If you liked Brexit, but thought it lacked a decent soundtrack, you are in luck. If you like music that’s not, for example, 90s jazz-pop enthusiasts Curiosity Killed The Cat, you are not.
Yes, this is the news of Union Jack, a radio station that resolves to only play music recorded by British artists. It has been launched by the team behind Absolute Radio and cuts out literally all American hip-hop, European pop and any other non-UK music that might be considered good times. Instead, the station’s oddly numerically specific target audience of 40-to-54 year-olds will be fed a hearty diet of Tom Odell, Jake Bugg, Biffy Clyro and Richard Ashcroft. The aural equivalent of being fed a black pudding by a dinner lady in a motorway café while a bulldog pisses on your leg. It was also promised there’d be no DJ, just songs chosen by Union Jack’s patriotic listeners. It launched at 11am this morning, so we tuned in, bugged out and kept it British.
30 seconds in
The station’s maiden broadcast is heralded by chiming bells and a cockerel crowing, before a bloke with a stiff-upper-lip sputters: “Britain, a small but mighty nation… Britain, built on pork pies and pasties.” It’s an ironic, pre-recorded audio clip, in-keeping with Union Jack’s vow to avoid “irritating” DJs. There are also clips from TV news reports on the 2012 Olympics, snippets of Fawlty Towers and a gag about “Tom Daley’s tight speedos” and “Mary Berry’s soggy bottom” making Britain Great. In other words, a moodboard from the mind of Nigel Farage.
One minute in
What the fuck is this? There is literally a DJ talking. He hasn’t announced himself or given his name, perhaps hoping that we won’t notice – but we have noticed him, readers. He is here, on the radio, talking with his mouth, like a DJ might. “This is the only radio station in the universe that only plays the best of British music,” he says. There may well be a reason for that.
Two minutes in
We open with ‘Good Morning Britain’ by Aztec Camera and Mick Jones, a song that reached number 19 in 1990. An underwhelming start.
Five minutes in
That last track was chosen by Union Jack. Anything hereafter will come courtesy of the station’s listeners, who put the request in using a button on its app or a weird feature called ‘Backchat’ where listeners record a voice clip of their request and send it in. The very first request on Union Jack: ‘Don’t Turn Around’ by 80s reggae group Aswad. Well, it beats Tom Odell (which is a tempting prospect all round).
10 minutes in
Oh my fuck, they’re playing Erasure. Union Jack has unleashed ‘A Little Respect’. This is amazing. I’ve removed my shirt and I’m dancing at my desk. Keep Britain great! I’m so in love with you!
14 minutes in
It’s all too much. Hot on the heels of Erasure: only bloody Oasis! ‘Little By Little’ might not be the best Oasis song, but, by God, it’s going to take a lot to convince me to put my shirt back on like HR have requested.
19 minutes in
The anonymous DJ is playing ‘Backchats’ recorded by his children, which is certainly taking the shine off the Erasure/Oasis two-punch.
24 minutes in
The UK producer Draper’s ‘Break Over You’, which was released earlier this year but sounds like a ringtone from 2004, is followed by ‘So Lonely’ By The Police. The songs are punctuated by a pre-recorded comedy voice-over that assures listeners that listening to the station is as British as “eating a Full English at two in the morning”, which is also known as a nervous breakdown.
31 minutes in
Time now for ‘Twist and Shout’ by 90s Scottish rockers Deacon Blue. The not-DJ crows: “I know I would say this – but I love Union Jack. Deacon Blue, ‘Twist And Shout’ – where has that been?” The answer, of course, is that it’s been wrapped up in a handkerchief in Alan Partridge’s breast pocket since 1991.
36 minutes in
This is possibly as good as Union Jack is ever going to get. It’s ‘Common People’ by Pulp. Increasingly convinced we should start a station that only plays Pulp, and call it Radio Jarvis.
40 minutes in
It can only be downhill from here. And so it is: ‘Down To Earth’ by Curiosity Killed the Cat and ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen, which the DJ – who, remember, doesn’t exist – talks over. This is followed by ‘Out Of My Body’ by Richard Ashcroft, one of only two songs from the last decade that have been played.
49 minutes in
The public has requested ‘This Charming Man’ by The Smiths and I have, once again, removed my shirt. The accumulative effect of Erasure, Oasis, Pulp and The Smiths is reason to believe that maybe Union Jack is the best radio station ever invented.
53 minutes in
It’s ‘Hey Jude’. They’re playing ‘Hey Jude’. It’s enough to make you float a flotilla along the Thames.
‘Hey Jude’ is so long that it pretty much brings us to the end of the first hour of Union Jack, a radio station that steadfastly refuses to draw on the rich cultural heritage that the world has gifted us with. It’s tempting, what with all the amazing music that’s been played, to get behind the idea. But we must remember that, in the midst of this, the public requested Deacon Blue and Curiosity Killed The Cat. It could have been Kanye. It could have been Italo disco. It could have been so much better. The Union Jack listening public has denied itself a great deal of pleasure here, which only goes to show that arbitrary cultural exclusion makes us all poorer. That bit with Oasis and Erasure was fucking great, though.