GB News 9th September 2021
Mike Read (DJ, Author and Chairman of the British Plaque Trust)
Nigel Farage (Broadcaster)
Venue: Pints of View
As the schools in England return after their summer break, Andrew Neil is missing from Saint GB News Academy. Simon Brazier is in the prefect’s common room. Naughty schoolgirl Gloria de Piero is back behind the bike shed. Swotty Mercy Muroki is in the library. Stroppy fifth former Nigel Farage has climbed down the outside of the building and struck out for the pub. Dan Wootton is spending too much time in the toilet cubicles. But of Andrew Neil, there is no sign.
Rumour has it that, at the family villa in the South of France, Mrs Neil stands at the other side of a locked bedroom door trying to coax him out.
“I’m not going back. The place is threadbare. Nothing works. They all hate me,” he wails.
“But Andrew, you have to go back to school,” replies an exasperated Mrs Susan Nilsson-Neil, “you’re the headmaster!”
Safely in the pub, Nigel Farage bumped into Radio One legend Mike Read, DJ, author and chairman of the British Plaque Trust. Appropriately, given his long association with the BBC’s Radio One youth channel, Mike is older than the Prime Minister, Prince Charles and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Read had a shandy in his hand, Farage his usual pint, “We don’t force our guests to drink,” the genial host quipped.
Nigel continued by reminding us Radio One was an amazing phenomenon back in Read’s day along with its fellow travellers, Top of the Pops and The Radio One Roadshow. Before the internet. Must watch. Vast numbers.
Modesty and correctly, Read pointed out there was less competition in those days and then rhymed out the ratings. Top of the Pops attracted 16 million viewers, Radio One on Saturday mornings, 10 million. The Mike Read hosted Pop Quiz, another 10 million. Twenty, twenty-five, thirty thousand would turn up at the roadshows, to watch a radio show being broadcast.
Extraordinary. They were big programmes. The DJs were like rock stars, noted Farage. What was the most fun?
The roadshows. Mike’s mother had called him up, “You love it don’t you? Roof down, tennis racquet guitar in the back, going from town to town showing off and getting paid for it.” Great fun.
Fabtabulous times. Or were they?
Now then, now then, Mike and Nigel, er-er-er-er urgh errr-er-er, it wasn’t a lot of fun if you were an underage boy or girl. Subsequently, a string of historic sex scandals engulfed the hay-day of Radio One. Jimmy Saville’s name has gone own in infamy. His chauffeur Ray Teret, who died in jail earlier this year, got twenty-five years. ‘Hairy monster’ Dave Lee Travis was convicted of indecent assault. Innocent and sweet Paul Gambaccini was under investigation for a year. Tony Blackburn was sacked but then mysteriously reinstated to Radio Two where he now hosts Tony Blackburn’s Golden Hour. And as for John Peel (not his real name) …….
All conveniently memory-holed by Farage and Read.
But there was some effort involved in attracting those big audiences. It didn’t just roll along on its own. The seventy-five-year-old DJ with 25-year-old hair admitted he had ‘learned stuff’. The legalities, what could and couldn’t be said. How to do it.
Teeing up a gag, playing the record, hitting the gag and then coping with ‘the denouement’. A three-parter that had to include the folks listening at home. Your humble author will bear that in mind while sifting for lolz as BBC Question Time returns next week.
Farage reminded Read he’d been high up at the BBC, one of the controllers, the chap who banned Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s mega-hit single ‘Relax’.
A touchy Mike Read replied, “No Mate, I work for the BBC, mate. BBC banned it, mate. The PR might tell you otherwise. I just roll with it.” Mike’s producer’s daughters had been caught rewinding the ‘Relax’ video over and over. Mike spared us the details but it had been graphic. Trevor Horn hadn’t liked it either.
Paul Morley, Frankie’s manager, was the villain of the piece. The video’s director had come up to Mike in Cannes and apologised. He’d been ordered to do the video like that for Channel 4’s The Tube.
There were no hard feelings, Read did voiceovers for the Frankie’s subsequent work, which had been better than ‘Relax’ anyway. The artists and their producer had got themselves banned. It had been clever PR on their part, and why not?
History is a big thing for you, noted Nigel.
Mike has written a series of books about London streets. Denmark Street was out at the moment. He was proofreading Cheapside. Piccadilly was nearly finished.
A friend tells your humble author Denmark Street neighbours the sleazy Soho district, in the 1960s a place of bent coppers, vice, fallen girls, clip joints and corruption.
Do some of the characters in these books need cancelled? Or a trigger warning on the cover, wondered the host.
“No,” replied Read, “who was there, was there.”
In Piccadilly, you had highwaymen, Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria. An amazing cast of characters. In Denmark Street, Zophany the artist painted clocks for pennies. The chap who wrote the words for ‘Lily Bolero’ was there too. Not to mention Queen Matilda’s leper hospital.
“Again, your interest in history, through The British Plaque Trust,” prompted Farage.
Mike Read recognises people who’ve made a unique contribution to the country by placing memorial plaques on houses. What about so-and-so? Mike weights it up and looks at it before deciding who gets what and what goes where. Some of the owners of the buildings want a plaque, some don’t. Some wonder if it will add to the value of their property.
“The BBC asked me, for BBC Music Day, three years ago, have you got any ideas?” Explained Read. “We were low on musicians, so set up forty committees around the country [presumably based around BBC local radio] with a national committee.”
I wonder if he kenned former Radio One colleague John Peel (NHRN)?
Although Peel died in 2004, unsavoury details of his private life weren’t made public until 2012, in the wake of the Saville scandal.
In the 1960s, Peel had been a radio DJ and self-appointed Beatles expert on local radio in the United States where his father had business contacts.
It emerged that in numerous interviews in the seventies and eighties he recalled that girls, some as young as 13, would queue outside his studio door to offer him sexual favours. His quotes include,
“Well, of course, I didn’t ask for ID. All they wanted me to do was to abuse them sexually which, of course, I was only too happy to do.”
He went on to detail sexual acts they had performed on him.
One of those girls was Shirley Ann Milburn who he married in Texas on the 29th of September 1965. Peel was 26, Shirley Anne was 15.
Back in England, Peel worked in pirate radio before becoming one of the BBC’s founding Radio One DJs. As well as Saville, two of his early colleagues were Chris Denning and Johnathon King, both subsequently jailed for sexually abusing underage boys.
While at Radio One, Peel ran a schoolgirl of the year competition and noted in his Sounds music magazine column that he preferred his fans to be in his company when dressed as schoolgirls.
Peel is photographed here, himself posing as a schoolgirl, with tights rolled down to his ankles exposing bare legs and partially bare buttocks.
Disgracefully, stills from this photo session are still available from Getty images, priced £375 each.
In October 2012, Jane Nevin went to the newspapers claiming that she had fallen pregnant during a three-month-long affair with Peel when he was aged 30 and she 15. Many of their liaisons took place on BBC premises. Janes claims were substantiated by surviving correspondence between the pair of them that she had kept.
The suicide that briefly cost Tony Blackburn his job was that of Claire MacAlpine who, also as a 15-year-old, appeared as a ‘dolly dancer’ in the Top of The Pops audience. Claire kept a diary that her mother found and which made allegations of sexual abuse against DJs. Forty years ago, the incorruptible Metropolitan Police dismissed the entries as those of a smitten schoolgirl fantasist.
However, in the light of Saville and with new witnesses coming forward, The Daily Mail revisited the story in 2012. When published, the Mail placed a photograph of Peel next to a photograph of Claire, the age-old way in which newspapers connect perpetrators to their victims while not, for legal reasons, doing so in the text.
So why was and is Peel (his near six thousand word Wikipedia entry makes no mention of him being a child sex abuser) so well protected? Because of the sex abuse omata that continues within the London media bubble and because he was posh.
John Robert Parker Ravenscroft OBE, known as John Peel, was born in August 1939, the eldest son of Wirral cotton merchant Robert Ravenscroft. John was educated privately at the £36,000 a year Shrewsbury School where one of his contemporaries was BBC lifer Michael Palin.
What Wikipedia does mention are Peel’s awards. Besides the OBE, he was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and Melody Maker and Sony Broadcasting prizes. He is a member of the Radio Academy hall of fame. The BBC includes him in its list of 100 greatest Britons. Part of the BBC’s Langham Square Broadcasting House is called the ‘John Peel Wing’.
And, yes, in 2017, Peel’s home in Great Finborough, Suffolk was awarded one of Mike Read’s blue plaques. At the time, the East Anglian Daily Times gushed,
Mike Read, chairman of the British Plaque Trust, said: “A blue plaque is a recognised symbol of our national heritage, a visible milestone in our history which serves as a permanent reminder of who we are, where we’ve been and what we’ve achieved.
“We are delighted to have worked with the BBC towards Music Day 2017 for the last six months, making it possible to add deserving local music legends to the footprint of British history.”
At Peel’s 2004 funeral, his coffin was accompanied by his favourite song, ‘Teenage Kicks’. Quite.
Concerning your support for the Conservative Party over the years, asked Farage, how’s BJ doing?
Mike looked at it from his own perspective. One of the main things that he does is write songs.
Song writers are having a really, really, really, hard time at the moment, up against youtube who make $7 billion a quarter while writers slowly starve to death. The song writers get next to nothing. The market is buoyant for big corporations. They are like giant whales opening their mouths and swallowing a hell of a lot of plankton.
What can Boris do about that?
He could be stronger. The EU copyright directive could be altered but the EU are in with the big boys, the Googles, and Read wasn’t sure how this could be done.
But we’re Brexit Britain, protested Farage, we can make our own decisions.
Somebody should be strong and tough. They have been to Europe but it’s difficult to wrestle with people who don’t want to wrestle. Our musicians and writers are suffering.
Finally, Mike told us about the Heritage Chart. A year ago artists of a certain generation complained to him they were making some of the best music of their careers but just weren’t getting played on the radio. Mike set up a heritage chart where performers can be rated by music lovers outwith sales, radio play or streaming. Eighty countries from around the world take part. The chart goes out on a Sunday.
Mike’s favourite artist of all time?
Scott Walker. Even excluding Walker’s later experimental work, an unexpected choice, in line with some of the folks to whom Mike Read has awarded plaques.
Paul Bracchi and Sam Greenhill, The Daily Mail, 6th October 2012
Stephen Glover, The Daily Mail, 6th October 2012, 16th October 2014
© Always Worth Saying 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file