The Wizard Of Us
How we go about selecting the music we play on the station.
At the very end of the film The Wizard Of Oz, when Dorothy and her friends are cowering beneath the powerful and scary vision of the great Wizard, having fought so hard to finally meet him, it is only when Toto the dog pulls back the curtain that the real identity of the Wizard is revealed. And, disappointingly to Dorothy and the gang, he’s just an ordinary man.
Well, it’s a little bit like that here at The Buzz Mcr. We have a musical wizard of our own, but he doesn’t live in a castle and he’s not very scary at all, but he is just an ordinary guy, and he’s called Phil.
Phil helps us with the music that you hear on The Buzz Mcr.
We met Phil thirty plus years ago when Adam and I were teenagers, he lived at the bottom of our road and although he was a bit older than us both, we heard that he had an incredible record collection and so age was irrelevant - music was all that mattered.
We would spend hours in his converted garage, which he turned into the ultimate music collector’s den; his vinyl-filled room, with everything perfectly accessioned in floor to ceiling shelving, was a music lover's paradise.
Phil would enthusiastically run around the room pulling records out of shelves and excitedly playing us track after track, hoping we hadn’t heard it before and that it would likely blow our minds. He was rarely, if ever, wrong.
Phil is fanatical about the minutae of recordings and their different versions. An obsessive Beatles fan, he owns dozens of different versions of Sgt Pepper, and can talk to you, at length, about the specific difference between each one. A typical conversation might go something like this, ’Did you know the Mono version of Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite has more of the organ tape loops in the break after it says 'Henry the horse dances the waltz?'.
His love of vinyl began when he was bought his very first record when he was five years old, but he’s been ‘properly’ collecting since 1970, when he bought his very own record player, with money he saved by doing a paper round for six months.
He spent all of his spare time devouring albums, playing them over and over; he even studied the vinyl itself in such intense detail that he can now just look at a record and tell if a record has a fade out or where the loud and quiet bits are.
That’s Phil for you, he has special powers.
In 1975 he became a mobile DJ, which meant he could earn money and justify spending every penny on his record collection. We like to imagine he wore a maroon, velvet tuxedo and had huge sideburns and a thick moustache; the reality is likely to be less iconic.
When 12’’ singles came out he bought as many as he could. Literally.
When picture discs and coloured vinyl came out he felt he had to own every one; Generation X’s ‘King Rocker’ came out in 5 different colours on 7’’ and he bought every colour, obviously.
And, then came the invention of CD; caught between his love of vinyl and the latest technology, he tragically sold a huge amount of his vinyl records to fund his CD collection, a horror and regret he still laments to this day.
In 1990, he ambitiously decided he was going to buy every Top 40 single on vinyl, and then realised he had set his own bar far too high and so reduced his campaign to owning every Top 20 vinyl single instead.
Still, to this day his project is to collect the original versions of every Top 40 hit from 1952 onwards, only these days he begrudgingly owns many of them as MP3 or FLAC files. 'It's the only way you can do it," he sighs resignedly.
He reckons he now has approximately 3000 vinyl albums, 7500 singles (7” and 12”) and has converted 250 000 tracks into digital formats, of ever-increasingly higher qualities.
So while Adam and I are constantly and obsessively compiling lists of songs we need to add to the playlist, (many of them, since the launch of the station, coming from listener requests), Phil will get the list and then research the songs to find the specific mix or edit that we require, so that we can obtain our own version of the tracks to add to our systems and get them on the playlist, so our listeners can hear them.
Compiling the playlist has been one of the most joyous parts of building The Buzz Mcr. It’s a constant state of revelation and discovery. Unearthing those forgotten gems from decades gone by that we know people will absolutely love to hear again, and also daring to step deeper into artists’ archives than other radio stations would fear to tread.
We know that if we jump up and down with joy when we find gold, then there’s a good chance our listeners will too.
And, thanks to the thousands of messages we’ve received so far, we now know that to be exactly the case. You have told us time and time again how great it was to hear certain tracks again for the first time in years, and also how many times we have played you a song you had never heard before but that has already become a new, firm favourite.
We’re always going to keep on adding to our playlist and keep the listening experience fresh and exciting for you; with our specialist music shows at the weekend we currently add approximately 300 songs per week, and we will never stop doing that.
So, as long as there are great songs left to discover, we’ll keep digging and finding them for you.
Right, I’m off now, to see The Wizard.
Those classic tracks won’t find themselves you know.