Radio. How does it still exist? It would have been a safe bet ten years ago to expect the wireless to become redundant by now, what with mp3 players, the internet, Spotify and countless other alternative distractions. But radio stubbornly remains, immortal because of its simplicity; one medium for one sense to digest, a rarity in this fast paced world. So what’s worth listening to? Whilst the official party line is that we’re all tuned in to Surge 24/7, I have been known to stray. And as I would rather eat my own ears than listen to commercial stations, I generally tune into Radio 1, the supposedly freewheeling, spontaneous, chaotic peddler of great music to the youth.
I enjoy a love/hate relationship with the channel. At 20 I almost feel too old for it already. Let’s be completely clear from the outset. Most of the music on the daytime playlist- well over half, and this is being lenient- is utter crap. Taio Cruz. 30 Seconds to Mars. Pitbull. The list of dirge could continue ad infinitum. Station controller Andy Parfitt knows the score though- play something relentlessly and it’ll find an audience. Talk anything up enough and it’ll become cool. Even songs that sound vaguely reasonable initially are worked to an undignified prostitute’s death (hello Black Eyed Peas). I’m a sucker for a good pop tune, and I don’t mind listening to shite as long as there’s some variety. But whoever is in command seems to think that the audience has the memory of a sieve- so we are subjected to the same three hours of music for months on end. Just to make sure Gaga’s latest offering sinks in properly.
The DJs surely inject some personality into the schedule though. Chris Moyles: genuine station saviour or a mere white van man in a studio? He’s a clever bloke. A pervert and a pie scoffer, sure. Rude, loud and boorish, yes. However, what he and his team do for three and half hours every weekday morning is undoubtedly impressive. Chat that sounds natural yet still entertains consistently. He makes it sound as easy as falling out of bed, but judging by the horribly formulaic quality of other broadcasters on the airwaves, there must be some skill to his pub-style patter. In this liberal, Guardian reading world it’s a little embarrassing to enjoy Moyles though; he’s the aural equivalent of a tabloid, like listening to The Sun. The tone is always in the gutter but there will invariably be something to raise a smile. He plainly loves the medium and this attitude is infectious, whether you think him a bigot or not.
A word about Fearne Cotton and her inane chatter. I don’t want to burst her bubble, but nobody goes on Twitter. It’s the social networking white elephant; a cacophony of wannabe celebrities all squealing for attention. A bastardised, watered down Facebook. None of us civilian types go near it- I enjoy wasting time as much as everybody else but in this instance life really is too short. Certainly nobody wants to hear her talk about it all morning. It’s almost as embarrassing as discussing the singles chart, that glorious Sunday afternoon throwback which provides the biggest anticlimax of the week. I always wonder how she manages to land such big gigs in the first place. A true cynic would wonder whether her looks have anything to do with it.
The tone of the channel changes abruptly at 7pm when hyperactive new music merchant Zane Lowe arrives bombastically, providing an energetic assault on the ears, an ideal post dinner pick me up in preparation for an evenings hard drinking. Quite how he manages to be so ridiculously enthusiastic and upbeat is a mystery that might never be solved, but probably has something to do with the near lethal cocktail of energy drinks I imagine he downs prior to his slot. Whatever he does, it works- and once the daytime playlist has ended Radio 1 is finally able to stretch itself out and become interesting, embracing genres other than bubblegum pop. This is where the station comes into its own, and whilst the late shows are never quite as cutting edge as they would like us to believe, it is certainly a lot more palatable than features earlier in the day.
Radio 1 is still relevant today, but it needs to be careful. Self reflection is required in order to avoid stagnation. Listening figures are reasonable, but they ride on the back of big names which would be all too easy to lose. Technology keeps marching on, the licence fee is drying up and Radio 2 beckons for anybody with a handful of brain cells. I give Parfitt & co another decade, maximum. OK, back to Radio 4 and I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue then.