Spring 1983. Idling through town on a Saturday morning with a couple of friends we are strangely drawn to the BBC Radio One roadshow which was broadcasting live from the Pier Head as part of a week long ‘Liverpool residence’ (John Peel did a show from The Royal Court, Simon Bates from Penny Lane etc). Whilst standing at the back and gently mocking the absurdity of it all I was tapped on the shoulder by a production person and asked if I would like to join DJ Mike Smith on stage to help review the weeks new releases. How could I refuse?
Myself and another volunteer were taken through the backstage area, seated out in front of the DJ console and given headphones to put on. After a while Mike Smith made his introductions and asked us what music we liked. Liverpool bands were discussed and I was roundly booed by the audience when I remarked that I ‘Only liked the ones my mates are in’ (Which, of course, wasn’t strictly true).
We discussed 3 new releases of which I can only remember 2. The first was an awful Tenpole Tudor song which I slagged off. The second record was David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ which I said I liked because ‘It has the fellers fom Chic on it’. Smith saw this as a comedy opportunity and tried to label me as a bit of a know-all. He asked me if I ‘Would like to take over the show?’.
I had my camera with me and saw a great chance to take some interesting pictures from the vantage point of the stage. I duly snapped away thinking I’d got some decent shots. Sadly I messed up as a few days later, when I developed the roll, the negative came out muddy. This image was by far the best of a dull bunch and I had to work hard to get a half-decent print from it. The picture is a technical mess, the exposure seems completely wrong and there are ‘tide marks’ all over the place, but I think it has some interesting compositional features.
The Radio 1 ‘Goodiemobile’ is sitting incongruously in front of the lovely Port of Liverpool building (At the time still the HQ of the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company) and the St.Johns beacon (yet to become Radio City Tower) can be seen peeping over the horizon. The ubiquitous construction cranes seemed to be ever-present in Liverpool, even now. In 1983 Mann Island (The exact location of this picture) and The Pier Head had a grubby, faded, unloved persona. These days the area is beautifully landscaped, the buildings have all been scrubbed clean and it’s home to the ultra modern Museum of Liverpool which opened in July 2011.
Those safety barriers look frighteningly ineffective. I remember the loud screaming and youthful exuberance of the crowd was causing some consternation for the organisers. It was unusual for Radio One to visit Liverpool. Everyone certainly seems to be extremely excited in this picture.
I’m amused by the fact that the 1983 audience are fairly casual and un-groomed, at least by todays standards. Most of them seem to be hysterical teenage girls. Note the one lad giving a peace sign to the camera and the bunch of mop-tops who look like they’re sitting on the boat over to the right.
Despite his sad trainers, I really like Mike Smiths expression and the way his awful Radio 1 ski jacket makes him stand out against the audience here. The young girl wrestling him for the microphone was shouting something loud and funny which made Smith turn round to laugh at his producer at the precise moment I clicked the shutter.
Some weeks later I was verbally abused on the bus by some local scallywags who had witnessed and been unimpressed by my one and only appearance on national radio.