Thursday 22 November 2018

In Concert

For nearly thirty years Radio 1's weekly In Concert provided listeners with the opportunity to hear their favourite bands and singers perform live in front of an audience. They ranged from the famous - Queen, Bowie and Pink Floyd - to the not-so-famous - Splinter, Bell 'n' Arc and Trapeze.

Producing these concerts were Pete Ritzema and Chris Lycett, but by far the greater share of the production duties fell to Jeff Griffin who worked on about 800 programmes. Griffin had been a BBC engineer before turning to music production, on the old Light Programme, in 1964. His first credit, incongruously, was for Mrs Mills and her Mates but he later produced shows such as Swingalong, Ed Stewart's first series for Radio 1 Happening Sunday, David Symonds, Scene and Heard, Savile's Speak-Easy, Sounds of the Seventies, Alexis Korner, Rock on Saturday, Andy Peebles, My Top Ten,  Roger Scott  and The Rankin' Miss P.

In 1991, when In Concert was celebrating 21 years on air, Jeff Griffin spoke to Lloyd Bradley of The Independent about some of the more memorable gigs. Here's part of that article, illustrated with clips from the show.

Led Zeppelin
My main aim was to do a Jazz Club-type rock programme with acts playing in front of an audience, but the BBC thought of rock groups in terms of singles. Live In Concert didn't get off the ground until 1969 when I was talking to Jimmy Page after Led Zeppelin had done a Peel Session. He was moaning that the session format didn't give them a chance to show what they were about, so I explained my idea and asked if they would do the pilot. They agreed. It went very well and after a lot of umming and ahhing my bosses agreed to do a series - but only if John Peel compered. (This clip comes from a 1971 performance that is introduced by Peel).

T. Rex
For the first show in January 1970 I'd booked Family, and Roger Chapman lost his voice that day. After five years telling my bosses the show was a good idea, this was a disaster. Then Peel wandered in and said he'd 'give Marc a ring' - Marc Bolan, who lived up the road from the theatre. Bolan said he and Steve Peregrine had no plans that evening, so we told them to get in a cab! They did 35 minutes, then Family did three instrumentals and Roger croaked his way through a couple of songs. This was pre-Ride a White Swan and Bolan seemed grateful for the exposure.

David Bowie
He was on the sixth show, and it was the only opposition I got from my elders and betters. I was called up to see the Assistant Head of Popular Music and asked why I'd booked him. Rock acts were still greatly mistrusted at the BBC, and their train of thought was that this guy who'd had one hit couldn't possibly play a whole show. I had to convince him that David Bowie was capable of keeping people interested for an hour! they left me alone after that. (This clip comes from a 1971 concert).

Pink Floyd
Despite what's been said elsewhere, this was where Atom Heart Mother got its title. This was the first time they performed it in public and when John Peel asked Roger Waters what the piece was called, so he could introduce it, Waters said he had no idea. Later on Peelie came in with an evening paper with a front page story of a heart transplant patient - the caption was 'Atom heart Mother' and Waters, reading over his shoulder, said 'That's it! That's what we'll call it!' Peelie said 'What's it got to do with music?' and Waters replied 'Nothing, but who cares?' (This clip comes from a 1971 concert broadcast in Sounds of the 70s).

The Faces
In 1973, during the three day week, we knew we were going to have a power cut at nine o'clock and had to put them on an hour early to get done. They agreed, but getting The Faces out of the pub was a different matter. Rod especially, as he had drinks that people had bought him lined up on the bar (he never, to my knowledge, put his hand in his pocket). They went on stage dead on eight, played straight through and after 59 minutes and 50 seconds, during their last number, the electricity went. The weird groaning noise is still on the tape, as every piece of electrical equipment lost power.

The first recording we did of them is proof that Freddie Mercury used to get stage fright. It was in 1973, before they broke big. They'd had very little live experience and the environment of the BBC theatre was a strange one; it was the size of a club - 300 capacity - yet it was like a concert hall. It wasn't a brilliant show as I'm sure Queen were intimidated. 

Ian Dury
When I had him on, Live In Concert had developed into Sight and Sound, and Ian gave me my first censorship problem. We always felt that people bothering to tune in to the radio show weren't going to be troubled by a bit of risqué language or dodgy lyrics, but television had the 9 o'clock watershed and the TV people were very concerned about a couple of songs on New Boots and Panties, particularly Wake Up and Make Love to Me. I didn't want TV taking over what was designed as a radio show, and Ian didn't want to alter his set. he went ahead and played the songs, and there were only a few complaints. (This clip comes from a 1979 concert).

Off the Record was published in The Independent on 17 October 1991.

In Concert - The Timeline

In Concert ran on Radio 1 from 1970 to 1998. It first appeared on Sunday afternoons from 4 January 1970 but was billed as The Sunday Show - this title was dropped from April. In October 1970 it moved to a Sunday evening timeslot, and a year later was part of Tuesday night's Sounds of the 70s.

From January 1972 In Concert moved to Saturday's at 6.30 pm, where it remained for the next sixteen years. Presenters in the early 70s included Mike Harding, Andy Dunkley and Bob Harris, but staying with the programme the longest were Alan Black and Pete Drummond. There were simulcasts with BBC2, Sight and Sound In Concert, between October 1977 and April 1978 and again in early 1983. In Concert was part of Rock on Saturday in 1980/1 and the Stereo Sequence in 1987/8.

From October 1988, and for the next decade, In Concert started to move around the schedule. Firstly off to Friday nights and then Saturday night from January 1990. By November 1993 it was part of Johnnie Walker's Saturday Sequence, initially on Saturday night but shifting to the afternoon from November 1994. When Johnnie left Radio 1 in October 1995 it was back as a stand-alone show on Saturday afternoon, moving to Monday nights from January 1996 and finally Sunday nights from March 1997.

The final regular In Concert programmes on Radio 1 were in the summer of 1998 featuring Shed Seven and then a couple of Glastonbury highlights. From that October weekly concert performances became part of Radio 2's schedule, though in recent years the number of live concerts has been reduced to a handful at a time. They are, at least, back as 'sight and sound' with coverage on the Red Button and TV repeats on either BBC Two or BBC Four.   

Friday 9 November 2018

Radio Devolution

This month both BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Scotland mark their 40th anniversaries. Re-launching as fulltime services - well pretty much full-time - in November 1978, a move to coincide with the wavelength changes that saw Radio 4 offer a nationwide coverage on 1500m long wave.

Previously the radio service in each country had used Radio 4 as a sustaining service and opted-out at certain times of the day, usually at breakfast, lunchtime and the early evening. They also provided separate news bulletins and weather forecasts and even their own continuity announcements between the Radio 4 programmes to give a sense that it was all coming from either Cardiff or Glasgow. From 1978 they broadcast for longer on medium wave, with Welsh or Gaelic language programmes on VHF, but still switched over to both Radio 2 and Radio 4 for some key daytime programmes such as The World at One and Woman's Hour.

Here's a little pre-history as to how these radio stations came about.

Radio broadcasting had started in Wales in 1923 with the opening of Cardiff station 5WA on 13 February. Swansea's 5SX was added on 12 December 1924. In Scotland Glasgow station 5SC came on-air on 6 March 1923 followed by Aberdeen (2BD) on 10 October, relay station 2 EH in Edinburgh on 1 May 1924 and one in Dundee (2DE) on 9 November that year. They became part of the Regional Programme in the 1930s and after the war each had their own variations of the Home Service offering a full range of alternate programmes from the London-based national service, from news, sport and classical concerts to variety, comedy and drama. This arrangement continued from 1967 under Radio 4 but with a gradually reducing range of programmes.

In Wales listeners had enjoyed an alternative to Today since 1964 when Good Morning, Wales! started its weekday service with Vincent Kane  - the programme having first started in 1963 as a pre-recorded Saturday morning magazine. Other presenters included news reporter Gareth Bowen  (father of the BBC correspondent Jeremy Bowen) who'd would eventually become the news editor for Radio Wales.

In 2013 Huw Thomas provided this potted history of the morning programme.

By the mid-70s amongst Radio 4's Welsh service offerings were Bore Da! with T. Glynne Davies, partial opt-outs from PM Reports called Dateline with George Ashwell and Gerry Monte and for Welsh speakers Cymru Heno with William Owen, the Saturday teatime sports results services in both languages Sports Medley and Chwararon. There was also the weekday mid-morning show that alternated between being a talk show and a record request show called Nine Five presented by, amongst others Wyn Calvin, David Parry Jones, Alun Williams, Vince Saville and Gerry Monte (pictured below). One of the producers was Teleri Bevan who'd go on to be Radio Wales's first editor.

On 3 January 1977 the BBC formally introduced separate services for the country, Radio Wales on 341m and Radio Cymru on VHF, although the dearth of VHF sets meant that about one-third of Welsh language programmes were still carried on medium wave. It wasn't a full-time service so they still carried a high proportion of Radio 4 programmes. On-air changes included Good Morning Wales became one long sequence running from 0645 to 0900 with Kane joined by Noreen Bray and over on Radio Cymru Hywel Gwynfryn hosted Helo Bobol!          

The transfer of 1500 metres long wave from Radio 2 to Radio 4 on 23 November 1978 meant that Radio 4 could offer a full UK-wide service and just ahead of that date, on Monday 13 November, Radio Wales was formally launched as an expanded service with English-language programmes increasing from 20 to 65 hours a week. It was now released from the obligation to carry Radio 4 programmes but a shortage of funds meant that in fact for the first few years it still switched over to the network, either Radio 2 or Radio 4, at intervals during the day.

On Radio Wales the breakfast show was now titled AM mixed news, current affairs and pop music (it was some years before it reverted back to Good Morning Wales) initially with Anita Morgan and then for many years with Chris Stuart. Vincent Kane now invited listeners to Meet for Lunch and others on air included Mike Flynn, Maureen Staffer, Patrick Hannan, Dan Damon, Gerry Monte, Noreen Bray, former Wales Today presenter Brian Hoey, Mari Griffith, Gilbert John, Ian Skidmore, Peter Walker and, of course, Alun Williams who'd been heard in Wales since the 1950s. Also appearing were Cliff Morgan, Wynford Vaughan-Thomas and former rugby commentator G.V. Wynne-Jones ('Geevers'). Heading up the continuity team was Frank Lincoln.   

In this edition of Radio Greats from 2014 Roy Noble looks back at the career of Vincent Kane.

North of the border Radio 4 in Scotland was rebadged as Radio Scotland on 31 December 1973 to coincide with the start of the new morning news and current affairs sequence Good Morning, Scotland. It can't have been a coincidence that this was the same day that Radio Clyde launched.

Despite the name change it was still essentially offering Radio 4 programmes with Scottish opt-outs during the day. The kind of programming on offer not only included the Today alternative Good Morning, Scotland with John Milne and David Findlay, there was the midday entertainment  show Twelve Noon with a different daily theme and a rota of presenters including Ken Sykora, Gerry Slevin, Michael Elder, Robin Richardson, Alastair Clare and Bob Docherty. The partial opt-out from PM Reports was North Beat plus there was Saturday sports coverage on Sportsreel, a smattering of Gaelic programmes and some music shows including Studio One Concert and, inevitably, Scottish country dancing.

Meanwhile BBC Scotland opened a number of VHF-only community stations broadcasting for just a few hours a day when not carrying the Radio Scotland/Radio 4 programmes. Starting in 1976 there was Radio Highland from Inverness, BBC Radio Aberdeen, and, in 1977 Radio Shetland and Radio Orkney.

Radio Times billing Wednesday 27 August 1980
The new revitalised Radio Scotland that launched on 23 November 1978 offered, in the words of the BBC handbook "a single service for all Scotland, to speak with a distinctive Scottish accent, to be the authoritative voice of Scottish News and Current Affairs and to be more popular than the previous Radio Scotland opt-out Service from Radio 4". Thirty new production staff were recruited and the news team moved to new studios in Edinburgh.   

Marking the new service was an opening night concert simulcast on Radio Scotland and BBC1 with Andy Cameron and Tom Ferrie live from the Kelvin Hall, Glasgow introducing acts that included the Brotherhood of Man, Alan Stewart, Scott Fitzgerald and Norman Maclean.

In this clip the continuity announcer  is one Ken Bruce who hands over to Peter Easton.

Other presenters heard on the station in the first couple of years included Jimmy Mack, Neville Garden, Gerry MacKenzie with The Tartan Terror Show, Iain Purdon, Joanna Hickson, David Findlay, John Milne, Margaret Collins, Ross Muir, Mary Marquis, Ian Aldred, Sheena McDonald, Gerry Davis, Finlay J Macdonald , Howard Lockhart who'd originally been a BBC announcer back in the 30s, Ross Finlay, Robbie Shepherd, Charles Nove and, of course, Jim MacLeod with Take the Floor.  Radio Scotland was also able to offer an alternative to Saturday's afternoon's Sport on 2 with Sportsound whose presenters included former actor and footballer Brian Marjoribanks. The station also bagged Radio 2's John Dunn for the first few months of its existence to present Saturday Bonanza (later Ken Bruce would also present this show).  

Both stations have a number of programmes celebrating their four decades of broadcasting. On Radio Wales listen out for:

Gareth Gwynn's Twisted History of BBC Radio Wales. Part 1 was broadcast this week, with part 2 following next Monday.
I Was There...When Radio Wales Began next Tuesday evening at 6.30 pm
Radio Greats: Alun Williams a repeat of the 2012 profile
Radio Greats: Patrick Hannan a repeat of the 2015 profile
Radio Greats: Ray Gavell a repeat of this 2015 profile on the former rugby player turned broadcaster
There's also an evening of music and comedy on 22 November at the Grand Theatre in Swansea to be broadcast at a later date.

On Radio Scotland you can hear:
Radio Roots a 2-part look at Scottish comedy presented by Ian Pattison
40-LOVE a feature about "the love shared in the families of some very special Scottish 40-year-olds"
Boogie Nights on the 1978 disco explosion as seen from Scotland
The Afternoon Show on 23 November with Janice Forsyth and guests
Take the Floor with a special ceilidh from Glasgow Barrowland
Take the Floorwith Robbie Shepherd and a 40th birthday special Reel Blend

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...