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On the Wire celebrates 25 years
Over the past eight years Steve has been contributing to the show from Beijing
Over the past eight years Steve's been contributing to the show from Beijing

One of the longest running alternative music shows in the history of UK radio celebrates its 25th anniversary on 16 September 2009.

On the Wire began way back when there was no such thing as 'dance' music.

Hip-hop was confined to New York City and LA and the UK was in the grip of the New Romantics.

Smashy and Nicey still ruled at fab FM and the London dance mafia were still with their mums shopping for shell suits.

Many bands and performers, who were to become musical legends, passed through the show including U2, REM, The Smiths, Depeche Mode and Joy Division - but of late On the Wire has taken a more relaxed view of the music scene and is as likely to play pre-war hillbilly music as much as experimental dance or dub.

Hallowed studios

Broadcast on BBC Radio Lancashire, On the Wire will have a month-long birthday bash with an extravaganza of specially extended shows and guests from both Lancashire and across the globe.

Once dubbed 'a unique BBC product' On The Wire has been produced and presented by Steve Barker for the past quarter of a century.

Over the past eight years Steve has been contributing to the show from Beijing where he works for the British Council, popping back every now and then to caress the equipment in the BBC Radio Lancashire's Blackburn based studio he has known and loved for years.

Steve says: "The amazing thing about going all these years is that some people have listened all the way through and others have rediscovered the show after many years 'in the wilderness', it's been a real privilege for me and the rest of the On the Wire team to be able to run a freeform radio show within the hallowed studios of the BBC."

His first guest on 16 September 1984 was Adrian Sherwood, who provided its now legendary theme tune, and collaborator Keith Le Blanc, who had earlier launched the hip hop classic Malcolm X on the world via Tommy Boy. The week after it was Depeche Mode and things went on from there.

Guests coming up to celebrate the anniversary include Ashley Beedle
Guests coming up to celebrate the anniversary include Ashley Beedle

On the Wire slowly built a reputation throughout the 80s, reaching far beyond Lancashire and the North West. Since the advent of the internet it has built up a world wide audience with its eclectic and sometimes madcap mix of music.

It also expanded its reach beyond the airwaves releasing a compilation CD Bugs on the Wire, putting the punk rock band The Fall on for free at Clitheroe Castle when 2,500 people and one policeman turned up, and hosting a Christmas party at the Ritz in Manchester, which included Sherwood with Gary Clail, 808 state, A Guy Called Gerald, Little Annie and a heavily pregnant Neneh Cherry.

Strength to strength

The programme also gave first radio plays in the UK for 808 State's 'Pacific State' and A Guy Called Gerald's 'Voodoo Ray'.

Throughout the 90s OTW (as it is affectionately known) went from strength to strength and it now reaches listeners around the world. Celebrations to mark its birthday will feature friends and collaborators from the past 25 years from Detroit and Seattle to Beijing and Blackburn.

Guests will include Steinski (aka Steve Stein) the hip hop producer who achieved notoriety in the 80s with collaborator Double Dee for a series of underground hip hop sample based collages known as the Lessons; Ashley Beedle who introduced house music to the Notting Hill Carnival and founded the Black Science Orchestra and The Ballistic Brothers; and Pete Holdsworth from the world's premier reggae revival label Pressure Sounds based in the UK and Japan, plus top UK DJs Kode9 and DJ Pinch.

You can get in touch with Steve, and view his latest playlist through his presenter profile page.

On The Wire is on BBC Radio Lancashire's FM frequencies, 95.5, 103.9 and 104.5 on Saturday evenings at 10pm or on the BBC iPlayer.

Presenter profile: Steve Barker
25 Jun 09 |  TV & Radio


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