Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Radio One More Time: The Record Race

Listen... and win!

One of the all-time great radio competitions, originally heard on Peter Powell's nightly teatime programme before being spun out to support an entire hour or so on Friday nights, filling the gap in the schedule left by the axing of Roundtable. It was a really, really simple premise: a caller would be on the phone, and a record would start playing, accompanied by a slow countdown of "ten... nine... eight...". After enough of the introduction had been got through for the caller to identify the track, they'd call out the name excitedly, and the countdown would stop. The caller would then be rewarded for their ability to recognise a song played seven or eight times a day on Radio One by being given as much of the top ten as the countdown had left to run.

Younger readers will just have to be assured that, back then, getting even three or four seven inch singles was a prize akin, in modern terms, to an X Box and half-a-dozen pair of training shoes. It just was. You had to go into town and fork over lots of money for them songs, whereas nowadays, of course, you could probably download the entire Top 75 in less time than it would take Peter Powell to count backwards from ten.

The only flaw in basing an entire programme on this, of course, was that after the caller had got the song right, the usual social niceties of "a few hellos" and "anyone else who knows me" had be done over the top of the record. During Janice Long's helming of the Friday night programme, Janice's chatty style, coupled with the larger number of contestants and consequent increased number of people getting to 'one' before identifying Like A Virgin by Madonna meant that while a lot of record were played, hardly any music was actually heard.

Janice Long and Peter Powell, besides having shared the Record Race format, did spend a very brief time as the Sonny and Cher of Radio One - a pairing that, in today's terms, would have been on a par with Edith Bowman actually dating Colin Murray.

The best Radio One competitions were the ones which were built on some sort of knowledge of current chart music - supposedly the network's raison d'etre in its first two or three decades. The weekly 'predict the top three' write-in was always fun: actually challenging, impossible to cheat on, simple to understand the rules and requiring actual skill and judgement. Except when Bryan Adams was at number one, of course.

[Radio One More Time: Radio 1 at 40]