Memories · Notes from West London · On my radio

Tony Blackburn

Tony Blackburn is back on BBC Radio 2, our radio station of choice. I am very pleased about this. He’s on for an hour on Friday nights at 7pm and on Saturday mornings between 6 and 8am, broadcasting live. For the latter he has taken over the “Sounds of the 60s” slot from Brian Matthew and it’s been moved back a couple of hours.

This morning I heard over half of his 60s show and was taken back through (there’s no other word for it) a Gestalt of memories related to his broadcasts at various stages of my life. His was the voice of the Radio 1 Breakfast Show when I was a child. I still recall some of the jokes he told back in the 1970s. One of them made its way into this post from last year (“10 Meatballs Escape from Alcatraz”).

Sometime in the 1980s he hosted a late morning show, on either Radio 1 or a London station. I chanced upon it one weekend and listened, nostalgically. He played “Victims”, the single that Culture Club had released to follow up “Karma Chameleon” and said that he thought they should have released “Black Money” instead. With that one sentence my view of him shifted. He wasn’t just the voice of my childhood mornings. He was someone who knew about music, perceptive about the latest releases as well as the classics he always enjoyed playing.

During the 1990s he moved to the Breakfast Show on Capital Gold and was once again our “bright good morning voice” (to quote Harry Chapin’s “WOLD”). Breakfast radio was only an occasional feature of our days until his return. He usually referred to himself as Mister Magic, and that was fine by me. The old jokes were back, along with a few that I hadn’t heard before, like this one: “I went out with a girl once who was an expert on Persian rugs … she wasn’t bad on lino either”. And, “If you’re getting married make sure that you have the ceremony in the morning rather than the afternoon. That way, if it doesn’t work out, at least you haven’t wasted the whole day.” One evening in the mid-90s I bumped into him on Haymarket on the way home from work and stammered something like, “Mister Magic. The voice of my mornings. It’s good to have you back”, and walked on, embarrassed. I take the view that if you do bump into someone whose work you enjoy it’s okay to thank them, without taking too much of their time. If you encounter someone whose work you don’t enjoy there’s no need to bother them.

Until last year Tony Blackburn was the voice of “Pick of the Pops” on Saturday afternoons, so we have got used to hearing him again. But hearing him on a morning show, for the first time in nearly 20 years, is something else. Arnold the Dog is back too, 53 years old and sounding just the same. Woof woof.




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