Daily Express


DJ Mike Read on how the popularity of his radio station proves the BBC ‘yoof’ takeover was a betrayal of fans

- By Lebby Eyres

YOU could say Mike Read is having the last laugh. After all, if you believed the bosses at Radio 1, his type of presenting went out with the dinosaurs. He was lucky, he’d already moved on before the BBC’s controvers­ial cull of big name DJs in the early 1990s. But it ushered in a new era that meant household names like Read were suddenly out of vogue.

The changes at Radio 1, and the axing of DJs listeners had grown up with, came with the arrival of station controller Matthew Bannister in 1993.

There was, as Read puts it succinctly today, “blood on the carpet” as veteran Smashieand-Nicey-style presenters – including Simon Bates and Alan Freeman – left the station in droves as part of a revamp.

This dramatic clearout of the old guard led to a calamitous loss of about five million listeners and, arguably, Radio 1, with its “yoof”-oriented shows and younger, celebrity hosts, has never properly recovered.

So it is deeply satisfying to Read, 73, that he is still broadcasti­ng daily in his trademark style to growing numbers of listeners on his new station, United DJs. “We’re one of the only stations in the world where, in the oldfashion­ed way, we choose the music. There’s no suit telling us what to do,” he explains.

“When I was at Radio 1, I’d say, ‘I just heard this great track’ and my producer would let me play it. They appreciate­d the fact you had good ears.

“The mix was amazingly eclectic.You’d have metal, comedy, new romantic, reggae, solo singers. You’d play The Jam and Iron Maiden next to Orville the Duck and nobody said, ‘That’s not cool.’ It was broadcasti­ng rather than narrowcast­ing.”

FOR two glorious hours, Read’s show takes listeners back to the heyday of the DJ – mixing up his favourite tracks from the past few decades, with a few corkers from undiscover­ed artists thrown in for good measure.

There’s no massive corporatio­n behind him, and no money-men dictating what he should play, just unadultera­ted Read and his dulcet tones, keeping us entertaine­d with his own choice of music, chat and requests that come flooding in via his and the station’s social media channels.

His audience on the station – which he set up with fellow DJ and Radio Luxembourg legend Tony Prince, pictured with him right, two years ago – is made up of the children of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. They grew up on a diet of Top of the Pops, Saturday morning TV and evening pop quizzes. They were “weaned” on a wide range of music, but got left behind when the traditiona­l DJ got elbowed aside for younger, supposedly funkier, celebrity presenters and strictly prescribed playlists.

“Music was part of their life. They grew up with it,” explains Read carefully from his home in Henley-on-Thames, Oxon. “They didn’t stop liking it when they got older.”

Right now, his station is getting a huge boost from the lockdown, with people turning to radio for “comfort and distractio­n” and the kind of classic deejaying we all loved when we were younger. Read presented the Breakfast Show on Radio 1 from 1981 to 1986, as well as children’s Saturday morning TV show Saturday Superstore and panel show Pop Quiz in the mid-80s. He remembers that decade as a brilliant era for music, with great artists like Duran Duran breaking through. “I remember going to a pub near where I

MIKE Read has a lifelong love of history and, for many years, was part of The Heritage Foundation along with his friends, now all passed on, Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb, TV legend Nicholas Parsons and actor Leslie Phillips.

Twelve years ago that morphed into the British Plaque Trust aimed at bringing the English Heritage scheme to the regions. “At the time, English Heritage was considerin­g scaling down their blue

lived in Weybridge one night,” he recalls. “People would give me pieces of paper with requests and I’d always do them as I didn’t like letting people down.

“That evening I ended up with about 50 pieces of paper in my pocket and when I laid them out in the studio the next morning, I was stunned. Nearly all of them were asking for Planet Earth by Duran

 ??  ?? LAID BACK: Mike preparing to take over the Radio 1 Breakfast Show in 1980. Right, with Paul McCartney and his then wife Linda
LAID BACK: Mike preparing to take over the Radio 1 Breakfast Show in 1980. Right, with Paul McCartney and his then wife Linda
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CAPTION: Is in 8.5pt helvetica bold except when it’s on a picture when

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