In previous posts I’ve mentioned my love for music and I have no doubt I will wobble on about it again in the future. Today I would like to talk about radio and how I came within inches of actually achieving one of my dreams.
My love for radio began in the 70s. We would always have the radio on during the day, I grew up listening to Terry Wogan, Jimmy Young and Pete Murray all on BBC Radio Two. If we wanted to listen to Radio One we had to go to our bedrooms, my Father was not a fan of that new fangled pop music. I remember my Father not letting me buy the Bad Manners version of the Can Can in the summer of 1981, I had to buy Ghost Town by The Specials. Though after he died I did buy the Bad Manners single from a bargain bin for 10p, so thanks for saving me some money Dad. At the Age of ten I already had built up a big record collection. Every other week I would spend my pocket-money on a new or a couple of old seven-inch singles. I would love going into WH Smiths or Woolworths and flipping through the racks of singles, I miss those days, the smell of the vynal and the hundreds of different designs of record covers. Interesting tangent here (maybe?) I recently got the same feeling while I was waiting for my daughter in Game Stop. They had all the old PS2 games in single CD wrappers, flipping through them I thought, this takes me back.
I loved listening to the chart show, Kid Jensen on Radio one on a Sunday Afternoon. So much so that I would get my record player and pretend to do my own chart show with the records I had bought. Funny how the record most recently bought seemed to always be number one. With the exception of Brown Sauces – I Just Wanna Be A Winner, that only made it to number two. Being a bedroom DJ suited me, I would stay up there for hours playing some great tunes, over and over. You can never get enough of It Must Be Love by Madness.
The 1982 Suffolk County Show was an interesting event. You had your usual things, sheep, cows, pigs, lots of tractors and other farming equipment, but the thing that caught my attention was the Radio Orwell caravan. They had a live broadcast going on during the event and a crowd of teenagers and other cool people were sitting on the grass listening to the sounds of the day. Looking back I must have looked like the boy out of Almost Famous, younger than everyone else but trying to fit in. I even had my Radio Orwell baseball cap, (my first ever baseball cap by the way) a hat which lived on my head until it fell to bits. My Aunt and Uncle had taken me to the event and decided that it would be safe to leave the 12-year-old me right there by the caravan while they wandered off and enjoyed the rest of the show, or as my Uncle would call it, the Beer Tent.
For a long while I sat there trying to summon up the courage to ask for an autograph of these radio megastars. C’mon folks I was in the presence of Simon Cornes and Nigel Rennie. (More of Nigel Later). I eventually asked if I could get an autograph and decided to push my luck, “hey, can I have a look inside?”
With that I was told to shush and not tell anyone because they couldn’t do it for everyone, but there I was, in a caravan, in a field, at the Suffolk show grounds, was I cool or what! I was flipping through the records in there, got that, got that, got that, I could tell Simon Cornes was impressed. Then came a moment of glory, Simon asked me if I wanted to introduce a record? Of course I did! I was going to be on the radio! I asked what the song was and when the time came I introduced my first ever song on real live radio. December 1963 (oh what a night) by the Four Seasons. This moment defined what I was going to do with my life. No longer did I want to be a train driver, from now on I wanted to be a radio D.J.
Later that year a marvelous thing happened. Living in Bury St.Edmunds not a great deal of marvelous things happened but on Saturday November 6th 1982 the town got its own independant radio station! Saxon Radio. It was like fate or something, the DJing path was supposed to be, after all why would they put a station in Bury unless it was for me to go work at when I was older! No expense was spared as they got Jeremy Beadle in to launch the station. For those who don’t know Mr Beadle he was one of Brittan’s most annoying celebs (he sadly died in 2008 at 59). I was so geeked about the radio station that my Mother arranged for me to go on a tour. Sweet! I got to sit down in a real radio studio and play with the controls. I even did a fake link and played Story of The Blues by The Mighty Wah! (still a great song). Looking back I laugh at the part of the tour where they showed me the record library, it was a cupboard that was hardly full. The guide said if you come back in a year this room will be full of records. At the time I thought, wow that’s a lot of records. Now of course all the music is played off of hard drives so there is no need for a room full of records. I mentioned Nigel Rennie earlier, he was one of the Saxon Radio on air staff, he hosted an Afternoon show entitled Nigel Rennie’s Afternoon Delight, which had The Starland Vocal Bands song Afternoon Delight as it’s theme, I guess even in 1982 things were still innocent because I don’t think you would get away with the double meaning now?
For the one of or two of you interested you can download the Saxon Radio and Radio Orwell Jingles here.
Time passes as it often does, I left school and went to work in retail, my dream of being a DJ put on the back-burner. I’d been bugging my Mother to buy me a disco unit so that I could set up a pirate radio station in my bedroom, but alas by the time I hit 16 my need for transport was more important and my mum bought me a Yamaha motorbike instead. Which I fell off of quite a bit.
Then in 1990 came an oppourtunity I couldn’t turn down. I got the chance to work on Radio Lions, a volunteer hospital radio station. At the time it just broadcast to the in-mates at the West Suffolk Hospital, though on a really hot and humid day the signal was strong enough to reach the end of the parking lot. My first job was to go around and collect requests from sick and injured. It was during this time I realised I had no interest whatsoever in working as a Doctor. I hate the sight of blood, especially when its my own. Eventually I was given my own show on a Sunday afternoon, it was fantastic, I could play what I want! I was trying to do funny skits, which really were not that funny. And being young as I was, I was about to mess my chances up of staying On-Air. Requests were important at hospital radio, keeping the sickies happy was the most important thing. So me playing heavy metal on a relaxing Sunday afternoon didn’t go down to well. I would have my friends in studio and pretend they were calling in and asking for some Iron Maiden. It was soon after my very funny, The Station Manager has a nose like a baseball bad routine that I no longer held my seat there, can’t understand why? It’s a shame because Lions Radio became Radio West Suffolk and now broadcasts to tens of thousands rather than the two or three people it did before!
Apart from one horrible interview I did on Radio Suffolk in 1999 I have never been on radio since.
Now I’m older and wiser I would still love to be on the radio. Doing a Dick Purtan style show, but those days are gone, radio is all about playing the same songs over and over, there are no personalities anymore, which is a real shame. Video did kill the radio star in the end.