Monday, 19 June 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #11: It's Just The Same Old Show...

As I’ve mentioned here before, I was late coming to music, but when the bomb finally hit, it blew my life apart… and thirty years later, I’m still piecing together the shrapnel. I never had a solid idea growing up about what I wanted to do with my life, or at least nothing more solid than the old “become a writer” dream which I’d been toiling at since I first set pencil to jotter. But even at an early age, I knew that was going to be a struggle. So what else could I do? What else did I love… besides telling stories?

As I've explained in my blog before (and also in the n*v*l promoted in my sidebar), as a child I used to run my own TV and radio station. My young imagination knew no bounds. And while the TV side of things was merely an extension of my interest in storytelling, my fascination with radio was different. I’m not sure if I was a lonely child, but I was a solitary one. My brother and sister were both a lot older and had already left home by the time I started growing up. I had friends, but none of them lived nearby, so while I saw them at school and sometimes on weekends and holidays, I also spent a lot of time by myself. That didn’t really bother me because I always had things to do, games to play, books and comics to read and write… and later, records to listen to. Still, it was nice to occasionally hear someone talking to you, besides your parents, and that’s where the radio came in.

From my pre-teens listening to Radio 2 with my parents through to my eventual discovery of Radio 1, I took a lot from the intimate relationship between presenter and listener. It’s trite to say I saw these people as my friends while growing up, but it’s also true. And sooner or later it occurred to me that there really couldn’t be a better job (except telling stories for a living) than sitting around playing your favourite records while talking to everyone and no-one all day.

It was around this time I first discovered local radio. It wasn’t half as exciting or glamorous as National Radio 1, but it was a lot more real. And a hell of a lot more realistic an option for a boy from nowhere. These people were living the dream – not in London, not for the BBC… but right on my doorstep. Remember, this was long before the homogenization of ILR, this was back when – for the most part – local jocks really did say and play whatever they wanted. I’m not saying that always made for unmissable listening – often it was cheese-on-a-stick claptrap sandwiching together Joan Armaplating and Lionel Richtea or segueing The Captain & Toenail into Olivia Neutron Bomb.

Still… they were obviously enjoying their work - and they were only on air three or four hours a day! Even with a couple of hours show-prep, that left them loads of free time to pursue other career opportunities. (Even back then I must have realised that a lot of professional writers also had a day job to pay the bills.) So I made up my mind. I had to get into local radio. You can imagine how well that went down with my school Careers Advisor.

Neverthless... slowly, but surely, I drew the plans for my future…

11. The Selecter - On My Radio

For years, whenever I heard On My Radio by The Selecter, when Pauline Black (real name Belinda Magnus, fact fans) sings, "He said he loved me but he loved the beat", I thought she meant The Beat. I thought she'd been dumped by her man because he preferred Ranking Roger.


  1. Love this unfolding real life story and being reminded of, as you say, that intimate relationship between radio presenter and listener, seeing them as friends. Did it have more meaning then too when we were less connected generally to the world outside? I can imagine your proclamation of wanting to get into local radio went down as well with your Careers Advisor as my telling my very straight, old-fashioned Headmistress that I wanted to design record covers. So I feel I can relate.
    Look forward to reading more and, d'ya know, I never knew that about Pauline Black's real name - thanks for that snippet.
    Great song of course too.

    1. Well, I didn't know it till yesterday either. Of course, I found it on iffypedia, so it might be complete nonsense.

      That's a very good point about connectedness. Maybe there is less need for the "intimate" DJ relationship these days now that we can have "intimate" online relationships with anyone we choose.

  2. Indeed it is all starting to make sense this love of radio. I think what you say is true though - I was an only child who lived in the country, far from my school friends, so much time was spent spent listening to the radio, reading and coming up with fantastical ideas for stories and "schemes". Those who had brothers, sisters and loads of friends nearby had no time for such nonsense but sadly it all gets knocked out of you as real life kicks in (thankfully not for everyone or there would be no need for novelists, artists and so on). C is right though, in the days before Facebook, Twitter, mobile phones and Blogging (!) the only connection you had with people outside your home was via TV and radio and for my generation where the only 3 channel telly was in the shared "living room", it was only radio you could have a personal and intimate relationship with. What's all this n*v*l business though - Be loud and proud about it as it is absolutely excellent.

    Incidentally, it doesn't happen often but I was in the front row at one of the first 2 Tone Tour dates (love the alliteration) and Pauline Black and Selector were first on stage that night jumping up and down and singing On My Radio - I wrote about it all this week last year as was reminded of that concert when watching Madness at Glastonbury.

    Looking forward to more of these Radio posts as little by little we're finding out more about your story.

  3. So many radio songs, but not many better than this one. Big fan. The local radio personalities and the stations in general where I grew up were the worst. I didn't begin to see radio as something worthy of my time until I moved to Chicago for college. I had a part-time flower delivery job and listened to the radio for hours every day. I finally learned what radio could be with the right format and management.

  4. Lamacq put on a Christmas Ska Extravaganza last December, featuring The Selector and Ranking Roger's Beat. I was a bit dubious about the idea initially, but the concert proved to be absolutely joyous. It was repeated recently and I lapped it up all over again. Worth checking out if you can track it down.
    As I've mentioned before, the radio was (and continues to be) a good friend to me and I'm enjoying reading your own personal history with the wireless a great deal.


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