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An introduction to ALAN BANGS - BFBS / WDR Radio DJ and TV presenter - and a playlist


In my formative years (1978 - 88 or so) there had been one outstanding Radio DJ for me, an Englishmen from Dartford / Kent (by chance the hometown of Mick Jagger), presenting radio shows from Cologne and Essen, Germany:

Mr. Alan Bangs (born 1951),

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working for BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting Service) and WDR (West German Broadcast):
For young DuckToller he took over musical education from Wolfman, whose US Top 40 I had heard almost every Sunday afternoon when I was 12, but Alan provided for me content and context of music like I had never heard before. And gave me a lot of music I have heard afterwards,  again and again.

In Europe his face was well known in these times when Rock music wasn’t very present at TV and MTV and VH-1 did not exist yet. Alan Bangs fronted the Rockpalast shows and Rockpalast Nights, which were broadcasted all over Europe via television and radio simultaneously.

AT BFBS he was a colleague of the legendary John Peel, but much more intrigued to provide more than an indie radio playlist, his enthusiasm of difference was expressed in something like an hour of playing “Fever” in various interpretations, playing one full album in his show or doing i.e. shows about the topic Pain/Hurt. Unheard , back then.

We need to understand here that the German radio/TV landscape was divided by stately organized owned regional broadcasting networks under public control founded by the winning alliance after WW2, which were obliged to create a diaspora of culture and education in order to diversify public opinion after the period of the Fascist regime until 1945.
Mr. Bangs signed up from London to the BFBS which controlled the North-Western part of Germany and he started his first program there in 1973 (until 1989) and took over at WDR for 1979 until 1995.

While he did Night programs that suited his style far better than daytime slots, he carried the censorship of the (BR) Bavarian Network for his shows as a badge of honor.
Info: The conservative Bavarian government (i.e. like TEXAS) always gained content control through relational castings of main functions in the station. They still do so.

Alan was dismissed from the recently founded format radio WDR1 1995 after he played in his show (Youth format) a chanson from Jacques Brel and a piece of Debussy followed by a track from German industrial noise-artists Einstürzende Neubauten. That event had been sought incommensurate for the program’s chain of command and ended the career of one of the most respected and loved DJ in German radio after the 2nd world war.

While this had been the 90ties and most of the young adults back then hated format radio, this had been the time the newly found conservatism und Chancellor Kohl took control in public financed media while at the same time a private owned network diaspora started to evolve.

Just today I’ve heard mainstream, classic and hardcore in the same playlist that comes along with Qobuz after my album of choice has finished. I’ve heard Washington originals Bad Brains just after Dreams from Fleetwood Mac and just before Jodyline Gallarvadin (modern classic).
In ’95 you were fired for that. And I would think that in many format radio station you may be cancelled too, today.

In ‘92 one of the aims of our free radio project RADIO LORETTA in Hamburg had been exactly to provide dynamics through listening to transitions from free jazz to Hip-Hop and classic to hardcore as a shout out and aural postcard from reality. The policy of maximum transitions. Back then I knew it was different but understand our subversive approach even more clearly when I read what happened to Alan Bangs.

https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Ftse4.explicit.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DOIP._HfF6019f2Sm1bLfG1uxwAHaEJ%26pid%3DApi&f=1&ipt=f0c0867429c3e7da538f32118758a8153c3ba0055831672060ee67b43d97d3a8&ipo=images Alan Bangs with Mitch Ryder

Back to Alan Bangs, he presented and made me see and record in stereophony live concerts when broadcasting the Rockpalast Night in Eurovision between 1977 and 1986.

Concerts from The Undertones, The Who, Grateful Dead (just 15 minutes before I gracefully fell asleep - haha) The Police, Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, Mitch Ryder, Peter Gabriel, Patti Smith, Graham Parker & The Rumour, Prince live from Syracuse NY, ZZ Top, Mink de Ville, Van Morrison, The Kinks, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, John Cale, Jackson Browne, Big Country and many more. He was also involved in the Rockpalast series of recorded concerts for WDR television.
Here is the impressive list of artists they had on stage.

By chance I got my hands on a huge excel list which contains the decade long work of the Alan Bangs fan club, the Friends of Alan, who collected data from almost all shows with artists and records played in Alan’s career as DJ in the German radio diaspora spanning almost 40 years. The list includes more than 15k songs from more than 4.5 k different artist. At this point I really like to thank them by heart for their great work!

I clearly remember the show when I got introduced to Robbie Robertson or the ones when he presented Daniel Lanois or Dream Syndicate. I always hoped that my brief encounter in the free radio scene in Hamburg would allow me wee bit of time to show qualities he had when I listen to him. If anyone was an idol to my teenage self, it was him:  smart, confrontative, knowledgeable and prime in his exquisite taste … Therefore I was very excited to lay my hand on this list ;-)

Thus, I used my once acquired skills and reworked the list a wee bit, and I have now an Excel file that informs us, how often particular artists were presented and how often particular songs were played.
While the majority of songs only appear one or two times, there are roughly one k of songs he played 3 times or more. That is the entry door for the party, looking back in the past into the playlist of –uhm- “excellent taste” (afaik ;-))  for the outstanding music played on air by Alan between 1975 and 2012. Mostly Rock music, lots of Blues and country influenced and singer songwriters, rarely songs that were suitable for the mainstream format radio. Ok, some are, but overall I see this as a great option to dive into a legacy of a very respected hero of modern rock broadcasting in Europe.

In case you are interested to get the file, please PM me

Further reading:
Alan Bangs
Friends of Alan
Alan Banks Archive


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