For the final time, I have embraced the excitement of the digital equivalent of a jiffy-bag thud on the floor. An early-morning e-mail informing that my latest purchase of personalised re-sings of JAM jingles from years gone by, have arrived.
It’s hard to let go of a treasured if expensive habit, but how on earth
did it come about in the first place?
And more realistically, did it get in the way of genuine radio ambitions
that have faded over time?
We may have to go back a bit to answer that one.
From an early age the energetic and heavenly sung identifiers of audio
were a key stand-out, brought up by a Radio 2 listening mother,
and a dad who opted for the adventurous late night broadcasters of Radio 1
and London’s Capital Radio such as Johnnie Walker, Andy Kershaw
and the late Charlie Gillett.
Eventually discovering more prominent jockers of the jingle such as Pat Sharp,
Bruno Brookes and Gary Davies.
Via the internet, it enabled such an interest to grow, hearing clean cuts of packages
from years gone by, and attending pub meets from London to Leeds
blending alcohol with acapellas.
So why is it that many enthusiasts for angelically sung close harmonies,
are far from angelic themselves when it comes to their views on present day radio?
And they’re not bitter, oh no.
You only have to visit Jinglemad.com, once an enjoyable and informative
discussion site, now a bear-pit bemoaning everything in audio identification
not sung by 7-voiced choirs in Dallas Texas.
There’s a misjudged assumption that all radio on bigger platforms,
both BBC and commercial is inferior to how it was when close-harmony jingles
were present on their stations.
Back in the 90s, none of the commercial radio stations I heard on FM where I grew up used JAM on the air.
Capital FM went with revolutionary pop song-soundalikes from Groove Addicts,
whilst Invicta FM opted for Century 21, a Dallas outfit using former JAM staff
to produce IDs retaining the close harmonies, but sung over punchier-sounding
backing tracks, making the audio JAM were producing at the same time
sound more than a little dated in comparison.
For a brief period, jingle fans could purchase their own resings of Century 21,
and older TM packages via iJingles, though the division’s closure in 2015
may have been a catalyst in stepping back from expensive audio purchases.
The idea that commercial radio stations used JAM jingles seemed alien,
and it came as a shock when as late as 2000, hearing smaller stations still using
indulgently purchased resings of old Radio 1 jingles, when the rebel
of the Nation’s Favourite, Chris Moyles was taking the piss out of them.
JAM in my ears, was always a staple of the BBC.
The jingles which aired on Radios 1 and 2 for the best part of 20 years influenced
many aspiring “deejays” wanting to get into the medium themselves.
A fair number of them forgetting along the way that there’s a lot more to radio
than just jingles.
A lengthy but comprehensive montage from disk jockey turned BBC Television announcer Duncan Newmarch, provides a nostalgic look back at Radio 1’s
first quarter century.
Which on a realistic note, illustrates how JAM’s later custom material for the BBC may have been cause for their unceremonious departure from their stations
in the mid to late 90s.
Dodgy Shaggy soundalikes on Radio 1, and an attempt to fit in to Jim Moir’s new vision for Radio 2 in the mid 90s, with equally cringey Eurythmics inspired cuts.
A common suggestion/misconception from jingle fans is that those of the era of PAMS and JAM are “timeless”. Almost identical to the rose-tinted recollection
that Blue Peter presenters weren’t patronising.
One of the more astutely-viewed jingle fans David Lloyd sums it up well in his recent
“Radio Moments” book, that longing for the supposed glory days of radio in the 1970s
and 80s to return, is akin to someone 30 years ago wishing radio was done
with dinner jackets, and formal-sounding announcers.
Which Radio 2 in fairness, attempted to recreate in the mid-late 80s, whilst still having
to share its stereo frequencies with Radio 1, as a result producing one of my favourite bits of radio, every Sunday after the UK Top 40.
Moments like that should be treasured online, and revisited now and again.
But in no way does it suggest that all radio was perfect in supposed bygone era.
Great radio may be far and few, but that was also the case back in the 70s and 80s.
If anything, personalised resings of JAM jingles are an expensive vanity project of
the worst kind, and although lovingly crafted, I was never that good at putting them
to practical use on air.
It just didn’t feel or sound natural or genuine, and when heard in a present day
context either on online radio, or on smaller scale audio platforms,
they just sound more artificial and laughable with age.
Let Dallas-crafted jingles remain a fondly-remembered relic of their 80s and early 90s radio heyday, and the big sounding stations, (which still sound big today,
albeit with evolved imaging) rather than the fetish of past-it/never-had-it presenters,
and angry online audio naysayers.