The Golden Hour (radio feature)

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The Golden Hour is a long-standing feature/segment on UK radio station BBC Radio 1, where records are played that all charted in the UK Top 40 in a certain year and listeners are invited to guess the year. The feature was presented for many years on Radio 1 by Simon Bates, and has more recently been heard on BBC Radio Devon after Bates became their Breakfast Show presenter in January 2015.


In June 1973, Noel Edmonds took over presenting the breakfast slot on BBC Radio 1 and Tony Blackburn moved to present the mid-morning slot (9–12 am). One of the features he started on this show was the Golden Hour. This was originally an hour of records that had all charted in a specified year, with Tony using a different year each weekday.

Tony Blackburn continued this feature until he vacated the weekday mid-morning slot in Autumn 1977 with a move to weekday afternoons. He was replaced by Simon Bates, who would continue the feature at the top of the show between 9 and 10 am.

Bates amended the format however, turning it into a guessing game for the audience to participate in. Records were played, sometimes interspersed with clues, so listeners can 'play along at home' and guess what the year was. The year would be revealed by Simon near the end of the hour. Later on, Simon split this into two half-hour segments, playing songs from two different years.

Towards the end of 1993, when new controller Matthew Bannister took over and reorganised both the shows and presenters, Simon Mayo moved from breakfast to mid-morning, taking over the feature from Simon Bates. The Golden Hour, or 'Mystery Years', as they were now sometimes referred to, lasted until 1996 when they were replaced with an hour of music from a number of years including the current one. Between May 1994 and April 1995, Sunday lunchtimes also gained the Classic Years (12–2 pm), also presented by Mayo. There was also a feature which ran between 1996 and 1999 on Fridays called "Golden Hour Jukebox", then "The Jukebox", then "Greatest Hits Jukebox," where listeners could ring in and suggest tracks instead of the normal format.

The 9–10 weekday slot was eventually named "Radio 1's Greatest Hits", becoming the somewhat unwieldy "Radio 1's Greatest Hits: The Mystery Years" in 1999. Listeners were challenged to answer a question on a piece of archive footage from the relevant year.

Mayo continued 'The Mystery Years' until he left the station on 16 February 2001.


On 30 September 2007, to commemorate the station's 40th anniversary, former breakfast show host Chris Moyles co-hosted his show with Tony Blackburn and between 9 and 10 am they brought back the Golden Hour in the form of two half-hour years. At the start of 2008, The Chris Moyles Show gained the Golden Hour as a permanent feature, although only once a week rather than every day as in previous years. Moyles played this every Friday, starting at 9 am with half an hour of songs from a year and getting the listeners (as well as friends of the show) to text in their guess before revealing it ahead of the 9:30 news. From 9:30 to 10 am Moyles played songs selected by each member of his team. Moyles used retro jingles from the initial Golden Hour in his Friday slot. This ceased when Moyles left the station in September 2012.

Multiple other broadcasters on UK commercial radio have run features similar to the Golden Hour around the same time of day; an example is The Time Tunnel on the Heart network.

In 2017 Tony Blackburn's new show on BBC Radio 2 will be called Tony Blackburns's Golden Hour.

Smooth Radio[edit]

Simon Bates revived the Golden Hour for commercial radio after joining Smooth Radio in January 2011. The feature appeared as before, on weekdays between 9 and 10 am on Bates' breakfast show,[1] and saw listeners invited to guess the year that a number of songs charted. There were usually two featured years per day, but this changed to one from October 2013. On Friday 21 March 2014, Bates presented his final show for Smooth, and announced that he was featuring the last ever Golden Hour on his programme.

BBC Radio Devon[edit]

Simon Bates joined BBC Radio Devon on 12 January 2015, where he relaunched The Golden Hour with new jingles, with the years ranging from 1956-2004. Simon usually asked listeners to send him emails and texts with the years they think it might be, and he reads them in between the music. Over Christmas 2015, Simon did two pop up Golden Hours on the station. This featured ended when Simon left BBC Radio Devon in 2017. [2]


  1. ^ "Smooth start for Simon Bates". Radio Today. 4 January 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  2. ^ Martin, Roy (12 January 2015). "The Golden Hour returns with new jingles". Radio Today. Retrieved 13 January 2015. 

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