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The Nation's Favourite: The True Adventures of Radio 1 [Paperback]

Simon Garfield
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 July 1999

In 1993, BBC Radio One gained a new controller. Matthew Bannister said he was going to reinvent the station, the most popular in Europe. But things didn't go exactly to plan. The station lost millions of listeners. Its most famous DJs left, and their replacements proved to be disasters. Radio One's commercial rivals regarded the internal turmoil with glee. For a while a saviour arrived, in the shape of Chris Evans. But his behaviour caused further upheavals, and his eventual departure provoked another mass desertion by listeners. What was to be done?

In the middle of this crisis, Radio One bravely (or foolishly) allowed the writer Simon Garfield to observe its workings from the inside. For a year he was allowed unprecedented access to management meetings and to DJs in their studios, to research briefings and playlist conferences. Everyone interviewed spoke in passionate detail about their struggle to make their station credible and successful once more. The result is a touching, exciting and often hilarious portrait of a much loved national institution as it battles back from the brink of calamity.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (5 July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571197353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571197354
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Garfield was born in London in 1960. He is the author of an appealingly diverse and unpredictable canon of non-fiction, including Mauve, The Nation's Favourite, The End of Innocence and The Wrestling, and has edited three popular collections of diaries from the Mass Observation Archive. His quirky history of fonts, Just My Type, turned out to be a hit, which reassured him that he was not alone in his passions.

His latest book is about maps - a wide-ranging, inquisitive and light-footed examination of how we use maps not only to find our way, but also to express all aspects of our lives - from art and crime to politics and cinema. The book is about exploration in its widest sense, travelling from the Great Library at Alexandria to the home of Google Maps, with cartographic diversions via Birmingham, Antarctica, Melbourne, the Himalayas, the East End of London, New York and the Congo. The book has some big questions too: Can men really read maps better than women? Is there anywhere in the world yet to be mapped? Will sat nav be the ruin of us all?

Garfield has been intrigued by maps since he had to find his way around the London Underground as a young boy, and he has been fascinated by geography ever since he was taught it at school by the former England cricket captain Mike Brearley (although admittedly Brearley mostly knew about India and Australia and other places he'd opened the batting).

Garfield also enjoys Hampstead Heath, cycling, globe-spinning by Presuming Ed, and writing by Tracy Kidder, Nicholson Baker, Bella Bathurst, Bill Bryson and Simon Armitage.

Product Description

Amazon Review

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

About the Author

Simon Garfield was born in 1960. He is the author of Expensive Habits: The Dark Side of the Industry, The End of Innocence: Britain in the Time of AIDS, which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Prize, The Wrestling, The Nation's Favourite: The True Adventures of Radio 1, Mauve, The Last Journey of William Huskisson, The Error World and the Mass Observation trilogy Our Hidden Lives, Private Battles and We Are At War. Mini: the True and Secret History of the Making of a Motor Car was published in 2009.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I find myself re-reading this book several times a year and I've lost count of the number of copies I've given to friends.
Insightful, well-written and very amusing.
If you think that Smashey and Nicey ARE the best characters Enfield and Whitehouse ever wrote then this is certainly the book for you.
Great interviews about the rise of Radio One, the era of the 'personality DJ' (I honestly used to listen to DLT every Saturday morning and LOVE 'snooker on the radio') the rebirth of the station in the early 1990's, the Chris Evans period - it's a great read, even if you have no interest in Radio One.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lost World 25 Nov 2009
Dipping into this compelling book is rather like discovering a lost world. In place of the dinosaurs you'll find the equally colossal egos of the "disc jockey". In some ways this may be an uncomfortable read for those over 40, evoking as it does all sorts of queasy memories of "The Bit in the middle", "Willie on the Plonker" and "Our Tune". this was an age when the Hairy Cornflake only had to finger his beard to be invited to open yet another supermarket/hospital wing/garden fete.
For those two young to remember the bloodletting at Radio 1 this is a valuable work of history ( they won't believe that the current Radio 1 was actually once this cosy, safe institution which had the playing of Status Quo and Cliff Richard ( who were they?)5 times daily as an article of faith.
Only the late John Peel ( and perhaps Nicky Campbell) emerge with any credit and this gem of a book also gives some insight into the survivalist instincts of Steve -when you read out a listener's e-mail always prefix it with "Love the show Steve"- Wright, Cull evader extraordinaire.
Sure to raise at least a wry smile in people of most ages. Enjoy it
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent start but tails off 18 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book begins with Bannister appointed controller then we hear about why he was brought in to oversee the change in tone of the station to a more youth orientated feel. What isn't well known is the decision to change the policy of Radio one was taken before Bannister was appointed but its always MB who seems to be the one slated for almost destroying the listening figures. As for the book itself, decent start with a few tales of departing or about to be departing DJs and Simon Bates in particular comes across as a VERY nasty individual. However once the cull of the dinosaurs ( see a BBC 2 programme Blood on the carpet for a brilliant documentary on the same subject) has taken place- and this was done too quickly the book starts to labour VERY badly. The story of the rise and fall of Evans on the network is handled reasonably well but after this story quite frankly i got really bored. Radcliffe and Reilly and Zoe Ball & the late Kevin Greening are featured heavily from the middle of the book onwards but none of these individuals are IMO interesting enough to hold the attention of the reader and i got very bored very quickly.

I would have preferred the books story to have gone from say 91-97 when it was first decided to make the changes. More storiea about departing DJs and maybe ending when Evans quit the breakfast show. One final point the type set was difficult to read and it was hard to read more than about 30 pages at a time with the type so small and normally my eyes are fine when reading a book but got quite sore reading this
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Nation's Favourite Breakfast Show? 22 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This book takes you on a trip through the recent life of Radio 1 - a rollercoaster ride whose path seems to be guided primarily by statistics, egos, and politics.
The scene is the last 10 years of Radio 1, and we see the station, with new head Matthew Bannister at its helm, battling to defend its listener figures against rising commercial competition, whilst at the same time trying to preserve its public broadcasting heritage.
The book gives a fascinating insight into this world which lies behind the voices we hear everyday. We read about hirings & firings, personality DJs & anti-personality DJs (yes, they exist), PR successes & media drubbings, and the fall & rise of the station's play-list - enforced with draconian vigour by the end.
If I have one criticism of this book (and I should point out that this does not make it any less enjoyable), it is that reading it, one might believe that Radio 1 IS the Breakfast Show. Even the chapters seem to correlate suspiciously with the high turnover of presenters it has witnessed.
Flagship product maybe, but I personally would have liked to have also read more about the station's increasing credibility in 'specialist' music areas such as dance & MOBO. I felt Tong, Westwood et al were dealt with rather briskly, eventhough to many listeners, they now define the station's ethos more than the likes of Zoe Ball.
However, to those for whom Radio 1 crafted the sound of their youth, for those who have merely a passing interest in the media circus and its colourful characters, or even for those who just like to see Chris Evans getting bad press, this book is well worth a tenner.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Larding it Up! 24 Dec 1999
By A Customer
A simply wonderful account of how minor celebrities become corrupted by the thrill of being in your homes. Even the most minor DJ comes across as being a couple of records short of a collection.
The continual abuse of Bates and DLT does become a bit tedious but there is normally another hysterical story about their ego's just around the corner.
It's even got a soppy bit, as Mark and Lard recount how they were shafted over the Breakfast show, however one has to congratulate all the people involved for being willing to show their foibles and DEEP flaws for everyone to look at.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars You ain't seen nothing yet
For anyone who remembers Radio One during the 80s and always had a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the station's big names were obnoxious egomaniacs, this book will absolutely... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Joanne Sheppard
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if you are a radio fan
Gives quite an interesting insight into the behind the scenes wranglings at the BBC. Having worked there for years, I can empathise with a lot of the goings on. Read more
Published 11 months ago by M. D. Souter
3.0 out of 5 stars Nearly all you need know of the development of Radio 1
While there can be no denying that this is a comprehensive account of behind the scenes shennanigans at R1,
it is ultimately tedious because one is not over familiar with, or... Read more
Published 13 months ago by The Nawab of Pitullie
4.0 out of 5 stars Great ? Not arf, mate !
Tantrums! Tears! The story of gargantuan egos being exploded and crashing in flames! How new controller Matthew Bannister culled the Big Beasts of Radio 1 and set the station on... Read more
Published on 6 July 2011 by Red not Dead
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Sound in Britain Poptasmagorical 1FM
A highly entertaining minute by minute account of one of the most turbulent periods of our No.1 stations history for any young folk out there who listens to Radio 1 and didn't know... Read more
Published on 9 Oct 2010 by M. L. Richings
5.0 out of 5 stars Be a fly on the wall as the station gets dragged into the 90s
I wanted an insight into how a top radio station runs but I wasn't expecting it to be so entertaining.

The book is a series of quotes from the people involved. Read more
Published on 14 Oct 2009 by C. J. mockridge
4.0 out of 5 stars Great mate...
very good glimpse inside the broadcasting industry. If you've ever wondered how things operate at BBC radio this makes a fascinating read, and if you've ever worked in broadcasting... Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2004 by A. Charles
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for all showbiz or media followers.
Garfield explains brilliantly his year at Radio One and does not asume the reader knows all the faces. Great descriptions of how the BBC works and what the stars are like. Read more
Published on 29 July 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting insight into the decline and fall of radio 1
Simon Garfield perfectly captures the ego's and personality clashes of those who have worked at Radio 1 in the last ten. Read more
Published on 8 Sep 1999
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