The Way We Were
h dear god. Right, so now the first half-hour of the chart is...sorrry, what in the fuck is this...Two men are bleating at each other about last night's Eurovision selection programme, and specifically Jordan's participation in it. One of them, who sounds like he's trying to encourage you to take A-Level Geography, reckons she would have been representing "England" if she had won. They make the staggeringly insightful points that she has fake breasts and dyed hair. They also talk about Javine's breasts. Cookie, oh Jesus... There is now some impossibly stilted banter. They do a phone interview with someone off Coronation Street. Why...What for...What the fuck is this shit?
Oh, hello by the way. This week, JK & Joel ("two of the hottest properties in broadcasting today" says Radio 1) start their new revamped chart show. The first half-hour, which was previously where they'd put the album chart, is now given over to 'celebrity gossip' and 'banter'. Now, it's been a while since I worked in an office, but I'm pretty damned certain I wasn't looking for that experience to be replicated in my radio listening. JK & Joel talk in an unbearably half-witted manner about...I don't care. There is no anchor. There is no point to any of this. Here's a backstage interview with Natasha Bedingfield, which is what they are supposed to be talking about, 'gigs'. They play last week's number one, the new Stereophonics single, Green Day's new single, 'These Words'...They do a film review where they describe Hitch as "the big one, the one you've been waiting for." And that is their film review. They do a 'DVD review' of Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason where they describe it as "Basically, it's for birds, it's a chick-flick." They reckon that it will have been bought by "thousands of chicks" but that they themselves "would rather watch the football" BECAUSE THEY ARE BLOKES DO YOU FUCKING SEE?
The amount of times we are reminded that JK & Joel are STRAIGHT BLOKES is quite terrifying. There is banter. "Rachel Stevens says she fancies Kenzie from Blazin' Squad, which is good for me because I reckon I look like him!" "I reckon you look like his DAD!" "HAHAHAHAHA!!!"
Seriously, where in the hell did they dredge these morons up from?
They discuss games. One of them (HOW DO YOU TELL THE FUCKING DIFFERENCE?) likes playing Tiger Woods, and the other one has found a He-Man game which someone informs him "has a cheat to turn He-Man into She-Ra!" "HAHAHAHAHA!!!"
And half an hour later here's:
Album chart notes: Given that this isn't as important as it used to be, JK & Joel now get to talk through most of the stuff without bothering with that whole 'playing clips' thing. Hence, most of the chart is dealt with as if it isn't there, except the bits that they like, such as The Killers, who one of them proclaims "WILL BE REMEMBERED AS ONE OF THE BEST ROCK BANDS OF THE PAST 20 YEARS," or the bits they can take the piss out of. For the second week running Toony Christie is only referred to in order that they can play Peter Kay clips. They talk to J-Lo on the phone ahead of her album entering at number 8. I nearly fall asleep. G4, the 'opera boyband' from The X-Factor are the new number one. Louis Walsh, their manager, is interviewed. He's 'a legend', apparently.
Following the album chart we get a new feature: 'The Retro'. A ten-minute megamix of hits and news from a year in the past that's probably got Jive Bunny digging graves specifically so they can turn in them. There is then a phone-in quiz where two people guess what the year is and they then have to answer "THE EASIEST QUESTIONS IN THE WORLD" but their answers cannot start with a certain letter. Essentially, it's the 'Yes/No Game' off 'Take Your Pick'. With Des O'Connor.
Now, when I heard JK & Joel asking "Name something you can eat fish with" then collapsing in hysterics when she answered "salad", I couldn't imagine how this programme could get any worse. And then I found out.
New Entries Outside The Top 20: Nathan #37 ('New Craig David', take 24); and Kano #22, 'Typical Me' (grime MC sounds like he's going to kill you in a really sly and unpleasant manner. I'm in the mood for this). That's not the whole story, though.
THE UK TOP 20: IT'S OVER.
If you're into counting, then it would have been at around 5:20 p.m. on the 6th March 2005 that this column died.
Rammstein's 'Keine Lust' had just entered the chart at #35. Rather than play the record, either JK or Joel instead elected to play a snatch of the song over which they yelled in an hilarious 'German accent', before moving swiftly on. And that was that.
There were new entries for Fatboy Slim ('The Joker', #32), Bjork ('Triumph Of A Heart', #31), Shania Twain ('Don't', #30), and LCD Soundsystem ('Daft Punk Is Playing At My House', #29). None of them were played either. Instead, we got brief snatches which JK & Joel talked all over in a largely dismissive manner, just in case you'd got tempted down the perilous path of listening for yourself and then forming your own opinion.
And then they played 'Galvanize' in full.
REM had a new entry ('Electron Blue') at #26, which found itself being ignored to tell you about their live dates instead.
And then they played Uniting Nations in full.
Two non-top 20 new entries were exempted from this treatment, those being Nathan and Kano. Coincidentally, these two were the only ones to feature on the Radio 1 playlist.
They still played the top 20 in full, and I leapt about to 'Hounds Of Love' (#19) once again, to see if the feeling would come back. It didn't. It got followed by Moby's new single, 'Lift Me Up', at #18. JK & Joel describe him as 'a legend'. It felt like an anthem as my anger swelled, the repetitive synths and chorus going over and over but nowhere in particular at all, and that was just fine. Styles & Breeze were new at #16 ('Heartbeatz'), and it suddenly seemed as though JK & Joel's tongues had been held. They didn't have time to be hilarious about these.
The top ten followed a second interview with J.Lo, having already interviewed her in the album chart, because they're so important they get to interview her twice in the space of two hours.
'Honest Mistake' by The Bravery entered at #7. This was preceded by a brief interview with them in a pub. BECAUSE THEY ARE BLOKES. I was gonna point out all the times that 50 Cent refers to his penis in his new single, but the amount of references to JK & Joel being STRAIGHT BLOKES in this programme has pretty much crushed that. Britney ('Do Somethin'') was #6. I was too comatose to care.
Cabin Crew's 'Star To Fall' was yr new #4. This is one of two versions of the same song, the other of which is out next week. JK or Joel declares that he prefers the other version. The other version being the one on the Radio 1 playlist. This week's instalment of 'Elvis at #3' is 'Rock A Hula Baby'. JK & Joel don't want all these OLD records hanging around when they could be listening to exciting stuff like Akon or The Bravery.
I've had it with this. It's mainly that moment when I realised they weren't playing Rammstein, that a record that had legitimately made it into the top 40 on sales would not be played on the top 40 show. Now, I know that it has been the case that some singles outside the top 20 get skipped over for a good couple of years now, but that was in order to make room for the album chart rundown, and they would guarantee to play all the week's new entries in any case, so any record that entered the top 40 would be guaranteed at least one full play during its time on the chart. Now, unless it's on the Radio 1 playlist and legitimizes Radio 1's status as The Home Of New Music, that's not happening. The Top 40 has become a tool for justifying the Radio 1 playlist. The Top 20 is played in full seemingly only as a contractual obligation. If they could bump it in favour of a full three hours of JK & Joel, then you know that they would.
Dom tells me to enter the official chatroom. There is a whole swell of people angered by how the new entries are getting the shaft in favour of JK & Joel's hilarious banter. Someone, however, decides that it's not JK & Joel's fault, that Radio 1 is telling them to do this.
But my oh my are JK & Joel ever willing. They are utter company men, treating whatever's not made the Radio 1 playlist as "Yer name's not down, yer not coming in," but those tracks that are on the playlist are "great," "fantastic," "legend," "such a great band," "outstanding," "love that album"? Their opening half an hour is hands down the worst piece of radio I have ever heard, pointless to the extent that even student radio would have told them to fuck off. Supposedly an 'entertainment' section, what it entailed was them being snide about Jordan and Javine, then talking to an actress from Coronation Street on the phone about nothing for three minutes, then reading out what was essentially an advert for the new Will Smith film in the "Coming Soon At Warner Village Cinemas" style. In between there were four songs, two of which (Nelly & The Stereophonics) would be played later in the show in any case. They had a backstage interview with Natasha Bedingfield before she did a gig at Liverpool, thus demonstrating Radio 1's commitment to live music (sample question: "Which one would you marry, which one would you snog, and which one would you push off a cliff out of me (JK or Joel), him (JK or Joel) and Chris Moyles".
JK & Joel are the new Poochie, new characters hitched to a popular vehicle and not left out of your face for more than five minutes, so assured that the audience will love them and so sculpted to the expectations of what the audience will love (BLOKES, FOOTBALL, BANTER) that there's absolutely nothing else about them at all. They're dead behind the eyes, and even the eyes look fucking fetid.
The Top 40 is now solely there to pimp Radio 1 and JK & Joel you could say the same about Wes, but at least with him his name was tied to the chart, though he seemed to see it as some kind of stepping stone. With JK & Joel, you know they're seeing it as a stepping stone the chart is pushed to the end, almost like an ancillary feature that's getting in the way of their particularly lame light-entertainment juggernaut.
What's saddest of all, though, is that far from making this chart more representative, it's become even less relevant. The ostracising of non-Radio 1 approved stuff as being 'crap' or 'weird' or whatever makes my blood fucking boil. That was the thing I loved most about listening to the chart, the surprises. The way in which you could be introduced to stuff you'd usually run a mile from, the way in which your preconceptions of what was good and what was bad would be challenged very often, about how there was a space where records got played in full and didn't have to be shoulder-charged out of the way for 'features' or 'special guests' or 'proper A-List celebrities', where the playlist was not so subject to committee decisions or enhancing the station as a brand or fitting in with the overall station sound, where you could listen to pop music without having charm-free twatolescents banging on about 'celebrity gossip' or 'matey banter' all over the top. My problem with daytime radio isn't the music so much as the presentation, the constant barrage of inane chatter driving me to migraine when all I wanted was to hear The Futureheads just once...and Radio 1's decided that none of that matters. JK & Joel have decided that none of that matters. Pre-conceptions now exist solely to be reinforced, the status quo is there to remain resolutely unchallenged. There is no need to look closer, to be different, to stand out in any way. The removal of the obligation to play new entries means those little 'anomalies', those 'freaks' can be safely removed before anyone has to waste their time listening to non-playlist material. We have seen the facts and we're voting on your behalf. Hasn't Jamelia got lovely legs, eh fellers?!?!
And that's why this rundown, this column, ends today. There is no point writing about a fucking Radio 1 puff piece. I refuse to confer legitimacy on this shower of shit. Yes, Wes sucked. Wes sucked hard. This, however, has taken all the things that sucked about Wes and tried to pass them off as virtues, to the extent where the top 40 programme has effectively ceased to exist as an expression of any form of public opinion, as an open forum for the British public to show what they want to listen to. To offer a chart show that refuses to play a new entry on the grounds that it does not fit with your playlist policy and to refuse to play it in order to make room for a pair of Styrofoam-based lifeforms to blather about how Bridget Jones is popular with 'chicks' is fucking disgusting, and I'm having no part of it.
This isn't a capitulation, though. If restored to the prior format, where new entries are played in full in at least the week in which they enter the chart with none of this 'entertainment package' bullshit, and they get shot of JK & Joel, and they are content to play records without feeling the need to talk about how rubbish they think they are, and they don't bring back Wes, and in short it's just The UK Top 40 (the albums chart can stay, though), then I'll return. Till then I'm gonna try to do everything I can to get this horror of a situation sorted. I dunno how, but the anger, the pain I felt this afternoon as I saw the past two years' worth of Sunday afternoons seem to vanish into the distance, as everything I loathe and despise about modern youth programming hurtled towards me all at once the smugness, the constant need to justify yourself by slagging off others, the conformity, the mocking of that which is different, uncool, foreign, which you've not heard of, which doesn't appear on your little fucking checklist all that, all those feelings must not die, must not go to waste.
So, two years down the line, we reach our final destination:
1) STEREOPHONICS Dakota (NEW ENTRY)
I don't suppose you could have made it up, no. You'd never have guessed that I'd like it, though. The guitars twang, the echoes of them stretch out for miles across the keys, and the boy Jones sounds almost like he's not a cunt. He dreams of the girl that's fucked him up somehow. "You made me feel like the one, you made me feel like the one." There's a bit at the end where he yells "Well take a look at me nowwww, well take a look at me nowwww, well take a look at me nowwww?" that' s pretty poor, but that riff and the keyboards are really kinda heartbreaking. His voice is still so annoying, but the little bastard almost gets away with it.
They interview him afterwards, and JK or Joel says "There's people out there who say the charts don't matter any more..."
My thoughts exactly.
Southampton beat Spurs 1-0 yesterday. Just thought you'd like to know.
(This column is dedicated to the memory of former Top 40 host Tommy Vance, who died yesterday aged 63 after suffering a stroke. No mention of this was made during the programme or anywhere on the Radio 1 website as of 21:55 Sunday March 6th 2005.)