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You can be sure it ain’t no country show

"I don't know what's going on - it's gone mad. Everybody's gone mad"Anything to do with Chris Evans and radio always sends TV Cream back to one of its favourite books ever written: The Nation’s Favourite by Simon Garfield*.

As such the events of the last week haven’t so much given rise to thoughts of disenfranchised Togs and things tasting like chicken, but rather to Ginger Loans, On The Bog and the over-promotion of Skunk Anansie.

For a while the Chris Evans breakfast show felt like it meant an awful lot, and would keep TVC from leaving its house until the handover to Simon Mayo was over, thereby making us perilously late for lectures and/or work.

This was during the Good Period: spring ’95 to spring ’96. Not much of this period gets mentioned in Garfield’s book, although the list of grandiose schemes dreamed up (and then ditched) to mark Evans’s 30th birthday on 1st April 1996 is a good reminder of how oligarchal he was starting to become.

Then came that all the bollocks that was the roadshow and the trip to Scotland and being declared unfit to work and so on. This is where the book comes into its own, by virtue of having all the key players lined up and ready on cue with their side of the story. Trevor Dann being wrongfooted by Matthew Bannister the morning of Evans’s Evening Standard rant is a particularly fine moment.

TV Cream has a tape – one of many it made of stuff on Radio 1 in the 1990s – of the last breakfast show Evans did before Christmas 1996. It doesn’t make for edifying listening.

No records are played between 8 and 8.30am; instead the man and his gang spend the whole time exchanging presents, precious few of which are actually explained to the listener and all of which seem to revolve around an in-joke to which the listener is not party. Evans says at one point that he will exhibit all the presents on “the show tonight” – a reference to TFI Friday – but if memory serves he didn’t.

The atmosphere is smug, exclusive and unpleasant. The whole thing ends by Evans speculating that “we might never see each other again – we could all be killed in a car crash tomorrow”.

On another tape, hailing from around the same time, there’s a bit where Evans is cross-examining Tina Ritchie about a weekend away with Nicky Campbell and inquiring whether she’ll be “rushing to the chemist” on Monday morning. This is wrong in so many ways.

We’re thinking about burying these two tapes in some sort of time capsule, to be opened…well, never.

But back to Garfield’s book. Was it ever made certain who ‘Tom Clay’ is? The “swingjock” of whom the management says “we’ve persevered with him and it’s hopeless…I tuned in last week and it’s just ‘click’ – straight off with the radio.” Clive Warren has to be in the frame here. How he survived so long at that station is beyond us.

Plus there’s ‘Clare Jones’, who is apparently about to be hired, and has “a lot of potential”.

*The book also has a wonderful if infuriating habit of sparking off endless related memories. They should never have moved Lynn Parsons, the Goddess of Nighttime Radio, from off midnights. There was a brilliant bit on one of the Graveyard Shifts that involved Lard “drilling” through the studio floor in readiness for a closer look at Parsons, a bit of business that seemed to be on and off for the best part of two hours.

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Drbendy

    September 14, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Is there anywhere i can find out more about the ‘Evening Standard rant”?

  2. Chris Hughes

    September 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Heh, one of my workmates called me ‘Christophe’ the other day, and it instantly took me back to the summer of 1995, when I was in my first job and a colleague called Laura greeted me with ‘Christophe Lamby Pie’ every morning.

    If I was going to nail down what was great about that first year of the show it’s that Chris excelled at little stunts that entertained. Like interviewing Sue Barker on Personality Or Person one Friday and insisting that she winked when she opened Grandstand the next day, so that you’d have to watch, and in turn be reminded of Chris.

    That, and travel news delivered over the theme from The Champions.

  3. Andy Elms

    September 14, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Yep, I too will never be able to watch The Champions without thinking of traffic reports.
    Thanks for bringing back memories of Ginger Loans. Used to love that concept.

    Although the 4DJ song was long after the shark had been jumped.

  4. Chris Barratt

    September 14, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Evans’ first year or so on Breakfast was great radio, mostly great music and a breath of fresh air, but he spiralled out of control quickly after the summer of ’96. Fortunately TFI Friday did not jump the shark as quickly – irritating he may have been, but during what was definitely the “Last Great Era” of UK rock & chart music, Ginger had his finger firmly on the pulse. By the end of 97, everything was going tits up anyway, and Mark & Lard were the only thing worth listening to on “The Nations Favourite”
    I would love to get my hands on more of his R1 shows (and indeed more TFI Fridays),,,,, The trouble with hedonism is it cannot last, but at least Evans has returned to being a pretty good broadcaster

  5. Chris Hughes

    September 14, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I remember the big build-up to Dan performing the 4DJ song live on TFI, and then he messed it up.

    I can’t believe we’ve got this far without mentioning The Kids Are All Right But Only If They’re Completely Wrong, Stick Your Tongue In (I can’t even remember what the concept was here – just a sexy record?) and The Closet Classic.

    And of course, the Roadshow from Driffield, which was also brilliant for being the first time that Mark and Lard did the breakfast show, which, IIRC, wasn’t billed in Radio Times, so I didn’t really believe it until it happened, not even when they were zipping themselves into sleeping bags at the end of the previous night’s Graveyard Shift.

  6. Steve Williams

    September 15, 2009 at 8:38 am

    I’ve always pondered about Tom Clay. I always assumed it was Charlie Jordan, as they left the station around the same time (while Clive Warren hung on for ages), and Garfield has either switched the sexes or thought they were talking about a man. Clare Jones is definitely Emma B, most remembered by me for giving breathless updates of a football match on Sky Sports one Saturday afternoon, until someone phoned in and said it was a repeat from the previous season.

    I remember waiting all morning once when Dan, married to Big Breakfast editor Lisa Clark, was going to reveal what the new look to that show was going to entail. I loved that kind of thing.

  7. Chris Barratt

    September 15, 2009 at 9:38 am

    The Great Misconception about Britpop was that after mid-95 all it did was spawn stuff that was either stylised rubbish (Menswear) or limp (Longpigs) – overlooking the fact that Evans (& others) were breaking acts as diverse as The Divine Comedy, Super Furry Animals & Skunk Anansie as well as Blur, Oasis, Pulp, OCS & The Bluetones etc. For a while all that and more (Radiohead, Primal Scream, Black Grape, Supergrass, Charlatans etc etc) existed side by side, along with some great dance music & R’n’B before it jumped the shark. Compare this to the diet of major-label “Landfill Indie” & contrived R’n’B/Pop garbage that makes up the playlist on R1 now!

  8. Andy Elms

    September 15, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Another memory I have is after England were knocked out of Euro ’96. Simon Mayo was stiuck in traffic – literally phoning in the obligatory handover banter – so Evans went on a bit longer after 9am, playing suitably sombre music.

  9. Whinger Productions

    September 15, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I have trouble enjoying Chris Evans on the radio now because I remember what a showbiz monster he turned into on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. Remember when he forced Dan on air into marrying his girlfriend because “it would be good for the show”? Excruciating radio. And the rant about Titch McCooey was a definite low point.

    It started so well, too! Playing Peters and Lee’s Welcome Home to herald the listeners’ return to the station and all that. Sounded so promising.

  10. Ian Jones

    September 15, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    On the very first show I remember Evans booming “we’re going to be playing lots of songs like that!” just after Pulp’s Babies. Wasn’t it always rumoured, though, that he hated Britpop and really preferred stuff like Chris Rea. There was one show in late 1995 when, in an attempt to offset the white indie boy guitar obsession, they only played music by black artists. Except this meant Michelle Gayle.

    Saying that, Stick Your Tongue In had some weird choices in the early days, like ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ by the Velvet Underground – surely the only time that group has ever been played on the breakfast show.

    The Evening Standard rant was the morning after the paper had run a story claiming Trevor Dann had played a massive role in the success of Evans and the breakfast show. Evans and John Revell spent about 10 minutes on air droning on about how this was bollocks, vowing that they “pretty much loathed” Dann, and that the feeling was mutual. Dann was listening and marched over to Matthew Bannister’s office (“he was sitting behind his desk, the only time I’d ever seen him do that”), expecting him to agree that Evans had gone too far – only for Bannister to take Evans’s side and accuse Dann of stirring things up. I think Dann was kicked upstairs soon after that, into the non-job of ‘BBC Head of Music’.

  11. Chris Hughes

    September 15, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I don’t know that he “hated” Britpop, certainly his enthusiasm for Something For The Weekend by The Divine Comedy (didn’t he announce he was bumping another guest from TFI so they could appear?) and A Girl Like You by Edwyn Collins was real enough. And then there was the Boo Radleys jingle.

    Sweetness by Michelle Gayle is a great record!

  12. Chris Barratt

    September 15, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    The “Evans hates Britpop really” myth was apparantly started by Trevor Dann after the incident mentioned above. From what I have seen and heard of Dann, he got as carried away with his own self-importance as Evans ever did which is another reason he fell out with Axeman Bannister. Bannister’s “revolution” was well-meaning (Bates, DLT and a couple of others were well past their sell-by-date as far as R1 was concerned) but ill-thought out (hello Danny Baker) alienating listeners needlessly when the job could have been done gradually with a lot more good will. By ’96 the balance seemed to be right.

    I think it’s obvious Evans loved most of the music he championed at that time as he was far too vocal about it all – and his show was not jut playing Britpop, I remember him waxing lyrical about a lot of other tracks (Fastlove by George Michael, Before by The Pet Shop Boys & I Will Survive by Chantay Savage immediately spring to mind)

  13. Ian Jones

    September 15, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    True enough. And there was Underground by the Ben Folds Five. Although his fondness for Texas could better be described as a fondness for (or infatuation with) Sharleen Spiteri.

    “I’ve just decided what I’m gonna do when we finish this show. I’m gonna be a roadie for Texas.”

  14. Steve Williams

    September 15, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    I also remember quite early on he co-presented the Evening Session with Lammo one night, where he talked about how much he liked The Cardigans and what a brilliant single Carnival was. In the book it does say that John Revell told Bannister in the weeks leading up to the show that “Chris isn’t very into new music, he wants to be banging out oldies by The Police”, but Dann said that within weeks he was going nuts about Britpop.

    That Evening Standard rant was just the worst thing, I don’t know why the hell you’d bother talking about that on the radio. Who gives a toss?

    I also remember him doing the show on January 2nd and saying what else was on Radio One that day, and finding out every other presenter was on holiday, much to his disgust.

  15. Steve Williams

    September 15, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Ooh, also, I was reading some back issues of Select the other day and I found Stuart Maconie’s piece on Evans from mid-1996, and it mentioned another moment I remember, when they were going to be playing the new Tina Turner single exclusively, but Evans decided not to bother in the end because he heard Capital were going to play it about five minutes later and he couldn’t see the point. And he played half an hour of back to back Take That instead.

    And, of course, the day where Chris was told he could go to a private concert by Prince but wouldn’t be able to record it in any way but would be allowed to describe it, and he called him a purple git.

  16. Rob Free

    September 15, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    I don’t think he was that into music. I seem to remember at the time reading an interview in Q or something where he said his favourite gig of all time was by the band Roachford.

  17. Steve Williams

    September 16, 2009 at 8:31 am

    I remember that interview, he also said he enjoyed a Del Amitri concert. But it was Liam Gallagher, wasn’t it, who went up to Andrew Roachford and said, “Cuddly Toy, song of the eighties!”. And he was right.

  18. Chris Hughes

    September 16, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Thinking about this subject a little further this morning, this popped into my head. I had to Google the complete lyrics, but here it is…

    I want to live in a castle
    I want an ocean for a pond
    I want a jumbo jet just to get to work
    Because it always takes me far too long

    I want to skip in the sunshine
    I want to dive into the deep blue sea
    I want to buy an ice cream for the man in the moon
    Because he always shines his light on me

    I want Spielberg to focus my camera
    I want Versace to dress my dog
    I want a current account at the Jodrell Bank
    I want Niagara falls to flush out my bog

    We’re all just a drop in the ocean
    And the world’s just the size of a pea
    And like a meal for one, it’ll soon be gone
    And it’s all just a cliche for me.

  19. Andy Elms

    September 16, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Aha, the Friday song!

    Versace changed to Yves San Laurent after July 15, 1997.

    Other versions are available (of which, only the Scottish one springs to mind)

  20. Chris Barratt

    September 16, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Roachford were probably a great live act (though probably not as good as Ocean Colour Scene have become)… now I would find it suspect if he was ONLY into the broad ‘britpop’ genre so can’t knock him for being eclectic (ish… Cuddly Toy is a great rock record no matter what the decade)

    If Evans were “an artiste”, slipped off the radar comepletely or was a little more “tortured”, no doubt his descent into debauched egomania would be put down to some breakdown or other – which to be fair it probably was (it just lasted a long time) – and looking back on my 1996 copies of Select I’m reminded how they covered and applauded britpop with one hand, and slated it as lazy revisionism with the other…..

  21. gerard wiley

    September 16, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    But how many of us followed him over to Virgin? It was no Radio 1 Breakfast Show…but was OK for a while. I think the middle of 98 was when Evans finally became creatively exhausted (on radio and TV).

    The “shark” moment was the pointless, egocentric simulcast of his radio show on Sky 1.

    Other low points: eventually ditching his old R1 team for a new posse in 2001; endless plugs for Sky on the Virgin show; “Tee Time”; his unsettling constant nudity on latter-era TFI.

    I still can’t listen to him now,

  22. Chris Hughes

    September 16, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    The bizarre (or perhaps not-so-bizarre) thing about the Virgin show was that it ran from Monday to Friday but he wasn’t on it on a Friday. I can’t even remember how that worked, presumably John Revell was the main presenter on Friday.

    In the list of forgotten failures, lest we forget Someone’s Going To Be A Millionaire. And, of course, OFI Sunday.

  23. Ian Jones

    September 16, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Blimey, that Sky simulcast was appalling. Videos whenever a song was played. Occasional cutaways to the camera by the kettle and tea bags. Pompous rants about 60% of everyone in the media doing coke.

    Evans did a Saturday afternoon show on Virgin as well, for a while. Rock and Roll Football, if memory serves. It could basically be summed up as: “Oh, and Manchester United have just scored. Here’s Sleeper!”

    I suppose Evans needs to go in the ‘comebacks of the decade’ list this December, along with Take That, vaudeville talent shows, Dr Who, measles and the House of Windsor.

  24. Andy Elms

    September 17, 2009 at 7:30 am

    When he started at Virgin the Ginger Comedy Team (shudder) didn’t do the Friday show at all, must have been Janey Lee Grace or someone. They started doing five days a few weeks in, just before Ginger bought the station.

    And yes, the Sky simulcast was a Very Bad Idea

  25. David Smith

    September 17, 2009 at 7:30 am

    He used the ATV ident music for the commercial breaks on the Sky simulcast, didn’t he…?

  26. Gavin

    September 17, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    That picture of Evans in the Dumb & Dumber T-Shirt and BAFTA reminds of that scene where he yells:”WHERE’S THE BAFTA? WHERE’S THE BAFTA? WHERE’S THE BAFTA?! with “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash playing in the background.

  27. Simon Tyers

    September 18, 2009 at 1:00 am

    I remember Evans had the world exclusive of Michael and Janet’s Scream but, not liking Jackson, delayed it by half an hour so everyone else could say they’d played it first and he didn’t have to. And he was a Mark & Lard fan – having presumably suggested them for Driffield deps he picked Underground up from them and once said he never wanted to be up against them (he started Virgin breakfast on the day Zoe’n’Kevin began, although he was also mates with Greening so I don’t know how that worked. Actually, now I think about it, Chris did have a pop at him on TFI once in a sketch about her wedding so maybe there was a falling out around his departure)

    It’s forgotten that for the last series of TFI not even he could be arsed, so Geoff Lloyd and Chris Addison came in as writers with guest hosts, starting with the Big Brother contestants and ending with Elton John. All the links from one edition hosted by – ah, 2000 – Huey Morgan and Donna Air are on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Cz19Ewn1e0

  28. David Smith

    September 18, 2009 at 8:25 am

    TFI in its pomp was a fantastic series – “Wiiiiill”, Cedric, Freak or Unique (did the Incredibly Tall Old Lady *ever* get picked?), Ugly Blokes, the extra “late night rude bit”; there were so many great features. I used to have the first episode on tape (featuring Dawn French I think) but I think I’ve long lost it.

    It would be great to see a DVD of the show one day, but there’s probably too many “clearance issues” for anything more than a compilation of over-familiar clips like Shaun Ryder 🙁

    Does anybody remember the episode they did on the night before Princess Diana’s funeral (05.09.97 I guess), which was just archive band performances interspersed with quotes from viewers, cos it would have seemed inappropriate to do a regular show?

  29. Steve Williams

    September 18, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Yes, Kylie was supposed to be the main guest, promoting the Impossible Princess album. TFI was fantastic for the first two years, I remember the first year it was supposed to be a compilation on Good Friday but Chris had so much he wanted to do he decided at the last minute to do a live show instead, from his front room – Gaby Roslin and Bob Mortimer were the guests. I used to like the extra late night rude bit, this was a little bit they did at the start of part three purely for the repeat, which I think started one week as a one-off and they just kept it going. They never mentioned it on the first screening and the only reason I ever saw it was because I had to tape the repeat the first week, and then always taped it just for that. After about six months though, they abandoned it because, as Chris said, “We’ve run out of ideas, so we just thought fuck it!”

    The first ever TFI had a long sketch where Chris took a joke out onto the streets of London to text whether it was funny or not, which was a clear Danny Baker contribution because it was exactly the same style of the sketches he used to do on his own show, like when he and Katie Puckrick went to Michael Winner’s house to celebrate three hundred years of adult magazines. I used to love those sketches, they used to go on for ages, he used to do them on the Comedy Awards as well.

    The absolute highlight of TFI, though, was when they were going to interview Don King live via satellite but he didn’t turn up, so Chris interviewed the rednack stagehand who was sat in King’s chair. “He’s one minute away!”

  30. Ian Jones

    September 18, 2009 at 9:57 am

    I remember the reason for that Good Friday show as being slightly different. I thought the premise was that Chris “couldn’t be bothered” to go into the studio on a bank holiday, so did it from his house instead. He cooked hair cabonara and forced one of his Radio 1 minions – Jamie/Justin – to eat it on camera. Noel Gallagher was the other guest; Gaby was on to promote the wretched Gaby Roslin Show (“I’m going to be interviewing Ike Turner. I’m going to ask him if he ever hit Tina!”)

    That very first TFI also had two students debating the relative merits of eating a carrot versus eating a kebab.

    Watching clips of the series on YouTube leaves me with mixed feelings. Evans was a useless interviewer but managed to get really good guests. The bands were always appallingly miked and mixed for performance, but they were the biggest names around. The people in the bar were and still are dreadful: braying and hooting and strutting about like peacocks. And seeing Evans get progressively more demented and self-obsessed week by week is grisly viewing. Jim Shelley did that brilliant review in Tapehead, noting how Evans had become like a former East European dictator, spending increasing amounts of each show commenting on what the press had said about him that week, while receiving acclaim from his hand-picked audience.

    “Did that joke work Danny? Do you think it worked? Shall we do it again – right now?” *click*

  31. Glenn A

    September 19, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    I can recall one of his late period breakfast shows when he gave a rant about how important he was to Radio 1. This was Evans trouble: he thought he was bigger than the radio station and started to destroy the show he had done so well to rescue from oblivion. At work we all asked for the radio to be switched to a local station as we couldn’t be bothered with Evans rantings and the lack of musi.

  32. Chris Barratt

    September 20, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    I wouldn’t want to mention the dreaded naughty ‘t’ word on an open forum, but I have 5 discs worth of TFI (including the first 3 shows, and 2 more from late March 96)…..

  33. Dan McGrath

    November 8, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Can I take this moment to thank you all for your brilliant reminiscences. It’s all a bit of a blurr now, due to heroic amounts of alcohol (according to the Daily Mail) and probably more post traumatic stress disorder on my part.
    I stumbled across this, not through any sad narcissistic crusade, but I was searching the 4DJ song after a conversation on Twitter (never had that in my day!)
    You have made an otherwise dull train journey a joy, just being reminded of Evans calling Prince a ‘Purple Git’ made me laugh. That’s when we still had a perspective on celebrity!
    BTW the show definitely jumped the shark when we spent about 10mins on the air flying a remote control helicopter in the zoo area at Virgin, purely for the fu**ing cameras!

    Cheers all of you
    Dan (The Soundman) McGrath
    Sidekick/producer
    Chris Evans Breakfast show 1995-2001

  34. Glenn Aylett

    July 12, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    While Evans survived the fallout from being sacked by Radio 1 and went on to even bigger things after a few years in the wilderness, whither Lisa I Anson, very possibly the most annoying and useless DJ to grace Radio 1 in the mid nineties. Her gimmick was to talk like some kind of London teenager, even though she was in her mid twenties, and come out with some inane drivel on the lines of wikkid, innit, dat’s a phat dance tune. No wonder she was shunted off to weekends as listeners, who were more into Britpop than dance music by then, weren’t interested in her juvenile yacking and poor taste in music and she was sacked for staying out clubbing.

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