John Pidgeon (writer)

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John Pidgeon, born Carlisle, Cumberland, 1 March 1947, is a journalist, author, music historian, radio producer, comedy executive and, lately, crossword compiler.

John Pidgeon was brought up in a village in Buckinghamshire, where he attended the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, his time there overlapping with Ian Dury and Roger Scruton. He studied French at the University of Kent and postgraduate Film Studies under Thorold Dickinson at the Slade School, where his writing career began with a review of Carry On Henry for the BFI's Monthly Film Bulletin. An uncredited script for a BBC2 Film Night special on pop movies followed, and in July 1972 he began a weekly film guide for New Musical Express.[1] Around the same time he was invited to join the team about to launch Let It Rock magazine by Charlie Gillett, who subsequently recommended him as a scriptwriter for BBC Radio 1's The Story of Pop.

In December 1972 he joined The Faces' road crew for the band's UK tour in order to write a roadie's diary, which appeared in Let It Rock[2] and America's Creem magazine.[3] His association with the band led not only to 1976's Rod Stewart and the Changing Faces,[4] a book which Paul Gorman has suggested "broke the mould in terms of music books in the 70s," but to a songwriting partnership with keyboard player Ian McLagan. A Backpages Classics Kindle edition of Rod Stewart and the Changing Faces was published in 2011.

In 1973 he took over as editor of Let It Rock,[5] while continuing to write for NME and script documentaries for Radio 1. He wrote a "savagely readable"[6] novelisation of Slade in Flame,[7] which paid scant attention to the screenplay and was withdrawn from sale at cinemas where the film was shown in 1975 for its bad language and explicit violence. Slade's Noddy Holder nevertheless called it "a great book", suggesting John "must have been around the scene for quite a while, he knows a hell of a lot."[8] Then, drawing on his teenage experiences of the British R&B scene for early material, John became the first biographer of Eric Clapton.[9]

An occasional contributor to Time Out, for whom he interviewed his football hero Stan Bowles,[10] John followed editor Richard Williams to Melody Maker, where he championed The Police,[11] accompanying the trio on their first US tour,[12] as he did almost 30 years later during their reunion.[13]

By the end of the decade he was back in radio, making documentaries and special programmes for Capital Radio, whose Head of Music was The Story of Pop's producer Tim Blackmore. John also devised two long-running series - Jukebox Saturday Night and The View From The Top – for disc jockey Roger Scott, and when Scott moved to Radio 1 in 1988, John devised Classic Albums, which he and Scott produced as the network's first independent production. After Scott died of cancer in October 1989, Richard Skinner took over as presenter, and more than fifty programmes were aired around the world.

Having produced and written sketches for Brunch, Capital's ground-breaking mix of music and comedy, whose regular performers were Steve Brown, Paul Burnett, Angus Deayton, Jeremy Pascall and Jan Ravens, John broadened his radio output[14] with comedy documentaries and four series of the award-winning Talking Comedy for Radio 2.

In 1999, he was approached by the BBC to run Radio Entertainment, which he did for six years, nurturing Dead Ringers, Flight of The Conchords, Little Britain and The Mighty Boosh during his time in charge. He was appointed a Fellow of the Radio Academy in 2003 and chaired the Perrier Panel in Edinburgh in 2005.[15]

One of Pidgeon's first recruits to Radio Entertainment was 23-year-old trainee producer Danny Wallace. In 2008, asked who in the media he most admired and why, Wallace answered, "Jonathan Ross for pioneering and quick wit. Terry Wogan for reassurance and warmth. And John Pidgeon, my mentor at the BBC – a finer and more creative man you're not likely to meet."[16]

In 2010 Pidgeon fulfilled a long-held ambition, when he began compiling crosswords for the Daily Telegraph, where his Toughie puzzles are attributed to Petitjean. According to one contributor to Big Dave's Crossword Blog, "I always consider that I need to put a ‘slightly mad’ hat on in order to solve a Petitjean crossword."[17]


  1. ^ NME, 8 July 1972
  2. ^ Let It Rock, January 1974
  3. ^ Creem, October 1973
  4. ^ Panther Books, 1976
  5. ^ Popular Music and Society, Vol 33, Issue 4, October 2010
  6. ^ Mark Kermode, It's Only A Movie, Arrow Books, 2010
  7. ^ Panther Books, 1975
  8. ^ Sounds, 08/03/75
  9. ^ Eric Clapton, Panther Books, 1975
  10. ^ Time Out, 17/05/74
  11. ^ MM, 12/10/78
  12. ^ MM, 02/12/78
  13. ^ Guardian, 24/08/07
  14. ^ "A ‘little guy’ making some outstanding radio" (Tim Blackmore, Broadcast, 28 July 1995)
  15. ^ Stephen Armstrong, Guardian, 22/08/05
  16. ^ Independent, 07/07/08
  17. ^ "Toughie No 560 by Petitjean", (gnomethang, Big Dave's Crossword Blog, 11 May 2011)

External links[edit]

Pidgeon's Guardian article on The Police's reunion can be found at: [1] For articles on British R&B, the Faces, Let It Rock's 1973 critics' poll, writing for the NME and other topics, see Rock's Backpages Writers’ Blogs: [2] For his views on developing radio comedy at the BBC, see: [3] Stephen Armstrong's 2005 Guardian interview with John is at: [4]