Review: Pop-up station BBC Radio 1 Vintage

RadioToday’s Stuart Clarkson reviews the 3-day digital station to celebrate Radio 1’s 50th birthday this weekend.

There are many things that are worth the £147-a-year BBC licence fee alone and for each of us they’re different. But for most of us in the radio industry we had something else to add to the list this weekend: Radio 1 Vintage.

The BBC has a massive archive of radio and television programmes. Documentaries and interview series often get fresh run-outs these days – especially since the arrival of BBC Four, Radio 4 Extra and 6 Music. But the majority of music radio output from the last 50 years has gone unheard since its first airing. Enter Radio 1 Vintage to put that right.

The decision to keep half-century birthday celebrations to a minimum on youth network Radio 1 was the right one, so a 3-day pop-up station on DAB and online was the perfect outlet to let geeks like us wallow in some nostalgia and celebrate the rich history of the ‘Nation’s Favourite’. And it didn’t disappoint.

54 hours of output was broadcast by Radio 1 Vintage, 3 of them live programmes shared across a mixture of Radio 1 and Radio 2 on Saturday morning. I heard about 24 hours of it in total over the weekend – plus a couple of hours’ worth of the extra podcasts so far since it finished.

Whoever your DJ hero, R1V had it covered. From Annie to Zane, and much more besides. Everyone has their era – and, for me, Radio 1 was a big part of my life from around 1986 to 2012. As a kid in the late 80s I listened to Simon Mayo before school; later Steve Wright and then Chris Evans in the car each morning as a teenager. Bruno and Goodybags were my chart guys on a Sunday teatime (Hearing Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” being knocked off the number 1 spot by “The Chicken Song” in ’86 sticks in my head for some reason). I remember going to the Roadshow in Newquay in ’88; listening to radio snooker and darts on weekend mornings with DLT; Nicky Campbell guessing callers’ star signs on my trips home from school; Kevin Greening’s comic characters as I did my homework on a Sunday morning; hearing Chris Moyles play old Radio 1 JAM jingles when he was covering breakfast in spring ’98; Moyles in the afternoons during sixth form; Mark and Lard in the afternoons during my student days; Scott Mills on early breakfast driving to work in 2003; and Moyles on breakfast most days for the best part of 8 years… You see how easy it is – before you know it, you’re lost in your old world of radio nostalgia.

So, back to Radio 1 Vintage. There are too many highlights to mention – but here are just a few of mine from the weekend:
– Blackburn, Read, Mayo & Cox joining Grimmy for some live chat and great tunes on Saturday morning
– George Harrison and Michael Jackson with Kid Jensen on Roundtable
– Colin & Edith’s Celebrity Bares game
– Dave Pearce bringing back memories on Dance Anthems after the chart on a Sunday night
– Memories of the Radio 1 Roadshow
– The late great Mike Smith with some cracking 80s tunes and fantastic breakfast callers
– Moyles talking to John B Wells, Fake Adele meets Adele, Toby Lerone & Car Park Catchphrase
– Blow chap, some belting 90s music and Hanson’s secret interview with Kevin Greening
– Some massive Newsbeat moments and voices from the past including Rod McKenzie reporting from the opening of the Channel Tunnel
– Mark Goodier and Greg James counting down this week’s Top 40 over the old jingle
– Noel’s classic phone engineer wind-up call
– Simon Mayo in the morning with his first link giving a nod to those who went before him
– Sara Cox’s erection chat with Beyonce!
– Our Tune with Simon Bates
– Jakki Brambles going behind the scenes during a song to show us what goes on in the studio
– Elbow covering Destiny’s Child in the Live Lounge
– Fat Harry White, the hopeless agent on the phone to Chris Evans, W.A.N.K. Cincinnati and Coldplay’s farewell to Mark and Lard
– Mr Angry, Sid The Manager and Steve Wright’s explanation of what all the studio kit is
– Bluejam, The Mary Whitehouse Experience and Armando Iannucci’s Our Tune edit on the Radio 1 Comedy documentary

It’s a far from exhaustive list – and the great thing is that we will all have our own distinctive highlights, providing beyond all doubt what a massive part of our lives Radio 1 has been over the years and the breadth of presenters, shows and music genres it’s brought to our ears.

The biggest shame for me – and please understand I’m not moaning, I did genuinely love the whole three days – was the missing DJs. I completely get that you couldn’t possibly fit everyone in, but Chris Evans was conspicuous by his absence. I don’t know what the reason was, but it would have been great to hear the Magnificent Seven again. And there was no DLT (for obvious reasons) – but was it really necessary to completely airbrush him from history by editing out his jingle from the 5-minute montage and chopping his name from Mayo’s first link on breakfast?

Putting together such an archive-filled three days of output is no mean feat. The production was fantastic; the content was brilliantly curated with stories told and illustrated to great effect; and the digital offer (including elongated podcast interviews with the presenters) adds even more value. Sam Bailey and his team did an immense job – and we thank them all for making it happen. It was a massive project, delivered with every bit of the quality you expect from the BBC to celebrate 50 years of popular music radio.

All the shows are on the iPlayer until the end of the month – and there are also those 36 interviews with the presenters about their time at Radio 1, where you’ll find out (amongst other things) about how Capital FM’s Chris Moyles got his then-flatmate Ashley Tabor to return the call from ‘5 live’, which actually turned out to be Radio 1 asking him to make a demo. And about how Simon Bates and his team had to get Erasure back to re-record their Maida Vale session, after a studio technician saw ‘Erasure’ written on the original tape before broadcast and presumed it to be an instruction to wipe it!

As Jo Whiley said in a recent interview: “everyone who works in radio is a complete geek”. So be proud of your geekiness, get that anorak zipped up, and get on the iPlayer to hear the bits of Radio 1 Vintage you missed!

Catch up at

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  1. Lee says

    I agree with your sentiments. It really was a display of the golden age of radio. Well done to everyone involved in putting together Radio 1 Vintage. This was personality radio at its best. Let’s hope the management of today’s commercial radio groups were listening as they could learn a thing or two!

  2. Mr B says

    Great article I thought R1 Vintage was fantastic,well done to all involved who helped bring it to us.It was like a missing link able to play a range of music you would get on any other station.I was hooked and remember alot of the more recent history very well,and great to hear voices I had never heard before.The only let down was no Mr Evans who was probably my favourite on R1 when I was 15-16yrs old.Would love it if the BBC could bring it back again,maybe a couple of time a year.More Please

  3. Mr B says

    Wouldn’t get not on any other radio station not would get.

  4. Mike Wallbank says

    Just a brilliant idea, three days of pure nostalgia. Lots to listen to – thank goodness for iPlayer to catch up on any shows you particularly wanted to hear but missed during the three days of pop up DAB. On the subject of DLT being airbrushed from history, interesting that the Radio 4 Extra repeat of 1977’s Radio 1: The Ten Years was unedited. DLT and Savile were both mentioned and DLT’s voice was heard in various clips of old shows

    1. Martin Denman says

      Presumably Chris Denning and Jonathan King were airbrushed for the same reason.

  5. Stuart says

    ‘Wouldn’t get not on any other radio station not would get.’ – What on earth is that supposed to mean in English???!!!

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