Talk Radio – The Midnight Line

Under the cover culture lover was going to be the title to this post but I was worried about what kind of hits I might get from google.

I’m not sure quite how I came across Ian Perrys Midnight Line, I think a friend of mine was a listener, once I’d heard it I soon became hooked, an under the cover culture lover as Ian would say. Broadcast from Wolverhampton on Beacon radio and also on WABC via medium wave, I could only pick the show up when the winds were blowing in the right direction and when I really should have been getting some sleep for school the next day.

Weeknights from midnight until 2am the show would run with either topical national or local stories or else one of its regular feature formats. One of these was a roughly bi-monthly show featuring John Starkey [who sounded at the time to me to be a man in his sixties]. These we’re some of the most genuinely ‘spooky’ shows I’ve ever heard, while you could argue on some calls he was reading the persons responses on the other end of the line, more often than not he’d pluck something completely off the wall, but very specific, and be spot on. I think during just about every show there would be a hair standing up on the back of the neck moment. I see from his website that John is younger now than he sounded at the time, given this was nearly twenty years ago, and is still doing the odd radio show, I must try to catch one, a lots changed in the media since then and it would be interesting to hear how the show is received today.

The show was a true local programme, providing both a service for the local community to air gripes and complaints with local issues as well as opinion on wider national and international news and more importantly provided entertainment and a sense of community for the housebound, people working unsociable hours and for people like me, who should really have been asleep. Most of all, it was always great fun, Regular callers like Eric, the Captain, Wing Nut, Johnny Morris & Jammo the parrot would always give you something to laugh about. Ian was a very good host, managing to make hosting such a show seem effortless and being able to draw peoples opinions out of themselves in an era where people were far less ‘media savy’.

I don’t know when or why the show ended, I went away from the midlands for a few years and when I came back there was no mention of Ian Perry to be found anywhere. Since then I did read he was working for BBC Shropshire Though I’m yet to be up at 5am to listen and the show didn’t seem to be podcasted when last I checked.

Listening to a few shows again now, I used to start the tape recorder at midnight, which given the fact that most of my tapes we’re C90’s meant I always missed the last half hour, the shows are much as I remember them. One thing that stands out is just how much general opinion and society has changed in the past fifteen years, and how un self aware most of the callers we’re, it was very honest and open radio.
The other thing that struck me is how the callers who we’re ‘characters’ on the show, we’re genuine characters, they weren’t frustrated performers phoning up with made up personas(Well…), which unfortunately seems to have become the norm on most modern talk radio shows.

It was everything that can be good about radio, it was intimate, gimmick free and offered a genuine insight into other peoples lives. Listening to the Christmas Grotto show with a friend on a road trip a while back we still we’re reduced to tears of laughter.
Its a shame that there is so little ‘local’ radio today, let alone so little good talk based radio. Heres a couple of links to some archived shows;

‘Free For All’
‘Commision for Racial Equality’
‘John Starky’

Tony’s maitreya never did show up mind.

2015 update!

Okay, so megaupload is long dead, legal files or not. Someone on the Facebook Group mentioned YouTube so… Playlist


So there are three tomatoes walking down the street…


85 Years of MG


  1. Cutting up frogs, explosions… in test tubes… that is where most peoples knowledge of science ends…

    Worth mentioning that series three of the fantasic ‘Down the line’ is currently on the iPlayer.

  2. Ian Perrys Midnight Line

    I remember that on Beacon Radio. With all the guests like Len the conspirasist and old Eric, who sadly died, with his catch phrase of “Haaang onn Iannn I’mmm comin” Cos he was usually away from his phone.

  3. …and the Captain and his pensioners who mistakenly decorated the wrong flat, Barking mad Dave [no relation to yourself] and Johnny Morris and Jammo the parrot… ah, those we’re the days…

  4. Who could forget the Captain!

    In all his campery!

  5. Huxley

    I used to tune in in bed when I was working as a YTS trainee in a local garden centre, could really only listen till 1am otherwise I’d be knackered the next day. I remember one memorable episode when he ‘regressed’ back to being one Sergeant George Watkins of the Scots Guards during the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940. Wether or not int was a wid-up it was total radio – intriguing and highly entertaining. The other memorable night was when he had a particularly abusive caller who refused to apologise to him, so Ian read out two digits of his phone number every twenty minutes till he rang to to apologise – boy did he get in the shit for that. The Midnight Line was a real one off ( Ian Collins with his ‘creatures’ achieved the same sort of vibe in the90s on Talk Radio, but never quite hit the mark). So many memories ‘me ole culture lovers’.

  6. Thanks for the comment. I agree it was a complete one off, the sense of freedom Ian had [or took] and the ‘local’ nature of the show, other than the occasional pirate show I’ve caught I’ve never seen a local show that had such a sense of community about it.

    Its funny I was driving through Shropshire today and thinking of the show. There is a group on Facebook and someone’s just posted a show online.

    I agree I used to enjoy Ian Collins when it was Mike and Miff. Tommy Boyd had a nice run on BBC Southern Counties a few years ago too.

    There are a couple of shows that have a good sense of that community broadcasting on Rhubarb Radio out of Birmingham just now, I’ve been enjoying the Chicks did Jerks shows and Brumcast, more for the music but also for the relaxed and honest presentation.

    Anyway, I’ve rambled on a bit but thanks for leaving the comment, I do hope Ian Perry is proud of what he did with that show and knows quite how many people have fond memories of it.


  7. Hey, its wasn’t Hollybush Garden Centre you we’re working at was it πŸ˜†

    I’ll never forget that jingle.

  8. Whoa, thank you so much Marie.

    I’m listening as I type. Ians show wasn’t podcasted last time I tried to listen. Great to hear him reading that weather again.

    Thanks for posting the link, its made my evening.

    All the best, Chris.

  9. Alex

    Hey good to see a blog about the midnight line, I miss this show.. would pick this show up in the dark hills of mid wales always tuned in and your right the winds would have an effect on the reception.. making Starkey’s callins pretty spooky. What was Ian’s fav tune he always played wasn’t it a track by Dexy Midnight Runners??

  10. Hi Alex, Cheers.

    I think Ians fave tune was Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s Make Me Smile.

    I saw Steve play several years later at the Ashton Court Festival in Bristol which I remember reminding me of the show, though the sound was pretty bad if memory serves…

  11. Richard

    I loved the midnight line and listened every night from mid 92 to when it ended in 1997. Have a lot and I mean a lot of them on tape still, something like 400 tapes so I guess 300-400 shows maybe more all titled and catalogued. I was a proper Midnight Line nerd;-) Not listened to them for years might have to dig them out the loft sometime.

    Ian can now be heard every morning at 5am on BBC Radio Shropshire and on the iplayer. He also does reporting during Eric Smiths breakfast show. Well worth a listen, still has his dry sense of humour.

    One of, if not Ian’s fav tune is “Cool for Cats” by Squeeze.

  12. Mike

    Thanks for putting these up! I was a very regular listener from about 1989-1995 (with my headphones under the pillows) when I was at high school/6th form. It still sounds good today: I’m impressed how well informed Ian is and his style of gentle confrontation is a really good way to bring the best out of callers.

    I remember for a while Ian was always promoting Streetbike in Dudley as he was about to go on a roadtrip on a bike across the USA. I also remember a programme about religion when someone phoned in claiming to be a vicar: Ian caught him out by asking him what the 3rd commandment was and cut him off when he couldn’t answer!

    If you or Richard could post any more episodes that would be awesome.

    Thanks again for bringing back some happy radio memories!

  13. Ian Perry

    One last time then – Okay-dokey me old culture lovers…..

    Crikey – I’m blushing here. I honestly didn’t know how much the Midnight Line meant to people. It meant everything to me and the day I heard GWR were binning it ranks amongst one of the worst days of my life.

    Why did the show sound so different? That’s easy – I had no idea at all about what I was doing. So I just did my own thing. I literally walked out of an advertising agency and into a radio studio. Initially Beacon gave me a five day contract – it lasted nearly ten years.

    Thank you for all the kind comments. I really do feel we achieved something great and wonderful and brilliant with the Midnight Line – before the internet it was a vehicle were you could put stuff up for debate -be serious- have a laugh – and feel like you were amongst friends. I certainly did. How did we get away with it for so long? Because it was ultimately fun and everybody was invited along that’s why. There was genuine anger when the show was axed.

    The regression show was for real by the way. If you search the commonwealth war graves database you find this:

    Not an exact match but close enough to get me worried. Especially as this database appeared a good five years after the show went out. I went a bit pale the first time I found it. I haven’t followed it up any further because I don’t have a copy of the show. And anyway… I’d look a bit out of place at a Scots Guards reunion.

    I could talk all night (In fact I used to!) – for the record Steve Harleys ‘Make Me Smile’ is my favourite record of all time.. closely followed by ‘Cool for Cats’ … I also used to sneak in Ian Dury’s ‘Sex and Drugs’ and the Specials ‘Message to You Rudi’ oh yes, and anything by the Clash.

    I am so sorry I couldn’t bring the show back for you (and me) but it wasn’t through a lack of trying. Nobody wanted to know which is why I had to take a different direction.

    But we all know… Man, we were there! And it was a total and utter blast. I met a councillor a few weeks ago and he told me that the phone show.. and a call he’d made to it.. had helped him overcome, or at least learn to live with, his stutter. I felt ten feet tall. Worth doing just for that.

    The Captain was, and still is, a real person. He used to come up with his own mad adventures… how true they were I’ll leave you to decide.

    Thank you my friends. You’ve made me very very happy. One thing though that I need you to know is that when the show was brutally axed I didn’t lose my phone show… we lost our phone show.

    But hey – what a great feeling – the 1st Battallion Under the Duvet Culture Lovers are still keeping the Midnight Line alive.

    Thank you.

    Ian Perry

  14. Mark C Edwards

    Thanks for those comments, Ian. All of us who were passionate ‘culture lovin’ ML fans were really, genuinely devastated (just as you were) when the show was axed. Now, you see that is what happens when a faceless, clueless media ‘conglomerate’, only interested in gobbling up small, independent radio stations for their own selfish, profit-driven reasons arrive on the scene. The fact that they replaced your show with a dire ‘late night love music’ show, manned by a presenter who frankly, (in my humble opinion) sounded so ‘fake’ and sickly smooth that you wanted to throw up all over the radio, every time you heard it, was simply adding salt to very sore wounds. I seem to recall that, at that time, ‘love zone’ shows were all the rage amongst programme directors, whom I distinctly remember you once joked about on air as being like a ‘bunch of lemmings’, who just followed each other blindly into the unknown!

    The ML really WAS a ‘link’ to the outside world and wider Midlands community to many local disabled/housebound folk, like myself, and you simply cannot ever stress enough just what a huge ‘void’ was created, when it disappeared. National talk stations such as the (then named) Talk Radio were simply no replacement, as they were generally manned by cocky, arrogant presenters who didn’t even have the courtesy to end a conversation with a caller properly, simply retreating to the land of the ‘fader’, to ensure that THEY (and not the caller) always had the last word.

    I can genuinely say that I have YET to hear ONE ‘talk’ format radio presenter who even comes REMOTELY close to yourself, in terms of sheer quality.

    It may be true that ‘handling’ a talk show, with the advent of emailing, etc… is more demanding for the presenter, these days, but a presenter of true quality and appeal, like yourself, can always rise to any new challenges.

    For this reason, many of your fans still hold out the hope that ONE day, somewhere in the cosmos, the ML will resurface once again…and, of course, it would only be the authentic ML with your good self as the anchor.

    I make this pledge. If lady luck ever does shine on me, I will aim to use my newfound wealth to open a new local radio station…and one of my first tasks will be to offer you a very lucrative contract to come and revive the ML for the 21st century.

    Hey! Stranger things have happened. πŸ˜‰

    One of my favourite callers? Hmmm. Let’s see…possibly ‘The Codfather’, Dave the chip-shop owner, who I just thought made such intelligent comments…and not to mention that lovely, deep voice!

    Greatest memories, Ian. We will always treasure them.

    Mark in Cannock.

  15. Huxley

    Me ole CLs !!!!! I’m writing this with a big ole lump in my throat. Ian, your show meant so friggin much to so many folks, never had a chance to say goodbye. Was out of the area for two weeks and tried to tune when when I got back …. well, we know the rest. Hope you had a chance to play “Letter from America” by the Proclaimers. If folks ever want to arrange a Midnight Line Culture Lovers session in a suitable watering hole in the Shrewsbury-Telford-Wolves area contact me on Likewise Richard,if yourreading this any chance you could contact me about your tape collection, I’d love to get some copies for my own enjoyment, all cost would be paid for.
    So many memories.
    The Midnight Line lives on in our hearts ….

  16. Mark C Edwards

    How great would it be if some IT-wizz could conjour up a kind of ‘Midnight Line Online’ website, which would be a debating forum/chat site, a homage to the once-legendary radio show? May not be as good as the real thing back on the airwaves, but could go some way to taking the edge off our culture-lovin’ appetites!

  17. Darren

    Blast from the past, and nice to see the man himself here. Ian, I’m glad you now realise how much the show meant to people. I recall that you had something to do with an advertising agency beforehand, was it my little pony or something similar you had been responsible for advertising?

    I seem to remember Ian joining Dave Myatt at 11.55 on a January evening in early 1988. I think Andy Wint had run the Midnight Line before but it took off with Myatt and Perry (or Martin Perry as one listener wrote in to – I named a character after that in my GCSE English essays!)

    Also remembered are the Ketley Junta, and Carl from Chelmsley Wood. The regression shows were brilliant.

    LMFAO on the Tony’s maitreya comment – he sincerely believed in it though!

  18. lpf20

    Chris, I hope you don’t mind – I’ve cut and pasted your text into the “Ian Perry’s Midnight Line – A Tribute” site on facebook.

    It’s good to see that, even a couple of years after your original post, people are still commenting on it.

  19. Oh hey, well done. Sorry, I really did mean to copy it as asked but somehow kept getting distracted. Thanks for that.

    I keep meaning to dig out some more of the old shows… one day…

  20. Steve

    Well I don’t know what made me put in a search for Midnight Line but I remember well lying there in bed till the early hours in South Birmingham seeing whether I’d get a signal on 97.2 or 103.1 or even WABC MW sometimes… nearly always crackly and never more than mono.

    The other name not mentioned above was Wilf, the “spiritual grandfather to culture lovers everywhere” and the regular characters were always good to listen to.

    I actually went and saw John Starkey in Birmingham having heard him so often on the show , though he didn’t come up with any amazing revelations it was interesting to put a face to the voice, and he is still there on the road from Wolverhampton I see.

    I don’t remember the end of the midnight line, probably because I had met my (now) wife by then and with three young kids now 2am doesn’t seem so late these days! Now live over in Black Country still listening to Beacon.

    Will have to listen in at 5am when poked out of bed early by the sounds of it to see what Ian is upto these days.

  21. I was thinking about the Midnight Line only yesterday, when writing a blog for World Radio Day. It’s fantastic to hear it’s still fondly remembered, and good to hear that Ian is proud of what he achieved. Seeing this tribute has made my day and I was only a listener!

  22. stex

    I remember the show well, as i am middle-aged i am obsessed with Nostalgia, I remember the Ian Perry handovers to Alan D Nicklin which was funny at times, i also remember the Captain, and Jammo the Parrot etc, All the best to Chris and all the fellow former listeners of this Gem.

  23. Funny how things go, I was in a pub in Warwick at the weekend and an advert came on the radio for Hollybush Garden Centre which always sets me thinking of the Midnight Line πŸ™‚

  24. Dean Griffiths

    Loved listening to The Midnight Line and had the pleasure of meeting Ian at the Nell Gwynne in Shifnal (as it was known then). This was a ghost hunt night and what a great laugh was had by all.
    Great show with great people involved both ends of the phone.
    The regression show was brilliant as well and really sticks in the mind.
    They don’t make them like they used to.
    Thanks for the memories.

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