David symonds deck

David Symonds in 1968

David Symonds (b. 1943) joined the BBC in 1965 and made his name as presenter of the Sunday morning Light Programme show Easy Beat, one of the station's few modern pop programmes. He was one of the original line-up of DJs when Radio 1 began in autumn 1967 and established himself as presenter of the new network's afternoon show. This lasted until 1969, when he moved back to Sunday mornings to host the Symonds on Sunday show. In the following year he was one of the presenters of the new Sounds of the Seventies series, before leaving the station in 1971.

After leaving Radio 1, David Symonds enjoyed a varied career, working in both the BBC and commercial radio, spending time in the USA, and eventually managing his own radio station in Cyprus. A fuller account of his career can be found here.

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In his notes to the CD of Fairport Convention's BBC session recordings of 1968-69, Heyday, Ashley Hutchings recalled the pleasures of recording sessions for the BBC at the time:

Hard to believe in these days of corporate domination that the BBC handed out "live" recording sessions to anyone who had an unusual name or a manager who was prepared to ring up one of the sympathetic producers who, bless 'em, peopled the corridors of the Beeb at that time. And don't imagine that John Peel was the only person who played interesting music back then. There was a whole host of DJs (let's call them Style Enthusiasts) who were ready to play whatever took their fancy.

One of these "style enthusiasts" was David Symonds, whose afternoon show was the closest that daytime Radio 1 of the time came to Peel's Top Gear playlists. Like Peel's show, it featured sessions from contemporary groups and a host who enthused about his favourite artists. Symonds' tastes were more pop-oriented than Peel's, tending towards the close harmony "sunshine pop" style and the classically influenced music of his special favourites, the Moody Blues. Yet at a time before rock and pop had developed into mutually hostile genres, the two DJs' playlists had plenty in common. This sometimes created problems with the station management; in his book Selling the Sixties (ref.) Robert Chapman recounts how Symonds was overruled when he wanted to choose Judy Collins' "Both Sides Now" as his single of the week. As a result of such disagreements, Symonds eventually lost his afternoon show.

Among the "sympathetic producers" mentioned by Ashley Hutchings was John Walters ("Don't start me off on Walters stories or I'll never stop...." ), who worked with David Symonds as an assistant producer on his afternoon show before moving to produce Jimmy Savile's Savile's Travels show, and then Symonds on Sunday in 1969. In Zigzag 24 (1972) Walters described the programme's policy:

With David Symonds it was quite different, and we were considered quite crusading at the time, because we were the first people to introduce into popular time slot broadcasting, groups who subsequently became famous by getting into the charts; not just Johnny Arthey with a well known popular singer, or the Searchers doing their old hits again, or the other popular live BBC groups at the time, but we used, amazingly for Sunday morning in those days, Fairport Convention with perhaps Geno Washington and the Herd. So all of them would be good, and things the kids wanted to hear, but of a different type.....

The show was short-lived, and Walters left it to take over as producer of Top Gear. In the same year, Symonds was the first DJ to be "busted" by the police, when a small amount of marijuana was found in his bag when he was presenting the Radio 1 Club in Doncaster. In 1970 Symonds resigned from the BBC after an argument over songs with supposedly suggestive lyrics. He expressed his frustration with the Corporation in an interview in International Times. In the same article, John Peel is quoted as saying "David's thing was completely futile really. It's a pity, I used to listen to his programme. His dramatic resignation has been forgotten."

Symonds' later career, on Capital Radio, Radio Victory Portsmouth, the other BBC radio channels, and elsewhere, demonstrated versatility - it took in, among other things, Radio 3 announcing duties, easy listening shows on Radio 2, and pop shows in the US and on Capital Gold - but he was glad to get away from Radio 1, unlike Peel, who never left the station and resisted attempts to move him elsewhere. In 2017, David Symonds was invited to attend the Radio 1's fiftieth aniiversary celebrations, as one of the station's pioneering DJs - but declined the invitation (see article below).

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