Wednesday 01 September 2010
Further to your obituary of Bernie Andrews (30 August), we do in fact have Bernie to thank for the existence of the BBC Session in the first place,
writes Russell Clarke. A fixture of Radio One for over 40 years and a crucial building block in any artist's career, the BBC Session was invented by a resourceful Andrews in 1963 as a clever way of circumventing the Musicians Union rules – the so-called Needle Time agreement – limiting the amount of pre-recorded music available to the BBC Light Programme (the forerunner of Radios One and Two) to a mere 35 hours a week.
The agreement was largely in place to protect the jobs of the BBC's jobbing musicians, primarily in any of the BBC's many orchestras, whose roles were thought to be under greatest threat from the burgeoning Beat scene, headed by the Beatles and other groups from Liverpool. Faced with an enormous amount of airtime to fill and barely any allowable discs to play, Andrews argued that the members of pop groups were themselves fully paid up Musicians Union members and so should be allowed to come into BBC studios and re-record versions of their own hit songs – which could then be played quite legitimately on the radio without counting towards the Needle Time agreement.
This small piece of Andrews initiative made the Light Programme and shows like Saturday Club and Top Gear appointment-listening for Britain's youth. It would also have earned the BBC a small fortune since they decided in 1990 to release to the general public the tapes he had hoarded.
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