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Janice Long - An Obituary

Janice Long – Broadcaster

Born April 5, 1955; died December 25, 2021 

 

Janice Long, who has died aged 66 following a short illness, was a radio presenter who broke the mould several times over. She was the first woman to have her own daily show on BBC Radio One, and the first woman to be a regular presenter on Top of the Pops. She was also one of the main presenters of Live Aid in 1985.

 

Arriving on national radio during a period of mainstream blandness, Long was a passionate music fan, whose Liverpool roots saw her champion her home city’s thriving 1980s music scene, as well as a welter of independent artists across the UK.

 

Long did this first on her Sunday night BBC Radio Merseyside show, Streetlife, then on Radio One, initially on Saturday afternoons, before being moved to a prestigious weekday evening slot. She also presented Friday teatime review show, Singled Out. 

 

Whenever she presented Top of the Pops, it was no coincidence that she was paired with the late John Peel. Together, this Scouse double act provided a fresh alternative to the generation of personality based DJs who formed much of Radio One’s roster at the time. 

 

Long’s tenure at the station came to an abrupt end in 1987, when the BBC fired her for being pregnant without being married. Her departure exposed an institutional misogyny that existed, both in the BBC, and in employment laws that sanctioned such discrimination against women. 

 

Despite this, Long continued a lengthy radio career at both local and national level, retaining a knowledge and enthusiasm for everything she played. This ranged from introducing listeners to the first radio plays of what went on to become classic works by artists ranging from Frankie Goes to Hollywood to Amy Winehouse.

 

The joy of listening to Long was that she cared. This wasn’t just about the music and artists she championed. She spoke to her listeners as if they were her mates at a gig. 

 

Social media tributes include dedications to Long from pretty much every indie band from the last forty years. Ian McCulloch of Echo and the Bunnymen called Long “a Liverpool legend and a dear friend of mine”. Frankie Goes to Hollywood said Long “Always had our back”. Ian Prowse of Amsterdam wrote how “You showed the fellas how to do it.” Pete Wylie of Wah!, whose 1982 hit single, Story of the Blues, was premiered on Streetlife, called her “The best friend a boy could have…” 

 

Janice Chegwin was born in Liverpool to Colin Chegwin, a sales rep with a timber firm, and Margaret  (nee Wells). She was elder sister to twin brothers, fellow broadcaster Keith Chegwin, and writer/musician Jeff Chegwin. As children, the trio sang together in talent contests in New Brighton.

 

Long went to St Edmund’s College in Liverpool, and, as she explained to www.pennyblackmusic.co.ukin a 2013 interview, initially wanted to be an actress. She attended Merseyside Youth Drama group, and appeared in plays at the local Neptune Theatre (now the Epstein). Rather than pursue her acting ambitions, she instead responded to two ads in the Liverpool Echo. One was to become a journalist at Radio Merseyside, the other to become an airhostess. Radio Merseyside said Long wasn’t worldly enough, but would keep in touch. 

 

Long took a job with Laker Airways, before eventually ditching it to hitchhike around Europe. In Amsterdam she lived for almost a year in a tent, working in a Wimpy bar before returning to Liverpool.

 

Long worked in telesales and shops, and an early experience in television came in 1978, when she and her first husband, Trevor Long, were contestants on ITV’s prime time quiz show, 3-2-1. A letter from Radio Merseyside asking what she was up to eventually caught up with her, and in April 1979, Long began as a station assistant. 

 

Radio Merseyside’s offices at the time were round the corner from the epicentre of Liverpool’s music scene hangouts, including Probe record shop and Eric’s club. With local artists receiving little airplay or media attention, Long suggested what came to be Streetlife. 

 

The show became a key part of the crossover success of the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen, China Crisis, The Icicle Works, A Flock of Seagulls and many others on the circuit. She did the first ever radio interview with Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and played an early demo of Relax, a song that became a hit in 1984 despite being banned by Radio One.

 

By 1983, like many of the acts she showcased, Long had gone national. She was recommended to Radio One by presenter Paul Gambaccini after she interviewed him. Long’s independent spirit and evangelism for new music saw her show become as essential as Peel’s, which followed immediately after hers.   

 

After being sacked by Radio One, in 1989, Long joined Greater London Radio, later known as BBC Radio London, where she initially presented the breakfast show, then a weekend programme. 

 

In 1995, Long moved back to Liverpool, and with the support of Bob Geldof, Primal Scream and other music figures, set up a new radio station, Crash FM, which, before being bought over, aimed to support independent music.

 

In 1999, Long began presenting a weekend show on Radio Two, where she became a weekday presenter until 2017. When BBC 6Music began in 2002, for two years Long presented The Dream Ticket, which mixed current music with archive sessions. Latterly she presented a regular show on BBC Radio Wales, as well as Greatest Hits Radio. On both, Long’s enthusiasm continued to radiate across the airwaves as she showed the way, for artists, listeners, and the generation of broadcasters inspired by her who followed in her wake.

 

She is survived by her husband, Paul Berry, their son, Fred, and their daughter, Blue. She is also survived by her father, Colin, and her brother, Jeff.


The Herald, December 28th 2021

 

ends

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