Monday, 1 October 2012

Oh God. What have I done?

I loathe blogs. I hate bloggers as much as I dislike smug architectural couples with their carbon-neutral boxes on Grand Designs. My loathing for bloggers is surpassed only by the deeply negative feelings I have for many politicians, "personalities", and time-wasting sloths.

So - it's started well. My first blog.

I went to a little dinner last week. It was to celebrate the 50 career years of a man who, in many ways, was the foundation of music radio in the UK. Tim Blackmore is a name that will trigger your grey cells if you listened to Radio 1 from the start. He was originally one of the producers - one of the men (they were all men) who got a rushed credit at the end of a show, just before the DJ darted off to another supermarket opening.

Tim shaped music radio. And that meant he also shaped music and the people who played the records. At the time Tim started work with the BBC, I was a 7 year old with ears shaped by the BBC Light Programme. Worker's Playtime was the extent of my excitement. By the time I was 9, I had discovered pirate radio (and it had discovered my sister - but that's for a different day). Then along came the State's answer to pirates - close 'em down and re-employ the "talent" legitimately.

Sept 1967. Tony Blackburn opened R1. The TB Breakfast Show was produced by Tim. His was the last name I heard before going into school each day.

Then he started to produce Noel Edmonds' original Sunday morning show. He didn't know it, but a 13 year old was having his listening habits shaped by the "story songs" which were a feature of the show. Carole Bayer-Sager, Phillip Goodhand-Tait, Andy Fairweather-Low. Tim seemed to like double-barrelled names, despite a deep-rooted socialist layer of wisdom.

Harry Chapin, Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon - and, of course, Carole King. Tim and I had never met - but he was shaping me.

Then he produced the absolutely ground-breaking documentary series The Story of Pop - the first ever doc series on Radio 1. I listened to every syllable, lyric, tune, explanation.

So, I suppose that it was always destined that in 1975, 20 years old and with a sack of rejection letters from local and national stations, I should pitch-up at R1 desperate. And I mean DESPERATE for a job. My dad was seriously ill and life at home was changing. This fledgling needed to fly and earn some keep.

Johnny Beerling, Noel Edmonds - saviours in my world. Johnny was an Executive Producer at R1. He offered me a fortnightly "job" at £12 a time - making programme trailers. The money really just covered my travel costs - it was the break that I needed. Network radio on the most successful station. Making tea, absorbing from others like a sponge.

JB introduced me one day to Tim Blackmore. You can imagine how I felt. This was the man whose musical knowledge I had stolen. Tim was much in demand and he took me on as his production assistant/researcher for a doc series called Insight and Alan Freeman's Pop Quiz.

Yes - I really wanted to be a DJ. But this was the start. And, as my Dad died at the stupidly early age of 56, it was to be my foundation.

Tim left R1 in 1977 to join Capital Radio in London. Capital was on the brink of collapse after just 3 years on the air. The founders were flogging their valuables to pay the staff. Tim floated down on a parachute and joined a team who saved the station. And, here's the mettle of the man. As he left R1 he said "Give me 12 months and I'll have a job for you."

So, 1978, I find myself on the air doing night-shifts and holiday cover at Euston Tower. Fantastic times as we made the Rockin' Tower London's favourite. My reward, in 1980, was the Breakfast Show. In the next 2 years we reached audience figures not seen since.

Like many an exploding star, Capital started to burn-up on re-entry. My rocket left NW1 and I headed back to R1 and then TV. Tim became one of the first independent radio producers in the UK and guided a few hundred careers. In my little speech last week I said that the word I could best use to describe him would be "imprint". His imprint is on people in broadcasting and people who receive broadcasting. He has shaped a lot of what you hear.

He hates bad broadcasting. One of his mantras was the abuse of "unique". He would hear someone broadcast about "a completely unique situation" - and then gently correct them: "It's either unique. Or it isn't. It can't be partially unique nor completely unique. It's what it is. Unique."

He went on to co-found Unique Broadcasting.

And in the room last week it became apparent that Tim Blackmore is indeed a unique soul in broadcasting - he has no enemies. For me, he is mentor, sounding-board, life map. I consulted him about leaving Capital for Radio 1, I took his advice when I was offered the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. Numerous times my conversations with Tim include the words from me "Can I ask you something..."

I would hope that all of us have a mentor. A guide. Someone as truthful and knowledgeable as "mine". In my own little way, I've also tried to help others. Pay it forward. It's really worth it when you see them get on.

So - dear Tim - I've blogged about you because I'm hoping our stories will inspire future generations to never give up, never slacken, never stop enjoying what you do. Working in broadcasting, like many vocations, is a gift to be nurtured and respected. Don't let the buggers grind you down. And don't open your mouth before engaging your brain.

Dear God. What have I done?

There we go. First blog - and little sign of a rant.

PS: Google+. It pisses me off that I selected "English-UK" as my language - but your software keeps telling me that "favourite" is incorrect. You've caught the Microsoft disease.


  1. Nice post, Mike. I remember you well from the Capital days when I was head of publicity at CIC UK fim distributors. I met Tim a few years ago when we erected a blue plaque in memory of Fluff Freeman (no relation) at Brinsworth House in Twickenham, the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund care home (I'm Hon Treasurer of the charity). Wishing you well.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I enjoyed that piece too Mike; great story. You've been a lucky guy in life and I remember your near-miss from the IRA bomb at Harrods in the early '80s a short time after you began the lunch time show on Radio 1. I also used to hear you on the Capital breakfast show when I came up to London to stay with my sister when I was a kid.

    Congratulations on your first blog ! There's a lot of really interesting stuff you've written on the whole site, so well done.