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End of an era

The clock is ticking. Change is coming. Something we have enjoyed since the 1970s will no longer be part of our lives. I am referring here (the weekend after we learnt the result of the UK’s EU Referendum) to Paul Gambaccini’s BBC Radio Show, “America’s Greatest Hits”. From July 2016 Paul Gambaccini will host Radio 2’s “Pick of the Pops” (which is good) and “America’s Greatest Hits” will be no more (which is bad). As he said on yesterday’s show:

“The longest running single-presenter popular music show in British radio history ends next week after 41 years. It’s this show. Please join us for a lot of songs whose titles have double meanings.”

I will. In recent years the show has been broadcast on Saturday evenings, between 8 and 10pm. Like many parents we are usually at home then. When it comes to going out on Saturday night we long ago replaced FOMO (the fear of missing out) with JOMO (the joy of missing out) and at least three weeks out of four we are home and able to listen live to most of the show. It has a well-established format with many scripted elements, catchphrases, heaps of facts, and it plays past and present US chart hits. It’s my favourite radio show. I generally have a better idea of what’s #1 in the States than here in the UK. Yesterday evening I learnt that Justin Timberlake is at the top in the US for the 5th week running with “Can’t stop the feeling”, producer Max Martin’s 22nd US chart-topper. (I had to check online that the UK #1 is still “One Dance” by Drake featuring WizKid & Kyla.)

For a few weeks more you’ll be able to hear up to a month’s worth of episodes here on the BBC website but after that they’ll be gone. Next Saturday’s show (2 July 2016) will be the last. Last night the show was on an hour earlier than usual, because of broadcasts from Glastonbury, and it mucked about with my sense of time. I’m used to hearing the “Matter of Life and Death” feature (“someone born on this day, someone else who has recently passed away”) around 8.25pm but last night it was at 7.25pm and the artist “who has recently passed away” was Muhammad Ali. “It’s not the same old song”, which this week featured two songs called “They don’t know”, was on at around 7.40pm. “The other number ones”, songs which made it to the top in rival magazine Cashbox when something else was top of the Billboard chart, was on soon after 8pm.

The build-up to the #1 single is usually just before 10pm, and I know that it’s time to try and get our 11-year-old son off to bed. Yesterday we heard Justin Timberlake at #1 just before 9pm and it left me feeling a little disoriented for the rest of the evening. Knowing that next week’s show is the last will leave me feeling disoriented for rather longer than that. After all, “Saturday is our day for America’s greatest hits …”



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