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Introduction

The Friday Rock Show was a radio show on BBC Radio One. From 1979 to 1993, Tommy Vance presented a wide range of rock music for two hours a night (later three). It was a godsend to fans because, for the most part, it was the only rock music that could be heard on national radio.

Show Listings

I'm detailing here the track listings of shows that I've confirmed aired on particular dates. Where gaps exist, because I only had a 90 minute tape that night, they're highlighted.

I've split them up into years and listed them chronologically:

Check out my equivalent page for Alan 'Fluff' Freeman's Saturday Rock Show.

Listen to These Shows

While the Friday Rock Show has been off the air for decades, a number of dedicated fans have made shows available for us to listen to today.

Googling around will find a few, but the best place to start is the Friday Rock Show Wiki which aims to collate show listings and recordings in a single location. It's highly recommended! I'm sending my recordings over to them.

Background

Living in Arizona in 2016 with dedicated rock radio stations, it's hard to explain to people what life was like in the UK in the eighties. National radio meant the BBC and they dedicated only two hours to rock music every week. That was the Friday Rock Show, which ran from 10pm to midnight and was hosted by 'TV on the Radio' Tommy Vance, 'the Music Vendor'.

In 1984, I listened to the top 40, not really understanding that there was anything else out there. My parents weren't music fans, oddly as my father played the clarinet, so all I'd hear from them was the same small set of cassettes that they kept in the car: Abba, Boney M and the Spinners.

And then, one night when I was up late and fiddling around with the radio, I tuned in to the Friday Rock Show by accident. I had no idea what I'd discovered but I was immediately hooked. Within a very short period, it led me to Kerrang! magazine and a glorious rabbit hole that became the soundtrack to my adolescence. It also introduced me to everything from Steely Dan to Napalm Death, via as fantastic a variety of rock music as is comfortable to imagine.

Because I was 13 years old and didn't have much money to go out and buy all the albums I heard about on the show or read about in the magazines, I spent that money instead on blank cassettes. I soon got into the routine of picking up a TDK D120 from W. H. Smith every week so I could record the Friday Rock Show and I still have those tapes today. Of course, as I grew up and gained income, I started to frequent record shops and market stalls, buliding a collection that is still mostly intact.

I recently went back to start ripping those old shows and discovered a number of things. For one, some of those blank cassettes were cheap so I was forced to rekindle my skills in opening them up and re-splicing tape. They taught me just how crappy my portable radio cassette player was as a kid and how dubious the signal I received in rural Yorkshire. I also failed to label as many of the tapes as I thought I had with dates, which taught me how poor the internet is at preserving news stories.

And it rekindled that magic that I grew up with. Here in Phoenix, we listen to a classic rock station called KSLX that plays great music but it has a playlist of about a thousand tracks, so we hear those great songs over and over again with new additions rare indeed. But there was Tommy, playing hard rock, AOR, glam metal, prog rock, thrash metal, you name it.

If simply playing this stuff wasn't enough, Tommy looked both backwards and forwards. He included many classic tracks and not only in regular segments like the Friday Night Connection or Lie Back and Enjoy It that involved the public. He also championed the new and obscure, playing music that was only available on import or on underground labels. He brought many bands, mostly young and upcoming ones, into the studio to record sessions and he implemented a segment called the Rock War, in which he invited bands to submit demos to be aired on national radio.

it's the oddities that stand out to me most for special attention, the curiosities of Tommy's that became discoveries of mine: Bad Brains, Mayhem, Battalion of Saints, the Cro-Mags, Lauren Smoken, Napalm Death, the Jesters of Destiny.

The latter sent me sideways to John Peel, who was even more diverse, as he didn't just restrict himself to rock music, but his grindcore selections polarised listeners as much as Tommy's thrash. In the nineties, we got more rock music on the radio, a brief series of deep dive shows Tommy presented called Night Rocking and especially Alan 'Fluff' Freeman's Saturday Rock Show. Even at this point, rock was still marginalised: maybe five or six hours a week on national radio. That's still hard to believe to anyone who didn't live through it, hanging on Tommy's every word.



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