I worked briefly in theatre, before applying for a job with the BBC as a trainee studio manager. I got it, and worked on anything from the midnight news to the Radio 3 drive time show, on the engineering side of things. Then I started doing sessions for Radio 1 up at Maida Vale - I actually worked on a John Peel session - and from that moment had an ambition to get into the music side. I'd played the trumpet in a band back in Bristol, and was passionate about pop music, and so it seemed like the right thing to do.
But then, in 1984, I left the BBC, because I got the opportunity to go and work for the British Forces Broadcasting Service. I went to the Falklands with one other guy to run the radio station there for the troops and be a DJ, and though it was two years after the war had ended, the place was still in a mess. Suddenly, we found ourselves in the back of a shack putting out four hours of music sequence for the squaddies, and flying around in helicopters getting requests from missile sites. In that situation, everyone listens to you, and everyone is desperate to meet you and have records dedicated to their wives and children.
But after six months or so I was invited to come back to the BBC and be a producer on a youth programme for BBC Radio Education, with Andy Peebles as a presenter - Education's attempt at "cool" in 1985. My ambitions were in very high-minded radio then, and I went on from that to work for Radio 4, making programmes like Bookshelf and Pick of the Week, as well as my own features, for which I won some Sony Awards.
Then, in 1990, when Radio 5 was going to be launched, I went to see Pat Ewing, who was to be its controller, and was given the chance to be editor of the Radio 5 breakfast show and assistant editor for the network. Although my ideas of how a radio station should work were thought of as radical - because I'd seen how the BFBS had worked - fortunately Radio 5 wanted to try and do things a different way, too. And, with Danny Baker, I invented the sports phone-in programme, Six-O-Six, before having him on the breakfast show for a time.
Then I left to join Radio 1, applying for the job as chief assistant to the then controller, Johnny Beerling. But he was about to hand over to Matthew Bannister, whom I first met in the autumn of 1992. Matthew asked me what I thought of Radio 1, and I told him I thought it was a bit of a shambles. When I'd first come to the BBC, I'd tried to interest Radio 1 in a feature about the New York rap scene, and they didn't want to know. A very famous Radio 1 DJ at the meeting was asked what he thought of hip-hop, and he just got up and hopped from side to side in a joky manner. It didn't mean anything to them.
Matthew and I worked together on all the changes, deciding what Radio 1 should be, who we should have on - the whole thing. We had a really clear vision of targeting 15- to 24-year-olds, and putting new music first. I knew we had to convince the audience, opinion-formers and the media, but even when we were getting a lot of flak, I still felt strongly that we were doing the right thing.
Since last September, when Matthew became director of radio, I've been the deputy controller. And now, after three or four years, everybody understands what Radio 1's position is, and why it's different from commercial radio. I've made it right: I've hired the Westwoods and the Ramplings, and all those people who've made the radio station credible. It's modern, with efficient ways of working, and we know exactly where every penny of licence- payers' money is going. It's something I'm very proud of, and I want it to work as well as it can.Reuse content