Radio Ga Ga

Zebra Garden

I was born in the swinging sixties, the youngest of three children with a brother who entered his teens just as I was learning to walk. He left home for university before I could get to know him, and moved to the other side of the world a few years after graduation. What he left behind for his baby sister to enjoy was a vinyl record collection from the sixties and seventies, and a portable record player that had settings for 16, 33, 45 and 78rpm recordings.

Music was always being played in our house. My mother would have the radio on in the kitchen every morning as we ate our breakfast and again in the afternoon as she prepared the family dinner. She would listen to stations that offered news, comment and the ‘easy listening’ songs that she favoured. In the evenings my father would change the radio station and listen to classical music as he washed up the dishes. My sister had a little portable radio that she used to follow the latest chart toppers; she has always been more fashion concious than me.

I preferred my brother’s record collection and developed an enduring love of the Beatles, The Moody Blues and many of the singles covered by unnamed artists on the much maligned Top of the Pops collections released in the late sixties and early seventies. It was many years before I would hear these songs sung by the original artists.

When I started to add my own purchases to my brother’s record collection I continued to favour music that rarely made it into the charts. I chose Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan over the latest boy bands being swooned over by my classmates at the all girls grammar school that I attended.

Soon after it was purchased I borrowed my parent’s music centre, moving it up to my bedroom and not returning it until I was able to afford my own separates system several years later. This device allowed me to make numerous compilation cassette tapes of my favourite tracks and to listen to these endlessly until I could bear them no more.

When I learnt to drive most cars had only a basic radio for entertainment. I saved up and splashed out on a decent in-car stereo system that was stolen within days. I reverted to the radio and, for the first time, started to listen to new releases on BBC Radio 1. At home I would still opt to listen to my record collection or my compilation tapes, but my music appreciation expanded and I found that I could enjoy some of the offerings of my own age. Even when my father purchased a car that had a cassette player as well as a radio I continued to tune into Steve Wright in the Afternoon, learn from his Factoids and laugh at his Mr Angry.

In my late teens, when I was building my Hi Fi separates system, I purchased my first CD player and my vinyl collection started to gather dust. The only recordings that I chose to buy on CD that I already had on vinyl were by Pink Floyd and The Beatles. The rest of my CD collection was made up of new recordings from the eighties and nineties. When my husband and I married and joined our music collections together we found few overlaps; we continue to have quite different tastes in music.

With the birth of my daughter I became a stay at home mum and started to listen to the radio for the news and a little music, much as my own mother had done. However, I soon grew tired of the phone ins and debates; it seemed to me that those who discussed the topics of the day were ill informed and hopelessly biased. I tuned out in boredom and disgust, reverting to my recorded music of choice.

My husband took a job at a phone company just as it was setting up a rival to Apple’s iTunes. As an employee he could add any music from the in-house music store to the MP3 player on the top end phone that they provided him with. Over the two years that he worked there he amassed a huge collection of albums including everything we already had on vinyl and CD. Suddenly the entire music collection of my youth was available in high quality surround sound. Much of it has aged rather well.

The twelve year old car that I now drive has a radio and a CD player but no MP3 capability; this is the only place where our CD collection sees use. Steve Wright in the Afternoon can still be found on the radio but I will rarely tune in. There are few of the latest chart toppers that appeal; the latest boy bands still fail to capture my attention.

Radio has been a background noise to my life but never an integral part of it, yet I would not wish to get rid of the radio as I have done with television. I prefer to tailor my listening to my own tastes but wish to retain the option of a live link to the outside world.

On a sunny, summers day in 1984 I attended a Radio 1 Roadshow at a seaside resort a few miles from my home town with a friend. We had a fabulous day out, dancing to the music and cheering with the crowds. I immersed myself in the atmosphere just as I would do at the many live concerts that I would attend in the coming years. The music that was being played mattered so much less than the convivial spirit of the revellers.

Radio on it’s own is too sterile an entertainment for my taste; the DJs are too talkative and the adverts on commercial stations unbearable. Music has always been important to me, but I make my own choices over what I will listen to. Perhaps I am just too set in my ways to be willing to accept what appeals to others; perhaps I am just too different to the norm to be catered for.

It delights me that my daughter has developed a taste in rock and metal music rather than the vapid and transitory chart toppers. Just as in my day, it seems that our favoured bands are rarely given air time on the radio.

Whatever we are doing there is usually music playing somewhere in our house. It is, however, rare indeed for our radio to rock.

English: Close-up shot of a turntable cartridg...