Steve Davis gets interesting as a prog rock DJ

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The Independent Culture

Get ready for an "interesting" mix of avant garde jazz and psychedelic rock. The secret musical life of Steve Davis, the snooker legend, will be revealed when he presents his own show on the BBC 6 Music radio station.

The six-times world champion was mocked for his clinical style of play and "dull" image. He once scored a top 10 novelty hit with Chas & Dave's "Snooker Loopy". But in reality the "Plumstead potter" has nursed a passion for rock music's LSD-fuelled outer-fringes.

Now Davis, 53, who was world number one for seven years, will share his record collection with the nation after being invited to present a show on 6 Music, the cutting-edge digital station.

Davis will fill in for Jarvis Cocker, who takes a break from his eclectic Sunday Service show, when he rejoins Pulp for a summer reunion tour. Just don't expect to hear Lady Gaga.

"I'd like to play a 60-minute track by the minimalist Australian jazz group The Necks. It's called 'Drive By' and it's brilliant," says Davis, who has had more time to prepare his show after failing to qualify for this year's World Snooker Championship.

"I'll be playing music you never knew existed," he told The Independent. "Stuff from all over the world, music that can be quite complex. A melting pot of jazz, classical and rock, usually with a beat.

"I might delve into the psychedelic stuff from my schooldays, bands like Gentle Giant and Gong. I wasn't a Beatles fan, I had my ears opened by this magical period of music in the Seventies. It should be a very interesting alternative show, in line with my reputation."

Davis is a particular fan of the "Canterbury scene", a group of late 1960s artists that mixed pastoral psychedelia, folk, rock and jazz. He says: "I grew up listening to Soft Machine, Caravan and Hatfield and the North. And lots of French bands, like the legendary French group Magma.

"I once promoted a gig of theirs. Their style of music is not easily accessible. It's like classical if you're prepared to spend time listening to it. You have to work at it to get the benefit. The jazzier stuff borders on classical."

Davis struggled to interest his fellow snooker professionals in his outré musical tastes. "I did get Terry Griffiths to listen to one particular Magma album, which was cool," he recalled.

Cocker, who won a Sony Radio Academy award for his show, handed his producers a "dream list" of presenters to fill in, including Nick Hornby and Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, while he returns to the stage.

Davis, who has presented a music show on the Essex community station Phoenix FM, was surprised to be on the list. He said: "I imagine they think if they got a proper radio presenter to do it, the star could be out of a job. If they get someone enthusiastic who they think is a bit rubbish, it's perfect. But it's been interesting to see how Bob Dylan has made the transition to radio DJ."

New indie groups could also get a look in on the Davis show. "I want to give airtime to some good British bands that don't get much exposure. I went to see Pete And The Pirates and there's a great new band called Frankie And The Heartstrings."

The BBC expects the Davis show to air in July. The man himself is on an evangelical mission. "This music is very marginalised," he admits. "I hope people take the trouble to listen, then buy a record or nick it off the internet." As for his DJ patter, Davis says: "I'll probably keep it to 'Here's another one of my favourites'."

He won't be delving into his own musical past though. "It's the 25th anniversary of Snooker Loopy and the BBC is planning to do something to celebrate it. I don't think I'll be playing it or Romford Rap, the follow-up."

It's an era of Top of the Pops performances that Davis, the one-time pop star, remembers fondly. "At one stage I had two records in the charts at the same time. 'The Chicken Song' (from Spitting Image) stopped 'Loopy' getting to number one but the royalties still come flooding in."

My playlist, by Steve Davis

Gentle Giant

British progressive rock band famed for complexity of their music, incorporating baroque. Stated aim: to "expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of becoming very unpopular".


Canterbury scenesters mixing jazz and psychedelic rock who became a regular festival act in the Seventies.

The Necks

Experimental minimalist "trance jazz" trio from Melbourne, Australia, playing improvisational pieces of up to an hour in length that explore the development and demise of repeating musical figures.


French progressive rock band founded in Paris in 1969 by drummer Christian Vander. Influenced by choral music and jazz.

Frankie & the Heartstrings

Contemporary Sunderland indie band led by Frankie Franics, whose swooning guitar-rock has been compared to The Smiths and Dexys Midnight Runners.

Soft Machine

Influential "Canterbury scene" prog rock band featuring Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and guitarist Daevid Allen, who went on to form "space rockers" Gong.