Thursday, November 10, 2011

1984: Find a better prize

Ah, autumn '84, and the springing out of bed song for the entire season at our halls of residence was Together In Electric Dreams.

Strangely moving even today, it was the soundtrack to mornings back then as it rocketed up the charts, blaring out of my double tape deck/radio thing at top volume for the whole landing to hear as we all went about our morning ablutions, the view from the windows misty, semi-dark and the lawns covered in a blanket of red, gold and green leaves.

The song was never off the radio and though the theme to a film it, rather than this film which no one has seen, has stood the test of time. But which radio was it never off?, I hear you ask. Well, at this time, where was everyone getting their radio from? Why, Laser 558 of course. It didn't matter that it was longwave - Radio 1 was on AM anway - but it did matter that it was all the hits, all the time, it was a pirate station yapping at the heels of the British radio establishment like an annoying terrier and was a pied piper to the youth mainly because of one thing: no DJ banter.

How suddenly I'd tired of DJ banter by this time. Only about six months earlier me and a group of friends had practically stalked Mike Read. We knew, though I don't know how we knew, that he lived in a lovely Victorian Gothic house just yards down the hill from my boarding school in the heart of the Surrey downs. So we'd often talk a walk down there to see if we could spot him. And we sometimes did: getting in or out of his car, opening the front door in his tennis whites, etc., but we'd never actually you know, gone up and spoken to him.

One day though, me, my mate Jim and two girls took a walk down there with the soul intention of ringing the doorbell. There were no gates or any security to negotiate, you could just walk right up to the house. So we let the girls do it. The door opened and in they went. They were gone for quite some time, and the next day we had a request on the breakfast show, in which Mike explained that these two girls appeared on his doorstep to ask for a request. Then he played Nik Kershaw's Dancing Girls. It was about a quarter to nine, and I had to leave my tape deck running to catch it. I've still got it somewhere.

It makes me think though; which celebrity in their right mind would let two teenage girls into their house today? Oh, the innocent Eighties, it didn't even cross our minds! It cleary didn't cross Mike's either. He was charm itself apprently, and they reported that his house was full of records. I had a pang of envy that I never got to see it.

But how thrilling it was to hear one's name read out by Britain's number one breakfast show host, and how fickle the audience can be that by the end of the year they've tuned you out for a fuzzy no-talk all-music station. But how soon they were back when it was wall-to-wall Jim Diamond and Carless Whisper ever three songs. Novelties always wear off. You always go back to what you know.

I'm still not a major fan of DJ banter - I'd rather hear music. However, I am a fan of DJs who know music. So it all depends doesn't it?


  1. What a fantastic story. And so gratifying that Mike Read behaved himself. It was lucky you all chose to stalk him and not, say, Jimmy Saville.

    I still find 'Electric Dreams' a strangely poignant song. It's that innocent nursery-rhyme chorus. Gets me every time.

  2. Love this song, and the film too. Licking the light pen, "Good morning, Moles", the Boy George love song...