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An American’s Perspective: 50 Years of BBC Radio 1 with Johnny Beerling!

MCIU#11-JohnnyBeerling-BioPic-NealeJames

Photo Credit: Neale James

In the swinging 1960s, there was a very unusual—perhaps crazy—pirate scene happening in the North Sea. A group of British radio enthusiasts and entrepreneurs started illegal, offshore pirate radio stations, modeled after top-40 radio in America. Because pirate stations broadcast on unassigned channels and did not pay copyright fees, the British Government outlawed the pirate stations in 1967.

The British Broadcast Cooperation (BBC) seized the opportunity to update their broadcasting services. On the morning of September 30th, 1967, the BBC launched four national network stations. The four individual stations covered the United Kingdom: Radio 1 (pop/rock); Radio 2 (easy listening); Radio 3 (classical); and Radio 4 (news/talk). Radio 1 was modeled after the pirate stations, employing most of the pirate DJs at its conception.

I, as an American, had the honor of speaking with retired BBC radio producer and controller, Johnny Beerling, on the subject of his new book, Inside Radio 1. Beerling produced the first Radio 1 program at 7 a.m. on September 30, 1967. He became the controller of the network in 1985 and held that position until his retirement in 1993. His book serves to document everything he knows about Radio 1 and the BBC.

I enjoyed listening to Beerling’s memories of working behind-the-scenes during the broadcast of the worldwide benefit concert “Live Aid” on July 13th, 1985. Live Aid broadcast live on Radio 1 with video coverage on BBC-TV. The BBC’s estimated audience exceeded 2 billion people with London’s Wembley Stadium holding 72,000 individuals. One of Beerling’s on-air DJs used their personal helicopter to fly Phil Collins to the airport. Collins flew from London to the other Live Aid concert in Philadelphia, where he would give a second performance on the same day.

While at Radio 1, Beerling was assigned a mammoth task to create a 13-hour radio documentary series about The Beatles, called “The Beatles Story.” Following its broadcast, Paul McCartney complimented Beerling’s research and production.

Radio 1 had some American roots, too. I was intrigued to hear Beerling speak about traveling to Dallas, Texas. In Dallas, he would buy and oversee the production of jingles for Radio 1. The sound of Radio 1 was unique and identifiable because of the thousands of American-produced and sung jingles. Why Dallas? Because American companies, like PAMS Productions, Inc. or JAM Creative Productions, Inc., were better producers—and more economical—than jingle companies in the U.K.

Beerling even opens up to talk about censorship – or record restrictions – during his time at Radio 1.

For more information on Beerling or his new book, please consider visiting johnnybeerling.co.uk.

Date Originally Recorded: 16 September 2017

Date Originally Released: 30 September 2017

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