Dear Simon Bates

...and they said it would never last. Far from it all ending in tears, you're reunited with the radio, where Brits can have a jolly good sniff 'n' sob

Decca Aitkenhead
Wednesday 16 August 1995 23:02

Conjure up, if you will, the soulful strains of the famous Our Tune theme, as you read my congratulations on your new deal with Talk Radio. The news that you and your tear-jerker classic are returning, triumphant, to the airwaves, is a heartwarming end to a tale of joy and sorrow.

It all began 16 years ago with a Radio One disc jockey - let's call him Simon - and his dream. It was a romantic dream, a dream that he could bring ordinary people's stories of true love and tragedy to the nation. A show - let's call it Our Tune - was born.

It was a hit. You and Our Tune were the most popular couple in the country - up to 11 million listeners tuned in every day to hear you read devastating tales of love, ill luck and survival. Five hundred such letters would arrive every week, each bearing the immortal finale - "our tune" - that special song - gulp - that meant so much to the letter writer and his/her love.

We thought you and Our Tune would last forever. You had something special going. How could your magic fail? But then came that fateful day in 1993, when Radio One cruelly cast you aside. Or did you go, walk out the door, not turn around, etc? Whatever, you were off the air and out in the cold.

How could such a tragedy occur? Sadly, there was a frigid faction afoot, uptight intelligentsia who accused Our Tune of slushy sentiment. They called you tacky. They found it all embarrassing. While a listening nation's lower lip had trembled, their upper lip stayed firmly stiff. They sneered at such indecent displays. And each time another listener picked Chris de Burgh's Lady In Red as "our tune" (as was, it must be said, their wont), the sneer grew larger.

In short, they were ashamed. But of what? In Our Tune, we glimpsed a rare chance to show the world that we, the British, were made of flesh and blood, too. We seized it. We heaved and sighed with every twist of fate. We surrendered ourselves to the romance. As the signature music - the love theme from Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet - faded away, we proved ourselves a match for any hot-blooded Latin lover.

And you, Simon, were as broad-minded as you were big-hearted. You shared tales of dysfunctional family trauma, May-December romance, schoolboy crushes, gay and lesbian love. No relationship was too obscure for Our Tune, if it was truly an affair of the heart. And each struck a chord. After all, we all harbour our own tune.

Cast adrift, though, you and Our Tune struggled. They were difficult times; you were a homeless couple wondering if you would make it together. A spell at Atlantic 252 failed to relight your fire, and the slot on morning TV's Ann and Nick was frankly unwise. You do not make a telegenic pair.

But now you're back on top together. And, hopefully, sponsored by Kleenex. The cynics will sneer, but somehow that too seems only fitting.

Decca Aitkenhead

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