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Last Updated: Monday, 24 September 2007, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK
Your questions for Tony Blackburn
By Kevin Young
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Tony Blackburn in 1971
Blackburn was known as a "pirate" DJ before the launch of Radio 1
Tony Blackburn was the first presenter to be heard on Radio 1 when it launched 40 years ago this week.

To mark the anniversary, he agreed to answer a selection of questions about his career in broadcasting, which had been submitted by readers of the BBC News website.

And throughout this week, the BBC News website will be marking the 40th anniversaries of Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 with a series of special reports and archived audio material.

When you were on the pirate ships, did you stay on board, or were you taken out every day?
Lindsey Harris, Poole

We actually were out there for two weeks at a time. We went from Harwich when I was on Radio Caroline South, and then with Big L, we went out from Harwich and shared the same tender boat. So we'd go out there, usually on a Monday, stay for two weeks, then come back.

We couldn't get backwards and forwards every day because we had to go through Customs. It was about an hour and a half's trip from Harwich right round to Frinton, then three and a half miles out off the coast.

What was your scariest moment?
Sharon Chiverton, Spalding

I think the scariest time was probably in 1966. I was out on Radio Caroline and we were watching BBC television. Anglia Television were putting out distress calls to us saying we were drifting and we should be careful in a force 10 gale, and of course the BBC didn't really give a damn about us. We were watching the wrong programme!

There was a crunching noise and we were taken off by the lifeguards. I suppose, being young, you didn't realise how dangerous it could have been - we could have all drowned.

I was 10 when Radio 1 launched and can't begin to tell you how exciting it was. I also remember crying when you left the breakfast show. Did you choose the first record, Flowers in the Rain by The Move?
Debbie Apted, Luton

Tony Blackburn and Noel Edmonds in 1976
Blackburn (left) was furious that Edmonds (right) took over his show
I remember crying when I left the breakfast show as well, and stabbing Noel Edmonds in the back!

But yes, I did choose Flowers in the Rain, basically because it was a hit at the time, it had a crashing noise and it was a nice lively record, and I thought that would be a good opener for the station.

I actually used to select all the music on the breakfast show - with a producer, but I had the final say in those days. How times have changed.

Were you at all prepared for the scale of fame you were catapulted into?
Robert, Newbury

I think so, yes. You've got to remember that when I did the breakfast show on there, we were getting audiences of between 19 and 20 million, and that's a lot of people listening every morning. Top of the Pops was doing enormously well as well, getting the same sort of figures. To be a Radio 1 disc jockey was on a par with the artists that we were playing. But of course we were a monopoly.

Did anything live in DLT's beard?
Chris Adams, Leeds

A lot of things, actually, which we can't go into - but it's quite lively in there.

How is Arnold the dog these days?
Bob Barnes, Warwick

Arnold, unfortunately, is not too well - he's dead. It would have been amazing if he had still survived because he'd have been 43 years old by now. He passed away at quite an elderly age, but it's not all bad - I had him stuffed and he nods in the back of my car even to this day. I'm joking!

When I was about 10, sitting round the radio listening to the chart on Sunday nights was a big event. What are your views on the charts today?
Ian Gester, Southend

Everything changes. I've never said to my children, 'They don't write songs like they used to.' They do, and there's great music around. The charts don't mean as much now because there are so many different charts around, so many different radio stations, so many different genres of music.

To get in the Top 40 now, you don't have to sell many records. Nevertheless, people still love music and they always will do, and there's some great music still made.

If you could take one soul record to a desert island, which would it be?
Jenny, London

Diana Ross in 1973
Blackburn heard I'm Still Waiting on the album Everything is Everything
It would be I'm Still Waiting by Diana Ross because it's one that I got released as a single. I heard it as an album track and rang up Motown and said, 'I think you've got a really big hit record here.' They rang Diana Ross up and got permission to get it released, and of course it did go to number one in this country and in America as well.

Also, the Marvin Gaye CD of What's Going On is one of the best CDs ever made - absolute genius. The second record I'd take is probably my record of Chop Chop, a record ahead of its time.

What is the one song that holds the most memories for you?
Nicholas Barney, Llanelli

I remember Young, Gifted and Black by Bob and Marcia was certainly one the breakfast show made a hit out of. I think probably in the pirate ship days, Have I the Right by The Honeycombs - it always reminds me of Radio Caroline - and also Tom Jones' It's Not Unusual.

If you could never hear one song again, what would it be?
Daniel Clements, Leicester

My record of Chop Chop. It's atrocious.

What do you think of the state of British radio and what would you change about it?
Emalyse, London

I think it's a shame that commercial radio is controlled by three major companies. The state of British radio is difficult, particularly in the commercial radio sector, because there isn't enough money to go round.

Probably we've got too many radio stations now for our own good. There's a lot of what we call "voice-tracking" going on - people come in and for a very small amount of money, they record their links and they don't even hear the music. To me, that's destroying radio in this country. I hate it.

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the radio industry today?
Andie Riley, Leeds

If you think you're particularly good and you've got something distinctive to offer, all you've got to do is send in a tape of yourself doing what you do best.

If you don't think you are actually particularly good, I'd forget about it, because it's not one of the highest-paid jobs. It was when I came into it in the '60s, but there are so many radio stations around now. Unless you're another Chris Tarrant or Jonathan Ross, then I'd find another form of work.

It's a shame for me to have to say that, but that's what I would recommend.

What did you think of Smashie and Nicey?
Gavin Culloty, Birmingham

I thought Smashie and Nicey were great. It was very, very funny. They were modelled on Alan Freeman and myself.

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse as Smashie and Nicey

It didn't, in a strange sort of way, do us a lot of good, because I think a lot of the programme controllers thought they were employing a couple of dinosaurs, and they had a slight humour-bypass.

I still play on it today quite a bit - you know, the "pop-a-doodle-do" bit and things like that.

I never actually said any of that stuff, but I do now, not on the radio but if I go on stage. Fab FM is a station that I would really still love to work on, if I could find it. In fact, you ain't heard nothin' yet!

Tony Blackburn's autobiography, Poptastic!: My Life in Radio, has been published by Cassell Illustrated.


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