On the Wire - Radio Lancashire - Home

Sunday, November 02, 2003

About On The Wire

 On the Wire was first broadcast on 16th September 1984. Check Radio 1's playlists for that month – compare and contrast. Way back then there was no such thing as 'dance' music, hip-hop was confined to NYC 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 out with their mums shopping for shells. Reggae was apparently dead.

On the Wire’s first guests were Adrian Sherwood, who provided its now legendary theme tune, and collaborator Keith le Blanc, who had earlier launched ‘Malcolm X’ on the world via Tommy Boy. The week after it was Depeche Mode and in the December a three hour live special with Mr. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry still fresh from torching the Black Ark a couple of years earlier.

And so it went …… through the eighties as On The Wire slowly built a reputation beyond Lancashire and the North West, throughout the UK and onwards, before the internet, via cassette to the outer reaches, Greece, Sweden, Australia, Italy, USA ….. The show was fairly expansive: releasing a compilation ‘Bugs On The Wire’, putting on The Fall for free at Clitheroe Castle when 2,500 people turned up, an Xmas party at the Ritz in Manchester including Sherwood with Gary Clail, 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Little Annie and a heavily pregnant Neneh Cherry absconding from a Bomb the Bass gig. First radio plays for in the UK for Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson and the radio premier of 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Little Annie and a heavily pregnant Neneh Cherry absconding from a Bomb the Bass gig. First radio plays for in the UK for Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson and the radio premier of 808 State’s ‘Pacific State’ and Gerald’s epochal ‘Voodoo Ray’.

As the Nineties turned OTW was under threat of a cut by the BBC as new management leaves were turned – but at the last minute the show was saved by the BBC board pegging the show as a ‘unique BBC product’. But the heady days of the three hours every Sunday afternoon were over as speech and sport came to rule the airwaves. And so, ever since that time, OTW has wandered the aether bouncing along in the eddies of BBC scheduling, “freeform radio” before the term was invented.

In the last few years there has been a reduced flow of luminaries through the OTW studio as destination Blackburn recedes into the mist of East Lancashire’s lost valleys. Those listeners with the show from the start whilst at school or college are now in their forties and beyond with mortgages, families and fond memories. Many friends have come and gone over the years but the show is ‘trodding on’ regardless. Quieter guests in the nineties gave us wonderful studio sessions, including Kelly Joe Phelps, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jeb Loy Nichols – as the show developed a quaint obsession for Americans using two Christian names. Between 2002 and 2011 Jim and Fenny in Blackburn helmed the show whilst Steve absconded to Beijing (that’s Beijing, China) initially relying on the invaluable help of Christiaan Virant, American exile and co-founder of the China-based nu electronic unit fm3 and progenitor of the world-famous Buddha machine. Andy ‘Madhatter’ Holmes and the big man, Pete Haigh, have continued to provide years of peerless effort on the once-a-month diversion "Funkology". Jimbo, engineer and techno-wiz, took over from the eminent Jethro, known on the net as ‘Culf’, who in turn took over from Mikey Martin - who started in his early teens as the original studio boy wizard. Big shouts must also go to Dom and Bob, the once Blood and Fire boys, the now dear departed Baked Goods team and big man Shlom at Boomkat who all blessed us with a regular supply of great tunes, Noel ‘Harry’ Hawks for all his great selections on our reggae and dub
specials, the indomitable crusader Brian ‘Planet’ Jackson for his unstinting support over the years and lastly respect is heavily due to the once-boy Alex Fenton for his wonderful work on creating our original website without which OTW’s inexorable march to world domination would have proved impossible.

Ageing disgracefully, cantankerous and increasingly idiosyncratic, On the Wire relishes occupying the once-dreaded “graveyard slot” for two hours from midnight every Saturday; the show was 32 years old on 16th September 2016 and continues whistling a happy tune into an indefinite
and unpredictable future …………

Steve Barker – St. Annes-on-the-Sea, January 2017