BBC 6Music – Why Listen to Anything Else?

When I’m not on my bike or asleep or hanging out the washing, it’s pretty certain I’ll be listening to 6Music.  Unless it’s summer, when I could be tuning in to Test Match Special (TMS) or ITV4’s coverage of the Tour de France. (Today is a rest day across the Channel, so 6Music it is.)

I have a DAB radio in the kitchen, one in the living room and one in the bedroom, and I also have a rather nifty piece of kit which allows me to tune in while driving.  No more Ken Bruce or Steve Wright for me, thanks very much.  I know BBC 6Music is billed as a sister station to Radio 2, but it is simply the only music station I can listen to all day, every day, without becoming irritated.  It focuses on the music, not the presenters, although there was a slight glitch a few years back when they employed a clown (somebody Lamb) for a while.  Thankfully, his contract was not renewed and order returned to the digital airwaves.

I missed the first couple of months after the station went live in 2002, but I have rarely missed a day since then.  It’s been both a source of the best new and old music – what I would call ‘proper’ music – and the perfect antidote for the dreadful offerings of all those other stations whose staple is the kind of music which “says nothing to me about my life”.  On 6Music I can hear anything from a twenty minute Genesis track to a slice of Public Enemy via a classic Peel session track or a new release by the likes of Laura Marling or Public Service Broadcasting.  Presenters include current and former musicians (Riley, Robinson, Morgan, Laverne, Matthews, Cocker, et al) alongside seasoned broadcasting professionals (Coe, Maconie, Radcliffe, Lamacq, Collins, among others), but what binds them together is their obvious passion for the music.  There’s also some cutting edge comedy, inasmuch as radio can broadcast the same, in the shape of Jon Holmes and (periodically) Adam and Joe, while the station has also been home to the Russells (Brand and Howard), Jon Richardson, Stephen Merchant, Peter Serafinowicz and others.

I’ve had countless emails read out across the full range of shows and have even chatted with presenters on air on five separate occasions, and while I’m not usually one to self-aggrandize, it does illustrate that the shows are accessible and indicates that the listeners have some level of ownership.  At least, that’s how I feel.  Indeed, a couple of years ago, there was a well-publicised threat of closure hanging over the station, but the suits were persuaded to change their minds, largely as a result of a huge outpouring of love for 6 from the loyal band of listeners.  It also became evident that many of the world’s best musicians supported the campaign to save the station, thus reinforcing its credibility while not simply depending on some sort of vacuous celebrity endorsement to appease the decision makers.

Having loved the station for all these years, I really cannot contemplate life without it.  What I cannot understand is how the wider public at large are still being duped by the manufactured twaddle that is forced upon them by the likes of Cowell through so many unimaginative, formulaic shows on the television.  I’m sure I’m a dreadful music snob, but I really feel for the masses who don’t get to hear the likes of Field Music and Plank ! (to name but two of my favourites) simply because local commercial stations (not to mention other BBC stations) are feeding them a diet of mediocrity; so-called stars having their 15 minutes of fame, while creaming off more millions for men in trousers with high waistbands.  I’d heartily recommend that everyone open their minds and their ears and tune in to sample a little something by Billy Childish or The Fall or Stereolab or Everything Everything or The Smiths or Richard Hawley.  The list goes on.  There’s loads of stuff to try, the vast majority of which you just will not hear anywhere else.

Rather like my passion for pedalling, it’s still something of a fringe interest.  Listener numbers are increasing (as are cyclists), but there’s a long way to go before the ‘mainstream’ label may be applied.  In a way, I’d like both to remain fringe and exclusive, but I can see that a world with many more people sharing my love of proper music and cycling has to be something to be encouraged.

Help me out: try giving at least a week of your life to 6Music and at least a lifetime to giving me some space on the road.  Thanks.

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