Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I received this email today:


I am an Al Bowlly fan who is trying to raise awareness about the recent loss of the *only* half hour on BBC national radio to feature 1930s dance bands - namely the first half of Malcolm Laycock's show on Radio 2. The executive producer, Bob McDowall, has effectively ensured this music will not get played any more.

Alan Dell played dance band music on his BBC Radio show from 1969 to 1995, and until 2008 Malcolm Laycock played it. Now this music, which has lasted this long because it is worth listening to, has been abruptly deleted from the playlist.

For more detail, the posts on this Forum, run by John Wright, tell you what's happened;

alternative shortened address:

Please could you pass the word on to anyone you know, especially in the UK, who might be willing to add their voice to the protests about this?

Best wishes
A BBC Radio 2 Listener

I heard about this issue a few days ago, and have posted on the topic on the Dismuke Message Board. Apparently. some beleaguered BBC flak responded to one of the board members with some drivel about how the 1920s and 1930s were somehow over-represented:

Musically, what is a very specific style from a short period (dance bands of the 20's and 30's) was taking up half of the programme. In effect, this meant that the past 70 years of the genre was restricted to the second half.

Of course it's a "specific style"--which is why it should be granted its own block of airtime! My rant on the topic:

I took Malcolm Laycock's link off my RADIOLA! site. I used to stream and listen to his show occasionally, but usually only the first half. Big band stuff from the mid-40s onward gives me a headache.

And it's not that it's drivel. It's real music, with sound musicianship and good musical values. It just lacks the joy and lightness I love in the pre-1940 sound. It's too brassy and too slick--and the harmonies are monotonous. Enduring big band music of the late 1940s and beyond is like being held prisoner in Las Vegas.

There were good, knowledgeable jazz hosts in my area who played Stan Kenton, Basie, Boyd Raeburn, and Sauter-Finnegan endlessly--and ignored the 1930s entirely. I built my love of the music on those stray bits of pure (pre 1940) joy that some disc jockeys would permit. And the reason I do my show is that I wanted a program on the air that someone like me would listen to.

The hot dance and jazz band music of the 1920s and the light, sweet swing of the 1930s have nothing whatsoever to do with the so-called big band sound of later vintage (except using some of the same instruments). The BBC vandals have lumped them together and crushed the joy. For true parity, these styles need to be kept distinct.

This is a worldwide issue--not just limited to the UK--thanks to internet streaming. It is worth raising a fuss and demanding that BBC Radio 2 dedicate at least a half hour a week to 1920s and 1930s music. The love for this specific style of music is why programs like RADIOLA!, The Big Broadcast, Forward Into the Past, Al Barnes' Vintage Jazz, The Original Bandbox, Radio Dismuke, etc., exist and continue to find a loyal listenership.


Nick Dragos said...

Why am I not surprised a bit here?

When I hosted a Classic Jazz radio show {1979-2003} that featured loads of 1920's-1930's recordings, I was continually told that - and I quote a station manager here - "all the people who listened to that music are dead."


Let us ignore the fact that the other station run by that station manager featured 24/7 classical music – talk about dead composers – and was, and continues to be, very successful.

My Sunday evening program aired from 9 PM - Midnight....too late for many seniors to stay tuned.....and had "loyalty numbers" {trade-speak for "repeat listeners"} similar to NPR shows like "Fresh Air". Being a Sunday night show, the overall numbers were not spectacular, but the audience share was high.

Fans of this music will tune in regularly, if they can find it.

There is another factor at play here, Andy...quality.

The percentages of popular music of any era are really about the same: about 80-90% of it is crud, the remainder is real music. Certainly, the fabulous Dance Band music has thousands of bad recordings…but thousands of wonderful recordings, too….and these deserve airing.

Even in this era of planned obsolescence and lowest production cost per unit as ideals, many people are pleasantly surprised when confronted with products with actual quality. You have to look & listen very hard for them in both commercial & non-commercial/public radio these days.

Considering how many stations both in The United Kingdom and particularly here in The USA play virtually identical playlists to try to attract a target demographic {usually, if you’re older than 35, you aren’t targeted by anything other than news/talk and classical formats}, you might be forgiven for thinking that one signal – or in the case of our British Friend, one half hour of one program on one signal – might actually attempt to play something different.

The rich musical tapestry of the Great Dance Band Era, along with that of Classic Jazz, Big Band Swing, and so many others, needs and is entitled to airing on the public airwaves….not just to give musical education to listeners, not solely because of the remarkable musicianship & compositional/arranging talent displayed, not even because it might encourage real dancing again….but because these artforms of musical expression deserve airing for their quality.

Andy said...


Wow. You said it. Perfectly.