Bob Harris, 75, keeps his records in a well-appointed Portakabin in the garden of his home in Oxfordshire.
When he left police college and fell in with the hippies in London in 1967, he got rid of some of the shorter-haired records. When he split up with his first wife in the early ’70s, he left a load of the longer-haired LPs behind. Thankfully the split was amicable enough for him to go back and visit them. When he was in a court case over a debt in the ’90s, he successfully argued that his records shouldn’t be seized because they were the tools of his trade.
During the 50 years Bob Harris has been a national figure, there have been tough patches. As the figurehead of The Old Grey Whistle Test in the ’70s, he was always the one who was going to get the abuse, some of it physical. He’s served his time in the less-celebrated regions of broadcasting. There has been more than one health crisis. He came back from prostate cancer in 2007 and more recently a heart problem.
He was a casualty of Matthew Bannister’s mid-’90s night of the long knives at Radio 1. Bannister later confessed his only regret was moving Bob from his overnight show. He’s stuck around long enough to have the last laugh, in his case as the undisputed owner of the segment of the market they like to call New Country – basically rock and roll with its shirt tucked in.
Ask him what his all-time favourite record is, and he’ll say it’s something that he’s only just discovered today. It’s a cute line. Then again, as his erstwhile tormentors the Sex Pistols would say, he means it, man.