Radio Memories – Clive Bull.

Here’s how I discovered this radio presenter. I hadn’t listened to the radio much before the mid-90s. But one night in 1996, I was going through the dial on MW to determine if there was anything that I might be interested in. I came across someone playing a game. Now I knew all about game shows on the TV, but game shows on the radio?!

This was called Round The Clock, and the presenter was someone called Clive Bull, who it turned out had already been popular for many years. I liked this because callers took part, and then a dice sound effect was played, with a counter being moved on to a square on a board which featured all of the presenters on the schedule (which at this time included the likes of Paul Coia and Fred Housego). vlcsnap-00807

They had all been asked a question, the callers had to determine what their answer would be, and clips of them saying “yes” and “no” would be played to the callers, which must’ve been rather difficult to put together, but it worked. On other days of the week, there would be other games played. These included Memory Bank, where a number would be nominated, a clip was played, and then the question was asked.

I remember the question that went on for a very long time, that featured a song with someone yodelling who had to be guessed. The amount of people who said “is it Frank Ifield?”. If it wasn’t him the first time, why would it be him the 50th! And there was also The Circle Line, featuring the dice again, where a counter would go around the Underground line, with the stations announced by an echoey voice, and questions asked.

This was all very good, and I soon made this my “about to go to bed” station of choice, and at this point Clive usually was in the 9pm-1am slot. This was on a station that would eventually turn into LBC (the history of LBC is rather complicated, but this wasn’t LBC at the time, even though it was). There was also the phone-in element.

Clive would take calls from a rather regular group of people, most of them were rather old, and some of them were dare I say it, a little eccentric. Clive sometimes liked to take clips of their comments and play them at random moments (“drop them food parcels!”). Clive didn’t know what to say if someone made a particularly odd or daft comment, so he would get rid of them and play colleague Douglas Cameron saying “thank you ever so much for the most interesting call!”.

Looking back now, I realise that most of the callers at that time when I was still in my early-teens were probably born around 1915. I probably should’ve spent more time listening to Kiss like everyone else my age… Other features included when the producer Bob had to go off for a tea break, so Clive would put callers straight to air (I have noticed that Nick Abbot and Tommy Boyd, the other radio phone-in presenters that I reviewed recently also did this, which is an odd coincidence). Be sure to make some valid points!

And there was Chris who was The Midnight Weatherman, who gave us a late update. Chris and Bob would often play Turning The Tables, where the listeners sent in questions for them to play, when it was usually the other way round, and Bob often won easily. Also contributing was TV critic Marcus Berkmann, who was fond of game shows (and has written a book about the subject), and he also once appeared on Fifteen-To-One, where had had a mini meltdown, and got knocked out on the final question.

About a decade ago, Clive took a long break from LBC, and it had even been announced that he had retired. But he did return, and he is currently in a weekend late slot. It’s good that he’s still around, but things have changed, there are no more games, no more features, and more more quirky callers, it’s now just a straightforward news phone-in like the rest of the station.

Radio Memories – Nick Abbot.

I thought that it was about time to look back at some more radio presenters who I have enjoyed over the years. Nick Abbot was among the launch line-up on BBC GLR in the late-80s. This was long before I was a regular radio listener, and this station has gone on to have lots of of relaunches. I first came across Nick in the late-90s, when he was a presenter on both Virgin and Talk Radio, and I can’t think of many other people who have been on two separate national radio stations at the same time.

Nick was on Saturday evenings on Talk Radio, following Baker and Kelly’s football phone-in. I did enjoy his style, he often said “we don’t do topics”, and he didn’t usually discuss what was on the news agenda. For some reason that even he didn’t know, his opening theme was the rather noisy “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson. I remember that he said that on the first radio show he did, he received no calls at all. And even by this point he always seemed to get the same three callers, which was rather awkward for a national station. vlcsnap-00443

One of them was some woman from Cheddar who always thought that Nick was “very ‘fessional”. Nick also often bickered with his producer who he claimed was “useless”. And he was very found of his sound clips, often playing strange noises, and some were taken from early episodes of South Park, including Cartman saying “what?!” when he didn’t know what a caller was on about, which was rather often.

One of the most surreal moments that I’ve heard on the radio happened on Nick’s show. During the news, there was a report on sheepdip, which the presenter mispronounced as “sheepdick”. Nick found this amusing and turned this into a sound clip that was often played. Then not long after, the presenter made the same mistake again, and then made it even worse when trying to correct himself: “sheepdick… oh, er… sheep… dick… er, ooh”. And when they went back to Nick he laughed for about a minute.

Nick would often end his show with “screenless”, where callers were put to air without being asked what they wanted to talk about in advance (Tommy Boyd later got a whole three-hour show out of this idea). He could only put up with people for a few seconds though because of their bizarre outbursts, and he often wondered “who are these people?”. Not long after, Nick was moved to weekday evenings, so he was on five days a week on two stations, which was good.

But this only lasted for a short time as he was let go from Talk Radio following some schedule restructuring. And then he resurfaced on LBC (when this was still a London-only station) where he presented a Saturday evening show alongside Carol McGiffin, an ex-wife of Chris Evans. Nick and Carol did get on well, having worked together on Talk Radio too, but once again they only ever seemed to get the same three callers every week.

And once again he left after a short while, and I didn’t hear much about him for years. But then he returned to LBC on weekend evenings, where although he did now discuss the news agenda, he did have a little more light-hearted take on politics than most of the other presenters. It’s good to know that he’s still out there, and he is still playing those silly South Park clips all the time.

Radio Memories – Hawksbee And Jacobs.

Hawksbee And Jacobs (Talk Radio/TalkSport, 1999-present)

A while ago I used to listen to various shows on TalkSport, and one of them that I enjoyed was Hawksbee And Jacobs, a double-act who took a more light-hearted look at what was happening in sport in a similar style to Baker and Kelly, and indeed it could be said that they were their replacements on that station. Paul Hawksbee and Andy Jacobs had previously worked on sport magazines including 90 Minutes and TV shows, including Fantasy Football League, where Paul was a writer, and Andy was the producer.

One of their first shows was The Friday Night Kickabout (although this was in various other slots) looking back at the latest football (Paul is a Spurs fan, Andy is a Chelsea fan). As they hadn’t really developed any regular features or running gags by that point, I remember that most of their stories began “when I worked on Fantasy Football League…”, as they had met plenty of footballers on that show. handj

And around the same time, they also hosted Under The Floodlights, a late-night show about cricket, which included playing the dice game Howzat!, with the umpire doing an impression of a writer from The Mail On Sunday for some reason. I’ll never think of the song “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Rainbow in the same way again. By now they were beginning to establish themselves on the station, and in 2000 they were given a regular weekday afternoon slot.

There were now some regular features, and there were plenty of highlights. These included the competitions The Birthday Spread, where Andy had to guess the ages of various people that were listed in that day’s newspaper (with a song from the non-flag waving Pele), and Sport Or No(r)t, where callers had to guess whether people with unusual names were famous for sport or they weren’t, and remember the rule, “it’s just a horse”.

Inbetween the adverts for prune juice, there were plenty of other features too (and a bonus to them for using “There’s No Other Way” by Blur as one of the songs they came out of the break to). These included a review of American sport, The Fools Panel, where callers had to guess the weekend’s football results, and they even occasionally had a computer game review with Jonathan Ipswich, who was an Ipswich Town fan but didn’t like to go on about it, and also hosted the tough competition The Answer Is Ipswich.

Also memorable was when they would play the audio versions of various sportpeople’s autobiographies. These included the cricketer “Fiery Freddie” Trueman, who wanted to give something back to the game because he felt that he had an obligation to do so, and he often informed us “this man was being so blasé into the bargain, that I were really furious. And I’m afraid I hit him in the mouth, and he had to be carried off” (yes, that was his catchphrase).

There were also the Australian tennis player John Newcombe, who had won a huge amount of tournaments over the years, including “The World Championship Of Tennis”, which doesn’t seem to actually exist, and horse racing commentator Peter O’Sullevan, who reminisced about people who liked to “imbibe in the morning”, and I’m sure that they were just all great guys who loved their racing.

Friday editions always concluded with The Clips Of The Week, some of the more unusual moments and gaffes that had recently happened on the station. Most of these were provided by Alan Brazil, the Scottish ex-footballer turned red-faced boozy breakfast show host (when he turned up) and freeloader, with his show often coming live from Lord Vestey’s Box, marvellous. One highlight was when he slurred something like “spuhwuhwuh”, and then they deliberately played that all over the travel report to put the host off, which didn’t work by the way. ab

Alan was also fond of golf, ending interviews with “we must do lunch sometime!”, and liked to inform us when the time was 9:32. His co-host at this time was Mike “Porky” Parry, who often came out with some bizarre statements (I remember an often-played trail where a caller said “I am currently sat in the car bent-up double, laughing at this feller. He cannot be real”).

Also featuring was Joe Holland (or “Dutch” as he was known in the dressing room), a short-lived late-night host who had some very bizarre observations on life, the unsurprisingly unsuccessful Poker On The Radio with Graham “Beaky” Beacroft, and The Caller Of The Week, which made Andy laugh a lot. All of this would be produced by “The Ploughman”, and some guy who laughed like Basil Brush.

People have noted that the style of Hawksbee And Jacobs is rather similar to Baker and Kelly, and some will always consider them to be second-best by comparison, but there’s no doubt that they’ve provided lots of amusing moments. Paul would also go on to be a writer for Harry Hill’s TV Burp. Two decades on they are still there, although I haven’t listened much lately, as they seem to have taken on a more serious style. There’s just enough time to say “pie”.

Radio Memories – Capital Gold Sportstime.

Capital Gold Sportstime (Capital Gold, 1988-2002)

This is a radio show that I came across by chance one day, and I was grateful that I did, as it has a rather interesting story. In 1988, Capital launched a new spin-off station on Medium Wave called Capital Gold, which would play “golden oldies” that were essentially the biggest hits of the 60s (most of which were about 25 years old even then), and lots of famous figures were hired including Tony Blackburn and Kenny Everett to play all of these poptastic songs and bring back lots of memories. The ratings for this were very impressive, especially as this was a station at the more crackly end of the dial that couldn’t be heard in stereo or anything. vlcsnap-00001

There was another element to the station though, which was the sport coverage. London is rather spoilt for high-profile football clubs, with five or six usually in the top-flight whatever season it is. Although I had watched a little TV coverage when I was younger (although as I have said before I never supported one particular club), I heard rarely listened to any radio coverage, apart from maybe a match or two on the recently relaunched BBC Radio 5 Live. vlcsnap-00718

And then one day in 1994 when I was visiting some relatives, they had the radio on Capital Gold, which had coverage of the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester United. This was the first time that I remember listing to football coverage on this station, and I was rather struck by it, because it was much more rowdy than anything I’d ever heard on the BBC. I had no idea who the commentator was, but I definitely did notice their enthusiasm, so when the next season launched, I decided that I might have another listen. sport0001

I later discovered that Capital Gold Sportstime had been going since the 1988/89 season, usually on Saturday afternoons, and the presenter and commentator was Jonathan Pearce. It seems that he had already covered a few memorable moments, and as they were repeated so many times over the years I did eventually hear them. These included Arsenal winning the league for the first time in 18 years in 1989, and there was much delight that a London club had won in their first season on air, “The Tears Of Turin” when England were beaten on penalties at the World Cup in Italy in 1990, Arsenal’s cup double in 1993, and England famously going behind to a goal from hapless San Marino in less than ten seconds also in 1993. jp

By the mid-90s, Pearce was beginning to be increasingly well-known, and lent his voice to several football-related adverts, from cereals to computer games. Capital Gold was covering a huge amount of football around this time, and along with Premier League matches, also featuring were the FA Cup and League Cup, and even the Champions League, UEFA Cup, and Cup Winners’ Cup. There were also interviews, phone-ins, and competitions. And in all honesty, because I had no particular affiliation to any club, I took the chance to listen to as many matches as possible, because I never ceased to be surprised by how worked up he became about everything, and he always defended this by simply saying he was a fan with a microphone who was fond of the game.

To pick one match as an example that I remember, in 1997 there was an FA Cup match where Chelsea came from behind to score four goals and knock Liverpool out, which was rather exciting. His profile rose even further following his coverage of England matches when football came home (for a short while) at Euro ’96, and he even gained a newspaper column called “Radio Blah Blah” which only ran for about two weeks.

In 1997, when Channel 5 had an England World Cup qualifier as their first-ever live match, Pearce was hired to commentate, seemingly only because they thought he might start yelling if there was a goal, and indeed he obliged (and famously informed us that this was “the channel that brings you England goals!”). In 1998, Pearce had more TV work as the commentator on BBC2’s Robot Wars. And I remember when Chelsea won the Cup Winners’ Cup and were declared “knockout kings of Europe” (maybe a slight exaggeration there).

Later in 1998, there was much anticipation for his coverage of the World Cup in France. And indeed, hearing Michael Owen’s goal (he was only 18 at the time you know) against Argentina live was a remarkable moment. I also remember Euro 2000, a rare tournament where England didn’t get knocked out on penalties (because they didn’t even get past the group stage), and the big win against Germany in a World Cup qualifier in 2001.

By this point, there were rumours that Pearce might join the BBC, and I remember articles wondering if their listeners were ready for his style and if he would fit in. Pearce’s final match for Capital Gold was the 2002 FA Cup Final (won by Arsenal). After this, the football coverage was much reduced, before vanishing altogether about a year later. Of course, there were plenty of other enjoyable presenters and commentators at the station, but Pearce was the big name. Pearce remains a commentator on football for the BBC, mostly on TV now, to this day. Absolutely magnificent!

Radio Memories – an introduction.

After sharing memories of a rather large amount of TV shows that I have enjoyed over the years (I really have watched too much haven’t I), I thought that I might as well start to share some of my favourite radio shows. It’s a good way to do some more pieces, and just like with TV, most of these will concentrate on comedy. I must admit that I have only ever to listened to BBC Radio 4 for the comedy.

This isn’t really a station that is aimed at people like me, but this is just about the only place in radio that is still committed to making sitcoms and so on. I thought that listening to these and determining my favourites might open up that part of my mind a little. Having said that though, I have also discovered a lot of shows long after they first aired when they were repeated on digital station BBC7 (now renamed BBC Radio 4 Extra), and it was good to have the opportunity to finally catch up.

I don’t know how familiar most of the shows that I want to review will be to people, but once again it’s just an opportunity to write about things that I enjoy and get them online. The shows, the characters, the catchphrases, there aren’t a huge amount of pieces planned but I hope that people will find them interesting. There are probably loads of other shows that I might like that I haven’t heard, but these will the highlights for now.

Of course, these pieces won’t be accompanied by pictures (unless I can find any publicity photos), but I hope they’ll be worth reading, and I’ll also share a few pieces about shows I’ve enjoyed on music stations including BBC Radio 1. Anyone who wants to add any additional thoughts is welcome as always. The first of these is coming soon.