As I write this, it’s just a few hours until the start of British Summer Time, which officially begins at 2.00 am tomorrow morning. At this moment, 2.00am becomes 1.00am, the precise timing of which will pass most people by because we will be asleep.
Most of us will wake tomorrow moaning about having lost an hour’s sleep. But spare a thought for people working overnight tonight. They have to do an extra hour.
Quite a lot of years ago, I used to present an overnight pop and prattle radio show. During most clock changes I was on the air and enjoyed the autumn clock change when my air shift was an hour less and moaned like crazy each spring when the station got that hour back.
You can guess how long ago this was when I tell you that I was still having to cue up vinyl records on turntables. Blissful days they were too. Programme planning involved wandering into the station’s record library and pulling out an armful of records and taking them downstairs to the studio and playing them. There were a few rules about including a certain number of current records in each hour, but in general there was no-one around at night to know whether I had stuck to the rules or not.
Then came the introduction of CDs into the studio, and with them came the end of this absolute freedom. I arrived one evening and was handed a computer printed playlist which told me which CD, what track number, the artist, title year of issue and its duration. Also, the record library was locked and the idea of free choice for any presenter outside the daytime superstar jocks was abolished.
Like everyone in radio at that time, I was aghast. This was the end of personality. It was almost the end of the world.
But only a few weeks later, I turned up to do a clock-change overnight shift. This was the first big test of the computer and it failed. In fact it failed in a big way. I normally had a seven hour live show (with the early part of my shift being a two-hour pre-recorded programme.) On this occasion, the computer had printed out just one hour of playlist, repeated eight times.
So I stuck to the rules and followed the playlist for my first hour, thinking about what to do next. I briefly considered recording that hour and playing it back all night, but I had my own sanity to consider.
Like everyone else in the radio station, I had realised that the key for the record library was kept in reception, so quickly found it and the rest of the show was done on the old way using vinyl.
This almost certainly made me the very last presenter ever to do a totally free choice show on this particular radio station, although the daytime “big boys” continued to include tracks from the vinyl collection for a long time afterwards.
Tonight won’t be anything like as adventurous as that night because I’ll be off to bed within the next couple of hours, but as I drop off I will spare a thought for the legion of people working overnight tonight having that extra hour to do with very little scope for breaking the rules as spectacularly as I did that night back in the 1980s.