Thursday, 17 August 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #15: The Saturday Boy

My first job then: answering the phones and making coffee on the Saturday morning show, 9 till 12.

A few things to say about that. First the phones. Nowadays, presenters can operate the switchboard from the same desk they drive the music and mics. Back then, the switchboard was in another room, grandly monickered MCR... no, not My Chemical Romance, but Master Control Room. Which makes it sound like something out of a Bond film... when actually, it was far more Thunderbirds.

I will talk about answering the phone in much more detail soon, since it became a big part of my job when I started working on the late night Phone-In show. I will also talk about MCR in much more detail, since I spent quite a bit of time in there over the years... just me and the ghost. (Oh yes, we will talk about the ghost.) I may even dig out some old photos from the attic to give you more of a flavour of the place. Orange hessian is all you're getting today.

That first switchboard didn't last long. I suspect by 1988, it'd served its time well. It may even have been in there since the station opened in '75. Big clunky buttons you had to force down with your thumb to put the caller on hold. Tiny red flashing LEDs. A phone with a long, long cord. Yes, kids, phones used to have cords. You don't know you're born. It was soon replaced by an ultra-modern white plastic one with both red AND green LEDs. The future truly arrived once I started working in radio.

And then the coffee. I'm not sure I'd ever made anyone coffee before I started working in radio. I'd certainly never drunk it. Although my dad, in later years, became quite the coffee aficionado, I don't remember him drinking when I was a kid, and my mum certainly didn't. We were a house of tea drinkers. How the hell was I supposed to make coffee? I remember the girl who I was replacing had to show me that. Boil the kettle. A spoonful of Nescafe. Powdered milk. Stir it or the bits won't dissolve. Eventually the station got a fridge and real milk. That made my job so much easier. And when the vending machine arrived... well, for a while I thought it was going to make me redundant. I had tremendous sympathy for the Luddites, smashing those looms. How we all marvelled at the vending machine. It even had a button for Beef Tea! 

(Don't. Just don't. Gravy: yes. Beef Tea: never. Bovril, this was not.)

I didn't drink coffee till I started working in radio. It was working nights that got me started. I didn't drink alcohol either. I know, pretty unusual for a 16 year old, even in 1988, but I was stubborn. If I saw all my mates running towards something, I ran the opposite way just to be contrary. Remember, I was the kid who steadfastly refused to get into The Smiths, just because my mate kept telling me I'd love them. 

The alcohol came later as well.

In 1988, I was in that weird hinterland between childhood and adulthood. (Of course, when I look at the average 16 year old now, I realise how far away adulthood really was. At 45... I'm still waiting.) Coffee, alcohol, scenes of a sexual nature... all these things lay ahead of me. And radio would give them all to me... and not, on the whole, for the best.

The clearest memory I have of this being a major crossroads in my life was the Saturday morning I had to go into work late because I had a piano exam. (The jock forgot I'd told him the week before I was going to be late, so the first half hour of his show was, "Where the hell is Rol?") It's weird though... In my memory, piano lessons were something I did as a kid. Radio was something I did as an adult. But there was a time when both existed simultaneously. Hard to comprehend now.

15. The Loose Salute - Turn Your Radio Up

It's also hard to comprehend Slowdive & Mojave 3 drummer Ian McCutcheon forming a band that sounds like The Loose Salute: jangly West Coast Americana and quite lovely too.


  1. Apropos of not much else, "Loose Salute" was the title of ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith's 2nd solo album...

  2. Quite lovely as you say and the music wasn't bad either!

  3. Loving this story - Nice to have the long-drawn-out version as well (I mean that in a good way). Funny how all of a sudden when we got Saturday jobs, although still kids really, we had to enter the adult world of coffee drinking etc.

    My daughter's first time away from home on her own overnight was when she had a shop training day in another town - She was only 16 and whilst crouching down organising some shelves she was asked by a customer, who thought she was upset, if she had lost her mum!

  4. Another riveting installment. Your life as a 16 year old was far more interesting than mine. I certainly couldn't make a serial out of it.

  5. Really enjoying beautifully told. I'm looking forward to the ghost.

  6. "How the hell was I supposed to make coffee?"

    Same thing happened to me, but only when I'd moved out of the house and into a student flat. The fact that the request came from a girl I fancied was hellish....

    My whole family were tea drinkers....I still am. Never had a coffee in my life.


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