, most notably Studio B15, which ran on Sundays for a surprising two hours prior to the Top 40.

It was presented by Adrian Love - the son of bandleader Geoff Love - and combined the sorts of things you'd expect to appear in a well-intentioned Radio One pot pourri: bits and pieces of entertainment and non-demanding cultural attractions, the odd competition and bands doing some studio appearances (notably, The Jam).

When the vagaries of scheduling meant that the programme was obliged to air on Christmas Day, they threw open the doors of the studio, inviting any 14 year-old who had the misfortune to have a 25th December birthday to guest present, on account of them going to be 15 on the day. But the genesis of the title was, of course, that was the room the programme was broadcast from: the sort of thing that people in radio and television think is going to be of interest to the audience, but which to the audience looks like lazy thinking - on a par with calling a cat "puss". It's worth noting that this sort of lame titling has also gifted any number of flatly-titled TV pop shows: The Oxford Road Show, two Transmissions and a TX, for example.

Still, even Studio B15 was glittering compared to its replacement, Saturday and Sunday Live. Which was a live programme which went out live, either on... ah, you're ahead of me. Helmed most successfully by Andy Kershaw, the highlight of Sunday Live was when it carried coverage of Hands Across Britain, an initiative which aped Hands Across America both in intent (something to do with drawing attention to the plight of the jobless) and success (failure both to complete a sea-to-sea chain of people holding hands and unemployment remaining no further up the agenda). Since it would have been unusual for there to be live coverage of, say, The People's March For Jobs on the DLT show, the BBC's different treatment of this event must have been down to the presence of Jimmy Savile. Savile had to play the role of participant observer, though, linking hands while trying to describe the event for listeners. An event, which, by its nature, he was unable to see much of, beyond talking of his desire to shatter into a million parts and fly all over the country to look at the people who he believed were holding hands.

Sunday Live was on stronger ground when it concentrated on Icicle Works live sessions.

Eventually, its content was folded into the Stereo Sequence, before evaporating entirely.

[Radio One More Time]


1 comment:

Pete Rogers said...

I participated to the "Studio B15" listener participation programme in late 1980, aged 15 and sounding very Welsh. I wrote in to the show and insisted the producers unleashed me on a frenzied, unsupervised wander around BBC Broadcasting House. Of course it was decided in advance where I would visit. The locations were to be the BBC canteem, the Sound Effects Department and (rather uninspiringly) the Radio 4 newsroom. I was accompanied by a studio assistant and using a TV style minaiture radio mike - only the mike in question decided it wasn't going to function after my visit at the start of the programme to the BBC canteen. Almost two hours later and a cabled-up mike, rooted through the Radio 4 news studio, gave presenter Adrian Love the chance to ask me to return the following Sunday. Of course I was overjoyed! To have a personal tour of the BBC's national radio headquarters, to broadcast on the only radio station that kids listened to throughout the UK, and for the exhilaration of a second all-expenses paid trip to London was an intoxicating prospect - not to mention being provided with an invite to break the programme's rule of all contributors being restricted to just one visit to the programme! The moment I was escorted from the programme office to the actual Studio B15 was a surreal experience, enveloped by the entire history of radio broadcasting in the UK. During my first visit I met rock group XTC who were there to be interviewed by another listener/contributor. The Studio was located in the bowels of BH, a deeply carpeted corridor which let to Studios B10, B12, etc. It was a talk studio that was traditionally used for recording plays for Radio 4. Adrian Love sat at the head of a long table, that was able to accommodate perhaps a half a dozen guests with two cart machines for playing jingles; the sound balance was done through the glass in the control room. I was benused to find the control room's ancient mixer consisted of dials rather than faders! It was more like being at the helm of a Lancaster bomber than a contemporary radio studio. So I returned the following week, and discovered they had taken no chances on the radio mike front - all interviews were conducted on mikes cabled and rooted through nearby studios. My roving took me to the BBC Record Library - consisting of two rooms; one was a room of filing cabinets consisting of a million index cards providing details of all the records the BBC held - and the other room was full of stacked shelves of the records in question. I was told the BBC even possessed Edison type cylinders in addition to early wax recordings. My assignment was to dig out the worst record in the library and we found an awful record performed by none other than Tony Blackburn! Next, back to the BBC sound effects department, to play with miniature doors and a device that created the sound of wind when you turned a handle! The presenter Adrian Love is a top bloke and I told him it was my ambition to be an outstanding broadcaster like himself one day. He replied - "you want to end up like me? Drink too much, get divorced.." (he muttered similar self-depreciating moans). It never quite transpired that I was to hit Adrian's heights, although later in life I did some freelance reporting for BBC Wales. I also like a drink and have a divorce under my belt! It was an awesome experience and the kids back in school were rightly very envious. Thank you BBC Radio 1 and all credit to B15's incredibly talented producers Mary Bell and Chris Reilly.

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