The Week In Radio: Oldies show proves you can't always get what you want


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The Independent Culture

Does all modern music sound the same to you? Do you hanker for the days when rock stars knew how to be rock stars? Does the sight of teenagers with their trousers at half-mast make your spleen explode? Have you – though you swore it would never happen – finally morphed into your parents? If so, perhaps it's time to embrace the inexorable slide towards an old age of liquidised ready-meals and Antiques Roadshow.

Alternatively, there is a place where you might just find respite from the soul-sapping banality of contemporary life. To those of a certain age and disposition, it is a glorious haven where X Factor hasn't been invented, where bums are firmly encased in trousers and where dubstep-loving youngsters fear to tread (or perhaps wouldn't be seen dead). It is Absolute 60s, a brand new digital-radio jukebox for those who believe pop began to lose its way with the rise of the Moog

Absolute 60s, along with the newly launched Absolute 70s, is the latest offspring of Absolute Radio (older siblings include Absolute 80s, which arrived in 2009, and Absolute 90s and 00s, both on air since last year) that trades unapologetically in nostalgia. Like heritage rock magazines, each channel's contents are pressed through a revisionist sieve and deal in what is deemed to be the acceptable end of the musical spectrum. Hence, Absolute 60s' mean-spirited refusal to play anything by Cliff Richard, a man whose snake hips and curled lip were once deemed a threat to the morality of the nation.

Cliff-bashing aside, on paper such niche stations would seem like a smart idea. Carve up 50 years of rock and pop into separate decades rather than genres and, by rights, all tastes should be catered for. More crucially, for those producing it, it requires little in the way of manpower.

Pete Mitchell may be the primary daytime presenter on Absolute 60s but for a lot of the time there wasn't much for him to do beyond occasionally clear his throat, introduce a record and prove to listeners that he hadn't put his iPod on shuffle and gone to the pub. There were occasional interviews with musicians, though they weren't always as enlightening as you would hope. Perhaps it was a result of Mitchell's enforced silence for most of his show that, when he came to interview The Selecter's Pauline Black, she could barely get a word in. Meanwhile, a pre-recorded piece with Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan exuded all the warmth of a man being interviewed at gunpoint.

A longer conversation with the producer and Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers over on Absolute 70s was more of an eye-opener, with Rodgers reminiscing about his drop-out parents who sold heroin to the stars; taking acid for the first time, aged 15, with Timothy Leary; and his sonic restyling of Diana Ross and David Bowie. It was a rare moment of detail and depth on a channel that otherwise has no higher purpose than to play records you already know.

Despite its endlessly repeated tagline "Home of The Beatles, Stones and Motown", Absolute 60s has a broad-enough playlist, but it's a determinedly mainstream one and I didn't always agree with the choices. This, ultimately, is the problem with jukebox radio. One person's perfect playlist is another person's idea of hell. In attempting to please everyone, you often end up pleasing no one.

Of course, if I ruled the airwaves I'd have Absolute Non-Stop The Smiths Apart From Their Last Album Which Had Its Moments But Wasn't a Patch On Their Earlier Work. But that's just me.