(This is possibly my favourite of Peel's Radio Times columns, written at a time when commercial radio was dominating the "middle market" because of the vast gulf that had opened up between Radios 1 & 2 - so boldly scathing, but never sneeringly dismissive of the *people* who listened to the stations, merely wishing they could be given something more stimulating ("don't hate the player, hate the game"). Note that the stations Peel liked most were in the north of England and Scotland, where the formulaic drift of commercial radio was at a much more embryonic stage and where the dominant political and social values were, perhaps, closer to his than those in the south of England were. This is confirmed by editions of Music Week magazine from the same period, which reveal that the few stations other than Radio 1 playing the nascent Britpop hits were largely those in Scotland, whereas most other commercial stations were sticking to the final chart hits by the likes of Level 42, Swing Out Sister, Robert Palmer and Dave Stewart. It is arguably the case that Scottish stations would not have felt the same desire to prolong the 1980s because, compared to stations in the south of England, many fewer of their listeners would have supported the politics with which those acts became associated.
It should also be noted that some of the bands mentioned at the start of the piece would eventually make records that were hideously overplayed on commercial radio, a benefit of Radio 1 not being privatised which the commercial stations were typically unwilling to acknowledge.
Radio Times - 22-28 Oct. 1994, p12
Oasis, Blur, Suede, Manic Street Preachers, Elastica. These are the bands that matter in 1994. These are, if you like, the Kinks, Hollies, Swinging Blue Jeans, Animals and Cilla Black of the age. None of them is a Beatles or Stones and, to be fair, probably don't much want to be. But, as far as the future of exportable British pop goes, these are the bands making the platters that matter. You would never know this from listening to local daytime radio.
This week I had to drive from East Anglia to Glasgow and decided to use my time profitably by listening to pop on FM as I went. The only condition I imposed on myself was that I would change stations as soon as I heard that Cyndi Lauper record. As I pulled out of our tree-lined driveway (just kidding), I tuned to SGR FM. SGR stands for, I think, Simply Great Radio and their Mr Morning Man in Ipswich was Dave Hoffman. Dave is strictly old school, with that Gary Davies love hiccup in his voice. There are, I was to find, so many DJs still doing this that music-loving space critters landing in Britain would assume Gary was some sort of god to the rest of us. Mind you, they would also assume, from radio advertising, that the population was in the grip of a frenzy of carpet buying and window replacement.
Having left SGR when Cyndi sang, I conjured up KL FM, the New Sound in West Norfolk. Someone-in-the-morning was telling us about Lonnie in New Orleans who had castrated himself with a chainsaw. This is what the kids want, I thought, cranking up the volume, but a succession of bland records with keyboard intros, hissing syndrums and greetings-card lyrics soon drove me away.
Q103 FM has - and I quote - the better music mix for Cambridgeshire. Quite how this is measured, I am not sure, but virtually every station heard during my run claimed to be playing either better or the best music. Cyndi Lauper once again drove me into someone else's arms.
Grantham is apparently all of a dither over the arrival of the new range of diesel-powered Fords, or so Lincs FM suggested. Why is radio advertising so pedestrian and, when it attempts comedy, so unfunny? By now it was mid-morning and time for a lively mix of music 'n' chat. The chat on Lincs FM was of poetry (it was National Poetry Day) and of a Mr Pippin who complained about "lady drivers". When I switched to BBC Radio Nottingham I got a mystery voice competition and the Carpenters. I turned off and listened instead to the surface noise road that scientists have thoughtfully provided south of the Trent.
Our space critters would assume that, judging by the records playing during the day, either life had come to an end in 1980 or the ultimate human dream was to get it together with the only one worth thinking of, with a view to making it through the night.
Viking FM told us, several times, of the betrothal of Jackie and Alan, both of Goole, before warning of their intention to make the morning air hideous with the sound of Curiosity Killed the Cat. Birthday files, From This Day in History and an A-Z of Hits were on offer from Humberside and Gateshead and I learned that the Best Music from West Yorkshire is an old record by the Eurythmics. Signal in Cheshire is 'the first, the best' - but at what they did not say.
By now I was growing irritable and not even Andy Peebles on BBC Radio Lancashire with consumer advice could cheer me. After resting, I turned north on the M61 and the situation improved, somewhat. JFM in Manchester played me some modern rhythm 'n' blues, including a song about the big-legged woman seemingly central to the cultural life of Black America in the 30s, 40s and 50s, but blotted their copybook with talk of real music, a concept as meaningless as best music. Rock FM was not, disappointingly, a lively mix of guitars and Satanism, but I stayed with them until the Lakes, where the scenery was so beautiful that the radio went off.
If you are one of those who has deserted Radio 1 in favour of trite radio with play-safe music policies, well, there's plenty to please you out there. Otherwise, drive from, say, Preston to Glasgow a lot.