Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tony Blackburn: Your Boss DJ? Er, no.

At first view the video below from Top of the Pops in 1971 would seem to suggest that Tony Blackburn was a big fan of reggae and chuffed to bits to see Dave & Ansel Collins at number 1. However all might not be quite as it seems. Before watching the vid have a read of this quote from Lloyd Bradley's brilliant Bass Culture: "Once reggae records were in the charts and presenters had no choice but to play them it was usually an excuse to abuse them. Tony Blackburn - who years later admitted the error of his ways, but never explained why he did it - was the worst offender: he'd lose no opportunity to denounce reggae as not being real music; he'd take records off half-way through because, as he'd theatrically explain, he'd had enough of them; or, if it was a cover, he'd play the pop cut immediately afterwrds and glowingly hold it up against the reggae version." Lloyd Bradley - Bass Culture, Viking p256-257

Leaving aside the possibility that our Tony might have been concerned that the girl stood to his right was wearing a jump suit made from her Gran's curtains, isn't there a hint of gritted teeth when Tony says 'particularly when it's as good as this'? 
video

It must have been awful for poor old Tony, having to go on 'the Pops' and pretend to like stuff he really hated. Blackburn admitted that there 'might have' been an anti-reggae bias at the BBC in interviews for the BBC's History of Jamaican Music film. 'Might have'? Not perhaps being just a tad disingenuous there are you Tony? Thankfully the sorely missed John Peel was a little more candid:
video

The quote from Bass Culture above continues: "In 1970, Nicky Thomas even wrote and recorded a song called 'BBC', which took as its subject matter the Corporation's shameful treatment of reggae both on and off the brainwaves. And no, it didn't get playlisted." No surprise there then! Thank God there was also John Peel at the BBC playing stuff the Blackburns of this world wouldn't touch, even if he was tucked away at 10pm. Peel also did TOTP but you always got the feeling he did it because he was contractually obliged to and viewed the whole thing with a certain disdain. Peel threatened to come and break wind in your kitchen once on TOTP - the BBC received lots of complaints. He also disliked Chris Moyles. Wish he was still with us. Wish they'd left Tony in the jungle too.

video

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