Thursday, 16 October 2014

Radio 1 - the state of play in 1991

In 1991, John Peel clocked up 24 years of unbroken service on Radio 1.  He was the longest serving disc jockey on the station, though 2 other DJs who had been there at the beginning of Radio 1, were back at the station for a second stint: the twin legends of Alan Freeman and Tommy Vance.
Peel's days of broadcasting on weekday evenings and effectively wrapping up Radio 1's output for the day had come to an end in September 1990 when his show was moved to weekends, transmitting Saturday and Sunday from 11pm to 2am.  Although the slot was effectively a graveyard one, according to his autobiography, Margrave of the Marshes, Peel had asked for the move ostensibly for family reasons.  By 1991, Peel had been married to his wife, Sheila aka The Pig for 17 years.  His oldest son, William was 15, oldest daughter, Alexandra was 13, youngest son and future 6 Music DJ, Tom was 11 and youngest daughter, Florence was 9.
June 1991 brought a major change to the world of the Peel show as his longstanding producer, John Walters retired from producing after 22 years to be replaced by Mike Hawkes.

Musically the two big records of the year were Nirvana's album, Nevermind (in terms of influence) and Bryan Adams's single Everything I Do (I Do It For You) from the soundtrack of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (in terms of sales).  Of the two artists only one of them was given house room on Peel's programme and it wasn't the Canadian.  Moreover, while the Seattle Sound which would be marketed as grunge within the year began to gain more attention, Peel could reflect that he had been playing records by Nirvana and their contemporaries since the late 80s when they had been releasing singles on the Sub Pop label.
In Britain, the Baggy movement of 1989-90, had been superseded by the less partified but sonically more thunderous sound of shoegazing, which substituted grunge's intensity for a more detached, ethereal ideal.  The year would also bring through the emergence of a couple of important figures on the British music scene in PJ Harvey, who went straight onto Peel's playlists and Blur, who had to wait a number more years to do so.

As with most perceived threats to the nation's youth, the acid house movement of the late 80s had become subsumed under an all purpose dance label.  Indeed techno music would go on to deliver a highly marketable sound which would dominate the charts for many years. Certainly my memories of Top of the Pops in 1991 nearly all relate to stages of dancers and some bloke called into call out a single line response over the beat.

Hip-hop continued to gain traction but the chart as of 2 November 1991 had only just seen Adams knocked off the No.1 spot by U2's The Fly.  The highest dance record was Get Ready For This by 2 Unlimited though Moby was also in the top ten with Go; the highest rock record was Wind of Change by the Scorpions and the highest hip hop record (of a sort) was Let's Talk About Sex by Salt 'n' Pepa.  Go on, admit it, you were singing along to each of those as you read them, weren't you?  It's alright, so was I.
Elsewhere the chart was packed with other dance acts (Bizarre Inc, Oceanic, SL2, Rozanna), established MOR (Lisa Stansfield, Cathy Dennis, Mariah Carey, Kiri ti Kanawa), surprise hits (Slade, Julian Lennon, Paul Young) and a glut of reissues (Monty Python, Queen, Don McLean). The chart for the week can be found

The Radio 1 of November 1991 looked from a distance to be as preserved in aspic as that chart was, with the approaching earthquake of Matthew Bannister's arrival still over a year away.  Weekdays were dominated by long running names like Simon Bates, Gary Davies and Steve Wright.  Dave Lee Travis was being tactile on the weekends.  The Peel weekday slot was now hosted by Nicky Campbell with a mix of album music and interviews and there was still space on the channel for Andy Peebles (with a soul music show) Richard Skinner (with an AOR show), Bob Harris (who had a whopping 16 hours a week between midnight and 4am, Monday to Thursday) Mike Read (hosting a record review show) and Adrian Juste (with 1 hour of comedy).
Apart from Peel, specialist shows were provided by Andy Kershaw (world music), Mark Radcliffe (indie on his fondly remembered Out on Blue Six), Pete Tong (rap it says here, but that can't be right) and The Man Ezeke (reggae).  Mark Goodier doubled up on The Evening Session and did the Top 40 on weekends.  Tommy Vance was still serving up The Friday Rock Show which Alan Freedman hosted on Saturday together with the evergreen format of Pick of the Pops on Sundays.
The indispensable guide to the vagaries of the Radio 1 schedule through the years can be found here

So that was where Radio 1 and John Peel were in late 1991.  Before we start getting some music posted, I need to tell you a little about where I was and my first tentative steps into the acting that will intertwine with the Peel show on this blog.

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