Forty years and counting
Before the day when those cheeky 'Blue Peter' scamps were rumbled for fixing a name the kitten vote (why would you do that by the way?) and the BBC could give things to their audience by way of competition prizes, the words "only Radio 1 can do this" would occasionally be heard to big up prizes that fell into the box labeled 'extremely ginormously massive'. If ever there was a compilation album to sum up such a statement perfectly, this is it.
On September 30 1967, the first word in Radio 1's history was uttered by Mr. Cheese himself Tony Blackburn (which was rather randomly "and") aaaand the rest they say, mate, was, quite lidderally, history!
I could bore you with plenty more facts about the past four decades of this radio station, no really I could, but the most important thing to be remembered is the part it has played in developing music from the UK and around the world. Be it the pop stars that have been regular guests on daytime shows, or the countless alternative and underground bands given exposure by the likes of John Peel, music which frankly would never have been played by anyone else, Radio 1 has without question done it's bit. Sure there were some odd bannings too, Sex Pistols and Franky Goes to Hollywood among the most famous, but that was more a sign of the times at the BBC rather than the views of the DJs of the day.
Just one of the ways Radio 1 has marked forty years is through this 'Established 1967' CD, where a current artist has recorded a song of their choice from a different point in the four decades, making a complete, chronological set. The list of bands involved is mighty impressive, and reflects the wide range of music the station plays, from rock acts such as Foo Fighters, through to pop stars Kylie and Mcfly, via dance artists Calvin Harris and Groove Armada, and current alternative bands like Pigeon Detectives, The View, Klaxons and The Gossip.
When judging this sort of CD, you have to first decide what you think makes a great cover, and also get away from the, but it ain't the original attitude. As long as somebody has done something creative with a song, and not bastardized it too much, then the result should be considered a worthy effort.
Inevitably this album has its highs and lows. It fittingly opens with a version of the first song ever played on Radio 1, the Move 'Flowers in the Rain' given the modern indy treatment by Kaiser Chiefs, and it's a solid start.
Among the great highs is a stunning cover of 'Band on the Run' by Foo Fighters, every inch a rock anthem, but then you wouldn't expect anything less. KT Tunstall's cracking country fuled 'Let's Stick Together' shows her for the great vocalist she is, as does the Gossip's 'Careless Whisper' for Beth Ditto. Lily Allen's 'Don't Get Me Wrong' has taken the Pretenders classic and turned it into a more stripped down version and it works perfectly, although it's not a million miles away from the original feel.
The award for creativity on the first CD goes to Kylie, who turns the Roxy Music track 'Love is the Drug' into a Donna Summer-like seventies disco number.
Some may look at Robbie Williams doing 'Lola' and think "do me a favour", but to be fair it's actually a perfectly respectable interpretation, plus it's not McFly doing 'Town Called Malis'! That though in turn isn't nearly as cringe-worthy as the day Busted did 'Teenage Kicks' at the Brit Awards, what were they thinking? On this CD the entirely logical option was to let Jack White do the Peel favourite.
CD two starts with an interesting Stereophonics version of Hot Chocolate 'You Sexy Thing', another excellent vocal performance offered up by Kelly Jones. It's no great surprise that the View 'Don't Look Back into the Sun' works, nor are the Fray having to test their acting skills when doing REM's 'The Great beyond'.
Tracey Chapman fans should be satisfied with Mutya Buena's version of 'Fast Car', but without question the stand out moment from the second CD is the song offered by the Enemy. 'Father and Son' by Ronan Keating is an extremely odd choice, especially when you consider they had the whole of 2005 to pick from, but they put that bloke from Boyzone to shame (which isn't exactly difficult) with a fantastic powerful rendition of the Yusuf Islam song: a very unlikely success story.
The low point of the second CD is Groove Armada's 'Crazy For You', sadly one of Madonna's finer moments done by a dance great doesn't have any of the quality you'd expect. It simply sounds like you're average club reworking of an old song, of which there are far too many about right now. However it isn't the Streets 'Your Song' from the first half of this set. Credit where it's due, Mike Skinner has taken the plunge with a song very different from his own style, but speaking the verses simply doesn't work, and he's never been the world's best singer thereby making the bits where he sings difficult to listen to as well.
A criticism of this compilation would normally be that there's just too much on here. If quality control went through this and ruthlessly got rid of the average then we could end up with an excellent one CD, but that wouldn't work as this is marking forty years of music. This is the CD equivalent of a coffee table book, one that's fun to flick through, with plenty of good moments to pass the time. As for its longevity? It's unlikely you'll be listening to this from start to finish in six months time, that said there are a good few hidden gems on here that are well worth checking out and this does the job perfectly of marking a significant moment in British radio, and, if we're honest, British music too.