Music and the Chris Evans' Breakfast Show
It must have been back in mid December 2009 that I started prepping up the first week of music for our new breakfast show, which launched on Monday January 11 2010.
Way before that Chris Evans and Helen Thomas, his producer, had been clear that every Monday they would be kicking the week off with two iconic Beatles tracks and they'd bring along the Gobsmackers daily from drive. Apart from that though, and with a few musical features in development, it was a blank canvas.
I had developed a strong plot for Terry Wogan's breakfast show and had worked with his producer Alan Boyd on a timeless and melodic mix of music that was still relevant for a multi-generational, yet modern Radio 2 audience, featuring classic artists such as Nat King Cole and Elvis Presley to newer voices such as Pixie Lott and Paloma Faith. I sensed, with a slight modification to allow for Chris' style, that this approach would also work for the new show.
Chris wanted big strong familiar songs, the musical hallmark of a great breakfast show and since Radio 2 is free to choose from over 60 years of popular music with the broadest range of styles and genres, that proved no problem.
Radio 2 listeners like their music to be relevant so you'll hear some of the best musical hits of the day too and quite a few records that you won't hear anywhere else; we really try to dig a bit deeper into an artist's repertoire. For instance you won't just hear I Only Want To Be With You by Dusty Springfield or Viva La Vida by Coldplay, you are equally likely to hear In The Middle of Nowhere or Don't Panic.
Chris, like Terry, loves brilliant music from all genres. For instance, after he attended the Radio 2 Folk Awards, he was so genuinely enthused by what he saw, he replayed two live tracks from the event into the next morning's show and pointed the audience towards the Mike Harding show later that evening. Chris now also plays a weekly record choice by David Jacobs, ensuring his millions of listeners are introduced to the magical gems played every week on David's Sunday night show.
From Helen's point of view, she tells me that she thinks it's been a really positive experience to work so closely together with the Head of Music and our talented music manager Michael Banbrook. An advantage of that relationship is the understanding of any network-wide concerns that the Breakfast show may help to address such as first plays of records or throwing support behind a new artist that Radio 2 is backing. For instance Chris and Helen both love new independently signed UK artist Rox who the station has supported since she first appeared in Radio 2 Recommends at the end of last year.
Of course the music plot has evolved as the show has bedded in, but Helen and I still meet regularly to review how things are going and that we're not straying too far from our original vision! One fantastic addition has been 'Moira's Golden Oldie', which she introduces just after the 730 news. The audience flood the show every day with suggestions from Bobby Vee to Vera Lynn, and it's good to know that we are introducing new 'old' tracks to some listeners, and entertaining other listeners with music that they have loved for many years.
We all feel very fortunate to be soundtracking so many people's morning routines and the team love nothing more than getting texts telling Chris about "jiving around so much to Glenn Miller in the shower' or 'The kids refusing to leave the house until you'd played The Candy Man this morning'.
So, we've kept it going the way it started, strong Radio 2 signature songs in key points in the show, plenty of pace and familiarity and enough surprises and distinctiveness to separate us musically from anything else on the radio at that time. After the recent phenomenal RAJAR figures, we're all pleased that people seem to like it!
Jeff Smith is the Head of Music for Radio 2 and 6 Music