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plaques scheme and, as they are London-based, the existing ones were all in the capital,” he says.

“We thought it should cover the rest of the country, so we set up the British Plaque Trust. We’ve done more than 100 plaques, and taken it to the Commonweal­th, with the first one in Barbados two years ago.”

Read got the BBC on board and local stations around the country got listeners

Duran. I just knew that second they were going to be enormous.”

Mike moved on from Radio 1 in 1991 to join Capital Gold, where he stayed until 1995, narrowly escaping the Radio 1 cull that saw famous names binned overnight.

“Good management in my book would be to say, ‘We are going to change but let’s do it gradually,’ then the audience will accept it,” to vote for a shortlist of potential plaques as part of BBC Music Day 2018, which a national committee then narrowed down.

At any one time, the Trust has people or events in discussion for potential plaques – there’s a very big name coming up, he says, but he can’t reveal who it is just yet.

It can take years to get the go-ahead; a plaque commemorat­ing the first ever game of baseball in 1749 finally went up at Walton Cricket Club in Surrey last year

says Mike. “It’s like a football team. If one person goes at a time, it gradually changes until nobody notices the whole team has changed. But if the manager says, ‘I’m going to sack all of you’, if you pull the carpet from under people’s feet, then you’ll lose figures.”

In the station’s heyday, Mike was pulling in about 14 million listeners for his Breakfast Show. Meanwhile, 17 million kids were after a decade of talks. As for his favourite plaque, Read says he has a “soft spot” for the one marking Tin Pan Alley in Denmark Street, where the songwritin­g industry was born.

“But they’re all special in their own way, and they’re not all about famous people,” he says. “We did one for an orphanage in Norwood that helped save the lives of thousands of children. It was very meaningful and moving.”

watching Saturday Superstore and the same number were glued to Top of the Pops on a Thursday night.

“Any artists on those shows would sell. Then, we all knew what was in the Top Ten, who was number one. Even your parents knew. Now, there’s no shop window.”

It’s no wonder, then, that repeats of 1980s Top of the Pops on BBC Four have caused a stir. Nostalgic older viewers tune in, while their children are blown away by seeing huge names such as Prince, Madonna and Elton John perform live in a studio with sweaty teenagers wearing too much eyeliner.

There’s also a lot of love for the pullovers worn by presenters such as Mike, Bates, Peter Powell and Kid Jensen.

“I’ll always know because I’ll see my name come up on Twitter, and I’ll think ‘Oh, I’ve got a Top of the Pops on’,” Read laughs. “It’s enormously popular. Three years ago we did a couple of Pop Quiz episodes on BBC Four and we were trending Number One for about a day.The appetite is definitely still there.”

When he launched his new radio station in 2018, Mike had a huge network of buddies from the ’80s to call on for help; more than 50 major artists sent good luck messages.

“We did a couple of Pop Quizzes recently, and I called up Toyah, Carol Decker, Trevor Horn, Nick Heywood, Paul Young, and they all say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll come down.’ The Rewind Festival is like a school reunion. Everybody has grown up and mellowed. We’re all mates.”

Given that he’s spent the best part of 45 years broadcasti­ng, it’s ironic to think Read only got into the business by chance.

AGOOD fast bowler, he’d met an old Etonian called Neil ffrench Blake at a couple of charity cricket matches. One day, he got a call out of the blue from Neil asking him to join his new radio station, Reading’s Radio 210.

“I’d written a musical and was out gigging and said, ‘That’s not what I do. Why do you want me on your station?’ He said, ‘You’re very English, you’re mildly eccentric and you’re a bloody good opening bowler.’ I said, ‘How does that qualify me?’ and he said, ‘It does in my book!’”

He started on the same day as Steve Wright, and the two, inevitably, paired up on The Read and Wright Show. “Then I went to Radio Luxembourg. In the same week I got that job, I had the first edition of my book the Guinness Book of Hit Singles out, and I landed the presenting role on Pop Quest with Yorkshire TV. I thought that was just a normal week in show business.”

Music might be his first passion – as well as being a radio host, he’s always written songs and musicals, and still searches out new bands – but he’s also written a number of books and is working on four more.

Lockdown is giving him the chance to think up new creative projects. He called his 2014 autobiogra­phy Seize the Day, but says he’s not sure he has a life philosophy. “I’ve just been lucky to do a lot of things. I love writing books, I write a load of songs, I love doing TV stuff. If you’re doing one thing, as much as you love it, it can get a bit samey. Each one balances the other. I love variety.”

●●Mike Read is the breakfast show presenter at 7am on uniteddj.com broadcasti­ng 24/7 all around the world

 ??  ?? EVERGREEN DJ: Mike is as popular these days as he was when he was hosting BBC TV’s Pop Quiz, in the 1980s, inset above
Pictures: REX; GETTY
EVERGREEN DJ: Mike is as popular these days as he was when he was hosting BBC TV’s Pop Quiz, in the 1980s, inset above Pictures: REX; GETTY

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