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Rock and Roll Reflections

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Former pupils of Bolton School, Mark Radcliffe (BBC Radio broadcaster) and Tony Wadsworth CBE (former Chairman and CEO of EMI and Parlophone) shared centre stage with recent leaver Adam Woolley (BBC) in an evening of rock and roll reflections at the Manchester Art Gallery. 

Alumni and friends of the School gathered at the prestigious venue to listen to the two raconteurs speak freely about their recollections of school days, their failed attempts to become rock stars and successful, although both said serendipitous, careers in the music industry. All these answers were expertly teased out of them by compere for the night, Adam. 

Tony had been in the year above Mark at school and both had fronted their own rock bands – separated in style by a rock and roll year with Tony’s band, Black Cat Bone, taking its influences from the likes of Free and Mark’s band, The Berlin Airlift, being given its musical direction by the likes of T-Rex. Both carried their dream of stardom to university with Tony studying Economics at Newcastle and Mark studying English with American Studies at Manchester. Whilst plugging away with their respective bands at university, neither quite reached the heights they were striving for, although Tony’s band The Young Bucks was, Mark noted jealously at the time, once reviewed in the NME!  Realising their bandmates were getting jobs after university, the pair looked around to see what they might do. Both felt their Bolton School grounding had given them a self-belief that they could compete with anyone in the job market and the pair quickly picked up jobs in the music industry. Having seen an advertisement in Music Week, Tony started work as a Production Controller for Warwick Records, before taking a job at EMI and after holding many positions within the company worked his way to the top to become CEO and Chairman; Mark “blagged” his way onto Piccadilly Radio becoming Assistant Producer of Drama and Classical Music before being allowed to deliver a Saturday afternoon music show which included regular updates from the cricket! He is currently a presenter of the BBC6 Music afternoon show and The Folk Show on Radio 2. 

Adam asked a number of illuminating questions and when put on the spot, Tony said, based on his dealings with them, the three bands that he has worked with that he would take to a desert island with him would be The Pet Shop Boys, Radiohead and Blur. Mark Radcliffe said the three celebrity interviews that he would take with him to an island would be the one he did with Paul McCartney in Abbey Road Studios, a meeting with David Bowie backstage at the Hammersmith Odeon and a much sought after interview he got, with just a little help from Tony, with Kate Bush at her house after her long self-imposed exile from music whilst she focused on being a mother. 

Asked about the future and digital media, Mark said DJs are still needed, despite the likes of Spotify, to steer listeners towards music they may like and that podcasts could possibly shake up the radio industry. Both were delighted that music sales were rising again at the rate of 10% per year and that vinyl has made a comeback – Tony said he is proud to be a partner in a record store in Shoreditch. He also noted how streaming, which many had forecast would reduce revenues, was actually bringing in much needed funds which can be invested in new bands by record companies. 

The Old Boys were talking about The Future of the Creative Arts in a Digital Age at Bolton School’s latest Alumni Networking Event. The evening ‘gallery takeover’ also celebrated the creative arts at Bolton School and the drawing together of the first phase of Artsmark Platinum status for the Boys’ Division and included drama with RoughHouse Theatre, art, dance and music performances from current and former pupils.  

Tony Wadsworth attended Bolton School from 1967 to 1974, Mark Radcliffe attended from 1966-1976 and Adam Woolley attended from 2006-2013.  

You can watch the “in conversation” in four parts on Bolton School TV: 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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