At first glance, a year in the life of a radio station seems a curiously insubstantial topic for a full-length book. But Simon Garfield was fortunate that the 12 months he spent as a fly on the wall of Radio 1 were among the most eventful in the station's 30-year history. To put the ensuing revolution in context, it is important to remember that for many years Radio 1 had been the country's only national pop network, and as such, its stranglehold on the nation's pop tastes was unquestioned. Garfield's arrival coincided with a change of direction: under controller Mathew Bannister, the network was determined to ditch its middle-aged image.
The general impression of Radio 1 at the time was summed up by comedian Harry Enfield's archetypal babbling DJ, with the music always coming a distant second to the egos: "Tuesday's the only between Monday and Wednesday-type day we've got, mate. It may not have the glamour and excitement of a Saturday, or the mournfulness of a Monday morn, but it's our Tuesday, the good, old-fashioned, honest to goodness, down to earth, great British Tuesday, and if those Eurocrats, Bureaucrats and other Bonkerscats try and take our Tuesday away from us, they'll have go get past me first!"
In the end it was Chris Evans who single-handedly gave Radio 1 some credibility--and probably prevented it being privatised; and Garfield's chronicle of Evans' rise and fall is riveting--a first-hand account of truly Machiavellian court politics. --Patrick Humphries
The Nation's Favourite: The True Adventures of Radio 1 by Simon Garfield is a touching, exciting and often hilarious portrait of BBC Radio One in its time of turmoil, a national institution battling back from the brink of calamity.