There was a time when it would have been ludicrous to suggest that Radio Two would ever ride to the rescue of British rock.
But then there was a time when the late, great Tommy Vance held a prime Friday night slot on Radio One and his weekly Rock Show was an immovable fixture on that popular station’s schedule.
Somewhere along the line rock music has, in the eyes of BBC controllers, become some kind of heritage brand with little or no relevance to the modern music buying public. The Radio One weekly rock show is now shoehorned into some unforgettable midweek slot and the chances of hearing Iron Maiden or Def Leppard during daylight hours on the corporation’s flagship station are zero.
Of course we have a raft of rock friendly digital platforms offering us rock fans more of the music we love more often but not everyone has access to the utterly brilliant Planet Rock or Bruce Dickinson’s Radio Six Rock Show. Those still locked into the FM age must turn to the unlikely home of Radio Two if they want to keep their passion for rock and metal burning.
It wasn’t so long ago that the home of Sarah Kennedy, Ken Bruce and Terry Wogan (for now) made AC/DC’s Black Ice its record of the week and I recall Ken asking one contestant to name three top 20 singles from the Hysteria album on his popular mid-morning quiz.
Now Radio Two have excelled themselves with the must-listen British Steel: How British Heavy Metal Conquered The World – the concluding part of which is aired on Saturday night. If you can stomach the often nauseating Justin Lee Collins (he’s the long haired tubby bloke with a South West accent who quite often pops up on celebrity quiz shows and hosts shows on Channel Four) then this is a fabulous piece of BBC broadcasting – the kind of stuff our licence fee should be used for.
This weekend Collins promises to explain how the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal ‘combined the spirit and DIY attitude of punk with the original metal concepts’. Should be interesting. He also bigs up the era which ‘would produce international stars such as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Motorhead’. According to the BBC blurb, the NWOBHM ‘was a popular musical movement to rival punk, with hundreds of smaller bands all over the country like Saxon, Diamondhead, Venom, Angel Witch and all-girl metal band Girlschool’ making their mark.
If this hasn’t whetted your appetite then factor in rare sessions, archive material and new interviews with the NWOBHM’s movers and shakers – Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Budgie, Saxon, Diamond Head and more – and you’ve got the perfect reason to jock off Match Of The Day for a change.
It may be difficult to accept that a station once held up as the housewives’ favourite is now championing long haired, leather jacket-wearing, head banging folk everywhere but if Radio Two are keeping rock alive then all power to ‘em. And Radio One can go and stick Dance Anthems where the sun don’t shine.