The Price of Pete

So, there’s this local celebrity called Pete Price.

His main exposure to the people of Liverpool is via a week-night late-night 4 hour phone-in via heritage commercial radio station Radio City and via a weekly opinion column in the much revered local paper, the Liverpool Echo.

But, he’s more than just a phone-in host.

He was originally a stand-up comedian, appears almost every Christmas in Panto (how on earth does he survive two shows a day and then four hours on the radio?), and despite being in his late 60s, can work the clubs and command an audience of all different ages to sing-a-long with him.  He’s an all round entertainer, and has a bit of a ‘Marmite’ reaction from locals.  On the whole they love him.  But there are those who hate him.

When I first moved to Liverpool I discovered him on the radio, and being a radio anorak, I listened avidly because it wasn’t just a prick playing songs.  His show had content that an iPod on shuffle just can’t provide, and that’s a Liverpudlian / Scouse community identity.

To this day I still feel like a bit of an outsider, as he has a very close knit following that has been with him for decades.  The phone-in was originally on AM via the oldies radio brand ‘Magic‘, but switched to the more listened to FM and can be heard on Radio City and relayed on failed talk station CityTalk (which rarely talks any more, preferring to play rock and pop oldies instead until there’s football to commentate on).

The show has a dramatic history with callers threatening suicide and Pete Price leaving the studio to talk to them one-on-one, and another caller having a heart attack and dying mid-conversation, yet for decades it has been a focal point for Liverpudlians before going to bed for the night.

However, as I hinted, his show is completely different to the rest of the now homogenised output of Radio City, which now sounds just like any other commercial radio station full of segues, liners, and standard dj-speak, and has a large part of its output coming from Bauer’s centralised studios in Manchester rather than from Liverpool itself.  At 10pm the station cuts away from the networked homogenised output that’s also being broadcast on nearly every Bauer owned radio station around the country, to provide this last remaining ‘local’ Liverpool programme.

When I first moved to Liverpool, the Pete Price phone-in was incredibly busy, and a lot of the content was like flashing back to how I remember phone-in radio in London in the 1970s and 1980s.  Indeed, a lot of the subjects were very similar, including the constant references to ‘Margaret Thatcher’ and how she is to blame for something, anything, everything.

Over the few years that I’ve been here I’ve noticed that most nights he struggles to attract proper callers.

Openly gay, he gets plenty of calls from the haters who seem to want to be homophobic at his expense or try to ‘prank’ him into reacting.  He also gets plenty of calls when he has one of his ‘psychic’ reading guests in.  Liverpool is still full of superstition and religion, and so the ‘believers’ flock to hear the likes of Phoebe reading their ‘cards’ over the air.

To counter the lack of callers, a lot of his content is taken up with studio guests or ‘down the line’ interviews with people.  Whatever might be happening anywhere else in the world, Pete Price will work out a way to make it relevant and important to Liverpool.  In that sense he’ll also get behind the likes of Christopher Maloney, the Liverpudlian contestant on the X Factor, and of course, the Hillsborough Families, or anything relating to Liverpool’s regeneration.

I think my point in writing about Pete Price, from a radio perspective, is to mourn the fact that there are no younger and newer Pete Prices waiting in the system.  It is not something the radio groups want, and the talent capable of providing such a unique programme just isn’t out there any more.  He is the last of a particular breed, and his type and style is not welcome on the radio of the future.

Long may he reign, but I get the feeling that should he decide to hang up his microphone in the distant future, Radio City will simply replace him with whatever homogenised rubbish is spewing from their centralised Manchester studio and the whole concept of actual local radio of interest to the community will be allowed to fade away into history.  That will be a complete tragedy.