July 28, 2014

ILR at 40: Paul Robinson remembers 1973

My first real recollection of listening to the radio was a combination of Radio 1 (on 247 metres) during the day, and then Radio Luxembourg 208 at night..

It was a frustrating experience because of the continually fading signal and static. You had to listen though because it was the only place to hear pop music at night.

And then everything changed with the start of LBC on the 8th October 1973 and Capital Radio a week later. I knew that this was a defining moment and what was coming out of the radio was unlike anything I had heard before. On LBC all over the schedule listeners could go on air by ringing in on the phone. This was revolutionary. You didn’t get this on the BBC where listener interaction was confined to letters and competitions for which a post card and sometimes stamped addresses envelope were required. LBC had two phone in hosts that were particularly memorable, Brian Hayes and Adrian Love who hosted Love over London; both had this ability to discuss any topic of the day with the audience and make it totally compelling radio… I was hooked. LBC also had a ground-breaking weekday four hour all speech breakfast programme called AM hosted by Douglas Cameron and Bob Holness, that made Today on Radio 4 sound old fashioned and very staid. Here were two presenters introducing guests, reports at home and overseas, parliamentary correspondents, news, sport, weather and travel who actually sounded friendly and as though they were enjoying themselves. LBC was exciting, and made London sound vibrant and exciting. And it had adverts, unheard of on UK radio, with the exception of Luxy and was on FM or VHF as we called it then.

Capital launched on the 16th October 1973, with the first voice on air, it’s Chairman Sir Richard Attenborough and Breakfast DJ David Symonds playing Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge over Trouble Water. I was there at that moment. Capital though left me a little disappointed on that launch day and seemed to be mainly mushy middle of the road music. There was one show that caught my ear and that was the Swap Shop programme in the morning hosted by the most unlikely duo of Tommy Vance and Joan Shenton. The idea was that if you had an item that you didn’t want you could ring up and swap it with a listener for something else! The Swap Shop lasted a couple of years on Capital until Michael Aspel took over the radio slot, but the concept became a successful children’s television vehicle for Noel Edmonds on BBC1.

The first (JICRAR) listening figures for Capital weren’t that good and wisely they “rocked up” the music and never looked back. Capital was staffed by DJs with BBC experience such as Dave Cash and Kenny Everett, and graduates of United Biscuits Network, an in factory radio station. Graham Dene, who did a total of ten years on breakfast (in two stints), Roger Scott, Nicky Horne, Adrian Love (who by now had switched from LBC) and Peter Young all left the custard creams behind.

I grew up listening to Capital and adored the station. Its DJ’s seemed to love the music that they played and were passionate about it on the air. I bought records because I’d heard the songs on Capital. The top DJ on Capital for much of its early life was Roger Scott. For those who haven’t heard him, Roger had this ability to say a lot in very few words. He was into his music, had a dry wit and had radio skills that I desperately wanted. So I listened to his entire show, 3 till 7pm every day. If you are of a certain age, and lived in London, you will remember Three O’clock Thrill, The People’s Choice at 4.30pm, the 5pm Hitline Top 10 and Crusin’ on Fridays from 6 to 7pm.

Capital had the sublime Kenny Everett on Saturday lunchtimes and Sunday afternoons, with Captain Kremmen, the space soap opera that was as camp as you could imagine, and a nightly rock show, Your Mother Wouldn’t Like it at 9pm hosted by Nicky Horne. And there was Greg Edward’s Soul Spectrum, Tommy Vance’s reggae show TV on Reggae and the first love zone show, Back Seat Boogie with Mike Allen, who always closed the show every week with the same Solomon Burke record much as Chris Evans does now on Mondays and Fridays after the 8am news on BBC Radio 2.

Capital and LBC are part of our commercial radio heritage. We should all celebrate the fact that at 40 years old under Global Radio’s ownership LBC is stronger than for many years and the Capital brand has more listeners than ever. Happy 40th Birthday, you are both in excellent shape with nurturing parents!

Paul Robinson is Chief Executive of the Radio Academy.

Posted on Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 at 6:00 am by .

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  • Ian Chambers, East London Radi

    I totally agree it was a very good start to commercial radio, and that biscuit factory had a good group of presenters which bolstered the Capital 539/194 AM line-up. I mainly remember the
    Graham Dene – Breakfast
    Michael Aspel – Mid morning
    Dave Cash – Lunch
    Roger Scott – Afternoon to Drive time
    schedule, which was legendary radio, from mid-70s

  • http://www.solidgoldgem.am/ Len Groat

    “Happy 40th Birthday, you are both in excellent shape with nurturing parents!”

    I really do not get the “nurturing parents” line, given that the same people are changing all their other stations and dumping skilled broadcasters regularly!?

    Would Andi Peters call it ‘nurturing’ given he only joined Smooth in August 2013 and is now replaced by an actress with NO radio experience?

    Would James Whale agree (though he’s bigger than they are, does not NEED them) and the others who recently left LBC more quietly?

    And what about all the people ‘let go’, because of Capital’s syndication throughout the whole country, of what was one ‘Independent LOCAL Radio’?

    Is that “nurturing” ??

    Your article is rose-tinted ~ please get real…

  • Mark Phillips

    Roger Scott in particular, was a daily education in music. He played
    such a wide and eclectic range, and was always erudite and friendly on
    air. I remember him championing Springsteen when no other stations
    seemed to be interested, and, as Paul mentions, “Cruising” on a Friday
    night was required listening.

    I have Roger (and the late James
    Hamilton who compiled Cruising) to thank for getting me into stuff I
    would have never heard of – Louis Jordan, London American records,
    Lieber and Stoller and more.

    All were played with love, knowledge
    and a deep affection for music. Roger was a London teenager’s friend,
    mentor and musical guide all rolled into one.

    But with the
    fragmentation of radio and the high rotation song-liner-song jukebox
    mentality currently in vogue, where are the Roger Scotts of today?

  • Howie B

    What I liked about Capital in the days before Manchester got its own station is you could hear it on medium wave 539 metres, even stronger when I relocated to Nottingham and then some bright spark moved it to 194 on a directional transmitter and it was only in 1982 when I moved to Maidenhead and found my self in range of a very high quality FM stereo signal.

  • Les

    With the original 19 stations, we really had something .. public service and commerical .. a bit like 70s itv. I used to have capital on all day .. all the hits and more on one-nine-four. Michael Aspel with that razor sharp wit, Dave Cash, and as others have said the brilliant Roger Scott (you used to hear the `three o`clock thrill` through office doors in Broadcasting House). Then of course, the weekend stopped when Kenny came on – still the best broadcaster we`ve had. How many people make you laugh out loud like that today?
    Other Stations were doing great things: Steve Wright and Mike Read on 210 in Reading, David Bassett on Plymouth Sound (who can do a phone in like he did).
    Len Groat on Metro with those lush American Jingles .. and Piccadilly in Manchester trying to be Big L again.
    Then the accountants took over (as they`ve done in ITV as well), The public service seems to have gone. I like Heart, the music is good .. but one minute of regional news is hardly local radio – and are seem to be sucking up all the local advertising?? I celebrate commercial radio`s 40 years .. but in 2013, much more, I`m pleased to have the BBC.