Monday, 1 July 2013

On the Mic - Surrey Life - June 2013

My last Surrey Life column for a while. Full archive below...


Everybody loves music. If you told someone you didn’t, they would think you were odd. The problem is with radio it attracts people who love music a bit too much.

I was brought up in the days when records were a scant resource. Pocket money would just about stretch to one single a week, and if you didn’t own it, you had to work hard to find it. 

For me, this meant switching on the radio and waiting forever to hear a favourite song, or kneeling next to the single speaker at the front of our tiny telly, recording Top of the Pops on the internal microphone of the mono cassette recorder I was given for my 8th birthday. 

The quality was bad enough at the best of times, but the audience whooping and clapping during Don't You Want Me by the Human League on the 1981 TotP Christmas Special rendered my recording completely unlistenable. Not that it still rankles or anything.

Youthful obsessions with Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran and The Cure gave way to a wider appreciation of pop made in the pre-punk era. 

By the mid-nineties I was working at my university’s student radio station. Britpop was in its heyday, promotional budgets were huge and student radio programmers gathered substantial crumbs. Once I would spend cumulative hours in record shops agonising over which album I would buy each month. Now I was being sent every record by every new band and getting into any gig I wanted for free.

When I sauntered through the doors of my first professional radio station, I thought I knew pretty much everything there was to know about music, and I thought it wouldn’t be long before I got the chance to share my enthusiasm with the station’s listeners.

It’s a perfectly natural impulse. People who work in radio want to play their favourite records on the radio. Listeners expect and understand this because, given the chance, they would do exactly the same. It’s the perennial appeal of Desert Island Discs.

Unfortunately (and this has been a slow learning curve for me), just because I have the privilege of working in radio, I don’t have the right to commandeer precious airtime to inflict my tedious musical enthusiasms on people. With good reason. 

Very few presenters choose any, let alone all of the songs they play, save a knowledgeable few with excellent taste and, often, very small audiences.

The music policy at BBC Surrey is based on selecting the very best and/or most popular songs in existence, sprinkled with a fair bit of new stuff. But you’ll hear as much Bowie, Beatles and Beach Boys as you will Adele, Paloma Faith and Stooshe. 

Whilst it’s extremely unlikely we’ll play anything to scare the horses (unless you are tuned to master horse-scarer Phil Jackson and his new music show on Saturday nights) that doesn’t mean bland, benign rubbish. 

Obviously I’d love to hear more Adam and the Ants. But would you?

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May 2013 - on supermarkets
April 2013 - on The Invasion of the Coffee Shops
March 2013 - There was NO column in March 2013...
February 2013 - on turning 40
January 2013 - why January should be about headaches, mild depression and whisky
December 2012 - on doing more stand up comedy
November 2012 - on stopping doing weekday breakfast
October 2012 - on trying to engage brain and mouth on air
September 2012 - on my BBC microphone
August 2012 - on the Olympics
July 2012 - on being on holiday with three small children
June 2012 - on joining a gym
May 2012 - on making live radio
April 2012 - on being ill

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