Saturday, 7 November 2015

Alan Freeman's Saturday Rock Show on BBC Radio 1

Alan 'Fluff' Freeman (Courtesy: Daily Mail)

When a regular poster on the rock forums, it was my intention to post a complete list of records that I remember hearing on Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman‘s Saturday Rock Show during the nineteen-seventies. Some brief lists were posted, but never an exhaustive example. Recently, I came across a thread on a forum(1), in which members posted lists of tracks from particular shows that they had recorded, with the broadcast date. This prompted me to begin compiling an alphabetical list of tracks, with the parent album and date of release. It is not easy remembering the sources of pieces of music, which were broadcast from around 1973 to the late seventies, as Freeman had more than one show. Additionally, Tommy Vance took over the Rock Show on Friday nights, Freeman went to Capital Radio with a replica show, and both DJs reappeared on BBC and then Virgin Radio in the nineties.

Alan Freeman was born in 1927 and brought up in Melbourne, Australia, and worked as a salesman while aspiring to be an opera singer. Realising he did not have the voice for opera, Freeman became a DJ in Tasmania. He travelled to Europe to work initially on Radio Luxembourg, before joining the BBC Light Programme in 1960 for Pick of the Pops, a chart run down show. Freeman’s chart show was switched to Radio 1, in 1967, where it continued until 1972. Freeman then moved to a weekday afternoon show, playing a selection of chart records, and in 1973 added the Saturday Rock Show for heavy and progressive rock.

The Saturday Rock Show on BBC Radio 1, on which Freeman played album track requests, new releases, sessions by his producer Tony Wilson, and ran a weekly competition, became increasingly popular, such that it was voted Best Radio Show five years in succession and the time slot was increased from two to three hours. Punk rock and an incompetent controller, Derek Chinnery, drove Freeman to Capital Radio, an independent station, in the late seventies.

Alan Freeman’s enthusiastic salesman-style delivery, his toleration of fools, range of catch phrases (not ‘alf), ‘gift for intimacy with his listeners'(2)(addressing them as ‘music lovers’), selection of classical and rock jingles, along with his choice of what would otherwise have been underground music, made his shows utterly compelling. In a BBC Radio documentary series on DJs, John Peel described Freeman as ‘truly original’.

Freeman returned to BBC Radio 1, from Capital, in January 1989 to revive Pick of the Pops and the Rock Show. The former ran to 1992 and the latter to 1993, when he left the station as it was overhauled by another inept controller, Matthew Bannister. From 1996 to 1997 Freeman hosted The Friday Rock Show on Virgin Radio, with producer Trevor ‘Basher’ White. My intention is to also compile a list from these shows. He returned to BBC Radio 2, presenting Pick of the Pops from 1997 to 2000, when he handed the show to ex-Radio Trent DJ Dale Winton.

Sadly, Alan Freeman died on 27th November 2006 at Brinsworth House, Twickenham, South-West London, after a short illness. He was 79. His funeral took place on 7th December 2006 at South West Middlesex Crematorium and was attended by DJs Paul Gambaccini, Dave Lee Travis, Nicky Campbell, Paul McKenna, Wes Butters, Simon Bates and Richard Skinner. A congregation of around 200 people attended the service, which was taken by BBC broadcaster Reverend Roger Royle.

NOTE: Compiling the list will take longer than I anticipated, so, in the meantime, I am working on writing about some individual tracks from the Saturday Rock Show. My intention is to approach them in alphabetical order, beginning with AC/DC’s Let There be Rock from the album of the same name.

(1) Popscene’s thread, ‘For those about to Rock… Fluff’s Rock Shows, Celebrating Fluff’s Rock Shows 1973-97’: There are also lists on Wikia:
(2) Thanks to the BBC News Obituary: Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman by an anonymous, but undertanding, author:


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