Popular music had never been the BBC’s “thing”. It had done well with fans of dance band music in the 1930s and 1940s, the pop music of its time, who got a couple of hours every day. But as the 1940s turned into the 1950s, the dance music continued while the new rock and roll, the roots of pop, was largely ignored.
By the 1960s, the absence of pop on the BBC Light Programme was very noticeable. True, there were the odd request programmes, but the station’s appeal to children and to old ladies meant that some odd novelty and crooner numbers slipped in, ruining the flow for teenagers who wanted to “groove” to the Top 10.
Into this gap stepped the off-shore stations like Radio Caroline and Wonderful Radio London, who provided pop music throughout the day. But they went off-air mid-evening each day to make space for the granddaddy of popular music services: Radio Luxembourg.
With the BBC’s habit of rationing popular music and light entertainment in the 1930s, Radio Luxembourg had made a very profitable niche for itself putting out exactly those types of programmes for 6-8 hours a night every night, interspersed with advertising and sponsorship. The signal, coming all the way from the German border with Luxembourg, was not as robust as modern ears would like, but when the choice was Radio Luxembourg or a three-hour dramatisation of Trollope or yet more dance band music, the Luxembourg “fade” be damned.
By the 1960s, Radio Luxembourg, Your Station of the Stars, had embraced popular music in a way that even early BBC Radio 1 would never manage. The record programmes, brought to you by each label in turn or by various shampoo and chocolate manufacturers, were very different from the American-style output of the “pirates” but still very cool. And best of all, the new transistor radios that came on the market in the 1960s truly were small enough to listen “under the bedclothes” and had pretty good reception of medium wave signals. Thousands of us fell asleep to the latest tunes played by Your DJ BA Barry Alldis, Don Wardell and Jack Jackson until the early hours every morning.
Archive source: http://208.retropia.co.uk/