Brit Music: BBC Radio 1 won’t play Robbie Williams

The cover to Robbie Williams' big new single. Image Source: Robbie Williams.

The cover to Robbie Williams’ big new single… okay, it’s been out for over a year, but don’t expect to hear it on Radio 1 anytime soon.
Image Source: Robbie Williams.

There’s a little phoenomenon in music I like to call “Hitmaker Emeritus Syndrome.” This is what happens when a musician who formerly made hit after hit years ago reaches an odd state where even though every time they release a new album, it sells well, and they might have a lot of good songs. Whenever they announce a tour, rest assured that the whole tour will sell out as soon as possible. BUT: if they release a new single, rest assured that it won’t get any airplay at all. Take, for instance, Paul McCartney. All the albums he’s released since 1997’s Flaming Pie have been exceptionally solid affairs with quite a few good songs, and he’s still going strong as a live act, but, really, when’s the last time you’ve heard any of his new songs on the radio? I think the only post-Wings song I’ve heard on the radio more than once was “Dance Tonight,” and even then, I’ve heard Katy Perry’s latest single more times in the past week than “Dance Tonight” in the six years since it’s been released. And, rest assured that the Top 40 stations won’t let “New” play when they can saturate their airwaves with songs like “Roar” or “Applause.” Robbie Williams seems to be heading this way, and, boy, is he not happy about it.

Last month, Radio 1 bosses claimed they consider the 39-year-old Robbie Williams too old to play on Radio 1. It’s sort of like that scene from 8 1/2 where Guido fantasises about having a harem and sending any of his women who grow too old for him upstairs, where they will be treated equally well, but will have to bask in the memories of their heydays. Other musicians relegated Upstairs to Radio 2 are Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Green Day, and Muse, who are “approaching a crossroads – their last single was the first one not playlisted by Radio 1 in a decade. The door remains open to them but we’ll have to think carefully about their next album.”

Robbie Williams, when asked about it on Radio 4’s “Mastertape” program, said this: “I’m very ambitious, So when Radio 1 goes and is taken away from you, a huge bit of your arsenal goes. It’s your main oxygen to get your stuff out there.” Earlier in the year, he noticed radio 1’s refusal to play “Candy” and lashed out against the industry, saying:  “I did the Brits and started singing, ‘Hey-ho, here we go’ to a bunch of industry people and they were all just like, ‘Fuck off, you’re fat and you’re old. And Radio 1 don’t play you no more – you’re fat and you’re old’. Isn’t that right Nick [Grimshaw], you bastard?”
Of course, that said, he should consider himself lucky at this point; here, we in America are very lucky if we get to hear him singing on a movie’s soundtrack CD (something that’s happened all of once since 2005), much less any of his actual hits.


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  1. avatarMatthew says

    CORRECTION: Actually, “Candy”, the “big new single” as the picture caption mentioned was released in September 2012.

  2. avatarMichael D Winchcombe says

    Not the first nor the last artist to complain – it’s called evolution.

    And to think it all started with Status Quo in 1996

    Oh, well, there’s always Radio 2 where his original / older fanbase probably are.

    As Morrissey sung –

    At the record company meeting
    On their hands – a dead star
    And oh, the plans they weave
    And oh, the sickening greed

    A-list, playlist
    “Please them , please them !”
    “Please them !”
    (sadly, THIS was your life)

    “Please them ! Please them !”
    (sadly this was your life)