Sounds of the 60s

Sounds of the 60s is a long-running Saturday morning programme on BBC Radio 2 that features recordings of popular music made in the 1960s. It was first broadcast on 12 February 1983 and introduced by Keith Fordyce, who had been the first presenter of the TV show Ready Steady Go! in 1963. From March 1990 until February 2017, the presenter was Brian Matthew. Tony Blackburn has hosted the show since 4 March 2017.

Sounds of the 60s
Genre1960s music
Running time120 minutes
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Home stationBBC Radio 2
Hosted byKeith Fordyce (1983–1985)
Various (1985–1988)
Simon Dee (1989–1990)
Brian Matthew (1990–2017)
Tony Blackburn (2017–present)
Produced byPhil Swern & Tom Du Croz, compiled by Tony Blackburn, Phil Swern
Recording studioBroadcasting House, London (1983–2006)
Wogan House, London (2006–present)
Original release12 February 1983 – present
Audio formatFM, DAB digital radio, TV and online
Ending themeFoot Tapper by The Shadows (1983-2017)
WebsiteOfficial website


In the mid 1980s, the format changed and each week the programme was presented by a different artist from the 1960s. Many famous names were involved, including: Alvin Stardust, Eddy Grant, Herb Alpert, Graham Nash, Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tom Jones, Neil Sedaka, Donovan, Mike Stoller, Bruce Welch, Duane Eddy, Bill Medley, Roy Wood, Mike Berry, David Crosby and many more. "I Love SOTS" car stickers were given free to listeners.

In December 1988, the then producer Stuart Hobday re-discovered Simon Dee, the first voice heard on Radio Caroline in 1964, and persuaded him to present a listeners’ all-time-favourite Top 20. The response from the public was so great that Dee was booked for a three-month run early in 1989. His success led to another three-month contract later in the year, but his constant demands for the show to be broadcast live and to move from Bristol to London, along with a growing list of complaints to BBC management, meant that his contract was not renewed.[1]

Subsequently Brian Matthew, who had introduced Saturday Club on the BBC Light Programme, later BBC Radio 1, until 1969, took over as regular presenter.

Brian MatthewEdit

Matthew first presented Sounds of the 60s on 31 March 1990, following the end of his stint on Round Midnight and was still doing so until November 2016, more than 26 years after he took over. His place was taken temporarily between September 2006 and February 2007, during periods of illness, by former Radio Caroline and BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Johnnie Walker (and, during Walker's own absence in December 2006, by three guest presenters: Sandie Shaw, Joe Brown and Suzi Quatro). Matthew returned on 10 February, revealing that his prolonged absence had been due to a viral infection contracted while in hospital for a routine operation. Matthew was also absent due to illness in October 2011 and November 2016 – February 2017, with lyricist Tim Rice replacing him on both occasions. A Sounds of the 60s CD was released in November 2011. On 28 March 2015, Matthew presented a 25th anniversary show. In it, he selected ten of his favourite songs of the 1960s and there were tributes from Ray Davies, Helen Shapiro, Paul Jones, Marty Wilde and Petula Clark. On 27 January 2017, the BBC announced that Matthew would be retiring from presenting the show, due to ill health. In February 2017, it was announced that Tony Blackburn would be taking over the show from March that year.[citation needed]

Features of the showEdit

Matthew, who made the programme very much his own, turned it into something of a cult, one aspect being its very own slang: "SOTS" (acronym of the title); "avids" (listeners); "the Vocalist" (the show's producer, Roger Bowman and, later, Phil Swern, the Collector). The two-hour programme is divided into one-hour "sides" (called Side 1 and Side 2) and the names of those listeners whose requests are to be played used to be announced at the start of each "side"; now the names of the artists requested are announced instead. There were also well-researched features, such as an "A to Z of the Beatles" (recordings of which were repeated during the shows from which Matthew was absent, to maintain his presence in the programme) and initially "SOTS" T-shirts for listeners whose record requests were played. Later, "SOTS" baseball caps and "SOTS" sweat shirts were given to successful requesters but, as of 2009, this practice ceased. Although the playlist was almost entirely restricted to music recorded in the 1960s, space was found for a time for so-called "roots" records from the 1950s, while recordings from that or earlier decades that re-entered the sales charts in the 1960s were also eligible. Its theme tune for all of its run up until the end of the Matthew era was the 1963 instrumental "Foot Tapper" by The Shadows. Its final appearance as the show's closing theme was on 15 April 2017, when Matthew's successor, Tony Blackburn, played it in tribute following Matthew's death the previous week.

Since April 2007, the show's producer has been Phil Swern, whom Matthew had nicknamed "The Collector". In 2017, Tom Du Croz (now Richard Power), Phil Swern and Tony Blackburn now compile and produce the show.

It was during Swern's time on the show that the "Playing Hard To Get" feature was introduced into the Matthew era of the show. Listeners who wanted a copy of a record they had lost over the years could request a CD of that song and, if successful, were sent a special "SOTS" CD of the track after it had been played on the show. When Matthew left the show, requests were dropped.

Tony Blackburn has been hosting the show since 4 March 2017. The show is currently broadcast live between 6am and 8am on Saturdays. New features of the show are 'America's Top 3', Magic Moments, 60s into the 70s, the A-Z of Motown, Tony's Doo-Wop Shop, Northern Soul Dancefloor Fillers and 'Phil Swern's Colossal Collection'. Swern is now heard on-air during Blackburn's tenure of the show.

During the COVID-19 pandemic the show temporarily returned to being pre-recorded with Blackburn recording it from his home. During this time Swern was not heard on-air and Blackburn changed the format of the show with more listener requests being played. The show returned live on 24 April 2021. On 10 April 2021, Sounds of the 60s was cancelled for the first time due to the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh the previous day.

Related showsEdit

For several years in the 1990s and a couple of years in the 2010s, Radio 2 carried a complementary show of music from the 1950s, Sounds of the 50s, which was presented by singer and entertainer Ronnie Hilton and later by Leo Green. In the 2000s, there was also Sounds of the 70s, a title first used in 1970 for a daily late-night show of "progressive" music on Radio 1. Radio 2's version of Sounds of the 70s was presented by singer-songwriter Steve Harley and now by Johnnie Walker. Sounds of the 80s was launched on Radio 2 on 5 October 2013, was presented by Sara Cox and now by Gary Davies. Sounds of the 90s was launched on 19 March 2020 and is presented by Fearne Cotton.

Other similar series (BBC Television)Edit

A number of series have been made under the Sounds of... name for BBC Television, which mix performances from the BBC's music archives with clips from various decades. Sounds of the Sixties[2] was first broadcast on BBC2 on 5 October 1991, with an episode called "The First Steps", which featured performances from acts such as The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Rolling Stones, along with puppets Pinky & Perky doing the Twist. Due to the nature of the BBC's 1960s Top of the Pops archive, the series compiled each episode from a wide range of BBC programmes such as cutting-edge pop show The Beat Room[3] and children's programmes like Blue Peter and Crackerjack.

Sounds of the Seventies followed on from Sounds of the Sixties in 1993, with a second series of ten programmes called Sounds of the 70s 2 made in 2012.[4] On 12 January 1996, an eight-part series called Sounds of the Eighties[5][6] was first shown by BBC2, with the first episode featuring Duran Duran, Culture Club, ABC, Bananarama and Kylie Minogue. All these four series have been repeated many times on BBC Four, with the programmes also being used by UKTV's Yesterday channel as part of their Saturday night music programming block.[7][8][9][10]


  1. ^ Richard Wiseman (2006) Whatever Happened to Simon Dee?
  2. ^ "BBC Four - Sounds of the Sixties, Original Series, the First Steps".
  3. ^ "BBC Four - Sounds of the Sixties, Original Series, 1964-66: The Beat Room".
  4. ^ "BBC Two - Sounds of the 70s 2 - Episode guide".
  5. ^ "BBC Four - Sounds of the Eighties".
  6. ^ "BBC Four - Sounds of the Eighties, Episode 1".
  7. ^ "Sounds of the Sixties | Yesterday Channel".
  8. ^ "Sounds of the Sixties | Yesterday Channel".
  9. ^ "TV listings guide".
  10. ^ "TV listings guide".

External linksEdit