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Dave Woodhall comes to terms with the death of a broadcasting great. Not 'arf

Alan Freeman's death took me back to a different age. My first memories of him were doing Pick of the Pops - Sunday afternoon, stuck in a traffic jam on the way back from a day out (it was usually Worcester, my granddad always wanted us to go to Worcester. I think he'd got a woman there; whenever I'm in Worcester I'm always wary of bumping into a short, balding, bad-tempered, middle-aged man with a strangely-recognisable face. Sorry, I'm digressing again).

I mainly remember Alan, though, for his Saturday Rock Show. This ran from 1973-78 and from what I can recall it was totally, utterly, devoid of even the most cursory glance at was happening in the great world outside. Punk and new wave never stood a chance with Alan Freeman - he knew what his listeners wanted and it came complete with ten minute guitar solos and Roger Dean covers. I used to love the requests, when students around the nation would write in requesting morrrre of one band, morrrre of another and morrrre Genesis.

The first two would be some Germanic obscurity, or sixties West Coast acid casualty; the third was invariably Genesis, or occasionally Supertramp. At the end of every year the ‘serious' presenters on Radio One would be asked their predictions for the forthcoming twelve months. In 1976 and '77, Fluff confidently predicted that punk would fade and die. As far as he was concerned, the barbarians would be repelled from the gates just as soon as Pink Floyd got their act together and started recording again. With his trusty comrade Whispering Bob at his side, Fluff would fight the good fight to remove the safety pins and spiky hair from the nation's airwaves. For rebellious youth, they were the enemy, and their influence had to be destroyed.

But all piss-taking put aside, Alan Freeman was one of that breed of presenter who enjoyed the music he played. There was no great ego involved, he didn't use his show as a vehicle to promote himself as some all-purpose supermarket opener and TV commercial voiceover expert. He played the music he loved, and he knew his audiences loved it as well.

Another thing about Fluff was that he worked in an era when music was easily categorised. He did the stuff with lyrics about goblins and mythology, Tommy Vance was loud and hairy while John Peel played the music your big brother hated. You knew where you were with all of them. In the same way, you had punks, rockers, mods and skins. Easily-identifiable tribes who gathered in town every Saturday afternoon to batter each other.

Now, things are one big homogenised mass. Classic rock stations play Motorhead, the Jam, Led Zeppelin, Slade, Yes and the Police in sequence. Kerrang, the former sneer-at-everything-else bible of heavy metal, features ska and punk. The Clash and the Sex Pistols are regarded as seminal influences by bands who would have been their mortal enemies thirty years ago.

I'm sure it's great that music fans have had their eyes opened and aren't prejudiced any longer about what's bad and what's listenable. But I still long for the days when ‘we' were on the side of right and ‘they' wouldn't let us anywhere near.

I don't know who the enemy is any more.


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