I listened to Brexit FM so you don't have to

PUBLISHED: 00:01 10 April 2018

Mike Read with Keith Harris and Orville on stage at the Radio 1 Roadshow in Great Yarmouth in July 1984. Photo: Archant Library

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DJ Tony Prince has described his new radio station, United DJs, as "the Brexit channel". So how bad is it?

Former Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg DJ Tony Prince has described the new radio station he has founded, United DJs, as "the Brexit channel".

He means it positively. It is "just going to throw out friendship through the radio and embrace all the countries of the world", he says, going for the Liam Fox fallacy of Brexit meaning a swashbuckling global Britain cut free from the EU shackles.

It's more like Brexit in that it was born of a group of old men who haven't much liked the way the last 40 years have gone. The idea grew out of a meeting of veterans of Radio 1, Radio Luxembourg and Radio Caroline - the likes of Mike Read, Dave Lee Travis and "Diddy" David Hamilton at Prince's home. "All of the DJs of the past meet regularly to chinwag, and we were all talking about how bad the scene had got for radio," Prince told The Times at the weekend.

The result is United DJs, which launched last week, features nine Radio 1 veterans, nine from Capital and 12 from Radio Luxembourg and streams online. It is, the website says, "the next revolution in music radio". So how bad is Brexit FM? Well, I know - because I listened to EIGHT AND A HALF HOURS of it yesterday...

The breakfast show is presented by former Radio 1 breakfast show Read. Read is very Brexit - so Brexit, indeed, that in 2014 he released a single called Ukip Calypso, recorded in a cod-Caribbean accent and featuring lyrics such as 'Illegal immigrants in every town/stand up and be counted Blair and Brown'. Nigel Farage campaigned for it to reach number one in the charts; it got to 44.

Read doesn't play Ukip Calypso though, or indeed address politics, or news at all. There's no news on United DJs (or United DJ - neither the presenters nor the jingles seemed to have settled on whether it is pluralised or not). There's no weather, neither, nor travel - though there are traditional time checks, not just for the UK, but New York, Los Angeles, Sydney and, rather hopefully, Tokyo.

So in the absence of current affairs Read gives a shout-out to "my cousin. Not my real cousin, Bobby Crush. We've been adopted cousins for years", without elaborating on this legal anomaly. He notes that some staff of Radio 2 are now following United DJs on Twitter, although he can't bring him to say Radio 2 and coughs. "Quite right they're following us, to check out the opposition," he says.

Listener Ian tweets in to say "at last, music and personality you don't hear these days on corporate brands". Read approves, but adds slightly plaintively "if any corporate brands are listening, send us your money". The station's presenters are all working for free until it turns a profit and I count about 15 ads - all for public sector bodies - in my time listening.

Read is followed at 9am by Prince himself although curiously sticks around throughout and very occasionally chips in. Perhaps he is reliant on Prince for a lift home from the business estate near Maidenhead the station broadcasts from?

Prince introduces himself as "the Royal Ruler", although this is far from the only self-bequeathed sobriquet he employs. He later refers to himself as "the Princely Platter Player" and "the Prince on the Planet of Peachy Platters". Records are always platters on United DJs. Individual songs are "numbers".

He promises "chaos" from the off, although his definition of chaos appears to be playing some platters interspersed with anecdotes about people unknown to anyone who didn't work in the music industry in the 1970s. There's an (apparently daily) phone interview with Timmy Mallett, who is making a pilgrimage to Spain by bicycle.

As one might expect from a week-old internet radio station broadcast from a business estate near Maidenhead, there are hitches. Jingles and ads appear in the middle of songs, a presenter's phone goes off, records skip. Prince attempts to make a virtue of one slip by asking "could it be... that IT'S A MONDAY?" and playing the Boomtown Rats' I Don't Like Mondays. "When I first played that on Radio Luxembourg, I said 'this band is gonna be as big as the Beatles'," he says.

But after this it all becomes... well, just like all the other radio stations that Prince claims to be widely diverging from. The website says it's for people who "need a friend at the other end of the microphone who says more than 'that was/this is' almost every link". But that's pretty much what the next two presenters - Shaun Tilley from 11am and Lynsey Dolan from 1pm do.

Tilley, who shares the odd mid-Atlantic accent with so many presenters of this ilk, does at one point offer up that he and his wife have been getting into the TV show Californication (which finished four years ago). Dolan tells an anecdote about once briefly meeting Mick Jagger ("I didn't think much of him, really, I didn't"). But otherwise they're there to tell you what was just played and who's playing next, Dolan only once adding a flourish that Sweet Home Alabama is "for all you rockers out there".

Finally, what of the music? United DJs have made much of how its DJs are allowed to select their own tracks from any era and give free rein to their own personalities. So what exciting, esoteric choices do we get? Well, there's the Beatles. And the Rolling Stones. And finally some airtime for the criminally neglected Coldplay, Queen, U2 and yes, Ed Sheeran. Eminem's Lose Yourself is played with a very bad word left unbleeped (although as an internet station, it's not subject to Ofcom restrictions). There's some Cutting Crew and Bow Wow Wow and Dave Clark Five and if you think you've guessed which of each of those three's numbers are played, you're right.

So the "next revolution in music radio" is people playing Coldplay and Ed Sheeran records and talking in between them. It's pretty much identical to everything that came before it. That's not a Brexit channel. It's a Brexit transition channel.

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