Sounds of the '60s is a long-running Saturday morning programme on BBC Radio 2 that features recordings of popular music made in the 1960s. It was first broadcast on 12 February 1983 and introduced by Keith Fordyce who had been the first presenter of the TV show Ready Steady Go! in 1963. From 1990 until February 2017 the presenter was Brian Matthew. The program is also broadcast on 98.1 MHz Eastern FM – Eastern Suburbs (community radio) in Melbourne, Victoria.
In the mid ’80 the format changed and each week the programme was presented by a different artist from the Sixties. Many famous names were involved, including: Alvin Stardust, Eddy Grant, Herb Alpert, Graham Nash, Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tom Jones, Neil Sedaka, Donovan, Mike Stoller, Bruce Welch, Duane Eddy, Bill Medley, Roy Wood, Mike Berry, David Crosby and many more. "I Love SOTS" car stickers were given free to listeners.
In December 1988 the then producer Stuart Hobday re-discovered Simon Dee the first voice to have been heard on Radio Caroline in 1964, and persuaded him to present a listeners’ all-time-favourite Top 20. The response from the public was so great that Dee was booked for a three-month run early in 1989. His success led to another three-month contract later in the year, but his constant demands for the show to go live and to move from Bristol to London, along with a growing list of complaints to BBC top management, meant that his contract was not renewed.
Subsequently Brian Matthew, who had introduced Saturday Club on the BBC Light Programme until 1967, took over as regular presenter.
Matthew first presented Sounds of the '60s on 31 March 1990 and was still doing so until November 2016, more than 26 years after he took over, his place being taken temporarily between September 2006 and February 2007 by former Radio Caroline and BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Johnnie Walker (and, during Walker's own absence in December 2006, by three guest presenters: Sandie Shaw, Joe Brown and Suzi Quatro). Matthew returned on 10 February, revealing that his prolonged absence had been due to a viral infection contracted while in hospital for a routine operation. Matthew also took two weeks off in October 2011 and November 2016 - January 2017 because of illness and lyricist Tim Rice sat in for him on both occasions. A Sounds of the '60s CD was released in November 2011. On 28 March 2015 Matthew presented a 25th Anniversary show. In it, he selected 10 of his favourite songs of the 1960s and there were tributes from Ray Davies, Helen Shapiro, Paul Jones, Marty Wilde and Petula Clark. On 27 January 2017, the BBC announced that Matthew was retiring from presenting the show, due to ill health. In February 2017, it was announced that Tony Blackburn would be taking over the show from March that year, until then Tim Rice becomes the show's acting presenter. Matthew disputed the way in which the end of his tenure as presenter of Sounds of the 60s was portrayed by the BBC. In response he stated:
Matthew, who made the programme very much his own, turned it into something of a cult, one aspect being its very own slang: "SOTS" (acronym of the title); "avids" (listeners); "the Vocalist" (the show's producer, Roger Bowman). The two-hour programme is divided into one-hour "sides" (called Side 1 and Side 2) and the names of those listeners whose requests are to be played used to be announced at the start of each "side". Now the names of the artists requested are announced instead. There were also well-researched features, such as an "A to Z of the Beatles" (recordings of which were repeated during the shows from which he was absent, to maintain his presence in the programme), and initially "SOTS" T-shirts for listeners whose record requests were played. Later, "SOTS" baseball caps and "SOTS" sweat shirts were given to successful requesters, but as of 2009 this practice ceased. Although the playlist was almost entirely restricted to music recorded in the 1960s, space was found for a time for so-called "roots" records from the 1950s, while recordings from that or earlier decades that re-entered the sales charts in the 1960s were also eligible. Throughout the show's run, its theme tune has been the Shadows' "Foot Tapper" (1963).
Since July 2007 the show's producer has been Phil Swern, whom Matthew had nicknamed "The Collector".
It was during Swern's time on the show that the "Playing Hard To Get" feature was introduced. Listeners who wanted a copy of a record they had lost over the years could request a CD of that song and, if successful, were sent a special "SOTS" CD of the track after it had been played on the show.
For several years Radio 2 carried a complementary show of music from the 1950s, Sounds of the '50s, which was presented by singer and entertainer Ronnie Hilton. In the 2000s there was also Sounds of the '70s, a title first used in 1970 for a daily late-night show of "progressive" music on Radio 1. Radio 2's version of Sounds of the '70s was presented by singer songwriter Steve Harley and latterly by Johnnie Walker. Sounds of the '80s was launched on Radio 2 on 5 October 2013, presented by Sara Cox.