Back in the early 1990s, when Helen and I first began living together, Radio One was good. In fact, they were probably the final few years of its useful life. After about 1992 the station fell into the hands of a new controller who decided that the music they played should be driven by what the public wanted, rather than by the station finding interesting new music and introducing the public to it.
In the end, it became a sort of request show, only with the people running the station trying to second guess what the public would want. No wonder it ended up as a complete and bloody shambles.
But I digress. Back when Helen and I began living together, you could listen to Radio One all day, from Simon Mayo in the morning to John Peel or Nicky Campbell at night. And in May, you needed to.
31 Days In May was a competition which the station ran throughout the month in which they gave away a significant prize every day. It could be tickets to a festival, some signed artwork or other such memorabilia. It was also an extremely cunning way of getting people to listen for the entire day.
The way that the contest worked was that a siren would sound at some point during the day, the DJ would feign shock that it had happened, stop whatever they were doing and read out the question that had to be answered in order to win that day’s prize. In those pre-internet and pre-text message days, the only way to win was to phone in and hope that you got through. Which meant that if you were not listening when the siren went off, you were not going to win.
For some reason, whenever I think back to the first flat that Helen and I lived in, it is always that May that I think of, and I am standing in the blue and white kitchen with the radio on, as Mayo announces the day’s prize before playing ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’ by They Might Be Giants.