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Tim Rice, Seth Lakeman, Tim Burton and Kevin Woodford
BBC Radio 2

A year ago, almost to the day, I sat in a kitchen in a rented cottage in the Lake District and waited, eagerly but with a bottom note of trepidation, to the first in a series that had occupied my time (and several other people’s) for the best part of the preceding year. Late in 2011, Bob Shennan, the controller of Radio 2, asked me to write and present a history of pop. With what some might call chutzpah and others might term cheek, I asked if I could do something quite different; a social history of Britain since the second world war told through pop singles and, crucially, the voices, memories and opinions of the people who bought, lived with, loved (or maybe even loathed) them. No experts, no critics. A People’s pop history which came to be called The People’s Songs.

King's Arms Salford

In the autumn of 2012, myself and producers Ian Callaghan and Lorna Skingley sat down in the Kings Arms in Salford (above - now run by Paul Heaton) and drew up a long list of the kinds of songs and topics we wanted to include. I was adamant that this shouldn’t be the same canonical list of revered classics that gets trotted out in every broadsheet and magazine listathon. I wanted this to be a series that would place equal value on Y Viva Espana (the British go on holiday to Spain) or My Boy Lollipop (the sound of the commonwealth coming to Britain post Windrush) or Goth or Northern Soul or Heavy Metal as any of the critically sanctioned sacred cows.

As soon as we began to tell people of our intentions, we struck a chord. Just short of 200 people were interviewed, from nuclear submarine commanders to Greenham Common protestors and the result is, I think, a brilliant mosaic of music, analysis, reportage and testimonies spanning 50 hours and as many years of British Life.

In that kitchen in North Cumbria, a year ago I heard the first show go out – Vera Lynn, We’ll Meet Again and the Second World War – and felt both elated and a little drained. I thought that we had done a brilliant job. But I also knew we had 49 more to go and the thought was as daunting as it was challenging and exhilarating.

And now we have. The People’s Songs is over. And I am as proud of it as it is possible to be, and grateful to everyone who made it happen.

Comments

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  • Comment number 12. Posted by TBSchmit

    on 30 Dec 2014 15:51

    I loved this series and not just because I was lucky enough to take part. It was so varied, informative and, at times, amusing. I am truly sad that it has finished. Thank you Stuart and your team.

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  • Comment number 11. Posted by Clare smith

    on 28 Dec 2013 14:00

    Missed a few programmes in the series wondered if they were going to be available to download?

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by Clare smith

    on 28 Dec 2013 13:57

    Really just wanted to repeat the above question.

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  • Comment number 9. Posted by George Lewis East

    on 28 Dec 2013 06:54

    Thank you Stuart. I enjoyed quite a few episodes on iplayer, and was fortunate to quote form the programme and book in my latest press write-up [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator], titled "Popular Music:The Beatles:Remembering' The Fab Four' Half A Century Later", It was published on Wed. Dec. 24 on page 13 of this Mauritian daily in its FORUM columns.

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  • Comment number 8. Posted by Deb

    on 22 Dec 2013 21:22

    Hi, have loved the whole series and listened mostly on iPlayer. It's been so interesting and really well done. However I agree with Martin; where is the final episode? It is the only one I have missed. Please make it available on iPlayer like all the rest! Thanks for a lovely series.

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by Katrin

    on 22 Dec 2013 20:02

    A wonderful series! I was surprised how some episodes that dealt with music I don't like too much (skiffle, heavy metal) were the most interesting. I really enjoyed every single episode - apart from the last two... How disappointing that I cannot catch up. Made a pot of tea, got the crochet work ready, opened the BBC page, and then this. Please, please, make all episodes available again! They are worth it to be listened to several times.

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by Ellymoo

    on 21 Dec 2013 09:34

    I have loved this series and listened to every single one - I normally catch up when I am at my Saturday job - but missed the last 2 episodes also due to bereavement. You can imagine my dismay when I sat down to catch up this morning and found they are no longer available. BBC you should have made it clear that the episodes were only available for a short space of time. I am horribly disappointed. Please, please make at least the last month or so available again for those of us who missed it.

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by Martin

    on 21 Dec 2013 07:27

    Great series but jolly disappointed that the last episode is not available on iPlayer as I missed it. Are there plans to repeat or make it available to listen on-line?

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by gbray

    on 20 Dec 2013 22:23

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to the People’s songs over this year. However, due to recent death in the family, I have been unable to listen to the last four episodes. I finally managed to make the time today to listen to the final episodes and found that they were unavailable on iPlayer, despite being told all year that they would be available to listen to for over a year!!

    After a bit of research, I found that this was due to a technical error but was wasn’t this made more clear? It should have been emblazoned all over the page so people would be able to avoid the disappointment of missing the final episodes. I’ve spent over 40 hours following this series over the months and to not be able to hear the concluding episodes is bitterly disappointing and incredibly irritating.

    Please tell me there is a way i can access the final 4 episodes.

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by Phil W

    on 19 Dec 2013 23:27

    Thanks Stuart, I absolutely loved this series and have been telling quite a few friends and family about it.Unfortunately I didn't catch every single episode as I thought they would still be available for up to a year as it kept saying this on the website ! I managed to listen to about 35 of them on catchup. Will it be made available again or any plans to make it available to own as a complete series rather than having to download individual episodes. This would make a fantastic present for any music lover and I would certainly love to own the whole series on CD or digital. Would make fantastic listening to on long car journeys. Once again congratulations on a fantastic series, one of the best I have heard in years !!

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