Thursday, 31 August 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #17: The Day I Didn't Meet All Saints

The worst job I ever had in radio was S&P. Sponsorship & Promotions. This was as close to working in sales as I ever got and it was way too close. But it was just after I'd completed my university degree so I was looking for more of a full time position than the night job I'd been doing while I was a student. (Yes, we've jumped ahead in time some. Why will soon become apparent.)

Sponsorship & Promotions, as the name suggests, involves selling clients name-checks and sponsorships around programmes and features on the station. So when you hear "The Breakfast Show - in association with Barney's Bacon Barms" or "Traffic & Travel with Terry's Tyres", it'll be S&P that conned some gullible local business into handcuffing their reputation to on air tat. But the S&P department doesn't just do this. They also create events and promotions that clients can get involved with such as competitions, roadshows and parties in the park.

It was this latter which I'd been given the job of organising in a kind of event-manager sort of way (even though I had no experience in event management and didn't want to do it) by a boss who didn't trust me at all. To the extent that she opened my personal mail in case I was abusing company privileges to blag freebies from clients. I wasn't: I was just getting my monthly comics delivery sent to work as there was no one at home to receive parcels. When I came in to work one day to find my comics spread out all over her desk, I was rather surprised, to say the least. I then had to prove that these were something I had bought and paid for myself. Nothing like a boss who trusts you.

Anyway: I'd been given the job of event managing the station's first Party In The Park, although to be fair, not a lot of event management was required since we were merely piggy-backing a council event that had already run successfully for a number of years. The council show involved heritage acts (you know: The Tremeloes, Showaddywaddy and other bands that had been at it for years with nary an original member in sight). We were taking the following day (using the same stage and equipment) to showcase some contemporary chart acts. The problem was that back in the day record companies were reluctant to let anyone who'd even have a whiff of chart success anywhere near a provincial radio station, so all we had to fill the bill were a bunch of hopefuls and wannabes. The kind of acts record companies would happily send to the farthest corners of the planet to open a milk carton in the hope it would increase their exposure... or just to get them out of the office. In return for giving a stage to this bunch of no-marks and ne'er-do-wells, one record company had taken pity on us and offered us their Next Big Thing as headliners. A band called All Saints who were destined to hit the charts with their debut single any day now. This meant very little to me at the time as I was in full-on Britpop mode so if it didn't have loud guitars and angry/earnest/world-weary young men... or Louise Wener... I wasn't really interested.

To be honest, I was dreading this event. I knew my boss would take a back seat and leave the heavy lifting to me, and that she'd only show up to accept the accolades if it went well... or to dole out the recriminations if it didn't. I really didn't have a clue what I was doing and I'd been getting by on bluff and luck in that job thus far. But this was going to be my big test, and a feeling in my water told me I was destined to fail. If I did, my career in S&P would be over. Not that this would be the end of the world, I still spent half my working day in programming, but the new boss there wasn't exactly my biggest fan either. We'll get back to him.

The night before Party In The Park, I went to bed early. But I did not sleep. How could I? This was going to be awful. Truly awful. Midnight. It hadn't been planned very well. 2 a.m. I had no idea what I was doing. 3 a.m. The whole thing was destined to be an unmitigated disaster. 4 a.m. I wasn't an event manager! I was just a twenty-something loser who answered the phones, made coffee, worked in the record library and did a bit of co-presenting! 5 a.m. Thousands of people were going to be gathering in front of a stage later on that afternoon in expectation of a big show and when it stank to high heaven, it would all be my faul...

I finally fell asleep a little before 6 a.m. The alarm was set for seven. At roughly twenty past six, I was awoken by the phone. 


It was my boss.

"We need you to come in to work. After what's happened, we're going to have to cancel the party in the park."

What? Cancel the... What had I done? What hadn't I done? Oh my god. This was worse than I'd ever expected. I couldn't get my head round it. The sheer weight of my own ineptitude drove me back down into the bed.

"What... what happened?"

"What happened? What happened? Haven't you heard the news? Princess Diana is dead!"

All Saints entered the UK singles chart for the very first time later that afternoon.

I never got to meet them. But, on the plus side, at least I didn't have to deal with my own personal disaster. Every cloud...

17. Jesse Malin featuring Bruce Springsteen - Broken Radio

As Elton John proved with his godawful remake of Candle In The Wind, you can twist the lyrics of just about any song to reflect a big event or tragedy. There are some lines in this week's radio song I could contrive to link to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, but I'm not that crass. I'm not a royalist, I never gave much of a toss about Diana, Charles, the Queen Mum or any of them. It would be hypocritical of me to say I did... and frankly, the international outpouring of grief that followed her death made me ill. Bowie, Prince, Elvis: I understand the grief. They gave something of value to our lives. You'll have a hard time convincing me the royals ever did anything comparable.

However. A lady died in a car crash, and that's always tragic, especially when she's the mother of two young children. That's just awful, whoever you are. Rest in peace, Diana, I bear you no ill will. You may have lived your life like a candle in the wind, but you were no Norma Jean.

This is a sad song, but a very beautiful one too.


  1. I met a fair few pop-stars in waiting at various record company shindigs over the years. The majority were very nice people, enjoying the ride they'd found themselves on. Others (I'm looking at you Cleopatra), were slightly less charming.

  2. Shame you didn't get to meet All Saints but sounds as if the day would have been a very stressful one for you. I got quite into organising events for a while ("for charity" of course) but mainly it was a great excuse to have a party for friends and colleagues. My downfall came when I organised a fancy dress Halloween party - Turns out in those pre-internet days, the thought of creating a costume and making a fool of yourself was beyond most Highlanders. Just about broke even with that one so not much spare to go to the charity of our choice. I hear what you say about the Royals but there are a lot of causes that did benefit greatly from her having been in the world. The country did however become hysterical 20 years ago and for her two young boys it must have been unbearable.


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