Radio shows I have loved, Part 2.

29 01 2011

Seeing as I’ve had more deep and meaningful relationships with radio shows than I have with gentlemen callers (ahem) I thought I would write a story about another radio show that has meant something to me. In the interests of choice, you can either listen to me telling you the story, or if you can’t bear the sound of my voice (fair enough) you can just read it instead. Don’t say I never give you anything, yeah?

In September 2003 I had picked my AS-Level subjects, but within a month or so I realised that choosing biology over english literature had been a Bad Idea. Genomes and stamens (for that is all I remember of biology) weren’t for me. I’d much rather be sitting with a book, going over stories and learning about plays. I don’t know why I hadn’t picked literature (it was my best mark at GCSE) but a combination of trying to be an educational all-rounder (something I’ve come to accept that I most definitely am not) and some kind of misplaced rebellion meant I was stuck with plants and blood and other biology things.

After a while I decided I’d had enough of biology and definitely wanted to switch to literature. In my head it was a done deal- what would be the problem? Well, there were loads, apparently. Timetable clashes, the fact I’d missed most of the lessons on The Color Purple, and other factors I deemed to be trivial were thrown at me, but I’d be damned if I was stuck studying shrubbery and humans for another two years.

So I weasled my way onto the course and realised straight away that the teachers were right- catching up was going to be hard.

It was about this time in my life that I decided to experiment with radio. I’d only just turned the dial from my local pop music station, Metro Radio (a station I still have a fondness for) and towards Radio 1. In all honesty it had been an accident (they sit next to each other on the dial) but that wasn’t the point. A whole new world had opened up to me. I’d grown up listening to Radio 2 and although Metro had afforded me some independence from it, Radio 1 was something else. They played music with guitars! And there were no adverts! And I didn’t have to suffer with my S Club fandom much longer, because bands like Sum 41 and Blink 182 were being played (that’s right, I was that kind of kid).

For weeks I had to work hard to catch up with the rest of my class, because not only had I not managed to read The Color Purple, but I’d also not quite grasped the basics of The Tempest. Oh, this was going to be hard.

As well as having a short attention span, as mentioned in the previous post, I also tend to leave things to the last-minute. Sure, it’ll get done and it’ll be bang on time, but if something is due at 1pm, I’ll probably be writing the introduction at 12.15pm. This was one of those times. Every night I’d come back and put off the work later and later, until it got to 10pm and I had no choice but to buckle down.

Luckily, I had good company. Very good company. By absolute good fortune and brilliant luck, I had sorted my work schedule to start at the same time as the John Peel show. Every night I would wriggle into bed, armed with a pencil and a well-thumbed copy of The Tempest that the school had given me, and listen to John Peel.

He never disappointed.

His show was simple; just him and the music, and I appreciated that. Sure, there was music I didn’t like and music I didn’t understand, but it was music. Music I’d never heard before and probably would never hear again. Sometimes he played stuff twice, sometimes he made mistakes, and sometimes he rambled on a bit too long and I would be far too engrossed in Shakespeare to notice, but on the whole we were a great team.

In the months after the final exam I still tuned in to his show but with less regularity than I had done during my revision. I was always thankful to John Peel for sticking by me for the academic year. He would never know it but whenever I thought of The Tempest I would think of his show, and my bed, and huddling under the duvet while Pulp or The Smiths or a new band I’d never heard of played.

A year later, I was at home listening to Radio 1 when I heard he had died on holiday. I was shocked; he was the first radio presenter I’d felt a connection with, the first one I felt I knew. So I shed a  tear, listened to Common People, and nodded silently at my cohort from those late nights- a battered copy of The Tempest.

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