Friday 1st September 2023 will be remembered by most people as quite an ordinary day. For most of the day this was an ordinary day for me also. I was enjoying the end of the summer holidays with my daughter, having a lovely day out in a local country park making the most of the rare sunshine that we had during the summer holidays. However, it was when I got home and listened to Radio 6 as I do every day that things suddenly changed. I turned the radio on, and everything seemed normal. Steve Lamacq was playing great songs, introducing us to new music and everything seemed familiar until out of nowhere Lamacq said to his loyal listeners that he had an announcement that he wanted to make to his listeners before the official statement went public. That announcement was the news that he was stepping back from presenting the drive time show five days a week which he has done so since 2005. I froze in my tracks to the point where my daughter looked at my face and asked if I was OK? I replied with yes, kind of, I am just listening to the news that the DJ who has had the most influence on my music collection is stepping back.
The announcement itself was perfectly delivered; it was true Lamacq. Honest, heartfelt, and delivered straight from the heart. He talked about how after doing this for so long he is “a bit knackered”. Knowing how hard Lamacq works that is completely understandable. Broadcasting a radio show 5 days a week is so much more than just turning up for airtime. There is a great deal of preparation that goes into a three-hour daily show, there is also the volume of music that Lamacq listens to and the gigs that he goes to deciding what to play on the show. In the statement Lamacq also talked about the need to be there for his family, how they have supported him so much over the years, allowed his obsession with music to be at the forefront of his life and now he needs to make time to be there for his loved ones “The family at this point comes first because they’ve been there for me – and now I want to be there for them.” No one can argue with these reasons. Lamacq is stepping back for all the right reasons and it just makes us love and respect him even more.
Although he is not going completely, he will be returning in the New Year to present a new drivetime show on a Mondays, and has talked about how the extra time will allow him to devout more time to supporting grassroots music. For me personally I have grown up with Steve Lamacq on the radio. I have gone from a 15 year old teenage boy trying to find my place in the world, to a 45 year old man with a family with Steve Lamacq on the radio being a constant in my life. Those early days on the Evening Session with Jo Wiley will also be remembered as exciting times, it was a time when the underground was taking over.
Steve and Jo ended up presenting Top of the Pops, something that I don’t think anyone saw coming. It was an end of the “Smashey and Nicey” DJ era, we now had DJ’s / Broadcasters who were just like you and me, on the radio, on the TV, showing us that you could stick to your values, you did not have to sell your soul just be yourself, follow your heart, follow and stick to the music that you love and there is a way to infiltrate the mainstream.
The influence Lamacq has had on the lives of musicians and music fans up and down the country and across the world honestly can’t be underestimated. My music collection would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for these radio shows. My bank balance might be higher, but where is the fun in that. I would not have the memories of hearing songs on the radio then rushing out to the local record shop to pick up a CD of the new band / artist that I heard on the evening session and later drive time on Radio 6. There are too many bands to mention but some of the names that spring to mind include Blur, Elastica, Idlewild, Ash, Sleeper, through to the bands / artists of today like Fontaines DC, Idles, Coach Party, Last Dinner Party. The list is endless.
The great thing about Lamacq's broadcasting is how he is one of us, there is no pretence, he has always been an ordinary guy with a love for music who wanted to share that love with the world. His interviews are always worth a listen, you get to hear how giddy with excitement he is when interviewing his new favourite bands, you get to hear friendships that have endured. When interviewing Blur recently it was a reunion of old friends who have been on this most wonderful journey together and us listeners have been so fortunate to be able to share this journey through the medium of radio.
This also leads to a wider point on the value of radio. The world has moved to a place of streaming, algorithms, and shorts on social media (which I don’t fully understand, and don’t want to) and it can be easy to lose sight of radio. However, radio is something that we must never turn our backs on. You can’t trust the algorithms but what you can trust is a DJ that you have that connection with, a broadcaster that you trust. I have never listened to anything that an algorithm has recommended but I will always listen to the radio to discover new music. Steve Lamacq has been my algorithm for the last thirty years. There are also other DJ’s who you can rely on including Adam Walton, Jo Wiley, Lauren Laverne, Bethan Elfyn, the late Janice Long and of course the man who is going to inherit Lamacq’s drive time slot Tuesday – Friday Huw Stephens who is the natural successor to Steve Lamacq and as much as I am going to miss Lamacq’s voice on the radio every day I know the show is in safe hands with Huw.
We still have a few weeks left of Lamacq on the radio daily, his last show will be in October which will mark thirty years since he signed his first BBC contract. As hard as it will be to let go, it feels so good that all of this is being done on Lamacq’s own terms and feels as though he is in full control of the changes that are ahead. That last week of broadcasting will no doubt be a very emotional, with lots of reflections, tears and no doubt guests sharing how important Steve Lamacq has been and how our lives would not be the same if he hadn’t devoted so much of his life to discovering new music.
I will conclude with a quote from Steve Lamacq’s book “Going Deaf For A Living” which reinforces the importance of always wanting to listen to new music and discover your new favourite band:
“That’s why it’s the music of tomorrow that will always have the upper hand. You never know just what’s out there – or what it’s going to sound like. And although I still need my comfort blanket CD’s, I have to own up and say, yes, I’d take the ultimate gamble. I really would swap one of the albums I know for one that hasn’t even been made yet.”
This is not goodbye; this is a big thank you to Steve Lamacq for all you have done and for what lies ahead.