Saturday, 12 March 2011

MEMORIES: Radio 1 Roadshow, 1996, Weston-Super-Mare, with Chris Evans, Skunk Anansie and Echobelly

Sometimes people forget just how massive the Britpop boom of the mid 90's was. Upon revisiting this particular summer's day in 1996, it certainly makes Britain in 2011 look like even more of a drab, miserable shithole.

I must have been 12 years old, and still at the point where ALL i listened to was an endless diet of Britpop bands and the dance music that I dutifully listened to in order to carry on DJ-ing. And looking back it's not hard to see why: because Radio 1, the UK's main radio station seemed to play Britpop bands all through the week and dance music all through the weekend. Like I've said before, i thank God i grew up during Britpop. Every generation needs a notable musical movement that breaks into the mainstream and captures the minds of lots of young people, before the bands in that movement lead these young people onto older and less mainstream music, that in turns leads to a life of rich musical discovery. And kids during the 2000s and this decade have nothing in the way of a definitive popular musical movement to lead them onto the right track.

But let's go back to the summer of 1996... British bands were selling tons of albums, New Labour was going to take over from the Tories and make everything better, even our national football team were doing well and were expected to do great things at Euro '96 (which was also held in England). And Chris Evans was impossible to escape, 'TFI Friday' defined telly in the 90's, his wacky laddish humour being just the right tone for the time. Chris Evans also fronted Radio 1's breakfast show, which at its peak had over 7.5 million listeners.

So when Evans and his gang of sidekicks hosted a huge Radio 1 Roadshow at Weston Super Mare beach, me, my mum and brother went on the not-so-long drive to be there. Looking forward to a great summer and with six weeks off school, 1996 was a magic time. Golden days where great music, huge optimism and a carefree excitement were the vibes of the time. A crowd of over 32,000 people singing along to 'Wonderwall' as if it was the new national anthem,  and jumping up and down in the sunshine to the sounds of Dodgy, Supergrass and even Sleeper, while being entertained by "live" performances from SKUNK ANANSIE and ECHOBELLY. The fact that an event like this caused such mass hysteria at the time shows just how much of a grip Britpop had on the nation at the time, and listening back to the event for the first time in nearly fifteen years was a strange and emotional experience... how I wished I could be back there now to live it all over again.

But with the help of video and audio documentation I am able to relive parts of that particular day... Here is a BBC documentary from over a decade ago that shows the story of the Radio 1 Roadshow as well as concentrating mainly on the huge event at Weston-Super-Mare that day. Watching it shows just  how the humour in the 90s was often juvenile and the sort of thing that people these days would have to get extremely drunk to find amusing.... as drunk as Chris Evans, Danny Baker and Gazza used to get back then. How nothing else seemed important apart from having a good time at all times. Interesting scenes involving Evans and his gang inviting lots of people back to their Weston hotel room, which included drunken singalongs, with Gem Archer (later to be in Oasis) leading the way on piano.

Other entertaining aspects of the film includes a glimpse into the ridiculous lives of some of the anoraks that used to obsess about the Roadshow....

This very-organised sounding trainspotter, with possibly the most boring voice ever was extremely keen: "I usually get to the roadshow site early at about half past 8-9 o clock so i can get a good place at the front. And then just wait for the the action to start on stage. I've got my camera and I take lots of photos, and at home all my walls have got enlarged pictures of the roadshow from over the years" Christ, and I thought I was a bit of a nerd. There's a good chance that this dude STILL hasn't lost his virginity now...

But that's NOTHING compared to this guy....

Showing his excessive collection of roadshow photos to a member of the road crew in great detail, it makes you wonder what this guy actually did when Radio 1 called an end to the roadshow a few years later. Maybe he couldn't handle the shock, fell into despair and killed himself. Either that or he's still out there somewhere, in a darkened room, masturbating furiously over photos of Nicky Campbell and Simon Mayo before breaking down into tears and then continuing to plot his plan to blow up BBC Broadcasting House....

Unlike types like him, people like me went to the roadshows whenever there was going to be good bands playing, even if they did mime to recorded tracks that were so obviously the studio versions. But being at this event in the summer of 1996 was the only chance I had (being so young) at feeling like I was part of the Britpop experience, and seeing Skunk Anansie and Echobelly was my first taste of being only metres away from famous bands. It would be another couple of years before I got to experience Ocean Colour Scene live, and that was what I classed as my first real gig (not counting local bands and pub gigs), but Weston-Super-Mare in 1996 was simply decadent. Maybe in 2011 someone should organise an event at a tacky southern seaside resort, with Chris Evans hosting and Skunk Anansie and Echobelly playing... and see if 32,000 people turn up then..... If only.

Watch the documentary 'Six Go Mad In Somerset' below (each part plays automatically and in full screen)

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