The reason to pick up this book is it’s author. Mark Radcliffe, current Radio 2 presenter, long term BBC employee and someone who I respectfully regard as a muso.
I know very few musos in real life so relish the opportunity to even have a one-way conversation with those on the radio or sometimes on the idiot lantern. By one-way I mean they talk in between the records and I listen.
These people, generally my age or older are the people that can finish my sentence or know which B–side from 1982 on Postcard Records I’m talking without my uttering the title. These are the people who upon meeting I can strike up a long conversation without pausing to even ask their name, as happened in the book signing line for Dara O’Briain last week, although I think he was somewhat younger.
What I can’t fathom is why all musos are male, with yours truly being the only exception?
Anyway that’s the reason to pick up the book, along with the brilliant title taken from a lovely Kinks song, also performed beautifully by Kirsty MacColl. (You can take the muso out of the record shop but you can’t keep her from spouting facts)
The page turner came with this line;
“There are only two types of music; good and bad”
So it was all I could do but enjoy reading this book as Mr Radcliffe talks about how he started behind the scenes of Piccadilly Radio and his rise and fall at Radio One along with his fellow presenter Marc Riley as ‘Mark & Lard”. I couldn’t help but recall a certain Mr Evans who started along the same path and had an even more spectacular rise and fall at Radio One. Indeed their paths did cross but Mark managed an astonishing 18 years at Radio One, most notably for him and myself, working with the king of musos that leaves us all pale in comparison; Mr John Peel.
For sure, ‘The Day I Heard John Peel Had Died’ is the most poignant of chapters and tears where forming early and even though I knew what was coming, I had to take a break to compose myself before reading the final words.
Other people remember where they were when they found out Lennon had died. I recall where I was when I heard about John Peel. It was Peely, along with his colleagues David ‘Kid’ Jenson and Peter Powell who had the proceeding Radio One shows that introduced me to music. And if that’s lost me some credibility here; whatever.
I have only just been able to enjoy the Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’, famously John Peel’s favourite track but less known it’s in my all time top ten too. I didn’t just stop enjoying it because it reminded me of Peely’s early demise, but that it bothered me that every show announcing the passing or even celebrating Peel’s career since has featured that track.
I had to put the book down and then cry in exactly the same way I did when I first had the news in my tiny office back in October 2004.
It was just lovely to hear how much of a mentor John Peel was to someone I regard to be up there with best of them. Figuratively speaking.
The difference between the two northern imports, Evans & Radcliffe, is I get the impression once the Ginger One had tasted presenting, that’s all he wanted to do and to this day, he is brilliant at what he does. I have to give him credit for introducing me to country music whilst at GLR (then Greater London Radio, now BBC London,) something that Peely et all didn’t do but that other muso, Whispering Bob Harris continues to do. Radcliffe however, will admit he likes the sound of his own voice but I get the feeling he would be just as happy to spend his days listening to and talking about records. A dream job if ever there was one.
I love the chapters and the Peel one has a long story about a certain American female looking to break through into the UK back in the early 1980’s. I recognised it a page and half earlier as being Madonna so the jig was up.
Everyone has their seminal moment when one band or artist changes their life forever and for Mr Radcliffe, that was Dr. Feelgood. I wouldn’t know a Feelgood track if it was my mobile ringtone but that didn’t diminish my interest in the first chapter that laid down the feel for the book and the endearing passion for music the author has. Whoever that was with you, can you imagine meeting three of the four founding members, taking a trip down memory lane to re-enact an important album cover and doing it as part of the job you get paid to do?
There are other brilliantly titled chapters including; The Day I Took Bros into a Goods Yard, The Day I Introduced David Bowed on Stage, The Day I Left After Eighteen Years, The Day I Bought Flowers for Kylie and The Day I Wasn’t Scottish.
Almost as good as in Dara O’Briain’s book, ‘I Will Always Love my English Child’.
I love that he also agrees that we should have never lost Top of the Pops. In pre MTV days, all we had was The Old Grey Whistle Test (with the aforementioned Bob Harris) and the odd short lived music programme before Channel Four and the Tube came along. I also love that he says TOTP was ruined when the artists started having to sing live, a fact at the time I agreed with but now I understand his point that it’s just pop music.
I’m disappointed to learn that Shan McGowan was born in London but liked hearing about Radcliffe’s Stars in Your Eyes success as the Pogues front man, equally – or maybe not so much inebriated.
Read it if you love music or if you just like a well written, witty insight into the life of a music adoring radio person employed to speak in between records.
All the music worship aside, I loved this book as I read it as I was a few thousand words into writing my own. This is the book I would love to have written, but of course about how thankful I am for my own days.
Inspiration factor 9½/10